Conservativism vs. Liberalism

It is no suprise that the United States has become more politically and ideologically polarized over the past few years. The middle is shrinking, political discourse has continued to disintegrate, and the idea of a common good is dying.

The reason for this is that conservatives and liberals have a very different philosophy of government and laws. Quite simply, both sides are talking past each other.

The liberal philosophy of Government is that men should be free to live their lives in the way they choose. A Government that governs least, governs best. (Liberals do differ from libertarians in that liberals believe in "freedom from want", while libertarians put precedence on property rights.) Laws exist primarily to preserve freedom for others. A law that exists primarily to restrict one's freedom is a bad law. Laws that are not enforced or are unenforcable should probably be rethought or repealed.

The conservative philosophy of Government is that Government should create the laws to define an ideal society. These ideals are usually defined by some sort of tradition, often a religious one. If something is in opposition to a society's moral fabric, there should be a law against it, even if it rarely enforced, so that society understands that this is wrong.

Because both sides are talking about different things and see a different purpose for Government, some seemingly bizarre political behavior can be explained:


  • Why deficits grow and Government expands (almost always the military) under supposedly "small Government" Republicans.
  • Why conservatives are enraged when rarely enforced sodomy laws are overturned.
  • Why right-wing Catholics, Mormons, and Jews support the very same fundamentalists who persecuted their ancestors, and have every intention of doing the same if they return to power.
  • Why minorities, even very conservative minorities, remain Democrats. This is because they know exactly what "selective enforcement" means.
  • How Nancy Pelosi can have a very liberal voting record and still consider herself a "conservative Catholic"
  • Why we have gotten nowhere on the abortion debate after 30 years.
  • Why "pro-lifers" aren't really interested in doing anything to reduce abortion through the law other than criminalization.
  • Why the military is running out of people, but conservatives insist that they turn gays away.
  • Why conservatives insist on "under God", "In God we Trust" and other public displays of religion, despite the fact that many nations with fully established Churches have lower Church attendence and less faith in general than here in the US.
  • Why conservative followers of a religion of peace are so devoted to military power. If the Government is righteous, then the military must be doing God's work. This idea is far more Old Testament than New.
  • Why conservatives say that two people of the same sex getting legal recognition for their relationship is a threat to marriage.
  • Why conservatives support laws against gambling and drug use, but excuse Bill Bennett and Rush Limbaugh as "having problems".
  • Why conservatives consider us "godless" for opposing their agenda.

This is a massive philisophical difference that cannot be taken on issue by issue. It is something that must be taken head on as a whole. Quite simply, they have a very different idea of what America is and what direction it should go. We must be aware of this and know how to fight it.

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1 Comment

Some thoughts
  1. Government did not expand under Clinton because democrats were getting slaugtered for being "tax and spend liberals". Clinton thought that by governing well the democrats would be rewarded by the voters. Now they realize it was just the "tax" and "liberals" part the troglodytes didn't like.

  2. This is similar to their professed faith in smaller government and balanced budgets. People who wear their faith on their sleeves are always hiding an inner demon.

  3. The God of greed and bigotry? The God who thinks the Jews are a "chosen people" above all others? Count me out.
by Paul Goodman 2005-08-14 06:39PM | 0 recs

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