On Wed, Jul 04, 2007 at 03:04:34PM -0700, Richard Marken wrote:
[From Rick Marken (2007.07.04.1500)]
> Dick Robertson (2007.07.04.1446CDT)]
>Two points: 1 Liberalism hasn't always been less
>prevalent throughout history.
I just meant in public discourse in the US. I think the evidence for
this is the fact that conservative talk radio and "news" (like Fox)
have a much bigger audience than its liberal counterparts Maybe I'm
wrong, but the results of the last few elections (since 1980) suggest
that the liberal heyday in America (which lasted from about 1932-1944)
>2 Not all who identify themselves as conservatives
>claim that what they believe is the only true
I don't think any of them would claim it outright, perhaps. But I've
never yet seen a self identified conservative who seemed aware of the
possibility of other legitimate positions. Of course, this is an over
generalization based on my own limited experience.
>This whole debate between so-called liberals and
>conservative nowadays seems to me to have undergone
>some weird twists and turns.
I agree. But my guess is that there is some kind of high level
difference between people who are willing to call themselves
"conservatives" and those willing to call themselves "liberals". I
don't agree with all the boilerplate liberal positions but I would
definitely say I'm a liberal. Neocons certainly don't agree with many
boilerplate conservative positions (balanced budget,
non-interventionist foreign policy, freedom from government
interference in private matters, separation of church and state, etc)
but they would definitely say that they are conservatives.
> Only the "every man
>for himself" policy seems to have been held to by
>the president and his supporters, and even then with
>at least pious declarations not to hold rigidly to
The president's most vocal supporters were self-identified
conservatives and they didn't make one little objection to his
policies until his public support went into the 30% range. Now they
are trying to make it seem like conservatism is fine, it's just that
Bush deserted conservative principles.
The only conservatives I've ever agreed with are the one's that were
liberals, like Teddy Roosevelt (though he did have a troubling
affection for war).
Richard S. Marken PhD
Lecturer in Psychology
I think Robertson is right about this. It was the "liberal" Wilson administration that got the US into World War I, the "liberal" Roosevelt adminstration that got the US into World War II, and the "liberal" Kenedy adminstration that got the US into Viet Nam ( I use liberal in quotes to indicate that they were considered liberal at the time, and would have called themselves liberal, although modern liberals might see them as liberal). All of these were opposed by "conservatives". It was only with the "new conservatives" as defined by Barry Goldwater in the 1960's and 1970's that "conservatives" began to embrace interventionist foreign policy, influenced by (at least according to Goldwater) the experience of World War II and the "lessons learned from that experience." In recent years, the "conservatives" have been more likely to advocate intervention, while the "liberals" have been less likely. It is not clear that "liberals" have abandoned interventionism, however, since many people currently considered leading liberals initially supported the Iraq incursion, and at least much liberal rhetoric suggests interventionist approaches to Iran and North Korea.
Another area where there has been something of a shift is in international trade. The Wilson administration advocated reduction or abolishion of import and export duties to encourage trade, finally proposing the income tax as an alternative source of revenue when "conservatives" argued that this would deprive the federal government of adequate income. With the conservative resurgence of the 1920's, the Smoot-Hawley tariffs were imposed to limit trade (and some argue became a significant factor in precipitating the depression). In recent years, "conservatives" have become advocates of international trade, while "liberals" have drifted toward economic protectionist.
Churchill, in his "History of the English speaking peoples", asserted that, compared to Europe, the political spectrum in the United States was quite narrow, and completely contained in what would be considered the liberal range in Europe. Churchill likely had in mind what is now referred to as classical liberalism, essentially the position that is now called libertarian in the United States. As a libertarian (and a Libertarian as well), it seems to me that the current US liberal and conservative positions have each diverged from classical liberalism in the same way, by deciding that some issues are so important that they can't be trusted to individual decision making, and require imposition of the decisions of a small elite on the public, by force if necessary. The difference is that the elite for the conservatives is a financial/economic elite, while the elite for the liberals is an academic/intellectual elite.
Taking the example of the problem of providing health care for those who need health care but are unable to pay ( both "need care" and "unable to pay" need to be defined to make this discussion really fruitful, but since they have so far been introduced informally, I will leave them that way), the libertarian solution would differ from the liberal solution proposed by Markin in seeking a voluntary solution without use of government force (ie enforcement). I agree with Marken that there is a problem. To address this problem, I feel obligated to make donations to assist in paying for some care for those unable to pay. I feel obligated to advocate to others the need for their donating. Were I to believe that current charities are not properly organized to address the issue, I would feel obligate to become involved in altering the programs of some charities, or organizing new charities. I believe that with sufficient effort and persuasion, this approach can succeed in addressing the need for care. Decisions about what care is needed, by whom, how, and when would be made by those involved in funding and supporting the charities, and by those seeking care to the extent that they are able to select programs which are a best fit to their needs. Marken's liberal solution, in contrast, would obtain funds, by force if necessary, from everyone, whether they have been convinced of the need or not, in an amount determined by a small elite administering the program rather than by the individuals contributing, and would make decisions about what care should be available, and to whom, again by a small elite. If we assume that most people are selfish, and also are not susceptible to persuasion, then the "liberal" solution might be necessary; if most people are generous and can be persuaded by reasoned argument and evidence, then all that is necessary is hard work and dedication. Addressing the issue doesn't require a political change, but only a dedicated and concerned group of people.
I am sending this recluctantly, because I am not sure I have the time to continue this discussion as I should. I also am reluctant since Marken posed the issue as having only two alternative, continuing the health care system as it is today or instituting a single-payer system. As a libertarian, I find the current medical system deeply flawed, likely because of a series of unfortunate policy decisions taken during the 20th century which have had the cumultative effect of making medical care much less accessable and much more expensive then necessary, so I would definately not be an advocate of keeping the system as it is today, but that is a somewhat different issue from providing for those financially unable to obtain necessary care. Addressing distortions in availability and cost of health care involves some political issues, but those issues can be addressed independently of providing care to those in need.
Samuel Spence Saunders, Ph.D.
Partner, West River Research Associates