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October 3, 2005

Democrats Share Complicated Beliefs

Daniel Riehs

      It is usually thought that Democrats favor government intervention in economic matters, but are against intervention in private social matters. While this frequently holds true, Democratic ideology is far too complicated to be summed up in a single sentence. It is therefore interesting to examine Democratic beliefs that do not obviously follow from a simple sentence, and even seem to contradict each other. I have always though that one of the most interesting pair of Democratic ideologies is the contradictory way that many Democrats propose to handle abortion and gun control. Most Democrats who wish to lower the frequency of abortion and gun violence in the United States think that legislation is the best way to end gun violence but the worst way to end abortion. Why would so many people see government intervention as the obvious solution to one problem, but scoff at the idea of government intervention in another situation? A couple of ideas are listed below.

      Could both beliefs stem from a desire for freedom? Possibly. It is clear that women are more free in societies in which abortion is legal, but is it possible to impose restrictions on firearms out of a love for freedom? Gun control restricts people's freedom to own guns, but—at least in theory—preserves people's freedom to live safely without being shot.

      How about facts? Could a progressive come to these opinions simply by examining statistics? Maybe with abortion. Studies have shown that abortion rates correlate more with unplanned pregnancy rates than they do with legality. It is much more difficult to find facts in support of gun control, as anyone who has ever tried to debate the topic will testify to. One only has to suggest that he or she favors stronger restrictions on firearms and suddenly a barrage of statistics is thrown his or her way. One might hear about incidences of violent crimes that drop as soon as concealed-gun laws are put into place, or the millions of crimes that are prevented each year as people use guns for self defense. The most effective argument for gun control seems to rely on a more abstract sense of hope—hope that people really are capable of living and working peacefully together without carrying guns, a hope that there is somewhere for society to progress to—that more peaceful ways of living can be achieved.

      Maybe all Democrats ideologies are linked by a need for progress. Maybe the desire to keep abortion legal, is really just a realization that the next progressive step is simply to try and lower the number of unwanted pregnancies in America. Likewise with gun violence, progressives might look at a country saturated with guns and hope for something more, some kind of change, some kind of progress.

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