Sunday, October 29, 2006

Liberalism and Conservatism, and Why We Need Both

Liberalism and conservatism are two different political philosophies, each with its own contributions to society. In my opinion, we need both in order to run a democracy. Plus, there is a time for liberalism and a time for conservatism.






















There are several kinds of liberalism, and several kinds of conservativism. The classic American liberals might be Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Baines Johnson. The classic American conservatives might be Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.

Classical Liberalism

In my opinion, Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Johnson made great contributions to American society, some of which were tied to classical liberalism. Hardcore conservatives do not like FDR nor Johnson. They connect them with all our present-day “evils,” like big government and wasteful spending. These conservatives do like JFK better, though, because of his pro-business policies. Some of the tenets of classical liberalism are:


1. A belief in big government. The government can provide services to society that individuals alone could never or would never provide, such as the regulation of business.

2. Redistribution of wealth. Government can put a halt to monopolies and protect the individual from corporate greed. The government can redistribute money from the rich to the poor. Capitalism needs to be regulated. Socialism is the ideal. Some liberals veer off into communism.

3. Paternalism. For example, the government can be set up to protect the people from the greed of corporations or the ravages of the economy. The government can guard the individual even from his own greed, for example by forcing him to set aside money for his own retirement.

4. Social welfare. The government can provide services that individuals can’t in areas like healthcare, unemployment, disability insurance and so on.

5. A concern for the poor, the disenfranchised, and the victims of life. Government can be kind to the lower strata of society and help them when they are down and out.

6. Social engineering. The government can promote behaviors that are productive and discourage behaviors that hurt the individual. For example, the government can ban or regulate gambling.

7. Social justice. The government can penalize things like discrimination.

8. The protection of civil liberties. This can include such things as voting rights and even “freedom of choice” with abortion.

9. Protecting the environment through government regulations.

Classical Conservatism


Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan perhaps embody best some of what classical conservatism represents.

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To hardcore liberals, Reagan was the devil. To hardcore conservatives, Reagan is its patron saint. Goldwater, while branded the devil when he was running for president, is actually looked back upon with kindness by liberals because of his stances on environmentalism and abortion. Some tenets of classical conservatism might be:
1. A belief that big government is bad. The enemy here are Roosevelt and Johnson. Roosevelt and Johnson enacted what hardcore conservatives would call the “welfare state,” with their New Deal and Great Society. These consisted of a range of government-funded programs designed to help the economy, the homeless, the jobless and the poor. Conservatives believe that these programs did not work, and in fact institutionalized poverty in American society.

2. Government should stay out of people’s lives. For example, smoking should be allowed and unregulated. Cigarette companies should be permitted to sell their goods without hassle.

3. A belief in capitalism. Enlightened self-interest will lead naturally to the good of society. People work hard to make money, and the result of their labor benefits not just themselves, but all of society. Contrast this with worker motivation in socialistic or communistic societies, where profits are limited. Capitalism just works better. Economies grow faster, and the “pie” gets bigger. The larger pie and greater profits benefit everyone, from the rich to the poor. Rich people are good. What they did to get rich benefited society in some way. Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” protects everyone in a capitalistic society better than any government program. (The invisible hand is a metaphor invented by Adam Smith to illustrate how those who seek wealth by following their individual self-interest, inadvertently stimulate the economy and assist the poor.)

4. Business is good and needs to be protected. Businesses that operate unfettered produce more goods and services, thereby benefiting all of society.

5. A belief in the individual. The individual knows better what to do with his money, and how to protect herself when she is sick, jobless or homeless. For example, Social Security taxes could have been put into the stock market, in any year, and made more money for the individual than any present Social Security returns.

6. Private organizations are more effective than any government programs. A classic example of this would be to compare the Post Office, government run, with FedEx, a private company. FedEx does better.

7. Protecting the environment through incentive programs, preserves, and private development.

There are other tenets of classical liberalism and conservatism, but these are a good start.

Commonalities

Both classical liberals and conservatives are capable of being strong on defense. FDR and Truman were ruthless in their pursuit of the enemy in WWII, and John F. Kennedy was tough as nails during the Cuban missile crisis. We don’t need to mention how tough Barry Goldwater was on defense, as his hawkishness probably scared half the nation away from voting for him. ("I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice," from the Goldwater acceptance speech for the nomination for Republican candidacy for president in 1964. See ONLINE Newshour.)

Both liberals and conservatives care for the poor and homeless. Liberals believe in unemployment insurance and other programs, whereas conservatives believe in private charities and church aid.

Liberals and conservatives both want a strong economy. Liberals, though, believe you get this by helping “the little guy” participate in the wealth generated by corporations. Conservatives believe the little guy benefits best when corporations are free to engage in enlightened self-interest.

Negative Associations of Liberalism and Conservatism

Unfortunately, both liberalism and conservatism have had their excesses and abuses that tend to give each a bad name in the eyes of the other.

Liberalism has become associated, in the eyes of present-day conservatives, with socialism, communism; the love of tyrants like Castro; “immorality” and sexual permissiveness; being weak on defense; anti-Americanism; big government programs that waste money and create individuals addicted to handouts; the creation of a Third-World America by enabling reliance on big government; reverse racism; with just plain looniness; and the destruction of American institutions like marriage, the family, and religion.

Conservatism has become associated, in the eyes of present-day liberals, with heartlessness with regard to the poor, the ill, the jobless, and the homeless; with racism and sexism; with unconcern with the individual in favor of a bias towards business; with greed; with imperialism and flag-waving jingoism; with hawkishness on defense matters and even war-mongering; and with a mindless adherence to tradition and a belief in a religiosity that discriminates against gays, atheists and others.

Who is Right?

Both are right. Neither is right. There are good things and bad things about both liberals and conservatives. Classical liberalism is just a philosophy. It is neither good nor bad. Ditto with classical conservatism. You believe that a big government program will help the poor, or that individual hard work is a better solution.

History gives mixed reviews also. Unions, a liberal and even socialistic contribution, came and protected the worker. Because of unions, workers got better pay and better treatment. Then, however, unions abused the system too. They asked for and got so much money that they eventually priced themselves out of the market. Because of unions, airlines folded and steel production went overseas. Because of unions, the whole globalization thing started.

Capitalism, it seems, has been proven to be superior over communism in every way, creating much more wealth even for its poorest citizens. Capitalism, though, unregulated, has also led to heartless abuses. The spoiling of the environment was one. The abusiveness of monopolies and the mistreatment of workers are parts of the dark side of capitalism.

None of this is easy stuff. Unions help and hurt the poor. Liberalism is both good and bad. Conservatism is both good and bad. It all depends on timing and context.

There is a Time

We need both liberals and conservatives. I don’t mean we need the negatives associated with each philosophy. Rather, I mean we need the good things about each.

FDR, in my opinion, made great contributions to a better life for Americans. So did Johnson. However, the programs they initiated have been abused also, and led to wasteful government spending and the welfare state.

Reagan’s economic policies revitalized American business and made us leaders in the world again. However, his policies also led to the corporate greed that resulted in scandals like Enron. Plus, a failure to cut spending by both parties led to huge deficits and trade imbalances.

Still, overall, we need liberalism and conservatism. They are opposite philosophies that balance each other. Liberals ensure that the poor are always in our hearts, and conservatives guard against government waste. Liberals keep an eye on the government, and conservatives stop the loony regulations like basketball courts for the spotted owl (I’m just kidding!). Liberals help the poor with such things as raising the minimum wage, and conservatives help the poor with such things as enabling businesses to grow so they can hire more workers.

It’s all good. It just depends on when and why, how much and for how long.

The State of Liberalism and Conservatism

Here’s where the nice nice stops. The truth, and this is what this blog is all about, lies on the side of conservatism at this time. There is a time, and our time seems to demand conservative solutions.

Unfortunately, liberalism is in a sorry state right now. It has been co-opted by all the excesses of the philosophy. Present-day liberals are far from the classic liberalism of FDR, Kennedy and Johnson. They represent everything bad about liberalism. They are demagogues of the worst kind. They are weak on defense; love socialism and even communism; hate America; are extreme on the environment; are anti-marriage and anti-traditionalist; and their anti-business mentality will hurt the poor.

Conservatism is in better shape. True conservatism has helped us react strongly to 9/11; reduce taxes to keep the economy strong; shrink the welfare state; re-emphasize family values; and re-focus on the good things about America.

Conservatives, though, have had their own sins recently. Though in charge of the presidency and both houses of congress, they’ve abandoned fiscal responsibility, have been guilty of corruption, and allowed our border to become a sieve, which is changing us into a Third World country.

Whom should we elect? Conservatism is the better philosophy for our times, but this crop of conservatives has fallen short of conservative ideals, and handled the war in Iraq poorly. On the other hand, the liberals are so demagogic, so dishonest, and so far from good classic liberalism that electing them would hurt our country.

I’d go for the imperfect conservatives over the America-hating liberals of our day.

Still, if you, America, decide to switch horses midstream, I will understand where you’re coming from. Conservatives do need a good slap upside the head these days.

Rock


(*Wikipedia is always my source unless indicated.)

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9 comments:

Josh said...

I like this post. It is interesting that the US is so polarized when we actually need both sides to remain balanced.

Arcticman Speaks! said...

Rock,

Great post!

I dont think that slapping the conservatives, by sending them packing from washington, is the way to go. We are going to be better off if we dont put ANY more liberals in charge. Like you, I understand the desire some have to teach the republicans a lesson. We won't tollerate them neglecting to stay the course, and they can't ignore and half-solve the issues like immigration, spending, and promoting a conservative judiciary. But, electing democrats will not serve America's interests.

We can't have it all, so I'll take what I can get from the republicans and I'll exercise every opportunity to remind them about what they should be doing when they falter, which they are bound to do.

Democrats taking over again would spell disaster. These are a different type of democrat from what we had in the 1960's. They are spitefull, arrogant-deceivers, interested in vengence and retaliation. They are only interested in regaining power right now. They have no new ideas, no plan of action and they would waste the next two years, among other things, criticizing and trying to reverse the progress thats already been made. They are looking for a fight, but not with terrorists.

No Rock. The democrats must be defeated or our country will see the same disasters set into motion that we have suffered from since and because of the last democrat we had in the white house. I can not see any benefit from that happening.

Take care.

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Rock said...

Josh, you said:

I like this post. It is interesting that the US is so polarized when we actually need both sides to remain balanced.

Thanks Josh. Did you get my recent email for the ring?

I appreciate your comments and keep up the good work on your site.

Rock said...

Josh, you said:

I like this post. It is interesting that the US is so polarized when we actually need both sides to remain balanced.

Thanks Josh. Did you get my recent email for the ring?

I appreciate your comments and keep up the good work on your site.

Rock said...

Josh, you said:

I like this post. It is interesting that the US is so polarized when we actually need both sides to remain balanced.

Thanks Josh. Did you get my recent email for the ring?

I appreciate your comments and keep up the good work on your site.

Rock said...

Josh, you said:

I like this post. It is interesting that the US is so polarized when we actually need both sides to remain balanced.

Thanks Josh. Did you get my recent email for the ring?

I appreciate your comments and keep up the good work on your site.

Rock said...

Chikashi, you said:

Hello,how are you ?
My name is Chikashi Munakata in japan.
It is intersting blog.
I am making a site introducing blogs of all over the world.

If you can ,Can I introduce your blog on My site?
I hope many persons can get infromations ,establish good relationship on your site.


I would be honored, Chikashi, to be mentioned on your site. Thanks.

Rock said...

Arcticman, you said:

Great post!

Thanks.

Democrats taking over again would spell disaster. These are a different type of democrat from what we had in the 1960's. They are spitefull, arrogant-deceivers, interested in vengence and retaliation. They are only interested in regaining power right now. They have no new ideas, no plan of action and they would waste the next two years, among other things, criticizing and trying to reverse the progress thats already been made. They are looking for a fight, but not with terrorists.

No Rock. The democrats must be defeated or our country will see the same disasters set into motion that we have suffered from since and because of the last democrat we had in the white house. I can not see any benefit from that happening.


You are probably right. I certainly could never pull the lever for a Democrat at this time. They need to clean up their act. Thanks for your common sense from the cold North.