This is a very old post that I no longer agree with, but it’s still worth reading.
One thing that interests me about politics is trying to get to the core of various belief systems. What does it mean to be liberal, or conservative? I am not sure exactly, but since I don’t call myself one or the other I don’t feel quite so bad.
I do think the terms have meaning, however, and I’ve been trying to pin those meanings down. This post is an attempt to do so. I’m thinking mostly of the American political landscape here, and I’m not a political scientist by any means, so bear with me.
The Liberal Way
I think liberals fundamentally have a superior (for humanity as a whole) view of what life should look like. This means that if the world were to look and operate in the way that the average intelligent liberal would like it to, it would be a better place for humans, in the long term, than that imagined by a similarly equipped conservative.
I think this is because liberals are inclusive by nature. Let’s have all these types of people. Let’s not judge them. Let them do what they want. Don’t try and control them. Don’t enforce standards. Let life take its course. Etc. This is the “feel” that comes from the liberal side, and I think it’s fundamentally good.
The Problem With The Liberal Way
Like I said, I think this approach is fundamentally positive and ultimately, as I said earlier, superior. Unfortunately, it doesn’t meld well with reality. That’s the fundamental weakness with the liberal perspective — they don’t understand that the world is not the way they want it to be, and they insist on promoting policies that will cause long-term suffering rather than addressing difficult core issues head-on.
A perfect example of this is the mixing of various cultures into the classrooms of America. In my opinion, logic dictates that a standard should be applied universally, and that those who don’t meet said standard should fail to progress. I think a completely separate program should be employed to ensure that everyone meets the standard, and the various systems of equalizing the playing field should be brought to bear there — not in the evaluation or even the curriculum design phase.
I am of the opinion that America’s schools are suffering due to a failure to enforce strict, consistent standards, and that this is in large part due to the influx of a variety of student populations that are not prepared to meet those standards. Liberals respond to this by calling the standards unfair, and subsequently pushing for their relaxation.
I believe this to be a fatal mistake. The standards were already there, and they are impartial. If we are to succeed as a country we must enforce rigorous education standards. Failure to do so due to the social and cultural implications of who will statistically fail to meet those standards in the short-term is an exercise in stupidity, and it’s one that liberals partake of on a regular basis.
The Conservative Way
So, liberals have a great view of the world and utterly no clue about how to go about accomplishing it. It’s worse than that, actually — they think they know how to go about it but don’t. I offer the welfare system offered in the 60’s as a model of great intentions and horrible outcomes.
Conservatives, on the other hand, I think have a less ideal view of what the world should look like. I think they have a much more elitist view of the world, with different classes and different worths. In their model world, those of the right breed, class, group, etc. are the ones who thrive, while the rest of the world sort of wallows in mediocrity — doomed to serve (waiters, cleaning staff, etc.) those who deserve a better life. And this is just the American capitalist conservative I’m speaking of. There are others such as religious conservatives from various parts of the world that are even more exclusionary.
I’ll grant them (American capitalists anyway) that they do tend to believe that you can “work your way” into the upper class, and that’s noble, but their willingness to look down upon those who can’t (or simply choose not) to take this path is their ultimate flaw. In the long term, like hundreds or thousands of years, I don’t think this model is sustainable.
The Strength of Conservatives
What conservatives tend to have that liberals don’t is a logical approach to solving their problems. Their reality more naturally coincides with the actual reality — an important feature when trying to do things in the real world.
This is largely due to the fact that their world is quite a bit more tangible — wealth, power, etc. It’s easy to build a logic-based methodology for attaining these things, whereas it’s not so easy to use the same tools to solve world hunger or stop powerful people from being greedy.
Conservatives have a simple view of life:
- Grow up with a structured, pre-packaged belief system.
- Get a good education.
- Generate and soundly manage a healthy income.
- Marry well.
- Produce quality children.
- Enjoy the finer things in life.
Liberals don’t have it so easy; they’re often trying to figure out what makes them happy, which often equates to fighting those ideals that they find impure (such as the list above).
The Ultimate Combination
Liberals have a beautiful vision of what the world should look like, and are completely inept when it comes to knowing how to build it. Conservatives are quite good at building worlds, but they are ultimately short-sighted and tend to desire systems that will, unbeknownst to them, perpetuate pain and suffering over time.
The ultimate combination, of course, is to combine the liberal vision of the world with logical (conservative) approach to attaining it. This is what I spend my time grappling with philosophically — a way to communicate the need for difficult, politically turbulent and socially uplifting policies that will acheive an ultimately liberal (human-beneficial) outcome.
I welcome your thoughts.
Jun 13, 2006
- Feb 15, 2019 — I don’t see the world this way anymore, but thought it worth it to leave this up as documentation of a journey.