My Political Philosophy

I am a liberal Democrat in the U.S. political context. In the words of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, I believe that our federal government was created and continues to exist so that “We the People of the United States [can] . . . form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty.”

My overall political philosophy also draws sustenance from our 1776 Declaration of Independence: “all men [and women] are created equal: that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Similar language is found in Article 1 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights from the U.N. General Assembly: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”[1]

Taxes are, as Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “what we pay for civilized society.”[2] Yet, according to another great federal judge, Learned Hand,

“Anyone may arrange his affairs so that his taxes shall be as low as
possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which best pays the
treasury. There is not even a patriotic duty to increase one’s taxes.
Over and over again the Courts have said that there is nothing sinister
in so arranging affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible. Everyone
does it, rich and poor alike and all do right, for nobody owes any
public duty to pay more than the law demands.”[3]

In short, every citizen has a patriotic duty to pay the taxes that are imposed by the laws.

This political philosophy recognizes that there always are things that can be and should be improved in our society and that this requires constant attention to the way things are and what they could be. This approach runs the risk of overestimating the benefits of change and underestimating the costs of change.

Genuine conservatives, in my opinion, are skeptical of grandiose theories and applying them to a society. This is an important and legitimate point of view. This approach, however, runs the risk of underestimating the benefits of change and overestimating its costs. At its extreme, this can be a Panglossian “this is the best of all possible worlds.”


[2] Compania General De Tabacos De Filipinas v. Collector of Internal Revenue, 275 U.S. 87, 100 (1927) (Holmes, J., dissenting).

[3] Gregory v. Helvering, 69 F.2d 809, 810 (2d Cir. 1934), aff’d, 293 U.S. 465 (1935).

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dwkcommentaries

As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

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