Politics: My Father and Myself
by Matt Stevens
It is an interesting idea to ponder, the political differences between my parents and myself. As I think about this essay, I find it difficult to enumerate the exact stances that my mother holds, because I’ve never had a discussion only with her in regards to politics. My father and I often discuss politics, at length. He is a former State Rep, and is still very active in the political community of Northwest Iowa.
I became politically aware during his time in office, from 1999-2004. Though, as I have grown over the past ten years, my own political views have shifted at the same time that his have. My views shifted because I was suddenly exposed to a variety of thoughts and values that weren’t present in my home town. Okoboji, Iowa is very conservative: our Federal Representative is the infamous Steve King. It is a very rural community that is historically conservative. As I reread that sentence, I make it seem that my father’s ideas are provincial. In fact, they aren’t at all. He is in many ways much more cosmopolitan than myself.
However, Northwest Iowa could be considered provincial. As I moved to Tacoma for college, I moved very far Left on social issues, but at the same time I moved slightly to the Right on many economic issues. My father, at least, from our discussions has moved further to the Left, especially economically.
My economic views came about shifting to the Right when I came to the realization that markets do generally work better than government ownership and interference within the economy. I still believe this even with the economic issues we are seeing over the past months. Markets work better but they are not perfect. Market crashes and downturns still hurt millions of people. The biggest reason that markets don’t always work is that true perfect market economics demands perfect knowledge, which is impossible. It is the role of the government to limit crashes and ensure that downfalls are short. But government cannot create wealth across all economic spectrums the way that private enterprise can.
My father, over the same time period, has noticeably shifted to the Left. Advocating more government programs to help solve problems that the private sector isn’t. Particularly in terms of taxes, he has shifted much more to the Left than I have. Wishing for higher corporate income taxes and higher personal income taxes on the filthy rich. My argument against this is rather simple: that governments do have waste, and reducing waste by entrusting people with their own money is more efficient. However, I am much closer to Barack Obama’s tax plan than John McCain’s. Obama’s tax increases happen on individuals making more than 250k a year and everyone else’s will go down.
In terms of the foreign policy, we are very similar. We both believe that exiting Iraq in the quickest way possible is the best strategy. We both believe that the US needs to re-engage the world in international institutions, UN, WTO, and take a leadership stake in getting the world out of this current financial malaise. However, in terms of foreign policy, I am a much bigger fan international trade, lowering barriers to trade. I believe that international trade does help. However, we need to have retraining programs so that we can create new jobs after those are lost from international trade. He sees faults in international trade in that it destroys the manufacturing base in America.
When I left Okoboji, I did not have a clear opinion on how I viewed environmental degradation and global warming. I knew I was against global warming, but that I wasn’t sure how destructive humans were and what the steps we could take to solve the problems. I shifted significantly to the Left over the past six years, and that was because the people I was around were significantly more concerned with the environment. Organic foods were a joke in the Midwest. It was extremely difficult to produce food on mass without pesticides. No one in Okoboji was concerned with limited gas mileage, or the their carbon footprint or the gallons of water they consumed daily. My father has followed me along in the shift to the Left environmentally. We have a duty to protect this earth for the coming generations. I want my kids to be able to swim in West Lake Okoboji. We have to put in better safeguards so that their kids can as well.
The overall shift of myself to the Right economically but Left socially derives from my perception of what should be the role of government in an ideal society. In my ideal society, the government is there to ensure freedom. Freedom to do what one wants to do whether in terms of socially, or fiscally. My father still has a small part of him that wants to argue that the role of government is to ensure an ability, to create a meritocracy, where the elites (not in riches, but in skills) will rise to the top.