Today on Blogcritics
Home » Are You Really a Liberal?

Are You Really a Liberal?

Please Share...Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Share on LinkedIn0Pin on Pinterest0Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

Writers such as myself devote a lot of ink to the species known as liberals. And when you carry your banners openly on the field of battle, you define yourself and relinquish any claim to that most illusory quality, impartiality. This places you in the crosshairs, although you can take solace in knowing that your adversaries will always miss left.

Some of the liberals who contact me spew callow vitriol, at times peppered with language that would make a guttersnipe blush. But there’s another type of “liberal” respondent. This person is almost always civil, even when indignant. He’ll query me and wonder how I could ascribe all the qualities I do to liberalism, mystified that I would impugn an ideology possessed of but the most ethereal of virtues. Then, either confused or fancying me so, he’ll provide a dictionary definition, something always to the effect of:

“lib-er-al-ism . . . a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of man, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for tolerance and freedom for the individual from arbitrary authority in all spheres of life.” (Webster's Third New International Dictionary)

Well, I’ll be. Only Darth Vader would oppose such pristine philosophy. The problem here, though, is that using a dictionary to understand your politics is much like using one to try to understand your religion. “C’mon, Duke, aren’t you just a conservative trying to rationalize away inconvenient facts?” ask the naysayers. Well, read on.

Okay, so you’ve read the above definition and it sounds like what you would like to be. So you’ve got it all figured out. Are you sure?

First, understand that the meaning of the word liberal is fluid. In the World Book Online Reference Center, 2006 it states:

"The exact meaning of liberalism varies with time, place, and circumstance, and with who is using the term. The term can apply to government, social behavior, religion, economics, or other areas. It can refer to a set of personal values or to a system of political beliefs. Ideas regarded as liberal in some cultures may not be considered liberal in others."

In fact, it even varies on the same page of a dictionary. While Dictionary.com does have a definition equivalent to the aforementioned, it also has,

“a movement in modern Protestantism that emphasizes freedom from tradition and authority, the adjustment of religious beliefs to scientific conceptions, and the development of spiritual capacities.”

In fairness, that’s also similar to the first definition, but then there’s this,

“A 19th-century Roman Catholic movement that favored political democracy and ecclesiastical reform but was theologically orthodox.”

Now, today’s liberals don’t exactly cotton to theological orthodoxy, so we’re starting to see separation. “But this isn’t the 1800s,” you say? True enough. Of course, though, the real world isn’t a dictionary, either. But let’s take the next definition from the World Book:

“An economic theory in favor of laissez-faire, the free market, and the gold standard.”

Well, hell’s bells, what have we here? I, oft-described as a wingnut by some of my un-fans, embrace this principle enthusiastically. Yet, those liberal critics eschew it. Hmm, are they the true liberals or am I?

Are you still sure you know what liberalism is? I’m not done yet.

Truly ironic is when you find that in real life, in keeping with the World Book quotation, the definition of liberalism varies depending on location. For instance, while conservatives in cold war America were ardently anti-communist, their philosophical soulmates in the Soviet Union were known as liberals. Behind the iron curtain, the conservatives were the communists.

The reason for this is as simple as the issue it raises is complex. More constant definitions of “liberal” and “conservative” inform that, simply put, a conservative believes in “maintaining the status quo” while a liberal believes in changing it. Thus, Joseph Stalin and Joseph McCarthy both were conservatives – in their respective environments, that is. Moreover, each one had liberal opponents in his country and liberal allies elsewhere.

But this raises very interesting questions. If a liberal succeeds in implementing his changes to the point where they become the status quo, doesn’t he, by definition, become a conservative? And doesn’t the erstwhile conservative, after losing this cultural war and assuming that he endeavors to change the new status quo, in a way become a liberal?

And this phenomenon can be seen clearly if we examine our political history. The ideology that animated the hands of the Founding Fathers and became prevalent in the young United States was known as “Classical Liberalism.” Embraced by Thomas Jefferson and the other signatories to the Declaration of Independence, it espoused limited government, property rights, laissez-faire economics and freedom from government intrusion. And inherent in it was the belief that man derived his rights not from government but from God.

What’s important to realize, however, is that the designation “classical” was only added to this original liberalism upon the subsequent emergence of modern liberalism. This was to distinguish it from the latter, which had become a different ideology altogether.

Much different.

Today’s liberalism prescribes government action – in the form of a law, mandate, regulation or program – in every sphere of life, from child-rearing (anti-spanking laws) to hiring (EEOC) to school admissions (quotas) to sports (Casey Martin in golf, Title IX) to diet (banning trans-fats). Its adherents on the Supreme Court gave us the Kelo decision, an attack on property rights. It preaches that government has a place in religion (forcing Catholic hospitals to provide contraception), but religion has no place in government, quite the opposite of Jefferson’s conception of the separation of church and state. Now its minions have gone so far as to attack freedom of speech with hate crime/hate speech laws and even seek to redefine marriage and allow homosexuals to adopt children.

Because of this transformation, today’s rough equivalent of classical liberalism is Goldwater conservatism. (Note: I believe it is a myth that these ideologies are the equivalent of today’s libertarianism, as is commonly held.) And it should surprise no one that individuals of the latter stripe have long embraced the former’s principles. Once the founders’ liberalism became the status quo, it was no longer revolutionary. Then its proponents quite naturally became known as the protectors of the status quo, or, conservatives.

Of course, some liberals would say they’re evolving. But as I have demonstrated, both liberals and conservatives evolve; the question is, how are they evolving and is some atavistic adjustment in order? Let’s examine this with a parable.

Imagine America as a ship. The people aboard are a motley crew, liking different positions and forever arguing over whether it’s best to place the helm in the right, middle or left portion of the vessel. Now, in this tug-of-war, the helm shifts left and right as the strength of one side or another waxes and wanes. Of course, a passenger can occupy any area he wishes. But the further you stray to either side, the lonelier you become, so most stay within earshot of the band and buffet table. Overlooked by virtually all, however, is that the ship is off course and steadily drifting left because engineers working below, out of plain sight, are manipulating the rudder.

What this means is that those who wanted to be on the left still do, oblivious to the fact that the “left” is now further left than before the ship left its previous position. And those who wanted to be on the right are still happy to be there, not realizing that the “right” is now also further left than before. For each group to be closer to where it initially thought prudent, the left would have to move to the right side, and the right would have to untether a life boat and go over the side.

This explains the so-called “neo-cons” and “compassionate conservatives.” On the starboard side of a boat whose latitude and longitude have changed, they’re just the liberals of twenty-five years ago.

And this is why I’m ever more reluctant to brand myself a conservative. Conservatives are satisfied to occupy the “right” side of the political spectrum, not realizing the spectrum has been positioned by the “positioned” (Antonio Gramsci). Liberals are never happy unless they’re on the left side of the spectrum, even though, had they lived a generation before, arrival at society’s present center would have been their greatest ambition. In other words, conservatives tend to be defined by a defense of liberals’ previous conquests, while liberals are defined simply by a desire to change what conservatives are defending.

And this is the problem with modern liberalism: It is an ideology bereft of principle. Because nothing is sacred to liberalism, not even its own provisional principles, it may change society but then is changed by it. When will liberals ever say we have enough laws, regulations, mandates, taxation, bureaucracies, programs, and rending of tradition? Conservatism’s limitations are obvious. Even if it sought to, it couldn’t reduce government to less than nothing. But liberalism in our time has no fixed platform, no end game. It forever seeks to alter the status quo but is always defined by its opposition to it. It is not an ideology as much as it is a process, one by which change is effected but never cemented. It is a rebel without a cause, having long ago forgotten that change is meant to be a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. Thus, it is perennially in flux, with its only constant being change itself.

So, if you would tell me you’re a liberal, I would ask what I did of a kind-hearted but credulous soul who uttered the same proclamation to me many years ago: By birth or by choice?

Party affiliation or ideological orientation is not synonymous with ethnicity. Some people are so wedded to the word liberal that they behave as if being so labeled is an immutable characteristic. Often very traditional, it’s as if these folks are saying, “Ma’ pappy was a liberal, and ma’ gran’-pappy was a liberal, and ma’ great-gran’-pappy was a liberal. . . .”

But being married to liberalism is to be with a woman who changes with the fashions. One year she’s an alabaster complected flower holding a parasol, then she’s burning her bra. Later still she’s dressing like a pop-tart with her midriff exposed. Then she’s frequenting a workout gym, a tanning salon and a martial arts dojo. Finally you receive divorce papers and learn she’s living with her friend “Rosie” in San Francisco. In the end, as you wonder what happened to the lady you married, you realize that she was never really a lady at all, but a chameleon.

Now, if you are a person this piece is aimed at, don’t misunderstand me. You don’t have to abandon your ideology – it abandoned you a long time ago. This is not your grandfather’s liberalism.

Of course, you may not listen to me. But just know that if you misunderstand what liberalism has come to represent and are loyal to the designation, you may vote for a candidate billed as liberal in the thinking that he is one of your number. But invariably this means voting for leftist politicians who you may, quite correctly, associate with liberalism. Your mistake is that you don’t associate “liberalism” with liberalism.

The end result, however, is that you find yourself ruled by leaders who don’t truly reflect your values.

As for me, I will echo the sentiments of late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, “He who marries the spirit of the age will be a widower in the next.” One thing you can be sure of is that the next age’s liberalism will be different yet again, an imposter that cannot boast any consanguinity with Jefferson’s brand, which still exists but bears a different name. Perhaps it’s time to say, its name is my name too?

Powered by

About Selwyn Duke

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    Well, I consider myself a liberal, and I oppose hate-speech laws as well as the Kelo decision. I also believe that neither religion nor government should get involved in each other’s business (and that Jefferson’s opinion of the separation of church and state has less weight than, say, James Madison’s); that the notion of anti-spanking laws is absurd; and that preventing homosexuals from marrying and adopting children is cruel, arbitrary, anti-liberty, and far more harmful to family and social values than gay marriage or adoption could ever be.

    Seems that these are positions from both sides of the aisle. So either I’m the great exception, or the terms “liberal” and “conservative” at this point are essentially meaningless.

  • pleasexcusetheinterruption12

    Today’s liberalism prescribes government action – in the form of a law, mandate, regulation or program – in every sphere of life, from child-rearing (anti-spanking laws) to hiring (EEOC) to school admissions (quotas) to sports (Casey Martin in golf, Title IX) to diet (banning trans-fats). Its adherents on the Supreme Court gave us the Kelo decision, an attack on property rights. It preaches that government has a place in religion (forcing Catholic hospitals to provide contraception), but religion has no place in government, quite the opposite of Jefferson’s conception of the separation of church and state. Now its minions have gone so far as to attack freedom of speech with hate crime/hate speech laws and even seek to redefine marriage and allow homosexuals to adopt children.

    All of these fall under the category of protecting “life liberty and the pursuit of hapiness.”

    1. Child rearing laws- protect the rights of the child from abuser

    2. hiring laws- protect rights of potential empoloyee from company

    3. banning trans-fats- protect rights of the consumer from company

    4. crime/hate laws- protect victim from criminal

    5. gay rights- protect rights of homosexuals

    You will note that when the DOI says “that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness-That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men,” it does not say “all companies, corporations, white heterosexual adult males” it says “all men” and kindly today we have given this a broader interpretation to all mankind.

    Second, note it says “to secure these rights governments are instituted among Men.” This overtly declares the role of government to protect these rights with LAWS. In short, they did not see government as an evil violator of rights, they saw it as the way of securing those rights.

    In most of the cases above I don’t see how they are inconsistent with protecting rights. It just depends whose rights are you protecting. In all civil life there is a conflict of rights, the real question is, whose rights need protecting more?

    It might seem aristocratic to talk about certain groups needing protection, but then again, so were the founding fathers.

  • Clavos

    At least some of your disagreement seems to hinge on definitions of terms.

    For example: is the parent who merely spanks his child an abuser? Or simply a parent exercising his responsibility to instill discipline in the child? And if there is a difference of opinion as to what is the correct way to instill discipline, is it the purview of the state to dictate which is the correct method? Does the parent not have a right to determine his own methods of child rearing, as long as no actual physical damage is done to the child? My father spanked me regularly; I’m none the worse for it.

    An awful lot of recent lawmaking has been aimed at expanding the role of the state as nanny, a trend that is deplorable IMO, and which allows ever greater intrusion by the state into the lives of its citizens.

    Orwell truly was a visionary.

  • Nancy

    But do consider, it’s this supposedly ‘conservative’ BushCo government that is the one that has intruded the farthest of ANY previous government on individual rights & privacy. Also, if as the author argues, ‘liberal’ is a fluid term, by his own argument, he makes the case that so is ‘conservative’. In effect, he’s made a case that conservatives are just as waffley as liberals – just not as benign in intention – & in both cases the outcome is anything but benign.

    BTW – “engineers working below, out of plain sight, are manipulating the rudder.” Who/what group is the author designating as these manipulative parties? He doesn’t say, but it’s the most interesting sentence in the article.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    2. hiring laws- protect rights of potential empoloyee from company

    3. banning trans-fats- protect rights of the consumer from company

    These two are pretty questionable. While someone has a right not to apply for a job or buy food from a given company, they don’t have the right to use the force of government to compel that company to hire them or produce food in a particular way. That places the right of the individual consumer above the rights of the producer/employer and for law to be fair it has to protect the rights of both equally.

    Dave

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    One might argue, though, that cities that ban trans fats do so in the interest of public safety, since current estimates say that trans fats directly cause 30,000 heart-disease deaths per year…

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    Look, the truth is, it’s absolutely ridiculous and useless to accuse one side of the political spectrum of “prescribing government action in the form of a law, mandate, regulation or program” to further its agenda. The other side is just as willing and interested in prescribing laws, mandates, regulations, or programs to further its own.

    Surely the “conservatives” in America recognize that tightening FCC regulations and skyrocketing “obscenity” fines over a 0.5-second broadcast of Janet Jackson’s breast, also constitutes government intervention and restriction of the rights of corporations that produces goods and services?

    I’m not necessarily in favor of increasing governmental involvement in American life. Let’s just stop pretending that one of our two major political ideologies is any less guilty of that than the other, shall we?

  • Nancy

    The facts are, as the oil, pharmaceutical, & tobacco industries have so amply proved, that if government doesn’t protect the individuals’ rights against those of the corporations or those who run/own them, then said corporations are more than willing to run roughshod over any & all rights of everybody else, even if it entails inflicting on them known dangers, even death, with callous indifference & reckless disregard for human life as long as they (the corporations & the wealthy/powerful) get to line their own filthy pockets with yet more money when they already have more than enough for any one lifetime. There is no limit to the sheer greed & ruthlessness of these monstrosities. Look at the history of labor in this country. Before the unions, corporations used workers – children, women, etc. – as virtual slave labor, 14- 18 hours a day, no benefits, no rights. Now, over 150 years later, they’re STILL trying to convert their labor to slaves, with no benefits & no rights. They never quit trying to make inroads against their employees having basic human rights; nor do they ever quit trying to peddle dangerous products to the public which they know full well are dangerous, even deadly. Consider how often the auto industry has had to be dragged kicking & screaming to fix a potentially deadly flaw in the design of their vehicles. Consider the infamous photo of those 7 tobacco executives standing in front of a congressional hearing, PERJURING themselves that they have NO knowledge that their companies ever tried to cover up or destroy inside information that nicotine was addictive & deadly to the consumers. Consider the recent pharmaceutical situations, where greedy corporations have been willing to put drugs with deadly side effects on the market – or keep drugs that can save lives off of it – in order to pump up their already obscene profit margins in the name of sheer corporate greed.

    All this & more is more than justification for the government to come down hard on big business or anybody else, with laws & standards. Remember they protect YOU, too, boy. If you think those same companies wouldn’t hesitate to poison you or your family just because you’re on their side, in order to make an extra dime, hoo – then YOU are a dreamer, gullible, naive, or just stupid!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer.php?name=gonzo%20marx jaz

    same old same old…

    i’ve said it before, and say it again…to many partisans trying to frame their opposition

    label, label, label…that’s all the punditry types can do, the more they polarize the more influence they garner…and always with half truths and bullshit

    totalitarian/anarchist – capitalist/socialist chart….the linked test shows MUCH more accurately where a person stands politically, and helps define the differences in a non-inflammatory manner

    that’s for those who think for themselves…folks like this Original Poster don’t want you to look at things like this…OR to think for yourself

    they want you to think like they tell you to

    fuck that

    Liberate your Mind.

  • Methuselah

    Labels are most often used as straw horses in order to accuse an opponent of some acknowledged perfidies, usually some kind of atrocity. Most people have diverse opinions, but that’s dangerous to demagogues so they try to enforce discipline by threatening to drive a person out of the tribe.

    Same roots as racism.

  • http://journals.aol.com/vicl04/THESAVAGEQUIETSEPTEMBERSUN/ Victor Lana

    Today’s liberal is tomorrow’s conservative, and I would imagine it can work the other way too. Whatever the case may be, last time I looked this is America and everyone has a right to be whatever he or she wants to be politically (and I dare say in every other way as long as no one gets harmed).

    Live long and prosper!

  • moonraven

    Labeling is just another form of avoiding discussing the issues. It’s really abused on this site by folks like Dave Nalle–he not only labels folks as liberals and leftists and socialists at HIS convenience, but he also smears a string of adjectives in front of those specious terms.

    Now Bush is trying to pass himself off as a leftist–taking off for Latin America and trying to upstage Chavez by simpering cynically about “social justice”.

    Any hard and fast affiliation to ideology is a substitute for thinking creatively about how to save the planet from being flushed. It’s already in the toilet and now we have idiots arguing about what color the turds are.

  • http://www.friendlymisanthropist.blogspot.com alessandro Nicolo

    Man has always “labelled” himself. The Chinese did it, the Indians did it, Greeks did it, the Romans did it, Dante did it (Italian renaissance city-states are a clear and intriguing example), the Church did it, the Humanists did it, the Philosophes did it and just about every other brilliant mind in the course of history. So it must have some weight. It’s a way for man to measure himself. To keep tabs of where he stands as he progresses – or in some cases regresses. That said, ideologies tend to shift indeed but its principles should never be comromised. Liberals right now (who seem to ally themselves with socialist thought) are not evolving. It’s a stagnant dilemna which explains the thoughtless ideas coming from its ranks. It’s a rut.

  • pleasexcusetheinterruption12

    “2. hiring laws- protect rights of potential empoloyee from company

    3. banning trans-fats- protect rights of the consumer from company

    These two are pretty questionable. While someone has a right not to apply for a job or buy food from a given company, they don’t have the right to use the force of government to compel that company to hire them or produce food in a particular way. That places the right of the individual consumer above the rights of the producer/employer and for law to be fair it has to protect the rights of both equally.

    Dave”

    For sure they are questionable (esp. trans fat ones), but their are rights on both sides to be taken into account, just like the other four. One might also say in the trans fat example the law protects all citizens’ right to property by not placing an unfair tax burden on them to take care of the irrational trans-fat consuming heart disease cases. Also some people have a right not to consume trans-fat but ussually these goods are much more expensive because they are not manufactured in large quantities (and because trans-fat is a cheap substitute). Obviously a less clear cut example that involves substantial government intervention, but their are some rights at stake, and it comes down to a value judgment, not liberal/conservative.

  • STM

    Am I really a Liberal? No, I’ve always voted Labor

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    Absolutely brilliant post!

    The left always wants “change” (what they call “progress”), but after they have successfully achieved this, they decide they want more change. They are never satisfied with the status quo, even if the current status quo was their “goal” just a few years before!

    And conservatives are forever in the position of defending previous “progress” (the present status quo) in an attempt to forestall further “progress” (the future status quo, which they will tirelessly defend once they get there).

    Thankfully, I’m a radical, and therefore unencumbered by the tiresome liberal/conservative debate… ;-)

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    It just depends whose rights are you protecting. In all civil life there is a conflict of rights, the real question is, whose rights need protecting more?

    “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    BTW – “engineers working below, out of plain sight, are manipulating the rudder.” Who/what group is the author designating as these manipulative parties? He doesn’t say, but it’s the most interesting sentence in the article.

    The mainstream media? Wealthy campaign contributors? The “international community” ???

    Use your imagination…

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    “One might argue, though, that cities that ban trans fats do so in the interest of public safety, since current estimates say that trans fats directly cause 30,000 heart-disease deaths per year…”

    One might argue that. One might also argue that the American “right” to own a car is a threat to the public safety, and causes thousands of deaths per year.

    Wanna bet that future “liberals” will do their best to take away our cars in an effort to “save lives” and “protect the environment” ???

  • http://rapturenutballs.blogspot.com Baritone

    First, I feel that the entire argument presented in Duke’s post is specious in that it proves nothing beyond the fact that things change. By and large to be “liberal” means that one is progressive, forward thinking, aware that we still have a long distance to go, that, yes, issues change, become redefined. Conservatives want to sustain the status quo. Many yearn for what they believe were “the good old days.”

    Progress demands fluidity. What is considered to be proper and adequate at one point in time often becomes stodgy and inadequate at another.
    Change is the only constant. Laws and the norms of social conduct only work so long as they reflect the needs of society. Given that we live in a highly technological age, it is the most fluid period in human history.

    The Dark Ages saw little change over its several hundred year span. Technology was virtually non-existent. Almost constant war and virulent disease took a huge toll. That along with the growing absolutism of the catholic church made any significant social change in most of Europe during the period nearly impossible. Even up to and including much of the 19th century, most people experienced little substantive change in the world they perceived during their entire lives.

    Given the rapid changes we are experiencing today, it’s is no wonder that laws and rules of social and moral conduct have difficulty keeping up. My older son is 28 years old. When he was born in 1978 there was no such thing as a home computer, let alone the internet. I worked in a high school library in that same year, 1978 where we still used ditto and mimeograph machines to make multiple copies.

    When it comes to government involvement in controls over private sector business and industry, are there excesses? Of course. Have unions over-reached? Have they abused their power? Certainly. Everyone wants their day in court. Everyone wants their fifteen minutes of fame. Everyone wants attention paid to their little corner of the world. Regardless, unions and government oversight are necessary. Nancy is absolutely correct.

    It is human nature to abuse power. Given the opportunity, we will naturally line our own pockets even to the detriment of others. It stems from the basic survival instinct. We naturally look out for number one. But as liberals, we have attempted at least to go beyond Spencer’s (not Darwin’s) “survival of the fittest.” On balance conservatives have not. They live with the basic notion that “If I’ve got mine, it’s tough shit if you don’t. It’s not my concern.” Liberals understand that without limitations, we are not yet sophisticated or mature enough as a species to police ourselves. Without limits we would still be living with all the evils perpetrated by the Robber Barons.

    I know, this comment is spiraling out of control. But it’s all true. I swear.

    TLS

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    “Without limits we would still be living with all the evils perpetrated by the Robber Barons.”

    The “robber barons” donated more to charity than you ever have, or ever will. They also helped create entire new industries than employed millions and made this country the industrial and economic and military power that it is today.

    But yes, they were “evil” for being pro-American capitalists…

  • Zedd

    Selwyn

    I don’t think that you made your argument. I think that the ideas that you purport to be supported by liberals exclusively are not. Most the sports safety laws are put into play in highly conservative suburban communities that are littered with over protective, child obsessed moms. All of the liberals that I know support spanking children….

    As for your argument against the banning of trans fats, that is just odd. Most trans fats are manufactured and serve as a major hazard to the human body. Why would a society approve such a thing. What does the saturation of such a dangerous substance into the foods in our society have to do with promoting the pursuit of happiness? Your reasoning against the banning or reduction in imposition of trans fats in our foods is irrational. That is a public safety issue.

  • Zedd

    Selwyn

    What your seem to miss is that the notion of liberalism or conservatism for that matter, is highly contextual.

    As for the tradition of liberalism, the complexities and evolution of society requires evolutions in the governance of that society.

    One can hardly apply the tenets of order which worked for small hunter gatherer family based groups to today’s world. The dynamics are different, the accountability and trust issues are completely changed.

    One would also not want to apply the morays of Paine and Jefferson’s world to today’s world. They believed it proper to purchase and own human beings.

    Your nostalgic idealising over past interpretations of what liberalism is reveals a sort of emotionalism on your part. You have failed to refute the legitimacy of the current understanding of liberalism.

    The fundamental idea of liberalism is INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS…. individual rights against dogma, industry, monarchy, government and the powerful. Where one person’s rights end and another’s begin is the challenge of all societies. Working our way through THAT challenge is what we will be vexed with as long as we exist.

  • Zedd

    RJ

    Clearly pronounced in the label of Robber Baron is the word “robber”. Do you see Americanism to be defined by thievery, bullying and domination?
    Are you so naive that you believe by putting the WORD capitalism next to another that it makes it good.

    Example: CAPITALIST rapist?

    Does rape then become good? A robber steals; is a criminal.

    Yes indeed RJ stealing is evil. I am surprised to think that you believe that this country would not have reached its heights without moral business practices.

  • Zedd

    alessandro Nicolo

    Liberals are evolving. Liberals are promoting issues that relate to global matters. As we expand our connection to one another globally, we also expand our knowledge of global structures and begin to address those that impede liberty on that scale.

    Also by virtue of the change in society, liberals also change. The issues addressed pertain to the challenges of the day. Jefferson would not have had issue with trans fats because the technology had not invented such a challenge.

  • MCH

    Re comment #21;

    “They also helped create entire new industries than employed millions and made this country the industrial and economic and military power that it is today.”

    But without those having the grapes to actually serve, rather than just writing phony, empty rhetoric, what kind of “military power” would we be?

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    The “robber barons” donated more to charity than you ever have, or ever will. They also helped create entire new industries than employed millions and made this country the industrial and economic and military power that it is today.

    But yes, they were “evil” for being pro-American capitalists…

    Actually, I thought they were evil for giving their millions of employees dangerous and inhuman working conditions while paying them incredibly low wages for 85-hour work weeks. And for unfair business practices, such as bribing and/or extorting politicians and conspiring amongst themselves to maintain egregiously high prices, not to mention rampant insider trading and stock-market price manipulation.

    Silly me.

  • http://rapturenutballs.blogspot.com Baritone

    RJ

    The “robber barons” donated more to charity than you ever have, or ever will.

    In actual dollars, you are probably right. I’m sure if totaled up, it would come to a tidy sum. But in % of income and in actual time spent I think I could hold my own with them.

    I will give you that, yes the robber barons were an integral part of the creation of American industry. They’re influence was not totally evil.
    As to their being great Americans, I feel their patriotism only went so far as it served the purpose of lining their pockets. Morgan, Carnegie, etal were by and large phlegmatic, ascerbic men not given to rah-rah flag waving. On balance, they were not great American heros. Remember, Henry Ford was a virulent anti-Semite and an early and ardent supporter of Adolph Hitler and the Third Reich.

    TLS

  • Clavos

    B’tone writes:

    On balance, they were not great American heros. Remember, Henry Ford was a virulent anti-Semite and an early and ardent supporter of Adolph Hitler and the Third Reich.

    And also smart enough to pay his workers the highest wage in his industry so they could buy flivvers…

  • http://rapturenutballs.blogspot.com Baritone

    Clavos,

    I didn’t infer that any of them were dumb.
    But they all had their warts as we all do. Unfortunately, their warts often had an adverse effect on a lot of people.

    B’tone (The TLS signature I guess will appear from time to time, as I still tend to forget. Rest assured that there is nothing nefarious afoot. I will not come at you from more than 1 direction.)

  • Clavos

    B’tone,

    I mentioned Henry’s wage policy, because, even though it wasn’t his intent, it still was a social good that ultimately benefited the nation.

  • http://rapturenutballs.blogspot.com Baritone

    That’s true. As I said, they weren’t all bad.

    B’tone

    P.S. Thanks again for the HTML info.

  • Clavos

    Yer welcome, B.

  • Zedd

    There are many cities who have a good arts focus without the aid of the thieves of the industrial era.

    Ones good deeds do not transform ones evils. The Robber Barons saw themselves as above the law and their benevolence was a “let them eat cake” toss to the people that they stole from.

    What is even more insulting is the myth of their rags to riches progression. Nearly all of the economic brutes of that time came from upper middle class back grounds. Their success (mafioso esque) is touted often as an example of the American dream and the notion of pulling yourself up by the boot strap exploded because of their riches. This off course is a misconception and an non-reality. Americans feel as if they SHOULD be rich mainly because of the myth that was perpetuated during this age. Statistics don’t support the notion of too many pulling themselves up by any boot straps or shoe strings for that matter.

  • http://www.elitebloggers.com Dave Nalle

    Zedd, your ignorance and your mindless envy make a harmonic firestorm of historical wishful thinking.

    The truth is that many of the ‘robber barons’ as you call them, ran their companies in admirable and equitable ways, provided employment for hundreds of thousands at a fair wage, provided opportunities for immigrants, built the wealth of the nation, and ultimately donated overwhelming amounts to charity – beyond anything you see today.

    Yes, some of them were greedy and abused their power, but for every Vanderbilt there were Cornings and Morgans and Carnegies and Forbeses who gave back more than they took. Even some of the most notorious, like Jay Gould were as magnificent in their generosity as they were in their ruthless business practices.

    Statistics don’t support the notion of too many pulling themselves up by any boot straps or shoe strings for that matter.

    Actually, they do. Even today 14% of those born into total poverty will eventually work their way up into the highest quintile of earners, and about twice as many in the lower middle class will rise into the top earning category.

    Dave

  • Zedd

    Dave

    If they didn’t rob then they are not Robber Barons. My post was about those who succeeded because dishonest and despicable practices.

    I don’t recall naming anyone. What are you talking about???

    Perhaps it is your delusion and ever worn tendency to over extrapolate which gongs in a disharmonious calmer, distorting and overshadowing the integrity of ages of honest discourse.

    Again, I ask, how much are you getting paid?

  • http://rapturenutballs.blogspot.com Baritone

    Dave,

    So all the bad stuff about those poor mis-understood moguls was a myth? They were all just sugar and spice, huh?

    B’tone

  • Zedd

    Dave

    The economic mobility of Americans is not any different than the rates of mobility for people in the rest of the developed or even semi developed world. This includes increases and reductions in economics. Human beings generally earn more the older they are, personal events like marriage and an eduction are contributing factors. Job loss, divorce are other factors which contribute to the phenomenon.

    The notion of pulling yourself up by the boot strap is an American myth.

    The middle class today actually has less discretionary income than in previous generations. While many may appear to be a class higher, the use or misuse of credit is the culprit. High mortgages and credit cards give the illusion of wealth.

  • http://www.elitebloggers.com Dave Nalle

    Okay, Zedd. Name some of these ‘robber barons’ you refer to for me.

    And if you think the upward mobility we have here in America has any equal in nations like China or India or regions like Africa or Latin America you’re seriously confused. The poor in most of those nations have no options for mobility whatsoever and are locked into poverty for generation after generation.

    As for disposable income, again the statistics don’t bear out your beliefs. If you take a look at the NIPA tables at the BEA, you’ll find that real disposable income adjusted for inflation has grown at a modest rate overall going back for half a century. Every year since records started being kept in 1959 has seen an increase of between 1.5% and about 5% after adjusting for inflation with the exception of 1974 the only year in the last 48 which has had negative growth in disposable income. Last year disposable income went up 2.6% overall. The year before it was up 2.3%. 2004 was a better year with disposable income up 3.64%.

    Anyway, it goes on like that. Factor into it the decrease in cost of certain luxury goods and technology products, and not only do Americans have more spending money every year, but they are also enjoying a more comfortable lifestyle at a lower price.

    Dave

  • Zedd

    Dave

    I am not moonraven. Don’t annoy me with silliness about names of Robber Barons. Done!

    As for your stats, the high levels of credit debt nullify all of those numbers. We owe Dave. We don’t have spending money. Look it up and stop making things up.

  • Clavos

    Dave,

    Shame on you! Don’t you know Zedd can’t waist (sic) time on silliness like facts to bolster her claims??

    Silly man!!

  • http://www.elitebloggers.com Dave Nalle

    Zedd, we’ve been over this debt issue before here. Consumer debt is up because so many people refinanced their houses when interest rates were low two years ago. Take that out of the equation and debt has remained stable or even gone down.

    Here are some key numbers for you to consider:

    2004 to 2005 Change
    Overall Household Debt +.5%
    Mortgage Debt +1%
    Consumer Debt -.6%
    Personal Savings +1%
    Mutual Fund Investment +211%

    Looks to me like we’re not seeing debt going up, but instead seeing people putting their money away in investments and real property.

    Dave

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    “Clearly pronounced in the label of Robber Baron is the word “robber”. Do you see Americanism to be defined by thievery, bullying and domination?”

    Of course not. But “robber baron” is a misnomer. Those evil, capitalist “robber barons” created jobs, created industries, and created charitable organizations that have outlived them. The term “robber baron” was coined by radical leftists in the early 20th century in an attempt to discredit capitalists and capitalism.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    “As for your stats, the high levels of credit debt nullify all of those numbers. We owe Dave. We don’t have spending money. Look it up and stop making things up.”

    See this:

    The net worth of combined U.S. households reached a record high last year, mostly due to market gains, the Federal Reserve reported.

    Net worth in the fourth quarter of 2006 equaled $55.6 trillion, 2.5% more than the third quarter, according to published reports.

    However, the net worth increase for all of 2006, 7.4%, was lower than in 2005, which reached 7.9%, reports said.

    Household debt was about three percentage points less.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    See: Facts are fun!

  • Zedd

    RJ: Hitler was quite a unifying force for Germans wouldn’t you say? He tapped into the German work ethic and commitment to excellence and produced a powerful and formidable force in a relatively short time. He was an amazing leader, a charismatic spokesman and a patriot. He was goal oriented and an incredible strategist. He knew how to utilize people’s best talents and to coordinate them to meet the corporate end.

    Would you agree?

  • Arch Conservative

    “banning trans-fats- protect rights of the consumer from company”

    First of all….anyone who believes that the government should ban trans fat is a fucking moron. I suspect that these are the same people who would say it’s ok for someone to sue Mcdonalds for making them obese. What people like this fail to realize is that the individual must be responsible for making responsible decisions about what they put in their body. If the restaraunt you choose to eat at does not provide nutritional information about their product then the individual can choose not to eat there. But please don’t eat Mcdonalds or KFC every day, fail to exercise and then sue someone else for you’re weight issues. if anything you should sue god for not giving you a working brain.

    Second………. the separation of church and state issue that is so routinely misinterpreted by liberals/leftists.

    The entire first amendment reads

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” This means that the government cannot endorse one specific religion.

    “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” this means that the government cannot prohibit citizens from expressing their religion whether in public or private. This is the point that leftists/liberals like to ignore. The ACLU has many time sued schools for allowing indivdual students to mention Jesus in graduation at ceremonies. It is actually the ACLU that is acting contrary to the constitution and not the student or the school as that student has the right to the “free exercise” of their religious beliefs. A student mentioning their religious beliefs during high school graduation is in no way representative of the government endorsing one religion. The only people that believe it is are the far left secularist commandos who have a problem with Christianity and want to eradicate it from our society.

  • Zedd

    RJ

    Admittedly, I am not an expert on economics however, using per capita stats to reflect the economic condition of the population that we are speaking of (working class to lower middle class) does not serve us well.

    Also as you are fully aware, the swelling in the net worth of the middle class is due to the recent years of inflated real estate prices. We are all comfortable the notion that those prices are beginning to drop. Now concerning real estate prices and net worth, as you know, there have been predatory lending practices that have contributed to unusually high income to debt ratio loans allowing people the ability to purchase more expensive homes (less affordable), which ends up driving the housing market higher and produces the current prices and higher assets (on paper). I am certain that you are also aware of the risky lending practices which have enabled people with poor credit to participate in home ownership…..

    A challenge that we face are record foreclosures. The fear is that as interest rates climb and home devaluation continues, we will see more such cases……

    Facts are fun when reasoned. Perhaps when I return from my vacation you would have drummed up more fun facts for us to discuss.

  • Mohjho

    Nice try Selwyn, but trying to define conservative/liberal is as pointed out, contextual. What they say they are, is not always expressed in action.

    I tend to see political tension as a totalitarian vs. open society fight. Open society advocates,(the good guys), can be found in both the liberal and conservation camps as can the promoters of totalitarianism.

  • Doug Hunter

    There is a symbiotic relationship that exists between left and right that can be understood if you realize the following truths.

    For those on the right.

    1) The more socialism a society can handle the farther it has progressed.

    2) If changing societies rules means you’re not a winner, you never really were.

    For those on the left.

    1) Wealth must be created before it can be redistributed.

    2) Money is not a sign you should do something for someone, it is a sign that you already have.

  • http://moonraven moonraven

    Amazing that someone like Dave Nalle should ask for sources and facts!!!!!!!

    And then he browbeat the person who didn’t give them!!!!!!!!!

    He has some fucking nerve–has never done anything on this site except INVENT statistics, sources and percentages.

  • Arch conservative

    And you Moonraven have done nothing but spread bullshit leftist proaganda.

  • http://www.elitebloggers.com Dave Nalle

    I tend to see political tension as a totalitarian vs. open society fight. Open society advocates,(the good guys), can be found in both the liberal and conservation camps as can the promoters of totalitarianism.

    Very good point, Mojiho. Which is why sometimes those of us perceived as being on the right find that we have more in common with some perceived as being on the left than with others who claim right-ward allegiances.

    Rather than totalitarian (which is too extreme a term) vs. open society (which is a sort of vague term)), I like to say that it’s a struggle between statists and individualists. I think that sums it up better.

    Dave

  • zingzing

    are we arguing about the semantics of arguing about the semantics of arguing about categories for political alleigences?

    state vs individual, eh?

    who wants an all-powerful state? who wants anarchy? so it’s not that simple again.

  • STM

    Dave wrote: “Rather than totalitarian (which is too extreme a term) vs. open society (which is a sort of vague term)), I like to say that it’s a struggle between statists and individualists. I think that sums it up better.”

    Given to us by societies that have decreed WE are the true arbiters of that choice, NOT our governments. Our elected governments exist only to do the will of the people. And as dreadfully kokey as that all sounds, it happens to be true. Despite the imperfections, it is why they have worked all these years and give us all a measure of stability that many others don’t enjoy. As much as I hate the right-wing policies of John Howard, he was elected by a majority of Australians. That is the way it is – just part of the democratic process. Just as it will be that when enough people are pissed off, he’ll get the punt.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    “He [Dave Nalle] has some fucking nerve–has never done anything on this site except INVENT statistics, sources and percentages.”

    LOL!!!

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    I’d love to compare the post-to-cite ratio of Mr. Nalle to “moonraven” …

  • Billy Bob

    RJ#57. moonbat is the one with a larger talleywacker.

  • Zedd

    Dave

    #42 – I missed this post.

    You’ve got to be kidding? This couldn’t be just an error on your part. You know full well that we have had negative personal savings for two years now. What are you trying to do?? Can we up the integrity quotient just a tad please.

  • MCH

    “I’d love to compare the post-to-cite ratio of Mr. Nalle to “moonraven” …”
    – RJ Elliott

    “Why not just do it, asshole?”
    – Moonraven

    Because in the world of phony rhetoric, words speak louder than actions.

  • Billy Bob

    Where are my pictures?

  • Lumpy

    Wow. Moonmaiden, mistress of the 4th grade level comeback.

  • http://www.friendlymisanthropist.blogspot.com alessandro Nicolo

    Zedd, thanks for the take. I remain unconvinced. Liberals were once pretty cutting edge. I don’t think Liberals are selling themselves well right now and nor are they evolving. They seem to cling to old notions and are applying them to modern context. Look at the Democrats: all shouting with little substance. Those Iraq resolutions are plain ridiculous. Same with the “Liberals” up here in Canada. It’s recycled ideas. That’s what I mean. I’ll give a personal story; I read a lot; like an apolitical junkie. I have been subscribed to several publications since I was a teenager. I once found myself intrigued by liberal thought and explored it. 20 years later, they are still saying the same things. In the meantime, I have seen conservative thought evolve as well as libertarianism (if you want to call it a legitimate competitor of conservatism and liberalism). Ironically, it is conservatives who are carrying the tracks laid down by old liberals. In fact, even religious philosophy/theology has found new life. Liberals progress with little thought to classical knowledge and eshew a little too easily facts – and a strain of them are a little to vulnerable to conspiracy theories – that do not meet the preogressive outlook they have prescribed. I have said it before and will say it here: Liberals seem to have a hard time interpreting and grasping basic tenets of economics. I won’t even touch socialists. That doesn’t mean they are losers or are idiots: just caught in a vortex of confusion. They define themselves more in relation to what the other guy is doing and less to what they should be doing to create a concise and organized philosophical base that resonates with true moderates. Anyway, that’s just my observation. I could be blatantly wrong.

  • Zedd

    Nicolo

    sez: “They define themselves more in relation to what the other guy is doing and less to what they should be doing”

    Inherent in the job description of one who works for the powerless is the occupation of responding to the actions of the powerful.

    I suppose that the political climate is somewhat different in Canada than in the US as are definitions of political terminology(?). Its quite funny that you see conservatives as progressive. The entire notion of conservatism suggests a willing stagnation of sorts.

    I am curious, what shifts in conservatism to you deem to be progressive and responsive to today’s needs? The only shift that has occured in the US is how they sell themselves. Notice I said “themselves”, meaning

    I see liberals as spearheading the use of today’s multimedia to communicate their ideas. I see libs as focusing on global ideas. I see libs as focusing on social welfare issues but from the ground up (proper eduction, innovative incentive programs, etc).

  • Zedd

    Nicolo

    Sorry. Something weired happened and one of my paragraphs got cut off.

    As I was saying…

    I am curious, what shifts in conservatism to you deem to be progressive and responsive to today’s needs? The only shift that has occurred in the US is how they sell themselves. Notice I said “themselves”, meaning getting votes. The ideas have actually died down. There is no conservative agenda. There is a lot of name calling, and distortion (some would call it lying). That has been the shift in conservative politics. No innovative ideas. No shifts in addressing current issues. Actually what has happened is a vehement head in the sand approach towards just about EVERYTHING that needs to be addressed. If it doesn’t fit my idea about the world, its to be ignored. That includes foreign policy, scientific realities and social warnings.

    Help me see the evolution in this.

    I am certain that you are reading propaganda or are reading ideas by people who are stagnant within the liberal camp.

  • Zedd

    Nicolo

    Also, if you came of age in the 60’s, you are right, the entire Westernized world was changing because of liberal ideas which were mainly forced by the civil rights movement in the US, the boomer population hitting that rebellious age.

    As for yourself…. when we come of age and encounter the world, it’s ALL so fresh and stimulating. I struggle these days to find newness and intrigue. What makes us wiser with age is that we have heard and seen it all. My teenager’s intrigue with “going out” is corny and boring to me. Each stage of her life as been soooooooo cool to her and all I see is a little girl. Perhaps your amazement was more due to your newness and not the newness of ideas.

  • http://www.friendlymisanthropist.blogspot.com alessandro nicolo

    Zedd, on #66 perhaps. I just see conservative commentators dealing with contemporary issues with more panache. They definitely treat history (as a historian myself) with more care. Liberals deal wit global issues with the same arguments they used 40 years ago. It doesn’t stick anymore. I have to read a truly enlightened liberal take on global issues. If you know some let me know I am always looking for it. Gore Vidal doesn’t count. Heard it all before. I’m one of those purple hearts (I take from both cons., lib and libert.) but feel as though they are setting the standards on how to debate. It’s funny, I don’t see liberals doing all that. I see conservatives taking the lead. Each time I see a conservative (which is rare on television and I don’t mean Coulter et al) I find myself interested in what they are saying. A liberal not so much. Especially the Al Franken or Maureen Dowd type. Yeah, things are slightly different in Canada in that ideological lines are more blurred. Harper is probably the most conservative leader we’ve had in years – if ever. Of course, the West has been influenced by what we call the Calgary school which is lead by an American conservative. Canada as a whole is pretty centrist. Quebec is the most interesting of the Provinces. Overtly liberal, it does possess strong pockets of conservatism. Of course, that comes at a price. We don’t have many dynamic debates here. It’s rare we have clashes on ideas here. By the way, in case you got confused, Nicolo is my family name. :<)

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer.php?name=gonzo%20marx jaz

    Billy Bob…don’t forget your velcro mittens and hip waders

    yer welcome

  • Methuselah

    Zedd sneers: “You know full well that we have had negative personal savings for two years now.”

    It’s not evident that low or negative savings rate is harmful to the economy. Theoretically, low savings rate increases the Economic Multiplier, money velocity, and expands the economy. Empirically, it seems to be true. Apparently, the only successful advocacy of high savings rate is moral: it builds character to save money and defer spending (the moral counter is that it builds character to pay installments on time and payoff ones debts).

    Politically? In this thread it seems that the rightist Scooter Nalle supports lower savings rate, usually the position of spendthrift socialists, while the leftist Zedd supports higher savings rate, a traditionally conservative desiderata. So much for stereotypes.