Liberal and Libertarian???

I started working on this post about a year ago, and it subsequently got lost in the shuffle of, well, life. I thought it was an interesting read when I ran across it this morning, and both links are still good. So I decided to make some final edits and post it, although a bit late:

So a friend of mine on FB recently introduced me (and several other friends) to the political compass. It presents the idea of there being more than just a one dimensional slider of left versus right economic views, and throws in a second dimension: authoritarian versus libertarian social views. I ended up in an interesting spot on the spectrum – liberal and libertarian – surprisingly close to Ralph Nader. And it got me thinking…how well do we know our own views, or those of our elected officials? I always thought of myself as a conservative, to the effect that I HATE the idea of the excessive interference of government in our lives, hence libertarian. But I also feel the obligation to take care of our fellow man, hence liberal. So the two can meet in the middle, right?

On a slightly related subject… A couple of months ago, I read a great article on the NY Times column The Wild Side written by guest columnist Stephen Quake. Stephen Quake is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor of bioengineering at Stanford University. His column described the life of a scientist (great read for those outside and inside our field), and discussed the political dichotomy of our lives as researchers. Briefly, while submitting to the free, highly competitive research funding market, our political views generally are driven towards a more regulated market, giving the individual time to succeed and thrive before being thrown to the sharks.

While finding this article of great interest, I feel Dr. Quake may have missed a few other points that should support his argument. For instance, how archaic still are our views in the research field towards females? Or for that matter toward family in general? I recently learned that in the Netherlands women are allowed to take months for maternity, pregnancy and family leave, even scientists who run their own labs. Humorously, while the right screams about the loss of family values in America, they poke fun at the “socialist” values of most European countries, which allow both female workers and family to be cherished. So what do we want here? It seems that what we preach is most definitely NOT what we’re living. Just some food for thought…

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