Opinion: Labels aren’t enough



Shawn Mercer

Shawn Mercer

Shawn Mercer is a sophomore integrated life sciences major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact Shawn Mercer at [email protected].

As time passes, I am beginning to realize that the utility of labels is much less than it seems, and that the inherent disadvantages are far greater than I could have ever expected.

This is especially true with political parties and political movements. I have branded myself as libertarian, but that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

The best approximation of my own brand of libertarianism is that I am fiscally conservative, anti-war, pro-free market and believe that people should have the right to pursue their beliefs and happiness as I have as a Christian and believer in God.

In the broadest sense, a libertarian can be seen as a fiscal conservative and social liberal, a classification I would posit may contain the majority of Americans. But as you get more specific, this label becomes more problematic.

A libertarian may be a person who believes strongly in the U.S. Constitution and looks to its Bill of Rights to draw a hard line on personal liberty, eschewing any law that may limit it, even ones that promote social utility.

A libertarian may believe that freedom may be best served by the abolishment of the government in exchange for a system of free market anarchy. These anarcho-capitalists probably draw the hardest line on personal freedom and believe that actions are wrong if and only if they are compulsory.

These three different libertarians I have described are by no means all-encompassing or even justly represented, and that is the point. If I cannot adequately understand all of the implications of the label that I have attributed to myself, then what hope do I have to understand other labels?

This still leaves the question of political parties. After attending the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference, an approximation for the Republican Party, the problems illuminated above do not begin to cover the ideological diversity within the Republican Party and conservative movement as a whole — which, depending whom you ask, are not necessarily the same thing.

Within the Republican Party, there are so many different ideological subsets that it is impossible to describe them here, with libertarian being just one of them.

In attributing just two labels to myself, Republican and libertarian, I have barely approximated what I believe. These labels do not even begin to accurately characterize who I aspire to be politically and spiritually.

These shortcomings are evident upon examination of our partisan politics. The welfare of the nation is not the primary concern. There is an all-out ideological war, the primary weapon of which is attacking the enemy in hopes of delegitimizing its ideals instead of arguing against them civilly.

In light of this, we must discuss our varied labels and identify where we agree and disagree. We must recognize that labels are in fact glorified stereotypes that are at best inadequate and at worst dishonest. We must honestly reflect on the factionalism that we unconditionally embrace in order to move forward as a country.