Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Conservatives and liberals- Are they any different?

In my last post "Conservatism- Intellectual backbone wanted" I wrongly assumed that Conservatism could be backed by an intellectual backbone. In his comment on the same post Burgess Laughlin said:
Conservatism, by definition, opposes capitalism. Conservat-ISM is an ideology, the ideology that holds four values as its guide: God (or religion generally), Tradition, Nation, and Family (as in "family values"). Philosophically these values mean supernaturalism, mysticism, and altruism. The step from those to statism is very short -- and it usually involves the nationalistic sort of statism.
Today I read an article "Are you a conservative or a liberal? by Linn and Ari Armstrong which addresses the issue of what exactly do conservative and liberal tags actually mean. They define both as:
What does it mean to be a conservative? Many of the same conservatives who claim to support free markets and liberty also endorse economic protectionism, censorship, welfare spending, corporate welfare, immigration restrictions, prohibitions of various substances and activities that violate nobody's rights, abortion bans, and so on.

Liberalism, one might think, has something to do with liberty. Yet today's liberals endorse political economic planning on a vast scale. They typically want to forcibly redistribute more wealth, impose controls on private property, and impose more “enlightened” forms of censorship.

Many of today's conservatives and liberals find common cause in the belief that politicians should largely control your life.
The above description renders the tags meaningless as they both lead to the same thing- a mixed Government. Armstrong's also mention Thomas Paine's discussions with Edmund Burke in his "Rights of Man" where Paine defines mixed government as:
A mixed government is an imperfect everything, cementing and soldering the discordant parts together by corruption, to act as a whole. In the mixed Government there is no responsibility: the parts cover each other till responsibility is lost; and the corruption then moves the machine, contrives at the same time its own escape.
Paine goes on to offer the alternative.
But in a well-constituted republic, nothing of this soldering, praising, and pitying, can take place; the representation being equal throughout the country, and complete in itself, however it maybe into legislative ans executive, they all have one and the same natural source. The parts are not foreigners to each other, like democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy. As there are no discordant distinctions, there is nothing to corrupt by compromise, nor confound by contrivance.
In the end nobody says it better than Ayn Rand who is quoted by the authors as saying:
“The basic and crucial political issue of our age is: capitalism versus socialism, or freedom versus statism. For decades, this issue has been silenced, suppressed, evaded, and hidden under the foggy, undefined rubber-terms of ‘conservatism' and ‘liberalism' which had lost their original meaning and could be stretched to mean all things to all men.”