If you read my stuff much, you might notice that I focus on principles. I’m not always knowledgable or wise enough in the specifics of an issue to get into the nitty-gritty, but I have great faith (for better or worse) in discovering the best principles of a matter and operating in accordance with them.
That said, I have felt burdened of late with the task of figuring out what are the basic differences in principles between American liberals and conservatives. All the idiotic ranting and raving that goes on during an election year is so useless. There are core beliefs somewhere, core principles, in which we disagree. And I suspect that relatively few proponents on each side are really conscious of these core differences – and I suspect that many of them if they examined them closely would find themselves questioning the beliefs they are acting on.
So, what are the core differences between liberals and conservatives? The Uncle Eric books explain it this way: conservatives want more freedom in economic matters but more governmental control in social matters; liberals want more governmental control in economic matters and more freedom in social matters. I’m not entirely sure that’s accurate. I thought so once, but current battles don’t seem to run along those lines exactly.
A friend recently said that she sees the difference as follows: conservatives believe government is incompetent (and therefore the one to blame for all our problems) whereas liberals believe big business is greedy and evil (and therefore the one to blame for all our problems). There are certainly some loudmouths on each side who would espouse those views. But I think the real conservative opposition is to big government – particularly big federal government. The further away from the people governed, the less effective the government can be. And liberals recognize the necessity of business; they just see a point where a corporation becomes so separated from the community they are serving that they cease to serve anyone other than themselves. I think conservative and liberals are decrying the same phenomenon here, just in different entities.
Another friend sees the difference this way: conservatives give primacy to the individual while liberals give primacy to the community. I think this is getting closer to the heart of things. There are certainly extremists on both sides who carry radical individualism and radical . . . communitarianism? (see, this is why people end up using terms like “communism” and “socialism” to describe the radical left) . . . to ridiculous extremes. But the reasonable people recognize that we need both. That a community only thrives with strong healthy individuals and that individuals are only strong and healthy when they attach to community.
These are all close. Kinda close. But not quite to the heart of things, I don't think. However, I have another theory I’m floating around in my brain. For a later post . . . stay tuned . . .