Friday, February 2, 2007

Homework: Q&A

This is the kind of stuff I've been reading/writing about for school. The following is my post from this week's discussion group:

Initial thoughts about the following questions:

What are the key differences, do you think, among key belief sets important in US politics today? (Liberal and conservative are two major belief sets, but we could also talk about "libertarianism," etc., or about different variants of liberal and conservative.)

I'm going to stick with liberal versus conservative views here:

-favors individual liberties, and opposes any restrictions upon them (according to Wikipedia - I find this highly interesting and will point out why later)
- believes in equal opportunity and planned economics, which can include a welfare state
- has been a faction in both Democratic and Republican party politics, though is primarily equated with current Democratic politics

-also favors individual liberties, opposing any restrictions upon them, regardless of benevolent purposes
- believes in free enterprise, without government intervention
- has traditionalist/patriotic views on society matters- also has been a faction in both parties, but is currently related as a Republican trait

The thing I thought was highly interesting was this matter of individual liberties and restrictions. In the liberal camp, there is a desire not only for equal liberty, but for equal opportunity, and the government is seen as an ally to providing what is best for the public (equal opportunity) via public regulation, subsidy, and social welfare programs.

Conversely, the conservative camp fears government restricting individual rights, and thus prefers smaller government and more autonomous rule. The thing I find most ironic here is that this is true across the board for conservatives with regard to public economic issues, like welfare programs, and yet the conservative agenda to attempt to ban gay marriage or restrict abortion laws, by way of federal legislation, seeks to do just what conservatives protest and fear: take a person's liberties away via government.

In the end, both sides want the same thing: to afford the public the greatest amount of liberty and yet remain a civil society. However, ideas on the means in which this is to be achieved differ vastly.

In what ways do these beliefs shape competing policy preferences?

The very fact that the two camps are so polarized from each other shape competing policy preferences. Take the gay marriage issue: Liberal camp says, "It is their constitutional right to marry whomever they wish to." Conservative camp says, "It's never been this way before - you're rewriting the Constitution." Not to mention all of the spin lobbyists are putting on it with respect to "special rights" instead of equal rights, a moral issue instead of a civil issue, etc, etc.

Also, what are the areas of common ground?

Again, I think that the intentions of both parties are to protect the civil liberties of the public at large. Fiscally, regarding nat'l debt, "true" conservatives would agree with the liberal concern over the national deficit.

And how should parties deal with the tensions between moderates and true-believers within their ranks?

A very good point was made on the wikipedia site that liberalism and conservatism, in the American senses, on a political continuum, are both very centrist ideals, when compared to extreme socialism or fascism, respectively. I think that if we as a nation focus on the things we have in common versus the things we don't, then whether we are red, blue, or purple doesn't really matter. Every citizen, regardless of ideology, be they lay person, government administrator, or elected official, comprises the American public. And if we reframe the word public to include all of us, as it should be, then this whole field of public service is really about serving each other - differences and similarities altogether.

I got the online equivalent of a standing ovation from my group members on my last blurb - which is cool. I really REALLY believe in that principle, in politics, relationships, and in my faith.

1 comment:

  1. I would say that the "conservatives" that are trying to ban gay marriage, and be the morality police, are not true conservatives.

    Barry Goldwater was a true conservative, and he'd be appaled at the republican party now.

    That being said, I often find it funny that liberal means freedom, but liberals (like conservatives) are hypocritical on the issue. Freedom to liberals doesn't include the freedom to spend my money how I want to, to go to the doctor I want (or need) to, the freedom to smoke, to not wear a seat belt (that one kinda crosses thei eisle) or the freedom to send my kid to a good school. The freedom to determine my own pay scale for workers, etc etc etc.

    Both parties are fascists. They all just want more power. Its sad.