8 Political Values

Political values are a person’s beliefs, principles carried with them that guide their general behaviour/attitude towards political ‘objects’. Research has shown that political values are important determinants of individual political orientations, attachments and behavior.

Political ideologies and attitudes are becoming more important than social structural variables as explanations for people’s politics. However, figuring out someone’s exact political stance is difficult.

1. Freedom

Freedom is more than just the right to do what you want. It’s also the right to speak your mind, write what you like, join clubs or political groups and even organize peaceful demonstrations.

Political scientists have long worried that ordinary citizens lack the knowledge necessary to make rational political choices and may easily shift their attitudes from one day to the next. They hope that a commitment to certain political values can ground them. These include freedoms such as those enshrined in the Four Freedoms that Franklin Roosevelt’s administration promoted during World War II.

2. Justice

In Plato’s Republic, Socrates engages in a lengthy discussion about justice. He argues that the rational part of the soul, which corresponds to the leaders or “guardians” of the state, is different from the spirited portion of the soul, which he likens to its defenders.

In this context, he rejects the traditional utilitarian definition of justice as the just allocation of property. He is a deontologist, like Kant, and so believes that what is right cannot be derived from a pragmatic desire to maximize the good.

3. Fairness

People value fair treatment and want institutions to operate with fair rules. Fairness often refers to principles like distributive justice, wherein individuals receive what they deserve. It can also include retributive justice, such as when institutions punish offenders or make them pay for wrongs.

Worries that everyday citizens are not politically knowledgeable and can be easily influenced by framing effects are often soothed by the assumption that political values provide stable internal cues that help filter information and guide people through complex political environments. Research, however, shows that core values can shift in response to social influences.

4. Equality

Equality is one of the most central values in modern political philosophy. Many egalitarians argue that equality is a moral good in itself and that it is intrinsically bad when people are worse off than others through no fault of their own.

Others, however, are concerned about the exact nature of equality and how it relates to justice in particular. For example, some egalitarians argue that gender, racial, and economic differences should be taken into account when judging distributive justice while others believe that such distinctions are morally irrelevant.

5. Human Rights

In the past decades human rights have gained widespread acceptance. Three quarters of the world’s countries have ratified major human rights treaties.

Despite some intellectual critiques on the right, human rights have emerged as modest standards that leave most legal and political matters open for democratic decision-making at the national and local levels. Yet the values underlying human rights are complex. Economic rights merge into civil and social rights and the fulfilment of one type of right often depends on the fulfilment of other types.

6. Security

Security refers to protection from, or resilience against, potential harm. It involves a sense of safety for beneficiaries, or “referents,” that may include individuals and social groups, objects and institutions, or ecosystems.

Results of regression analyses on NEP and EC predicted by political values indicate that Civil Liberties, Security, Self-Direction, Universalism and Benevolence significantly influence environmental attitudes and pro-environmental behaviors. This is a substantial improvement over previous research on political values, which included only a few of these personal and ethical beliefs.

7. Growth

Political values influence the ways people think about public goods and private goods. For example, an economic conservative might prioritize the idea that it is a public good to invest in infrastructure because it benefits everyone – regardless of whether they pay taxes.

In recent years, research on political attitudes and behaviours has emphasized the role of values in politics. Some authors argue that traditional social structural variables such as class and long-standing group loyalties are losing their importance as explanations for people’s political choices.

8. Individualism

Individualism is a political value that values the autonomy of every person as a rational independent being. Individualists believe that the government should only perform tasks that defend and enable individuals’ freedom.

Individualism is in stark contrast to collectivism, which values the collective needs of a group over the needs of its members. Individualism also includes egoism, which holds that an individual is an end in himself and that morality is primarily a matter of one’s own well-being.

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