Sunday, July 27, 2008

Liberal; Conservative... Does Anyone Still Know the Difference?

Over the past eight years (and more noticeably, the last four), the terms "liberal" and "conservative" have been thrown around more as insults, and less as acknowledgments of political beliefs and affiliation. I've long wondered in this day of "neo-conservatives" trashing "neo-liberals", and ordinary conservatives and liberals being left (or, more commonly, forced) out of the fray, if anyone really knows what the terms still mean.


lib·er·al /ˈlɪbərəl, ˈlɪbrəl/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[lib-er-uhl, lib-ruhl] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation

  • 1. favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs.
  • 2. (often initial capital letter) noting or pertaining to a political party advocating measures of progressive political reform.
  • 3. of, pertaining to, based on, or advocating liberalism.
  • 4. favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, esp. as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties.
  • 5. favoring or permitting freedom of action, esp. with respect to matters of personal belief or expression: a liberal policy toward dissident artists and writers.
  • 6. of or pertaining to representational forms of government rather than aristocracies and monarchies.
  • 7. free from prejudice or bigotry; tolerant: a liberal attitude toward foreigners.
  • 8. open-minded or tolerant, esp. free of or not bound by traditional or conventional ideas, values, etc.
  • 9. characterized by generosity and willingness to give in large amounts: a liberal donor.
  • 10. given freely or abundantly; generous: a liberal donation.
  • 11. not strict or rigorous; free; not literal: a liberal interpretation of a rule.
  • 12. of, pertaining to, or based on the liberal arts.
  • 13. of, pertaining to, or befitting a freeman.
  • 14. a person of liberal principles or views, esp. in politics or religion.
  • 15. (often initial capital letter) a member of a liberal party in politics, esp. of the Liberal party in Great Britain.

con·serv·a·tive /kənˈsɜrvətɪv/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[kuhn-sur-vuh-tiv] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation

  • 1. disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.
  • 2. cautiously moderate or purposefully low: a conservative estimate.
  • 3. traditional in style or manner; avoiding novelty or showiness: conservative suit.
  • 4. (often initial capital letter) of or pertaining to the Conservative party.
  • 5. (initial capital letter) of, pertaining to, or characteristic of Conservative Jews or Conservative Judaism.
  • 6. having the power or tendency to conserve; preservative.
  • 7. Mathematics. (of a vector or vector function) having curl equal to zero; irrotational; lamellar.
  • 8. a person who is conservative in principles, actions, habits, etc.
  • 9. a supporter of conservative political policies.
  • 10. (initial capital letter) a member of a conservative political party, esp. the Conservative party in Great Britain.
  • 11. a preservative.

From Wikipedia:

Neoconservatism is a political philosophy that emerged in the United States from the rejection of the social liberalism, moral relativism, and New Left counterculture of the 1960s. It influenced the presidential administrations of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, representing a realignment in American politics, and the defection of some liberals to the right of the political spectrum; hence the term, which refers to being 'new' conservatives. Neoconservatism emphasizes foreign policy as the paramount responsibility of government, maintaining that America's role as the world's sole superpower is indispensable to establishing and maintaining global order.

Neoliberalism is a label for economic liberalism. Neoliberalism refers to a historically-specific reemergence of economic liberalism's influence among economic scholars and policy-makers during the 1970s and through at least the late-1990s, and possibly into the present (its continuity is a matter of dispute). This term also refers to a political movement in which prominent members of the American left (such as Michael Kinsley, Robert Kaus, Mickey Kaus, and Randall Rothenberg) embraced some conservative positions such as anti-unionism, free market economics, and welfare reform. This term should not be confused with new liberalism.

Social liberalism, also called new liberalism (as it was originally termed), radical liberalism, modern liberalism, or in North America and the United Kingdom simply liberalism, is a branch of liberalism which contends that society must protect liberty and opportunity for all citizens and that the state may have a role on this. For social liberals the lack of education, health, or employment is seen as a major threat to the freedom of state compulsion and coercion. Like other liberals, social liberals support (with qualifications) free markets, private entrepreneurship and a small state. Social liberalism may also refer, as it usually does in the media, to support for among other things educational reform, civil rights, human rights and civil liberties, particularly in opposition to traditional values and beliefs. In this second sense, the liberal equivalent of social conservatism, one may therefore be socially liberal but economically conservative as in neo-liberalism, but in the first sense social liberalism clearly deals with the economic as well as social dimension of politics. Social liberals support a mixed economy of mainly private enterprise with some state provided, guaranteed or regulated public services. For example, some social liberals defend obligatory universal health insurance, with the state paying a basic health insurance to the most poor of the society. Like all liberals, social liberals believe in individual freedom as a central concept. In the process, they expect legitimate governments to provide a basic level of welfare or workfare, health and education, supported by taxation, intending to secure economic opportunities for all, enable the best use of the talents of the population, prevent revolution, or simply for the perceived public good, and they accept some restrictions in economic affairs, such as anti-trust laws to combat economic monopolies and regulatory bodies or minimum wage laws. Moreover, the accumulation of wealth by a small group is seen as the consolidation of power within a small faction of society and, therefore, seen as a threat to liberty.

Now that you have the definitions put forth for you, read and understand.

I did find it amusing that I had to resort to Wikipedia for definitions of "Neoconservative", "Neoliberal", and "Social Liberalism", as these terms, as popular as they are as buzzwords, have not yet been actually added to the official and accepted English lexicon.

The most ironic part of these definitions, particularly in the buzzwords that are so casually tossed around, is that neither the Democrat or Republican parties (or their candidates for the 2008 election) actually follow these definitions either standard, or neo-, even in some fundamental regards.

Given the first definition of Conservative, not a single publicly recognizable Republican actually adheres to that definition. They're changing public policy at an alarming rate - particularly in stripping away our traditional freedoms as Americans. The Republicans are using the government as a force to exert more power over the public, not less, as the definition of "conservative" may suggest.

On the other hand, the Democrats preach a policy that is almost exactly the same as presents as a liberal policy, yet in reality, they've sided more often than not with the fascist policies of the Bush White House. The most recent example is the passing of the FISA reform bill, which essentially removes our fourth Amendment right to privacy, and gives the telecoms immunity for their previous illegal actions. Not exactly a liberal standpoint, huh?

This political fuzziness in understanding of the definitions is only amplified when put into the hands of the average American, who often doesn't understand the nuances of politics, and many accept the evening news as the gospel for national and world events.

For instance, I am a liberal leaning conservative (meaning that I feel that some social programs would greatly benefit the people of this nation, but refuse to give up my fundamental rights as outlined in the Constitution). I support both the right to bear arms and a woman's right to choose. I support both public health care, and an abolition of the DEA. I support worrying about our own country and people first, and playing world police only after we've stabilized our home life. I support decreased Federal spending through decreased Federal authority. Many of my views are textbook conservative, yet I am often labeled as a liberal, because I want to pull out of Iraq (our number one drain on the economy) and ensure that I and my fellow US citizens can live fruitful and healthy lives, free from government control and fabricated inflation.

Oddly enough, I've also been called a "liberal asshole" because of my desire to legalize all drugs, disband the DEA, and instead publicly fund drug education and rehabilitation programs to combat the drug problem. Too many people confuse this with a liberal viewpoint. It is, in fact, quite conservative. Conservatives, traditionally, are in favor of reduced Federal spending. In matters of spending, my proposition to eliminate the DEA (which is a semi-military organization now - complete with absurd military budgets), and instead try and provide drug education and rehabilitation, while all drugs are legal, would only cost a fraction (roughly 10% of the current DEA budget) of what we're spending now. Yup... conservation.. conserving cash. That saved money would be far better spent on education, medical services, housing, food, alternative energies, or better yet, given back to the taxpayers in the form of reduced taxes. This is a highly conservative proposal, yet I'm still labeled a liberal for stating it.

Bottom line is this: the Republicans are more liberal than ever. The liberals have become the same as the so-called conservatives, and it really doesn't matter if you vote Republican or Democrat - you're still voting against the core values of either party.

We as Americans, have lost sight of the real issue at stake here: our own freedom; the preservation of our Constitution. Instead, on both sides of the issue, we continue to support any action, no matter how absurd, in the name of national security.

Ben Franklin said it best in one of my favorite quotes ever: "Those who are willing to give up fundamental freedoms for temporary security deserve neither."

Educate yourselves. I cannot stress that point enough. This country is quickly turning into a fascist state, and nobody can save it - except you - the average American. Get out there and vote. Educate yourselves on the issues at large, and vote for the best choice for America. Vote to salvage our Constitution. Vote to remove absolute power from the hands of the government. Vote to ensure yourself the life you deserve to lead. Vote for America.

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