Friday, September 21, 2012

Election 2012: Do Social Issues Matter?

There are many different topics that a politician will be asked about, among them social issues. There are also economic issues, environmental issues, and diplomatic issues. I am sure there are other broad topics but everything I can think of fits into those four. For the sake of simplicity, and future fodder, I will suggest that health care, social security, and education fall into the economic issues category and science and technology fall into the environmental category. I say that last part because nearly all of science and technology is about reducing the total energy cost of a process or understanding energy. Also terrorism, which should really be called violent extremism, I would classify with war as a diplomatic issue.

Reviewing the list of social issues on the Wikipedia page, I am struck that the list is even longer than I thought five minutes ago when I started writing this article. The question really is, since it would be about impossible to avoid talking about these things, how do we want the government to deal with it? In other words, do we want there to be rules and laws about abortion, child labor, censorship, and gun ownership?

I ask these questions because they are part of the equation and party platforms. They are also things I feel so strongly about, that I didn't vote in 2008 because the candidate that I thought had the best overall platform, disagreed with me on one social issue that was a deciding factor for me. This year is shaping up to be no better. If the issue wasn't an issue, actually there are two social issues now I disagree with, then my choice would be easier, but since these social issues exist, I can't vote for a person I totally agree with. Sorry for the run-on.

I feel what this discussion is really getting at is the question: what is the role of government? That is a good question. To protect us, such as in a war? Yes, I want my government to do that. To regulate us in such a way that we don't have continuous traffic accidents or shoot-outs by application of a clear set of rules? Yes, I want my government to do that. To tell me what I can and can't own? I'm not sure. I can think of some things that I cannot imagine a positive purpose for that inevitably someone would want to own. To censor our speech? No, but words do matter and words have repercussions so do we then penalize free speech? I don't know.

Social issues are a touchy subject. An hour and a half after starting this, I am nowhere closer to a conclusion. I feel we would be better off if social issues were not issues, but they are in today's world in this country. They do matter. They matter because laws are the fabric of our nation, what we agree to abide by, so a law that we disagree with matters. Social issues are important because they are often very personal and intimate, a first line of political beliefs. The things that are important enough to stand for are often the most personal. As Alexander Hamilton said, "Those who stand for nothing fall for anything."

Next: What Can Government Do for the Economy?

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