Bullet Points

Conservative values have been neatly made into bullet lists by various writers. The most well-known of these is Russell Kirk, who died in the ’90s. Most such lists have half a dozen or more values.

Liberal values do not lend themselves so neatly to lists. The reason is that liberals see fewer instances in which absolutes can be claimed, whereas such absolutes are at the very heart of the conservative’s beliefs. A list of liberal values by Brian McKinley (here) is as coherent as any I’ve seen. Another list worth reading (here) comes from the University of Chicago Law School.

It is unfortunate that debate over the liberal vs. conservative approach to the serious problems we face has deteriorated to such a petty state of name calling. It would be good to see honest debate, with both sides fairly represented. Instead, what we usually see is absurd statements about what the other side thinks. Liberals are not immune from this, but my observation is that conservatives more often misrepresent liberal values and resort to offensive name calling than vice versa.

My own thought is that, in practical application today, the main difference between them is that liberals value most the wellbeing of the individual and conservatives value money most. This representation of conservatism goes counter to what conservatives state, but in practical terms today that is what it comes down to.

The conservative Republican position has been entirely to favor business without restraint. This has created one financial disaster after another as all forms of control and regulation have been trashed in service to the conservative ideals of less government and more individual responsibility.

It should be very apparent even to conservatives by now that corporate power has no interest in the common good, the wellbeing of citizens, the environment, or the nation. Business attends to these things only if it improves profit, in spite of what their four-color ads claim. Oil and timber companies paint a green picture of their benign activities, but you don’t see the human devastation created by blighted landscapes soaked in oil or the miles of clearcut timber land.

Politicians everywhere tend to be beholden to moneyed interests, but today in the US this form of purchased lawmaking has reached a nadir unseen since 1929. This meshes most unfortunately with conservative values of laissez faire, and has created havoc for those of us who live in the real world.

What to do about it. The solution is very simple: Establish a level of restraint on corporate greed sufficient to restore the general economic health of the country, to replace those controls systematically destroyed by Republicans since the time of Ronald Reagan. It’s very hard to do so as long as Republican conservatives believe in the “magic of the market” fairy dust that has brought us to this state. You’d think they would take a look around.

Published in: on 2011/03/25 at 10:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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