Labels Don’t Settle Debates

Here are two common responses people make to each other when discussing social, economic, and political issues:

“You’re a liberal.”

“You’re a conservative.”

These are statements that describe a person’s political philosophy. Such statements, however, prove nothing whatsoever about the truth or falsehood of what a person believes.

If a liberal says “four is the sum of three and one,” the truth of that claim isn’t negated by their political affiliation.

If a conservative says “Austin is a city in the state of Texas,” that fact isn’t rendered untrue merely because of who they vote for.

“That’s such a typical leftist response.”

“That’s such a typical right-wing response.”

Being typical and being true are two different things. Some claims are both typical and true. Some claims are typical and false. We can’t know if something is true or not simply by talking about how typical an observation is.

Ideas need to be engaged based on the arguments that can be made for them or against them, not based on the prejudices we have towards certain ideologies, parties, or communities. It takes little work, skill, or intelligence to dismiss ideas based on the political affiliations or philosophical ties of the people who affirm them.

If the goal is to defend truth, detect error, and discover ideas that are worth living for, there’s no way around doing the hard and honest work of relying on logic more than labels when we respond to the things people say.

The ability to slap a political name-tag on someone isn’t a substitute for thinking critically.