Mudcat Café message #957979 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #59921   Message #957979
Posted By: John Hardly
22-May-03 - 09:40 PM
Thread Name: BS: Conservative, Liberal, or Human Being?
Subject: RE: BS: Conservative, Liberal, or Human Being?
Please remember, this is meant to be philosophical in nature. In my opinion, liberals have as much trouble as conservatives in "fleshing out" their beliefs in the current political atmosphere of professional politicians whose first interest is their own political status and power. Though I do believe there are more true liberal politicians than conservative ones (philosophically speaking -- for one thing, if they didn't already lean toward a strong belief in governmental solutions to life's problems they probably wouldn't have been as likely to make gov't their life's work), they can no more act on their liberal impulses than can the conservative ones. Often this is because *what they believe* needs to be couched in rhetoric that ultimately ends up being self-defeating.

I think that, first and foremost, Liberalism is about righting inequities in the world. In its current form, Liberalism focuses most of its energy in this regard in trying to use or structure government to serve this purpose.


If there is a phrase that might sum up the driving force behind liberalism as it philosophically approaches economics it would be – It is morally (more on "morally" later) unacceptable for anyone to have what he wants if there is one person who does not have what he needs.

In reality though (when facing the practical application of that desire), liberals understand that (for instance) if you were able to one day liquidate all assets in the country, and redistribute the "wealth" absolutely evenly, there would really be no equalization at all (that's why they're "liberals" not "socialists" *BG*). The resultant "wealth" distributed would be essentially worthless, and those with the skills and knowledge would almost instantly rise above again.

Sure, there might be some short term satisfaction in the financial undoing of those who had to forfeit wealth that had long-since lost any recognizable connection between the possessors of it, and the productivity required to earn it – but the resultant escalation of the poverty of the lowest brackets would make this solution ultimately untenable.

But, though liberals understand that economies are more truly based on productivity, not money, they differ from conservatives in the degree to which they believe it possible for a nation's economy to grow. Specifically, liberals tend to believe that (though liberals vary on where they think the limit is) growth is finite. It is finite if for no other reason than dwindling resources.

As with any philosophy, concepts interact, fold in on each other, and/or build on each other as one assumption necessarily shades the view of anything to which it relates. Because of this, from here on this essay will begin to spiral round and round as one assumption causes me to address other issues it touches.

The dwindling resources thingy – because liberals believe that resources are limited, this assumption is at least one (if a minor one) that the liberal is usually perceived as more ecologically concerned. There's only one Earth......we don't know how long mankind is going to have to make its resources stretch in order to ensure our ability to survive.

Further, as the resources of the planet dwindle – EVEN IF liberals granted conservatives the naive notion that market demands are the only limitation on economic growth – that economic growth is not in mankind's best interest. Try selling that notion as a means of getting elected to public office...

..."Yes, and if elected, I promise to ensure economic slowdown in order to preserve precious resources for humankind yet to be born!"

The dwindling resources thingy also informs their POV as regards abortion – its continuing availability, as well as who has access to it. This is one of the stickiest wickets in the whole liberal mind. It is so very unlikely to have political success while at the same time trying to express that, if the world keeps expanding in human NEED, the dwindling available resources are; 1. Going to cause a very painful demise of the human race, and 2. Going to dwindle in a very inefficient manner as the least contributing, least productive segments of the population are also the most indiscriminate or irresponsible about reproducing. That very thought is too close to being able to be demagogued as a form of genocide, rather than a cold, hard reality that is eventually going to have to be dealt with – if not with unborn children (who are, beyond argument, not "personalities" yet), then with living, walkin' 'round folks like you and me.

...back to economically....

another reason liberals believe in a finite economy is that, for the conservative model of continuing productivity to actually work in the real world, there would have to be so many fewer irregularities in the ratio of productivity to wealth-earnings. The conservative model is, after all, a behaviorist notion – that a freer market will necessarily reward behaviors that are valuable to the community of man.

In reality, though liberals know there may be a slight corollary between ambition and wealth, it doesn't take a real astute observer to note that the wealthy folks we know don't work any harder that we.

Liberals may also admit that, though there is also a slight corollary between sloth and other self-destructive lifestyles and poverty, this too is too irregular to draw any conclusions. Furthermore, most of the life-style choices that may have a limiting effect on one's productivity, or ability to contribute to society, are not really "choices". They are instead, far more tied to one's economic status from birth – thus, it is doubly cruel to ask of these underpriviledged to pay the price of society's inability to help them rise above the circumstances that were society's fault in the first place...

...and if forced to choose between easing the pain of the poor in his undeserving circumstances, and the unearned wealthy, the liberal will choose to err on the side of making the poor's plight less uncomfortable -- and gamble that the economy, though limited, will always have enough selfish, solipsistic, money grubbing capitalists who won't be discouraged in their aggressive ambition to have more, to be able to produce enough for both themselves and the poor.

If just the upper 5% of income earners would be willing to give up a few year's earnings to the needy – they'd still be wealthy, and the poor would have no need.

Liberals have a very realistic view of a world that necessitates an ever-changing "morality". Right and wrong are necessarily subjective, and must be agreed upon by each culture – and even then they don't really define "right and wrong" – not in and objective way. Instead, what they do define is what a culture can be made to believe is, 1. perhaps in their collective self-interest, 2. A workable model to create a culture in which the right people can fulfill what they believe to be worthwhile objectives.

This is one reason why there is a sort of natural enmity between liberalism and any religion which may be; 1. A visible presence in their society, and 2. revelatory in its foundations. As long as a religion understands that it has no basis for belief that its tenets are objective truth, a society can tolerate their presence. In fact, religions that understand that all religions (including their own) are equally "*objective truth* and *objective reality* challenged", they are welcome to participate in society as a positive contributor – after all, the myths (thank you Moyers) of religions have a pretty tolerable historical track record for driving the religious toward doing what may actually, at times, be positive contributions to society.

The pro choice aspect of liberalism is based on righting inequities too. It is an inequity of nature that only one half of the species is saddled with the birth of the children when, in fact, both are complicit in its conception. The reason that liberals bristle at the pro-life assertion that a woman does have choice – the choice to have or not have sex – is fairly complicated.

In part the notion of choosing or not choosing sex as a starting point for the argument is problematic because, as animals, man is not capable of that choice. Man is a sexual being. Any restrictions on this behavior generally stems from vestigal notions imposed on society at a time when religion DID overstep its bounds and forced society to these restrictions when they didn't understand they were based on a subjective reality. We don't need to go back to that.

Furthermore, the sexual activity is going to continue. That is a practical, pragmatic reality, and it demands a like solution.

The older liberal argument that nobody should be able to tell a woman what she can do with her body is somewhat losing ground among many of the more thoughtful liberals I know. It is still a useful rhetorical argument but the woman's body is not really the issue and it sort of embarrasses some of the liberals I know when it's used.

Another argument that has fallen into disuse by liberals (at least ones I've discussed the issue with) is the notion that, because the fetus cannot survive on its own, it has no rights to protect. It was too easily demagogued to point out that babies cannot survive on their own either.

As to the partial birth abortion issue – there are fewer liberals who agree with this practice (I mean among otherwise pro-choice folk). This is another political hot potato because, in reality the main issue is a quality of life issue for the fetus. When the AMA came out with the official statement that there was no case where this procedure was necessary to save the life of the mother (that was a hard sell anyway – the mother goes through the entirety of the birthing process in the procedure). The "Right" wants to characterize this as an abortion of "convenience" but let them accept the "inconvenience" of the severely malformed. Is total financial ruin merely "inconvenience"?

Philosophically, the abortion issue is one that must be decided, as with other "moral" issues, on an individual basis. Religious notions of "personhood" of the fetus are subjective figments of their mythology and cannot be impressed on one who does not share that view.

Conservatives believe (to a greater degree than "liberals") that economic health is based on productivity, not money -- and that, therefore the possible size of the economy is not as strictly limited (in other words, more simply, the economy is not a "pie" to be divided. It is a growing thing of indeterminate size)...
...and in a related manner, believe that when economies are tied down by people with the intent (however honorable) to make sure that some don't have too much -- the poor are the first to suffer.

Conservatives believe in constitutionally limited Government -- that's what the constitution does -- limits government.

Conservatives don't think there is anything inherently wrong with allowing market forces to reward ambition and worthy pursuits -- for instance, the fact that a man can increase his personal wealth by inventing something of value to society, that is seen by a conservative as a good thing -- not exploitation. It doesn't mean that conservatives don't believe that law is necessary to make sure immoral business practices don't occur.

Conservatives believe (to a greater extent than "liberals") that the federal government is too wieldy to be an effective tool to address local concerns as well as more local governments might... a related vein -- they also believe that federal government, when too expansive, is too hard to police/keep tabs on/keep from corrupting....

...and in another related manner, conservatives believe (TAGET"L") that the odds are that the more centralized Government becomes, the more likely the "Peter Principle" is to take effect (people are promoted to the level of their incompetence) -- thus the country is left governed by the few -- and the few that are not necessarily competent...

...and in yet another related manner, you may be surprised at how many that are conservative regarding federal programs are considerably liberal concerning more local social programs (where they can actually participate).

Conservatives tend to see inherent, unintended unfairnesses in well-meaning federal programs, and don't, therefore, judge the value of a program on its intent, rather, they tend to judge a program on its success.

Conservatives are against affirmative action as a fix, not because they are racist -- rather because affirmative action is repugnantly racist in its assertion that a class or race of people is inherently ill-equipped to compete in an open market...
...and in a related manner, conservatives are willing to suggest that, while many (regardless of race) are in need of assistance, that assistance is given at some risk -- that what is supported (a non-productive lifestyle) will remain static when institutionalized, or even multiply in need.

Conservatives believe (TAGET"L") that the major role of FEDERAL government is national security -- a military. But the conservatives I know are more likely to shade to an isolationist view internationally. If they are inclined to engage militarily it is philosophically tied to security/defense.

"Social" Conservatives (and this now would tend to exclude the more libertarian-leaning) believe in the absolute right of a woman to choose -- to have or not have sex. That, among other reasons, is why a social conservative will tend to believe in stronger punishments for crimes like rape. But once there is a pregnancy involved the social conservative tends to believe that the burden of proof (of whether or not the baby is a human or not) for the right to kill the life is on the one wishing to do the killing, not on the baby to make its own defense.

Most "social" conservatives still make allowances for abortion in cases of rape or incest and allow as how this is not philosophically inconsistant because the woman did not comply in the choice to concieve, and so therefore should not be forced to bear the risk and liability incurred by what was not her choice.

Social conservatives are generally, philosophically for capital punishment with due process. This is not inconsistent with a pro-life stance because they assume a difference between the innocent life of a baby (who has made no choices legal or ill, made no judgements wise or un, made no social missteps calculated or non) and a criminal, judged by a jury of his peers, who has shown an unwillingness to live within a social norm that does value life.

Oh, and the conservatives I know don't believe in capital punishment because we are superior (intellectually, genetically, or any other way) to the criminal -- it is because we understand ourselves to be the same as any criminal and wish to make it less likely that we would act upon our baser instincts.

Many social conservatives are changing their minds on the capital punishment issue, not philosophically, but pragmatically, as it becomes increasingly more appearent that the pool of jurors avaiable for trials is incable of the logical thought process necessary to pass such a grave judgement (think OJ or Menendez).

Many conservatives are leading a movement away from the incarceration of non-violent criminals and, if it were possible to enact a viable program to work out having criminals repay their victims rather than serve time (which does nobody any good and only "trains" a better, smarter criminal), would vote for it tomorrow.

Finally, this is meant to be a philosophical discussion. Pragmatically, finding ways of politically expessing a "conservative" philosophy in a political atmosphere of few, if any, purely conservative politicians to vote for, leads to compromises through a maze that rarely ends up anywhere near purity.

just my humble opinions and observations