Dr. Eileen Lynch
12. Political Culture
Explain how to tell a liberal from a conservative.
When I opened my assignment book and contemplated this essay, my first thought was, “Are you serious!” And my second thought went immediately to the writings of the late Frank Herbert. In his Dune Chronicles he writes that you shall know a conservative when you find a person that prefers the past (any past) over the future. And, in an effort to balance the equation, I suppose, Herbert writes that a liberal is known by advocating change for the sake of change itself. And, although biased and overly simplified, there is a grain of truth in those statements.
Our textbook explains to us the differences of ideology between liberalism and conservatism. Unfortunately, this is a little bit like that line in the movie The Matrix, “No one can be told what [those differences] are: One has to be shown!” And this is the reason for my improper ejaculation at the beginning of this essay: It is necessary to “dumb down” and simplify to a point that borders on the inane in order to define both terms.
In general terms, a conservative is a traditionalist, and he’s thought of being on the “right wing” of the political spectrum. In matters of governmental supervision of public welfare programs and what can be described as “moralistic” issues, a conservative feels that there should be greater involvement by the government, or what is traditionally known as “big government”. However, when it comes to the point of affecting his wallet, the traditionalist balks at having the government involved and proposes the so-called pseudo-laissez faire where there’s an appearance of trying to keep the government “hands off” the market, but only in the matters that are convenient for the conservative to make more money, and with tight regulatory participation of the government in economic issues that could place his investments at higher risk.
Also, in broad strokes, a liberal is an individualist, and we refer to him as being on the “left wing” of the political spectrum. Usually, the liberal is the nemesis, so to speak, of the conservative (but not in the sense that the conservative deserves to have a liberal plague visited on him). Where the conservative feels strongly about government involvement in the personal areas of life and no involvement in the economic areas, a liberal views with suspicion any attempts of regulatory activities that deal with the personal but welcome those activities in the economic plane. The liberal will sometimes advocate for points of view that might not be precisely sound or moral, but just for the sake of keeping the government off the personal arena.
Now, then, when it comes to
But in general, the distinction between conservatives and liberals boils down to their focus in three areas, Professor Gibson instructs. One: Should the government create an environment where an individual can pursue his own interests or should the government create and provide social services? Two: who should rule, a small group of people or should it be more of a participatory effort? And three: should the individual use the government for his own ends or should he use the government to promote the welfare of the many?
Unless someone declares himself to be patently liberal or tightly conservative, the distinctions blur by the minute. Have we not heard misnomer labels bandied about lately? Haven’t we met the “Compassionate Conservative” and the “Moderate Liberal”? Clearly, my interjection in the beginning still applies: “Are you serious!”