I’ve never been one for ideological purity.
For one thing, ideologies represents only imperfect models for how reality works and no real-world model will ever cover all contingencies. So always, in the back of my mind, I look at any given ideology and wonder, “What circumstances will this ideology not account for? When will it work best and when will it not?”
More importantly, though, the science of biology influences all my thinking. In biology, a strategy succeeds based on how well it adapts (from the latin for “to fit”) to the immediate environment. What works for a penguin in the Antarctic won’t work for a camel in the Sahara.
Of course, we don’t like to think of our ideologies as specific adaptations to specific environments. We prefer to think of them as eternal truths that remain the best choices in all times, places and circumstances. We look at solutions that worked in the past and think they will work now. We look at solutions that work now and think they would have worked at some arbitrary point in the past.
This unconscious bias leads us to to situations where we think that the right solution in 1420s Romania is the right solution for 1920s Kansas and vice versa. Such extremes of time and place give even the most ideological of us pause for thought, but we ignore much smaller displacements in time and space even when other factors, such as technology, have changed even more than geography and culture.
I describe myself as a small “el” libertarian or classical liberal depending on the education of the person asking. I think that in general, decentralized apolitical solutions work for most circumstances better than centralized politicized ones do.
However, I think that such decentralized solutions work better due to the specific technological, historical, cultural and political conditions of America in the early 21st Century. I strongly doubt that many of the solutions that I advocate, such as privatized Social Security, would work in a different milieu. Likewise, I find the argument that solution ‘X” worked great from, say, 1935-1975, so that it must work now, completely unconvincing.
I often butt heads with libertarian purists over such matters. They criticize my willingness to use the state to fight wars or to socialize the cost of raising of children. I simply don’t care if such stances render me outside the libertarian true believers. I don’t care if some consider the stances immoral. Particular solutions work in particular times, places and circumstances and there is no point whining about it. I won’t try to shoehorn an ultimately unworkable solution into an ideological framework just to prove I am one of the gang.
I think that changes in recent decades mean that decentralized/free-market solutions can meet needs better than old-style centralized/government-based solutions can. That doesn’t mean, however, that I just advocate free-market solutions reflexively (even if that may be my first impulse). In any particular circumstance, I have to understand how the free market might work and (this is the important part) how it might fail before I will advocate moving to a free-market solution.
I want to fix problems, not join a club.