“If you’re not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you’re not a conservative at forty you have no brain.”
~ Winston Churchill
With all the brouhaha accompanying the end of the 111th (or as hobbits would say, eleventy-first) Congress and the countdown to the 112th Congress, I suddenly found myself in an identity crisis. In my younger years I had, I confess, very liberal leanings, but as time went by I found that conservative viewpoints fit me better. Was it age, my career or something else? I don’t know.
Now, however, my views are not quite as easily labeled. Perhaps there’s a reason that Churchill didn’t comment on how people feel after they pass the age of 40. In any case, I decided to assess myself.
First, I decided I needed to set criteria for each. I used Dictionary.com as a source, and came up with the following:
1. favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs.
2. (often initial capital letter ) noting or pertaining to a political party advocating measures of progressive political reform.
3. of, pertaining to, based on, or advocating liberalism.
4. favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, esp. as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties.
5. favoring or permitting freedom of action, esp. with respect to matters of personal belief or expression: a liberal policy toward dissident artists and writers.
6. of or pertaining to representational forms of government rather than aristocracies and monarchies.
7. free from prejudice or bigotry; tolerant: a liberal attitude toward foreigners.
8. open-minded or tolerant, esp. free of or not bound by traditional or conventional ideas, values, etc.
9. characterized by generosity and willingness to give in large amounts: a liberal donor.
10. given freely or abundantly; generous: a liberal donation.
11. not strict or rigorous; free; not literal: a liberal interpretation of a rule.
12. of, pertaining to, or based on the liberal arts.
13. of, pertaining to, or befitting a freeman.
14. a person of liberal principles or views, esp. in politics or religion.
15. (often initial capital letter ) a member of a liberal party in politics, esp. of the Liberal party in Great Britain.
1. disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.
2. cautiously moderate or purposefully low: a conservative estimate.
3. traditional in style or manner; avoiding novelty or showiness: conservative suit.
4. (often initial capital letter ) of or pertaining to the Conservative party.
5. (initial capital letter) of, pertaining to, or characteristic of Conservative Jews or Conservative Judaism.
6. having the power or tendency to conserve; preservative.
7. Mathematics . (of a vector or vector function) having curl equal to zero; irrotational; lamellar.
8. a person who is conservative in principles, actions, habits, etc.
9. a supporter of conservative political policies.
10. (initial capital letter ) a member of a conservative political party, esp. the Conservative party in Great Britain.
11. a preservative.
This exercise proved relatively unhelpful, which probably explains a lot, although I do like the 11th definition of conservative – sounds like something good on toast. Since the lexicographers were no help, let’s explore a few of my personal viewpoints.
- Power derives from the people and is granted to the government as a matter of efficiency for the common good.
- Government has a role in those things that cannot be appropriately handled at a lower level.
- Primary responsibility for solving problems belongs to
- IF these efforts are not successful, IF the problem is solvable and would benefit society overall, THEN the government should assist, preferably in a finite manner for a finite period of time
- Business creates more jobs than the government
- Creating jobs may be in conflict with profit.
- The choice business makes should dictate what role if any the government will play
Naturally I have a few amplifying remarks.
First with regard to the government role when others cannot address the issue – naturally this would include such issues as defense; a superpower is impossible without a centralized military. Even the postal service is appropriate for government. FedEx and UPS can provide specialized delivery services, but guaranteeing inexpensive mail delivery to each and every address in America at the same price is not an attractive business model.
Individuals and organizations should be the resolution of first resort; however, individuals often don’t have sufficient power, except through organizations they influence. If this is the case, it then falls to organizations, especially business to address the issues facing society. In recent years businesses have abdicated their responsibility in this area in their relentless pursuit of profit. Far too many businesses are content to enjoy, and in fact expect the privileges of our society without discharging the commensurate responsibilities. When this happens, only government has the sheer power to take effective action.
When the government gets involved this means that individuals and organizations have failed; this can mean they either tried and failed or as is the case too often saw no obligation to get involved. Whenever there’s a failure and another party must correct the failure, it is going to be a less effective resolution.
So back to the original question. Having been a liberal then a conservative, what am I now? As this article developed I realized that I was too concerned about the labels. My views have not radically changed over the years but what was new and liberal in the days of Bobby Kennedy was viewed as more conservative during the time of Ronald Reagan.
It appears that our political brands have taken on a life of their own; like pickles or automobiles, the brand is the identity. Conservatives are now far more conservative and the liberals far more liberal than in the past leaving many of us behind. It certainly explains why politicians prefer to take a rhetorical position at any cost, including failure to resolve those issues that government should. How sad.
So I guess I have to label myself these days as a realist; In my youth as a liberal I believed we could solve the world’s problems. Later I hoped that by not changing everything things would be better. As simplistic as it sounds, some things need to be changed, some don’t. The only way to determine which is which is to work together with an open mind and try to make things better not just for me but for us as a society and as a nation.
“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.
~John F. Kennedy, Presidential Inauguration Speech
“Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.”
~Robert F. Kennedy
Copyright 2010 SF Nowak – All Rights Reserved