Friday, August 25, 2006

What Does Liberty Mean?

For months now I have been following and participating in debates about religion, politics, and civil rights. I have long been amazed at the degree of difficulty we have in trying to communicate. Obviously a major part of this problem is that both sides use the language so as to deliberately mislead. Pro-life vs. pro-choice immediately come to mind. But I am beginning to see a larger pattern, something more fundamendal. That something is the meaning of Liberty itself.

The modern social conservative is collectivist. Liberty to him or her is a right exercised by the people at large. And that means that the people have the right to proscribe anything that they, the majority, see as a threat to the utopian ideal of what society should be. In a nutshell they believe people must be free to use the government as the enforcer of mores.

The modern social Liberal sees Liberty as an individual right, a right held by each person to be free from government interference. The modern Liberal does not deny that government has a role in the structure of society and the modern Conservative does not deny that there is a place for individual Liberty.

The difference is this:

The modern Liberal believes that before the government can proscribe, it, the government, must show that it has a unimpeachable necessity to act. The modern Conservative believes that it is the minority that must show that its demands cause no harm to the Liberty of society to decide.

Think about it, and let's discuss.

5 comments:

John Hosty said...

This is a valuable point you bring up John. I think you are the first I have heard to verbalize this part of our communication gap. How do we go about fixing the problem would be the next logical step right?

Ferma LeBush said...

Well said, John.
But I have a couple of questions, if I may:
"The modern social conservative is collectivist. Liberty to him or her is a right exercised by the people at large."
Doesn't the same hold true for progressives?

"And that means that the people have the right to proscribe anything that they, the majority, see as a threat to the utopian ideal of what society should be."

What is a conservative version of Utopia?

"In a nutshell they believe people must be free to use the government as the enforcer of mores."

I'm carbon-dating myself here, but didn't the liberal movements of the 80's dictate the same, i.e., in "politically correct" language,
gun control, etc., that the conservative contingent managed to diminish for the past 6 years?

Thank you, John - I'll be sure to visit your blog often!

Peace,

Ferma LeBush

John said...

Thanks for the comment, Ferma.

I wrote this while in a bad mood; so I uncharacteristcally, for me, chose a poison pen. I chose the words "collectivist" and "Utopia" to insult the Right, just as the Right has used those terms to insult the Left in the past.

Of course the Left is every bit the collectivist, just on different matters. But until very recently the GOP was a party of cold sober realists who believed in minimal goverment interference.

If you re-read this quote from Rick Santorum, does this sound like a cold sober realist fighting for small government?

“this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues. You know, people should do whatever they want. Well, that is not how traditional conservatives view the world and I think most conservatives understand that individuals can’t go it alone. That there is no such society that I am aware of, where we’ve had radical individualism and that it succeeds as a culture.”

Good grief!

The Utopia of which I speak is this new found attitude among the Right that the law must be written to maximize every opportunity for Traditional Christian Morality to prevail. It totally ignores the traditional Republican view that the best society possible is one in which the people choose for themselves how to live their lives.

A society is best served by individuals all persuing their own best interest, or so Adam Smith maintained.

Every conservative believes that (in the economic realm). I believe it, too. But I think it works in the social realm as well.

John said...

I might have told a white lie to Ferma. When I said I "uncharacteristally chose a poison pen", I should have said "judicially chose". I use the poison pen often, but I usually reserve it for rebuttal, not in a front page post.

So, John, my method of changing the tone of the debate is probably wrong, but it has worked for me in my private debates. I throw all the buzzwords back at my opponent. I call the Right collectivist and utopian. When aruging with traditional Christian about the pursuit of happiness, I'll use the words "pleasures of the flesh" in a positive sense. When I discuss the way Jesus introduced nuance to the Law, I'll say Jesus brought us the fine art of "moral relativism".

I like to take the negative judgement out of those phrases.

It only works if you can gage your opponents reaction, and that doesn't work well on most blogs.

John Hosty said...

I am in favor of anything that gets the truth out to the unsuspecting masses that are getting duped by those whom they trust. I definetly see I need to be better at debate than our opponents.