This post is part of a series
Election Principle 3 – You don’t just vote on “moral” issues
Christians generally have a pretty bad name for this. Ask any of your friends who aren’t Christian what they think are a Christians top two policy concerns in any election and they will tell you:
2. Gay Marriage
No wonder the world thinks we’re uppity about sex! Now I’m not writing this to deny that these are legitimate concerns for but all too often in the political discourse from pulpits and pamphleteers, these issues are presented as though they are the only issues. Yet more bemusing is the suggestion that only the Coalition (Liberals and Nationals) can be trusted to maintain the status quo.
A few things to consider
– Both the parties capable of forming government are against amendments to the Marriage Act in its current form (i.e. that marriage is between a man and a woman).
– In the 11.5 years of the Howard Government there was no repealing of abortion laws, indeed we had the introduction of the RU486 drug – a prescribed abortion pill, which many coalition members voted in favour of.
But far more than this, we need to remember that a moral/amoral distinction in policy is pretty artificial. Should we not consider things like taxation in moral categories? Shouldn’t we consider our shockingly low budgeted amount of international aid in moral terms? Aren’t matters like the rights of workers and employers, plain branding of cigarette packets, services for the mentally ill, junk food advertising to children, salary caps for top executives of corporations all, in the end, moral matters?
So this election don’t be tricked into a myopic view of what issues are moral and which ones aren’t.
This Election101 – Left v Right
So what’s the deal with people and parties being called Left or Right wing? The language of leftwing and rightwing comes from the 18th Century French parliament. The parliament was arranged so that the more radical members sat on the left and the more conservative members sat on the right. This shorthand way of explaining political positions has picked up by all other western democracies. As has been said elsewhere, traditionally the Left includes progressives, social liberals, social democrats, unionists, socialists, communists and anarchists. The Right includes conservatives, reactionaries, capitalists, monarchists, nationalists and fascists. But sheer difference within those groups shows us just how weak the explanatory power of the old “left-right” spectrum is. There is a huge difference between an anarchist and a democrat, a fascist and a capitalist.
So a simple one dimensional spectrum doesn’t really explain the full raft of difference, you need a 2D diagram.
This diagram has way more explanatory power, because not only does it give you a way of expressing economic matters (should we have a big government [left] or little government [right] should we tax the rich at a higher rate for the sake of the poor [left] or should we reward them and tax them less, screw the poor [right]) but also lets you express what kind of cultural world you think would be best (we keep things the way they are for the sake of the public good [conservative] or we should change things if it benefits minorities within society [progressive])
How does this help me in voting?
– Firstly you should try and figure out where on the political spectrum you sit. I really like the political compass. It’s a great little web quiz that asks you a set of questions and plots you on the diagram above. If you’re after a dumbed down version, the Murdoch papers have released a simpler one with less questions (interestingly on both I popped out as Ghandi!)
– To complement this Fairfax (the company that publish the SMH, The Age and even highly prestigious Daily Advertiser in Wagga!) have produced a tool they call the vote-a-matic. Not to be out done, the Murdoch papers produced the vote-a-matic 2.0. Both these tools ask a few questions and determine which of the three major parties (I’m still not used to referring to the 3 major parties… it’s weird!) This is good but not as good as the political compass because it may be that a minor party (like the Non-Custodial Parents’ party or the Socialist Alliance) actually scratches where you’re itching better than a major.
Policy area – Foreign Aid
As I’ve already mentioned above, Australia’s level of foreign aid is woeful. Foreign aid isn’t really a vote winner – it doesn’t directly benefit voters (though parties wanting to increase our foreign aid sometimes appeal to an indirect benefit, like say lifting people out of poverty so they don’t become terrorists). As I’ve already mentioned, the Christian is to be other person centred as they vote and this extends to other people who aren’t from our country. As a nation we emerged extremely strongly out of the GFC and so we are in an excellent position to increase our aid budget.
– Preference highly a party that will increase our international aid.
– Compare the parties here