Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Why Aren't "Conservatives" Liberal?

The first definition of "liberal" in my dictionary is "suitable for a freeman." That makes sense, since "liberate" shares a common Latin root with "liberal." Both derive from the word liber, "free." So much of what I hear from conservatives these days is that they want to be liberated from taxes, big government, regulations, and such. You would think from their public statements that they would find little about our society that they want to "conserve." Maybe they ought to reclaim the freedom theme and become true "liberals."

Of course, when you probe more deeply into the meaning of being a "liberal," you discover what is lacking in the "liberal" concern of the conservatives (and of those who would call themselves “liberal” as well). Here are some liberal-defining dictionary words that surely are antithetical to the mindset of both "the right" and “the left”:

·      “giving freely; generous”—certainly doesn't apply to those who hoard their wealth and hide their riches in foreign accounts to avoid taxation that otherwise would support basic human needs like nutrition, health care, education , and such.
·      “tolerant of views differing from one’s own; broadminded”—well, that supposedly applies to “liberals,” but I’m afraid these qualities are lacking on both sides of the aisle.
·      “of democratic or republican forms of government, as distinguished from monarchies, aristocracies, etc.”—I would say that the control of the top 1% in income over just about everything is a kind of aristocracy, although I’ll admit that aristocracy actually applies to “government by the best citizens,” not government by those who can afford to buy the most attack ads on television.
·      “favoring political reforms tending toward democracy and personal freedom for the individual”—that “personal freedom” thing fits both sides of the debate; though the freedoms being sought are quite different. One side seems focused on being liberated from social constraints; while the other side is dedicated to freedom from taxes, government intrusion into business practices, and so forth.
·      “favoring reform or progress; progressive”—both sides would claim this mantle, but the goals that reflect “progress” are vastly different.

My dictionary also lists some synonyms:
·      liberal implies tolerance of others’ views as well as open-mindedness to ideas that challenge tradition, established institutions, etc.
·      progressive, a relative term opposed to reactionary or conservative, is applied to persons favoring progress and reform in politics, education, etc. and connotes an inclination to more direct action than “liberal.”
·      advanced specifically implies a being ahead of the times, as in science, the arts, philosophy, etc.
·      radical implies a favoring of fundamental or extreme change, specifically of the social structures.

I guess I would call myself “an advanced progressive liberal.” Everyone else seems to me to be “radical.”

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