Is it fair and accurate of me to believe that my liberalism is not tainted by the massive harm caused by communist dictators and other historical "leftist" movements that have caused great harm?
I've heard some conservative people bring up the specter of Mao, the Khmer Rouge, Russia, China etc. as endemic of the problems with liberalism and socialism. Conceptually, however, I do not feel any kinship with those governments' actions and associate many of their excesses with core conservative values: restrictions of inidividual liberty, lack of political and religious freedom, narrow range of acceptable beliefs, groupthink, etc.
A liberal or left society is one that would have the following attributes/represent the following beliefs:
- Respect for science: if something can be proven, it must be so. Other beliefs that conflict must adapt.
- Respect for skepticism: if something cannot be proven, it's open to debate. Disagreement within the boundaries of what has not been proven is healthy and good, but some evidence is respected more than no evidence.
- The belief that due process is worth more than short-term efficacy in police actions. Crimes that cannot be proven should not be punished.
- Torture, imprisonment without trial, segregation along racial, political, or religious lines, and unfettered state surveillance are poisonous to a healthy society and are never worth any short-term stability gains.
- Absolute separation of political and religious power/spheres of influence.
- Wide latitude when it comes to freedom of expression and peaceful protest.
- Wide latitude when it comes to criticizing the ruling party and other elites, without fear of official or unofficial reprisal.
- Freely available and mandatory education for all citizens that emphasizes skepticism, evaluation of facts, and core skills such as close reading, writing, and number literacy (particularly statistics and how to parse scientific results).
- The value of freely available community resources such as libraries that contain information and perspectives not limited by the state.
- Imprisonment and other state restrictions of individual liberty exist to protect society, not to punish wrongdoing. Any individual whose liberties have been restricted by the state must be shown to be an active danger to others, and as soon as that is not the case, the restrictions should be lifted. Fines, therapy, and other actions are always to be preferred over imprisonment due to moral and practical (better results for less money) concerns.
- Forced and unfree labor (in the sense that the laborers have no realistic alternatives open to them) are anathema to good government and good business.
Every communist country I've ever read about violates most or all of the above precepts. I feel as though my political beliefs are entirely untainted by those governments' excesses and abuses, and that it is a red herring when they are brought up as "left" or "liberal" governments simply because the new elites used the rhetoric of communism and progress in order to take over a country.
Is this sophistry on my part? If there are meaningful ties between my values and those governments, what are they exactly?
Please give only careful, considered, precise answers. I'm very interested in examining this aspect of my political thinking and I do not want this question closed.
Links to essays examining this train of thought with rigor would be appreciated.