ABOUT THIS FAQ
This FAQ has been an enjoyable project for me, and I hope the reader finds it so as well. To help you get the most out of it, let me explain what this FAQ is and is not.
The purpose of this FAQ is fourfold: 1) to provide an ever-growing collection of liberal arguments, written in plain English; 2) to ground the debate in studies and statistics; 3) to rise above the current level of bumper sticker slogans; and 4) to rebut the most currently popular myths.
Conversely, there are several things that my FAQ is not intended to do. It is not intended to be a typically short FAQ, readable in a single sitting. My Short FAQ on Liberalism already serves this purpose. However, that document merely describes liberal positions without explaining or defending them. This FAQ is more like an encyclopedia, useful for looking up arguments on particular topics of interest.
Nor is this FAQ intended to represent every shade of liberalism, which is impossible. It merely represents my personal philosophies (which many would probably call mainstream liberal), plus all the improvements, additions, and corrections that people have mailed in to me. I am not dogmatic in this regard; I am easily swayed by strong evidence. At the moment, this FAQ is rather US-centric, with an emphasis on current US issues. This is due to my own personal experience; I welcome additions based on the experience and issues of other nations. I do believe, however, that the principles described here should be useful to virtually everyone.
Nor is this FAQ intended to serve as an introduction to various opposing political philosophies. That is even more hopeless than trying to cover all the variants of liberalism. And at any rate, the best way to learn of someone else's political philosophies is to get them straight from the source, not from their opponents. Here are some FAQs of other political ideologies:
Libertarianism, by Eric Raymond
Objectivism: The philosophy of Ayn Rand, by Chris Walker
Anarchist Theory FAQ, by Bryan Caplan
The National Political Index -- An enormous and excellent collection of links to political parties, their FAQs, and other information.
The Jefferson Project: The Comprehensive Guide to On-Line Politics -- Another site with tons of links to political issues and partisan arguments.
My descriptions of my opponents' beliefs are meant only to identify them, so as to contrast and present the liberal position. Accusations that I am building strawmen will thus be firmly rejected, given the links above. The responsibility for highly detailed knowledge of other political philosophies belongs to the reader, since including them here would double or triple the size of this FAQ. But I think the reader will find that I treat the opposition's arguments fairly and with sufficient detail to make a meaningful rebuttal.
This FAQ also does not intend to make a case for liberal Christianity. Readers will note that I frequently quote from the Bible to support liberal positions. But this is only because Christian conservatives claim that the Bible is the source for all their political beliefs. My quoting from the Bible is intended to show that their Biblical support is either highly problematic or completely nonexistent, and that liberals actually have the better claim. But I don't pretend the Bible yields a coherent liberal philosophy either -- no document that advocates slavery ever could -- so I'll leave that to liberal Christians as an exercise.
Nor is this FAQ intended to copy the style of political debate that dominates talk radio and the Internet: sensational, emotional, demagogic, rabble-rousing, name-calling, or punching hot buttons. There is already a dearth of cool, reasoned analysis in the Great American Debate, and this FAQ is an attempt to fill that niche. If my treatments of emotional topics like abortion and racism seem academic, this should be viewed as a breath of fresh air, not as evidence that I lack all humanity. :-)
My methodology has been to footnote every statistic or factual claim that I make. Wherever possible, I try to cite primary sources. If those are not available, I try to cite the top scholars in their field; if those are not available, then peer-reviewed journals. I am quite keen on presenting the most accurate and authoritative data possible. Please write me with any suggested improvements to the FAQ.
For those curious about my academic background, I am currently applying for grad school in political science, having emphasized it while earning my degree in Russian studies. The fact that I studied the Soviet Union in college does not make me a communist or a socialist, although it greatly assisted me in understanding these systems. I was also raised in a Christian conservative family, so I am intimately familiar with that belief system as well. And to round out my political education, I received my degree from the University of California - Santa Cruz, one of the five most liberal cities in the nation, and a frequent target of Rush Limbaugh's wrath. As you can see, I've been evangelized by nearly everyone!
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