Dan Goodman's prediction and politics journal.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Wednesday August 4, 2004. Writing: daily exercise -- Done. A piece on why explaining what "conservative" and "liberal" mean is complicated. I may post it here after some revision.

(Anonymous) 2004-08-08 01:37 (from (link) Select
Hi Dan!

I'm Jimmy Scott from alt.comp.freeware, just browsing about.

You have a very interesting page here. I may be reading your entries way back .

I wanted to say hello and I saw your writing exercise:

[cut, cut]

Jimmy Scott

dsgood 2004-08-20 17:09 (from (link) Select
'While I do not allow labels to dictate my behavior, I would have to label myself as listing to the port side. This was certainly true in my youth and the ship is correcting itself as I age, the list is smaller today I suppose. I also believe in many "conservative" values, such as personal responsibility. I say conservative, yet without fully understanding what each label means, I use my inner understanding of these terms and I might well be completely incorrect.'

Political dictionaries don't give clear definitions of these terms. Here's how I see it: Roughly speaking, "conservative" is 1) a label whose truthfulness and accuracy aren't guaranteed. 2) Any of several more or less related frames of mind. A conservative may place the most emphasis on preserving the best of the present against change. Or may want to preserve even the worst of the present: "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't" or "Better the devil you know than the angel you don't know." Or may want to reverse some changes. 3) Membership in a loose group, or a more cohesive sub-group.

By the way, in my area (South Minneapolis) there are no conservative or liberal candidates. Democrats (technically, Democratic-Farmer-Labor or DFL) have campaign literature which says they are social progressives and fiscal conservatives. Republicans say they are social moderates and fiscal conservatives.

'To me liberal means to be open minded, tolerant, and caring of others.'

Up till some time in the 1960s, there were liberal politicians who were openly racist. In some cases, this was what they believed in; for example, Woodrow Wilson. In other cases, it was what they had to say (and how they had to vote) in order to be elected and stay in office. (This was common in the South, but not exactly unknown in the North.)

'While I am not gay, I have nothing against those who are. I am concerned about the spread of HIV, regardless of sexual orientation. It is an individual right, as I see it, to choose. I don't really like to see men in public, but here is no right not to be offended.'

A lot of Americans, whatever their political labels, would disagree with you on this.

'The fiscal conservative holds that there is a right to accumulate wealth while ignoring the costs of living in a society. I disagree here. We cannot simply allow those without to perish, because they have not the means to eat properly or to afford insurance, and refer to ourselves as a civilized society. There is a debt to live in a society. The Welfare programs of the 70's are certainly not the answer, still a debt does linger.'

That term means two things. What candidates who call themselves fiscal conservatives mean is that they'll hold back government spending and reduce taxes if possible.

'The social conservative, as I understand, seeks the same. That is, marriage is between a man and a woman, because this is the way it has always been. Slavery would be valid today if this line of reasoning were prevalent. Again, I disagree. Change is very necessary and has led us to this point in time.'

There's another issue here -- the people who say "Marriage has always been between a man and a woman" are wrong. Confining that to "the Judeo-Christian tradition" (a term which annoys some Jews, me included), the claim that it's been that way for five thousand years contradicts the Christian Bible. Polygamy is common in the Old Testament, and is most definitely not condemned.

In the European branches of Judaism, prohibition of polygamy dates back a bit over a thousand years, I believe. And I don't think Yemenite Jews, for example, ever prohibited it.

'While none of these very broad categories provides an answer as to what is the most rational way for an individual to think and act, there are principles in each that bear merit. Individuals should seek a point near the center and utilize the principles that hold water from any source.'

Maybe. The problem is that, looking back, I can see times and places where the conservatives closest to the center accepted too much radicalism. For example, the German conservatives who thought they could control Hitler. And others where the cutting-edge radical leftists were way too conservative: the English radicals of Cromwell's time who wanted full voting rights for all English men above the rank of servant, for example. Or Rousseau, who saw no point in educating women or otherwise distracting them from their duties in helping men.
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