Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What are liberal values?

Although I cannot speak for all liberals, there are several values that we often share.  For example, liberals value universal healthcare.  All Americans should be able to afford medical and dental regardless of income.  Right now, over 40 million Americans do not have healthcare.  And roughly 18,000 Americans die every year because of lack of health insurance (Institute for Medicine; Jan 14, 2004;  And how many of our neighbors, whether liberal or conservative, think that getting a routine check-up should be easy and affordable? 

Another liberal value is energy conservation.  You can be certain that liberals appreciate our high standard of living.  Many Americans have warm, comfortable homes that use natural gas, oil, and/or electricity to cook food, clean clothes and run lamps.  Liberals also understand that there is a finite amount of energy available to support our way of life.  In order to sustain our fortunate wealth in the long-term, we will have to be a lot smarter about how we use energy.  At the very least, the words “reduce,” “re-use” and “recycle” have an important place in our lives---as liberals and as Americans.

The value of efficient transportation is closely linked with energy conservation.  We need local, regional, state and federal transportation planning that makes it easier to get around.   Are daily traffic jams on I-95 good for our economy?  Liberals also understand that communities should be walkable and bikeable.  Right now, there are a smattering of disconnected sidewalks near schools---and no bike lanes.  How many of our neighbors, whether conservative or liberal, would like their children to be able to walk or bike more safely to school?

Liberals value public education.  Public education exists to cultivate individual freedoms that are attuned to social responsibility.  A rich civic life is possible through direct experience with arts, athletics, humanities, math, sciences and vocations.  The possibility of a rich civic life may be compromised when you have disparate funding of public education.  In the 2006-2007 school year, Radnor, PA spent $17,105 per student while Upper Darby,PA spent $9,727 (Report Card on the School-2007; Philadelphia Inquirer:  What can we do, as a society, to maintain Radnor’s excellent educational programming while providing comparable funding to less wealthy districts?

America is a rich and beautiful country because of the myriad of people who have been coming here over the last 500 years.  Although parts of our history are not pretty, we’ve had so many wonderful accomplishments because of religious and cultural exchange.  The Constitution of the United States was designed to foster this exchange in that the majority is expected to act to protect the minority.  Anytime a person or group acts to oppress another individual or group, the majority has the responsibility to act judiciously to protect the rights of the minority.   Liberals seek to hear and understand differences so that we may be better informed and thereby make better decisions in the common good.  Liberals value diversity

These are five values that liberals often agree on.  Sometimes, conservatives may agree with the value but not on liberal policies that support the value---and that’s okay.  It is rich and informed discussion about these values that will help America to be a tremendous place to live, work and raise families.  Interestingly, some of these secular values have their roots in Jewish, Christian, Islamic or other religious texts that emphasize compassion, caring, and civic engagement.  America’s great tradition of secular values will ensure that we will continue to grow and prosper as a vibrant, diverse, and healthy democracy.

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