MY MEANING OF “CONSERVATIVE” AND “LIBERAL”

July 2nd, 2010

These words are tossed about so freely in today’s political world by the media, the parties, and the citizenry, that they have lost any understandable meaning.  I call myself a conservative, but I don’t identify with many uses of the word in the media.  And to hear it used as the “Tea Party” folks and talk show hosts use it (even that is inconsistent and confusing) does not represent how I think or believe.  Let me attempt to give meaning to these words in a way that allows me to communicate in this blog using them.

CONSERVATIVE—an attitude about people that assumes they are basically capable of self-government.  They desire education and properly educated, will work toward self-sufficiency and live responsibly.  It assumes that the role of government is to see that the game of society and commerce is available to all players.  Conservative politics trusts that most people are like this, but recognizes that most people will also act in self-interest and therefore puts in place rules to ensure that the game of society and commerce is fair and opportunity is available for all to play.  Life is not assumed to be fair, but simply seen as it is.  Freedom of choice is central, and the consequences of poor choices are not to be avoided and compensated, but rather serve as part of the education process assumed to be taking place in life and society.  The results of hard work are not to be redistributed, but serve as incentive to hard work.  The economy is not viewed as zero-sum, but seen as capable of infinite opportunity for all to participate and benefit.  Conservative is not any more friendly to business than to any other segment of society, and is simply committed to a fair game based on its underlying assumption about people.  Tax policy at all levels of government is used to raise necessary funds for government to function.  A conservative view of government is a smaller government at all levels, leaving many of the decisions of life to the people.

LIBERAL—an attitude about people that assumes they are basically incapable of self-government.  It assumes that government must do more than see that the game of society and commerce is available to all, but must also provide programs to take care of the people’s incapability to take care of themselves.  Life must be made to be fair and misfortune of individuals and groups becomes everyone’s responsibility and government’s job to correct.  Freedom of choice is not promoted because it can lead to unfortunate consequences which then become everyone’s responsibility to fix.  The results of hard work are seen as evidence of the unfairness of life and must be redistributed to the less fortunate.  The economy is viewed as zero-sum with the haves taking from the have-nots.  Business and worker are pitted against one another as haves vs. have-nots.  Tax policy is used to control life and the economy.  Because of the critical role of government, it must be large and controlling at all levels, with most of the decisions of life set in law.

Cam Mosher

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