Three Approaches to Society
When I hear so-called "conservatives" talking about issues, I often hear them use language that is clearly not representative of Traditional Conservative thought. I think of John McCain, for one, who often sounds more liberal than Teddy Kennedy, yet he is adored by many independents and GOPers for his conservatism.
Last year, we also saw people like Jesse Ventura pretending to support the Reform Party, while pushing hard for NAFTA, GATT and WTO, along with his stooge, Trump. (Who had no business in an anti-NAFTA party, and that soon became clear to all.)
Another problem I've seen is a subtle, creeping libertarian thought process within the GOP and even the Reform Party. How a pro-abortion, pro-drug, pro-gay, pro-immigration, pro-free trade movement can find a home in the RP is beyond my comprehension. If it's the rhetoric they use advocating "freedom" and "constitutionalism" that appeals to people, they should look carefully at what the libertarian is implying by these terms, because it's not a Conservative society they are promoting, it's something far different.
In response to these concerns, I've prepared a listing I call "Three Approaches to Society." It outlines the liberal, libertarian and conservative approaches to our culture on 19 vital issues. I'm not sure many people have set down and thought these issues out and compared them, but it's instructive to do so, especially on the social issues. There is a good reason why I believe NO Reformer should be supporting a Libertarian Party or Democratic Party candidate - ever! Read on, to find out why I say this.
THREE APPROACHES TO SOCIETY:
Liberal: What is best for the individual is best for a society. The individual should seek self-actualization and self-gratification to find completeness, and has only a limited duty to others.
Libertarian: Only what is best for the individual is best for the individual. Individuals should seek self-fulfillment and self-gratification at all times, since the individual is completely autonomous and has no duty to others. Society's needs are largely irrelevant.
Conservative: Individuals should have a sense of duty to others, but primarily, they have a duty to themselves and to their families. Individuals are autonomous, but live within a community of other individuals, and therefore may have obligations that must be fulfilled, as well.
Liberal: Immigration *is* who we are as Americans - that, and little else. It should be vigorously promoted as a "good" thing, and immigrants should be welcomed with almost no restrictions on their entry. Illegal immigration is not a big issue, since they do the work we don't want to do anyway. Calls to stop immigration are racist.
Libertarian: All people should be totally and completely free to come to the United States, at any time, from any place, for any reason, since borders are a government-created sham. Illegal immigration is irrellevent, since the goal is to allow free access anyway.
Conservative: Borders are still an important definition of what it means to be a "nation". Immigration should be severely limited and/or paused, to allow for assimilation. Illegal immigrants have no right to be here, and should be deported.
Liberal: Trade should be free between all nations, because we're all interdependent on one another, and trade is a tool to bring the world into closer union with one another. Free trade, and the international market, will determine which products succeed and which don't.
Libertarian: Trade should be free between all nations, because government has no right to try to "protect" its people from trade. Free trade, and the international market, will determine which products succeed and which don't.
Conservative: Trade should be free ONLY when it is fair, reciprocal and between friendly nations. Government has a duty to act on the people's behalf to protect Americans from unfair trade practices such as "dumping" that will harm or ultimately destroy entire industries. Other than these common-sense protective measures, free trade and the international market determines which products succeed and which don't.
Liberal: If it feels good, do it. All people have the right to express their own sexuality as they choose, when and where they choose. Schools should expose children to all manner of sexuality, so they can decide what's right for them, and so kids can be protected from diseases while they have sex.
Libertarian: All people have the right to express their own sexuality as they choose, when and where they choose. Protection from disease is up to the individual to learn about from the street.
Conservative: Sexuality should be a matter for the bedroom, not the street, school or mass media. It is a private matter that, if discussed too openly and freely, coarsens the culture and the language. Parents should have the right to introduce the topic to children when they feel it's appropriate.
Liberal: Use of language is the free choice of individuals. All languages should be promoted and used in government documents and by government agencies, to be "fair" to all people from all nations who now live here.
Libertarian: Use of language is the free choice of individuals, it has nothing to do with government.
Conservative: Use of language bonds a culture together. While we all have different ethnic backgrounds, the English language unites us, and we should strongly promote its use as a unifying force.
Liberal: Education, which must be run by the government, is designed to "teach children how to think," not to introduce "facts" into their minds. Children know best what it is they need to learn, and should design their own curriculum and set their own standards. But education must socialize them into believing politically correct ideas (as opposed to "hatred"), and they should be taught to be individuals, above all else.
Libertarian: Education is not the concern of the state or the community. It is solely the parent's reponsibility, and the child's. In fact, children are often the best guide as to what they need to learn, and should design their own curriculum and set their own standards. Children should be taught to be individuals, above all else.
Conservative: Education should be run by the community or by individuals who teach their own children, and should impart the collective wisdom of Western Civilization to the next generation, because it is important to carry on our society's traditions and values. Children are not prepared to decide what's best for them. Standards must be set in a curriculum that reflect the parents' and community's standards and values. Children should be taught to be individuals, but not to the exclusion of being good citizens with proper moral bearings.
TAXES AND GOVERNMENT
Liberal: Taxes are needed to fund government, because government is the best and only way to deal with all problems.
Libertarian: Taxes should be almost totally eliminated, because government is never the best way to deal with problems. Private companies and individuals can solve all of society's ills.
Conservative: Taxes are needed to fund a lean, efficient government, because government is the tool of the people, and is often the most efficient and viable way to address society's needs (based on centuries of experience), while sometimes partnerships with private companies and individuals can be just as, or more, efficient and effective than government. Taxes should be limited in scope to avoid unnecessary and unwarranted growth of government, which would make it innefficient in its function of tending to the people's needs.
Liberal: The rights of workers should be protected from exploitation. Workers should have the right to collectively bargain without harassment from the employer and its agents.
Libertarian: Workers have no "rights" other than what employers choose give them. They should not be forced into unions, and should only bargain on an individual basis for the best deal from the best employer.
Conservative: The rights of workers should be protected from exploitation. Workers should have the right to collectively bargain, but unions should not coerce people to join against their will.
Liberal: Workers should be protected from "slave wages" that exploit their labor. A government-mandated minimum wage accomplishes this.
Libertarian: Employers should be allowed to set wages at any rate they choose, regardless of how low or high, without any interference from government or anyone else. The market alone will determine where wages should be. (note: usually, downwards.)
Conservative: Workers should be protected from "slave wages" that exploit their labor, but businesses shouldn't be forced into a wage scale that forces them to fire workers just to avoid bankruptcy. A minimum wage, which rises occasionally and moderately, keeps vast swaths of the population from becoming serfs, while allowing businesses to stay in business.
Liberal: Guns are dangerous and are only designed to kill. They should be strictly limited in their use and by who is allowed to use them, until they can be eventually elimimated.
Libertarian: Guns are necessary for a free people to remain free. Their should be absolutely no restrictions on their use or ownership.
Conservative: Guns are necessary for a free people to remain free. Their should be only very limited restrictions on their use or ownership, as determined by local communities and states.
Liberal: Religion is a matter of personal choice, and government should not be involved in those decisions - except in order to keep public spaces "secular" and free of religious influence.
Libertarian: Religion is a matter of personal choice, and government should not be involved in those decisions. The free marketplace of ideas will determine if religion or secularism will dominate that "marketplace". Darwin-like, the strongest religious (or non-religious) influence will "win" in our culture.
Conservative: Religion is a matter of personal choice, and government shall make no effort to establish religion or interfere with its free exercise in the public or private realm. Efforts to "religiously cleanse" all public areas must be stopped as a violation of the Constitution.
Liberal: Parents have only limited rights over their children. Children have equal rights with parents, and can chose their own beliefs, their own lifestyles, and their own friends and interests. International conventions have determined that they should not be punished by their parents through spanking, and they should have the right to sue their parents if they feel their rights are violated. The state should have broad powers to take children from homes it deems "unfit", since "it takes a village to raise a child."
Libertarian: Parents have only limited rights over their children. Children have equal rights with parents, and can chose their own beliefs, their own lifestyles, and their own friends and interests. The community has no right to interfere with childrens' rights, including imposing drinking ages or curfews on them.
Conservative: Children have only limited rights, as determined by their parents and their community. Parents have a right and a moral duty to chose children's beliefs, lifestyles, and determine with whom their child will associate. Parents have the right and duty to punish children as they see fit, but do not have the right to abuse them. The state should have very limited powers to remove children from homes the community deems "unfit," but the family unit should be kept whole as often as possible.
Liberal: Society has determined that some drugs are so destructive that they should be banned altogether. This is legitimate, and the illicit drug trade is dangerous and should be stopped. However, some drugs deemed "illicit" should be made legally available, since the right of the individual outweighs any of society's qualms about their danger.
Libertarian: Others have no right to determine what is bad for an individual to consume. All substances are equal, and should therefore be made freely available.
Conservative: Society, through long experience, has determined that some drugs are so destructive to the fabric of society (mainly the family unit) that they should be banned altogether. This is a legitimate response of a civilized people, and the illicit drug trade is dangerous and should be stopped. The right of the individual to destroy themselves is not absolute, since communities, families and employers always bear much of the "social costs" of destroyed individuals.
Liberal: Government has no right to impose its moral views on individuals. "Standards of decency" are impossible to determine, since all individuals have the right to make up their own standards. Communities that try to set standards are trampling on the rights of citizens to set their own moral standards.
Libertarian: Government has no right to impose its moral views on individuals. "Standards of decency" are impossible to determine, since all individuals have the right to make up their own standards. Communities that try to set standards are trampling on the rights of citizens to set their own moral standards.
Conservative: Communities and societies have the obligation to set standards for moral decency for themselves. Standards are simple to determine - they are what all people hold dear and cherish, and have been passed down over the centuries. They allow for individuality, but within the bounds of a community. They promote freedom, but not licence, in individuals.
Liberal: Abortion should be freely available as birth-control and as population control (primarily for middle-class, native-born Americans.) It should remain legal and widely available, and should be government-sponsored for all who want it, including minors.
Libertarian: Abortion, like all evils, should remain legal, but no government money should be used to pay for them.
Conservative: Abortion is a tragedy, and destroys a society's future. It should not be allowed in a civilized society.
Liberal: Pornography is a civil right for adults, and cannot be regulated by government. Stores should be allowed to sell porn to whomever can pay for it (though, politically, we must say "only to adults"), and strip clubs clearly have a right to exist.
Libertarian: Pornography is a civil right for adults, and cannot be regulated by government. Stores should sell porn to whomever can afford to pay for it, without restrictions. Strip clubs clearly have a right to exist, and their owners have a right to build them wherever they feel would do the most business.
Conservative: Pornography may be a right, but children should be protected from it by the community, which has a right to protect them from degrading images of human beings. Strip clubs should be kept away from neighborhoods with children, schools, and churches, if they are allowed in a community at all, which is up to the community to decide.
"CLASSES" IN SOCIETY
Liberal: Social classes are at war with one another - a war between the "haves" and "have-nots". Government should equalize what people posess as much as possible so the classes will eventually disappear. In the meantime, people should be given "boosts" into the higher classes by government assistance.
Libertarian: Social classes represent an individual's struggle for fitness within a totally free market, which is as natural as the struggle for fitness in nature. Individuals can claw their way into the upper classes, but must do it on their own, without any government help.
Conservative: Social classes in a free society are natural, and government should create an environment in which individuals are freely able to better themselves, but should have very limited interferece in that process.
Liberal: Individuals should be able to build on their own property, but with restrictions to protect society from unwanted development. Government has the right and responsibility to buy private property using tax dollars to protect it from growth that will harm the community.
Libertarian: Individuals should be able to build whatever they want, where they want, when they want. Others have no right to tell them what to do. Government has no right to "buy" property using tax dollars.
Conservative: Individuals should be able to build what they want on their own property, with limited and reasonable restrictions by the community to protect the community - and their neighbors - from unwanted development. Government should rarely and judiciously buy private property using tax dollars to protect it from growth that will harm the community.
Liberal: The United Nations is an experiment in interdependence. No one nation is better than any other nation, and all sit beside one another equally. One day, the U.N. - conceived of as a "commuity of nations" - will evolve into a "nation of communities", and will transcend national boundaries.
Libertarian: The United Nations is a coersive body that seeks to dominate the world. The U.S. cannot be a member of such a body, and its headquarters should leave our shores immediately.
Conservative: The United Nations is an imperfect body that has, in the past, been used by America's enemies to beat us up, verbally (although America has found an ally there, too, on occassion.) Often, it has tried to impose the idea of "interdependence" too far, intruding on American sovereignty. While we should obviously be suspicious of such a body, and should ensure that it remains a club for discussion and not evolve into a world government, we should work to change it into a "meetingplace of nations," in which each nation will bring its own sovereignty and distinctiveness to the table, without fear that it will be "homogenized" into a clone of all other nations, or lose that which makes each nation unique.
Stephen Abbott, 35, is the principal of Stephen Abbott Communications, a public relations and political consulting firm in Manchester, New Hampshire, USA. His web site can be found at http://www.sacomm.com. He also works as a journalist for a weekly newspaper in south-central New Hampshire.
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