Sunday, November 07, 2004

Liberal vs. Conservative: the false dichotomy

We tend to think of there being two competitors in the political ring...

On the left, wearing the blue shorts, friend to the arts and sciences, tree-hugger extraordinaire, progress is his middle name... the Liberal.

On the right, wearing the red trunks, friend to industry and millionaire alike, Mr. "Three Strikes and you're out!", God bless this contender... the Conservative.

However, this is a very poor, one-dimensional approximation to something that has at least two dimensions. defines conservative as: Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change.

The opposite of conservative is progressive: Promoting or favoring progress toward better conditions or new policies, ideas, or methods

Neither conservatism nor progressiveness is a panacea. In extreme doses, both are dangerous. I suppose conservatives would say that change brings unpredictable results, including the potential loss of something that is good. Progressives might say that we never have the perfect solution, and that changes made with due deliberation have the potential to improve our lives. Fundamentally, conservatives are pessimists and progressives are optimists.

What is the opposite of liberalism? To be a liberal is to value freedom. The closest antonym for liberalism I have found so far is authoritarianism.

In the following table, I've tried to classify certain political positions within this two-dimensional political universe:

If you want to know who Bush is talking about when he refers to those who "hate freedom," it is the occupants of the bottom half of this diagram.

Now to political parties. Democrats are liberal progressives with a hint of environmental conservatism. Republicans used to be conservative in general, now they are squarely in are bottom right quadrant (a.k.a., conservative freedom-haters). Ralph Nader is probably in the bottom left corner. The libertarians live in the top right quadrant.

I feel sort of dim for taking so long to figure this out. I'm optimistic that eliminating the false liberal/conservative dichotomy in the minds of voters will lead to positive results. However, there are dark forces that don't want the dichotomy to go away.

So when Ann Coulter (may her name be cursed throughout the Local Group) spits her venom at us liberals, just remember that she's an authoritarian: she hates freedom.

1 comment:

thepoemster said...

I've been thinking about a post very similar to what you've done here Doc.Certainly not as well thought out but you've even used the the same word panacea that I was going to include.

As an aside I checked out that link and I was just the other day wondering what ever happened to the word "malarkey".And lo and behold there it was in the article.Must be an Irish word,eh
My father used to say it all the time.