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Old 06-05-2007, 09:49 AM
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Default Freedom vs Equality: Conservative vs Liberal

There are two very good analyses of the Liberal vs Conservative conversation out there. George Will makes the case for understanding the two in terms of freedom and equality. Phil Waring is skeptical and tends to make it more a pragmatic concern ("what's in it for me") - which strikes a chord but just seems a bit cynical.

The Case for Conservatism
By George Will
The Washington Post, Thursday, May 31, 2007
WASHINGTON -- Conservatism's recovery of its intellectual equilibrium requires a confident explanation of why America has two parties and why the conservative one is preferable. Today's political argument involves perennial themes that give it more seriousness than many participants understand. The argument, like Western political philosophy generally, is about the meaning of, and the proper adjustment of the tension between, two important political goals -- freedom and equality.

Today, conservatives tend to favor freedom, and consequently are inclined to be somewhat sanguine about inequalities of outcomes. Liberals are more concerned with equality, understood, they insist, primarily as equality of opportunity, not of outcome.

.....

Quote:
Liberals tend, however, to infer unequal opportunities from the fact of unequal outcomes. Hence liberalism's goal of achieving greater equality of condition leads to a larger scope for interventionist government to circumscribe the market's role in allocating wealth and opportunity. Liberalism increasingly seeks to deliver equality in the form of equal dependence of more and more people for more and more things on government.
....

Conservatism embraces President Kennedy's exhortation to ``Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country,'' and adds: You serve your country by embracing a spacious and expanding sphere of life for which your country is not responsible.
Here is the core of a conservative appeal, without dwelling on ``social issues'' that should be, as much as possible, left to ``moral federalism'' -- debates within the states. Regarding foreign policy, conservatism begins, and very nearly ends, by eschewing abroad the fatal conceit that has been liberalism's undoing domestically -- hubris about controlling what cannot, and should not, be controlled.
Conservatism is realism, about human nature and government's competence. Is conservatism politically realistic, meaning persuasive? That is the kind of question presidential campaigns answer.


Phil Waring (Running On Empty) however believes:
Quote:
Those who have most to gain by being allowed greater independence and greater freedom of action will be on the right.

Those who have most to gain by a greater dependence on government actions and programs for their own livelihood and security will be on the left.

First of all freedom and equality concerns are not what most separates liberals and conservatives (assuming that true liberals and true conservatives do in fact exist). Liberals that I have known, Arthur Schlesinger and John Kenneth Galbraith, for example, would defend freedom no less than equality, and conservatives, William Buckley and George Will himself, would certainly place themselves very much in the camp of equality in regard to many current issues.

What separates these men is far more subtle than George Willís freedom/equality tension or opposition.

What separates them is the degree to which they would restrain, the one, freedom, and the degree to which they would promote the other, equality.

George Will makes liberals, who in his estimation are mostly looking for government solutions, thereby less admirable, than conservatives who, according to Will, look much more to individuals and individual initiatives for solutions. This is an unfair oversimplification and distortion of what is in fact a fully legitimate opposition between group and individual responsibilities. Both are necessary. Liberal and conservative positions are like all true oppositions two sides of the same coin. That which forces most of us to be in the center.
Maybe the best way to crystallize a dichotomy like this is to take each end to its extreme. If what Ware is saying is correct, the liberal ideology taken to extreme would amount to big government to enforce communism, and the conservative ideology taken to extreme would result in very little government at all.

Interestingly the results would be the same using Will's argument of freedom vs equality.
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Old 06-05-2007, 10:50 AM
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Actually I believe if you're trying to find a main difference between liberals and conservatives on which all other decisions derive, it's not a matter of fairness and freedom [after all, the modern conservative movement is hardly free on social matters, and I'd argue the modern liberal movement isn't economically fair], but individual and community.

Of course grouping people is a lot of times impossible [most Americans are neither conservative nor liberal by their own admittance], but I think generally the difference can be found in pronouns. Conservatives [excluding neo-cons and the Religious Right] are generally libertarian. To them it's about the individual. While liberals are generally socialist or social democrats. To them it's about the community.

You'll find that everyone is in agreement that anarchy would be ideal if practical.
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Last edited by Mathematician; 06-05-2007 at 10:53 AM..
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Old 06-05-2007, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by GeneCosta View Post
Actually I believe if you're trying to find a main difference between liberals and conservatives on which all other decisions derive, it's not a matter of fairness and freedom [after all, the modern conservative movement is hardly free on social matters, and I'd argue the modern liberal movement isn't economically fair], but individual and community.

Of course grouping people is a lot of times impossible [most Americans are neither conservative nor liberal by their own admittance], but I think generally the difference can be found in pronouns. Conservatives [excluding neo-cons and the Religious Right] are generally libertarian. To them it's about the individual. While liberals are generally socialist or social democrats. To them it's about the community.

You'll find that everyone is in agreement that anarchy would be ideal if practical.
that's a thoughtful analysis Gene, thanks. and i'll have to chew on that last one, it is intriguing.
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Old 06-05-2007, 12:18 PM
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no others with thoughts on this?
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Old 06-05-2007, 12:49 PM
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Hi Moon Woman,

Quote:
Maybe the best way to crystallize a dichotomy like this is to take each end to its extreme. If what Ware is saying is correct, the liberal ideology taken to extreme would amount to big government to enforce communism, and the conservative ideology taken to extreme would result in very little government at all.
I think you hit the nail on the head. I have always thought that a hard-core right winger can stay true to his principles because his principles include limited government and more individual liberty whereas a hard-core left winger has to moderate his actual convictions because most people would abhor the loss of freedom that would come with liberal policies.

I ask that of my liberal friends, "What is the worst that could happen if crazy right-wingers like myself were in powerful poisitons in our government? Less incompetent goverment, more freedom to pursue your hopes and dreams. You can still be liberals and attempt to build your socialist paradise, just you wouldn't be able to do it by confiscating people's hard earned money."
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Old 06-05-2007, 12:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Joe Stocks View Post
"You can still be liberals and attempt to build your socialist paradise, just you wouldn't be able to do it by confiscating people's hard earned money."
Joe, you know there can be no socialism without confiscation.

Nice to see you here, BTW.
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Old 06-05-2007, 01:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Stocks View Post
Hi Moon Woman,



I think you hit the nail on the head. I have always thought that a hard-core right winger can stay true to his principles because his principles include limited government and more individual liberty whereas a hard-core left winger has to moderate his actual convictions because

most people would abhor the loss of freedom that would come with liberal policies.
historically this is what happens over and over and over again, yes. but few seem to heed the lessons of history.

Quote:
I ask that of my liberal friends, "What is the worst that could happen if crazy right-wingers like myself were in powerful poisitons in our government? Less incompetent goverment, more freedom to pursue your hopes and dreams. You can still be liberals and attempt to build your socialist paradise, just you wouldn't be able to do it by confiscating people's hard earned money."
Excellent, and i'm going to keep that for my next conversation with the son in law...

btw you do know you've stumbled into a liberal forum, lol.
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