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Thoughts on the Big Three; A Rational Look at Conventional Wisdom in Politics

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In modern American politics, three schools of thought are by far most prevalent amongst pundits, politicians, and philosophers: conservatism, modern liberalism, and libertarianism. Each has a wealth of valuable points deserving of attention in the national dialogue, but the most worthwhile of these are often obscured or diluted by the very ideologues attempting to make them.

For instance, when Rush Limbaugh discusses the topic of lowering taxes on the high income earners who generate the vast majority of our nation’s wealth in order to encourage the creation of jobs, he will almost always veer away from such common sense after a short period of time with a bombastic diatribe about the perceived evils of those who might disagree with him. This not only turns off nearly all moderates who would have been receptive towards his proposition, it also cheapens both his own image and that of conservatism as a whole, which he represents to untold millions. Meanwhile, his opposite number in modern liberalism, Keith Olbermann, may be issuing commentary on moral hypocrisy by a claque of elected officials who have an unseemly penchant for telling others how to live their lives. His message of those falling victim to the holier than thou mentality is indeed valid, but devoid of almost every shred of credibility when he resorts to obscene attacks on essentially all who are to the right of him regarding social issues. As all of this is taking place, influential libertarians such as Ron Paul are speaking truth to power about runaway government spending, but soon cut to ludicrous notions of the United States’ arguably strongest ally, Israel, in her battle against Jihad-inspired terrorism.

The reasons for the individuals who should be serving as problem solvers in fact becoming problem creators are as numerous as the stars in the sky on a clear summer evening. However, each of the aforementioned persons share a single common trait: dogmatic adherence to a specific ideology. Limbaugh, Olbermann, and Paul take their respective political views to the extreme, with negative repercussions for those of us in the silent, but sane, majority because their extremely devoted followers have an unfortunate tendency to believe what they say hook, line, and sinker. As the old adage of the 20 percent fringe taking up 80 percent of what filters into the American media remains sadly true, bitterness and strife quickly develop throughout the national political scene and, well, here we are.

In order to achieve any true progress in restoring substance and decency to politics, a balanced, rational look must be taken at conservatism, modern liberalism, and libertarianism. If the highest qualities and lowest pitfalls of each are truly considered. then it should not be excessively difficult to identify how all three can be molded into a workable philosophy capable of bringing the voting public together, rather than driving it apart. Such thinkng requires us to shove our fears and prejudices aside, but in the end, we will all be better off for trying to find the necessary balance in which the American Dream cannot only endure, but thrive.

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About Joseph F. Cotto

  • 47 years ago, on May 6, 1964, U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy gave a speech at the University of Pennsylvania that included the political observation: “One-fifth of the people are against everything all of the time.”

    The quote was reported the next day, in a Philadelphia Enquirer article. It remains popular in a context of its own, since the speech itself has gone missing. It also goes to your observation about knee-jerk political views on pre-existing prejudices. Never mind the facts.


  • “As the old adage of the 20 percent fringe taking up 80 percent of what filters into the American media remains sadly true…”

    This is because it takes a lot less effort to put extreme opinions out there. It’s much easier and quicker to say or write, for example, “Abortion is evil” than to say, “Abortion is tragic and should be avoided; nevertheless, there are circumstances where it might be justified”.

  • Baronius

    I don’t know what to make of that first sentence, Joseph. It’s entirely dependent on your labeling scheme. The environmental movement has more members and support than the libertarians. One could argue – in fact, I think you have argued – that the Christian conservative movement is significantly different than traditional Eisenhower Republicanism. What about genuine socialism, identity politics, internationalism, and nativism? And the different types of moderates? You need to identify some method of grouping people in order to support your first sentence. If I’m being a little nitpicky, it’s because you’ve said that this is the first of a series of pieces on political philosophy, and you’re going to run into problems if you’re beginning with weak assumptions. One potential consequence of this three-way division could be an overestimation of the importance of libertarianism.

  • Tommy,

    It is a shame that the proper context of Robert Kennedy’s quote cannot be found, but his profound statement was nonetheless the basis for my writing here. You are also correct about far too many not being able to see past their prejudices and, as a result, pushing the facts aside in favor of willful ignorance.

    Dr Dreadful,

    You are absolutely right that there is far more intellectual garbage than quality in our society because the latter is considerably more difficult to create than the former.


    All of your questions, and they are good ones, by the by, will be answered in the days to come. Stay tuned.