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What's a Conservative Ideology and What's a Liberal Ideology?
I used to carpool with an old, blind professor to the small college I attended and he use to tell me, paraphrasing Gore Vidal, that politics came from two words: poli, meaning many, and tics, meaning blood sucking vermin. Unfortunately, his somewhat suspect etymology, while proving technically untenable, has turned out to be largely correct in principle.
In American politics, where power has become everything, ideology has become a bastard step-child. American politicians think more about how they can fool the masses or get around popular democracy to further their ends than they do about what they truly believe in, if they actually believe in anything?
Of course, it is not my intent to sweep every single politician under the bus with a broad brush, so for this hub it must be understood that I am speaking in general terms.
Two Major Ideologies: Liberal and Conservative
There are two major ideologies in American politics. Understanding these helps us understand each other politically and enables us to make sense of what at times seems senseless. These ideologies are labeled conservative and liberal. Although these terms have changed definitions over the years, I will use them as they are currently defined.
If you took a strip of paper that was blue on one end and gradually changed colors until it was red at the other end, you would end up with a spectrum of colors. At some point toward the center of the strip you could get into a few arguments as to whether the color was red, purple, or blue. It is that way with the liberal and conservative ideologies, so I will be concentrating on the ends of the strip, so to speak, and not the middle.
Conservative Vs. Liberal
At the core of it, Conservatives base there ideology on what they see as reason and logic and it is individualistic by nature, whereas a liberal's ideology is based on emotion and ideals and is collective by nature. A liberal is interested in curing society's ills by social engineering. A conservative is interested in curing society's ills by individuals exercising their own choices to better themselves. Because of this, conservatives view centralized power with deep suspicion. Liberals on the other hand see centralized power as an opportunity to affect great change for good.
The Role of Government
Because of the fundamental differences in the way conservatives and liberals approach the solutions to society's challenges, it should come as no surprise that they have radically different views on the role of government.
The Liberal View
A liberal wants the government deeply involved in our lives. It is often seen as a parent to us all—or the big tent. They believe that the government can force society to confront its ills and legislate and enforce the cures. A liberal point of view diminishes the individual's responsibility and believes people are victims or victimizers. This point of view does not see individuals as having power to rise above their circumstances in large numbers and therefore a savior must be found to "level the playing field."
They point to the example of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Without government intervention, they argue, the rights of minorities would never have been acknowledged nor would there be equal rights for all. In fact the civil rights movement is the basis of the modern liberal's political ideology, and proof that it is essentially correct.
This conviction motivates them to use all means available to impose their vision of goodness on the masses. If they can't get the populous to support their agenda then they will get the courts to legislate it. This is because they firmly believe that their agenda is for the greater good of society.
Liberalism is naturally sympathetic with socialism and suspicious of individualism and even though it shares the same long-term goals as conservatism it's approach, as you can see, is radically different.
The Conservative View
Even though the conservatives share with liberals the desire for a better society, they differ sharply in what role the government should play. In a nutshell, conservatives view the role of government as "the less the better." Since they see the combined strength and sufficiency of the individual as the only honest cure for society they believe that the role of government should be restricted to functions that support and protect individual liberty. They are very suspicious of government interference in individual rights, and they do not see differences in socioeconomic groups as a bad thing since, in their view, it is every individual's right to change those circumstances by choice and action.
They view the government's attempts at redistribution of wealth through its tax codes, its interference in commerce by regulations, and its welfare entitlements as enabling individuals to shirk responsibility for their own lives and rely on the government to take care of them. They reason that the more the government takes responsibility for his or her well being away from the individual, the weaker and more dependent society will become.
At this point in American politics the two ideologies have taken a back seat to power, but if they were brought to bear on our government which would be the best: Socialist Democracy, or an independent go-it-alone capitalist democracy? I would submit to you that the extremes of both ideologies are dangerous and would deepen problems in American society and that one, tempered with the other, might be the best ideology of all.
For example: if we have a struggling class in America, we could provided training opportunities for people who wanted to succeed and would put forth efforts on their own behalf instead of entitlement programs that accomplish nothing and consume copious amounts of money? Along with such programs would also come the responsibility for the recipients to put forth efforts on behalf of their own welfare.
We need to have a heart that includes tough love and foresight, one that looks at America's opportunities and does not retreat into a defensive posture from the world around it. One that can realize the true nature of the threats against America and America's way of life. Not a vision that feels good at the thought of America sinking down to the level of the third world, but instead one that forges on a head and shows the way for the third world to follow.
America must continue to provide unparalleled opportunities, but not bend to whiners and self proclaimed victims who want to short-cut the system and reap benefits they never earned. We must in sympathy try to teach fishing, quit giving fish and realize that poverty is not always the rich or the government's fault. But we must not march on, leaving people behind who, with a little instruction and help, can become productive and successful. In doing this we must also have the heart firm enough to leave those behind who refuse all help and demand instead to be fed from the public coffer's without a contribution of their own.
We must leave classism, racism, and bigotry behind, regardless if it is the old-school-hard-hearted variety wacky right, or the soft feel-good, guilt-washing, variety of the wacky left. No class of Americans should be punished or be held back based on the color of their skin in order to "even the score." We need to let go of power and take hold of responsibility; quit giving the media oracle status, and get the job done.