Because Willard was only a pretend conservative (my words), Joe Scarborough laments we have never had the conversation we should have: namely the ideological underpinnings of those two behemoths, Liberalism and Conservatism. And we should have, he argues.
According to Joe, conservatives are about securing individual liberties for folks, keeping regulations and taxes low so that people can create their lives as they see fit. Read that as small government. It’s job mainly I would assume is to protect the population from enemies and to intrude only in those areas that require a uniformity in order for things like commerce to operate smoothly.
Liberalism, as I define it at least, see government as a much bigger deal. Liberals see government as the last foundation for human lives. It provides the minimum needs of its population. That includes food, clothing, housing, medical care, and education, while providing the basic environment for work–fair wages, safe conditions, and a means to redress grievances for conditions and benefits.
Conservatives, I think, see the Liberal model as bringing about an indolent population that is happy to recline on the sofa, with remote in hand, living on the dole. Liberals see the Conservative model as pie-in-the-sky unrealistic and contra to human nature.
Shall we examine?
Conservatives believe that business (free markets) are best. Business is left unfettered to compete against each other, and everything stems from this. Men and women who have ideas, secure capital, hire workers, and make products that are freely offered in the market place where they compete with other products. As a business succeeds, the products improve, the wages improve, blah, blah, blah.
But this is not what happens. I have read in a number of places recently that the sociopath is not limited to only serial killers. They are indeed often found among CEOs. We have the evidence of this in the period of American history known as the time of the Gilded Age, or the Age of the Robber Barons.
What we learned is that certain men, in all the major industries were not about making great products, but instead were driven by only one thing–winning. And winning was defined by money, and power. And that was determined by putting competitors out of business and controlling the market. No thought was given to the quality of the product, and no thought was given to the life of the worker who made it all happen.
Business left unchecked leads to no trickle down of money or opportunity to all. It simply leads to the oligarchy of the corporate few.
That is the error in conservative thinking as I see it. While there are thousands of compassionate business leaders, most are driven to succeed and success is measured by money and power. Nobody is handing out awards to the CEO who paid the highest wages, made the best quality product, and granted the biggest benefits package to her workers.
Moreover, giving everyone the opportunity to succeed on their own, is not for everyone as conservatives seem to think. Many folks are not driven, not intellectually up to the task, and not psychologically oriented to that pioneer spirit of striking out into the unknown with only their wits and their muscles as tools. Most small businesses fail in their first year.
Conservatives are very good at giving the failures in society someone to blame. It’s government with its taxes, and this or that minority with its willingness to take a hand-out, that takes your money and prevents you from doing for yourself. When we have others to blame for our shortcomings we never look at ourselves and perhaps discover what we are not suited for and what we are. Conservatives short-circuit that process, giving us false enemies to blame for what are really our personal failings.
Some of us are meant, for many reasons to follow, to work for others, to concentrate on things other than monetary success in the world. The Conservative mind sees everyone (except the real people–the creators) as susceptible to any offer that allows them to receive rather than do. The truly do think most people will sink to the lowest level if given the chance. But where does the Conservative model leave the artist–the songwriter, the sculptor? Where the scientist or historian? Years upon years of work may be necessary before any apparent benefit is seen. How many painters are unknown and unappreciated during their lives? Do not these folks have a right to subsistence?
I recall back in the ancient days when I was in college, taking a philosophy course. A question was posed, and of course it was one of those that has no real answer, only promoting your thinking skills.
Would you pay someone a subsistence living wage to read–with no strings attached?
My answer was an unqualified yes. Yet I could not articulate exactly why. I just knew the answer should be yes.
Today, I can articulate why. It is because it is not human nature to learn for ever and go to the grave having never divulged what you learned. Whether from wanting the adulation or recognition or from a more socially acceptable need to help humanity, we as humans are driven to share what we know or think we know. It is why we are community animals and not lone wolves.
That is why the seminal error that conservatives find in liberal theory–that all receive the basics of food, clothing, housing, medical care and education–is not an error at all. They think this will lead to a dull, passive, uncreative, lazy, society in which nothing valuable is done. It will not.
If one looks to Europe, where a safety net such as described has long been in place, one doesn’t see a decadent useless society. One sees countries who are leading the way in alternative energy, in medicine, and in education. I see no evidence that people in Europe eschew work and prefer to sip wine on the veranda.
Conservatives lives in a dream work, one abetted by the likes of Ayn Rand who reacted to the soviet world that descended upon her country and stripped her family of freedom. She interpolated all that into some fantasy where job creators created for the pure love of creation, and worked tirelessly to improve their creations, where fair wages were paid by happy entrepreneurs who knew the value of a well-paid workforce.
Yet, history tells a different story. We did not institute clean air and water acts because of some fear of dirty air and water that might happen in the future. We did not institute child labor laws because someday some boss might work children too many hours. We did not institute safe working conditions, safe food laws, safe drugs, and so forth, because of potential greedy men and women who might endanger us.
WE ENACTED THOSE LAWS BECAUSE ENTREPRENEURS HAD DONE THOSE THINGS.
We protected unions because fair wages were not being given.
Clearly I come down on the liberal side of things. I think to be considered civilized, a nation must care for its people. It must provide them with the basic foundation from which to compete in the world. Poor children are BEHIND at the beginning because they come from less rich environments. We owe them a fair and level field.
Tomorrow: What we owe, and why we owe it.