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A Rational Advocate
"The most formidable weapon against errors of any kind is reason"


Conservative or Liberal
(a dialog with a visitor)

John McKay, a visitor to this web site, recently had comments to make about the essay “Are You Liberal or Conservative?” written by “A Rational Advocate“. As a result, an interesting dialog developed that should be of possible interest to other visitors and it follows. You may view Mr. McKay's web site at http://7over4.blogspot.com and you can email him at jmckay@macpunk.com.

Message from John McKay Sent: Wednesday, May 07, 2003 3:03AM

Just read your interesting explanation of Liberal versus Conservative thought, and thought you might be interested in my somewhat contrary, but logically consistent, version. Generally, this notion that modern conservatives are closer to classical liberals seems widespread amongst conservatives, which gives me hope that we're not that different, only that some haven't thought this through completely.

Liberalism is defending the rights of the individual. Conservatism is defending the rights of the group. The split isn't along the lines of government size, or socialism versus free markets. Look at it like this:

Liberal groups defend the rights of minority individuals, this leads naturally to civil rights legislation, affirmative action, school integration. These things are NOT about benefiting society, except as a side effect. They are about protecting the individual's rights.

Conservatives defend the rights of groups like corporations, clubs, and societies. If a club decides not to allow women to participate, a liberal would oppose them, and a conservative would support them.

Now, is one right and the other wrong? As a liberal myself, I would say so. But that's just my position. I do, however, think it is important for conservatives like yourself to understand the philosophy thoroughly.


Response from A Rational Advocate
Sent: Wednesday, May 07, 2003 10:11AM

Thank you much for reading and responding to my essay. Now regarding your comments I couldn't disagree with you more.

The first thing that has to be made clear is the use of the word "liberalism" and "conservatism". You will recall in my essay that I noted that in the early days liberals were indeed those whose ideology was based on defending the rights of the individual and the reverse for the conservatives. Over time these titles became reversed.

The very essence of present day pure conservative ideology is based on the individual doing as much as possible on his own before asking for help from anyone. When help is needed the ladder of succession to reach for help is neighbor, local community, city, county, state and the federal government as a last resort. Present day pure liberal ideology has a ladder of succession in reverse, starting with the federal government.

In my mind, the very fact that you use the phrase minority individuals defeats your argument because you are already grouping people into a category instead of treating them as individuals. Conservative ideology asks for the least government possible and looks for the tenets of the Constitution to defend individual rights. It is based on personal responsibility and not seeking others to assume a role that individuals are able to act out themselves.

Conservative belief is that the Constitution protects the rights of individual to pursue their right to happiness and success by establishing business and social entities that do not infringe upon the rights of others to do the same. This means that social entities, such as clubs, that are privately owned by groups of individual should have the right to decide who their members should be. It comes down to "individual" rights, not group rights.

The conservative belief follows that society will be benefited best if any aid provided individuals is to help them help themselves. Simply said conservatives believe that the best problems for individuals to react to are the ones of their neighbor, then their community, then their State, then their country and finally the world. If everyone did this, you should agree, this would be a better world. Nothing is perfect and the conservative believes that the only way it can improve is for the individual to step up to the plate and make it happen. The liberal ideology follows that problems can be dealt with by way of legislation and appropriated funds without taking into consideration that the true solution lies with the desire of individuals and their personal responsibility to work towards improving their lot.

I started out to make this short and sweet but was unable to do so. As you can see our views are quite dis-similar. However, the world is made up of conservatives and liberals (in varying degrees) and it isn't going to change any day soon.

Thanks again for reading and commenting on the web site material.


Message from John McKay Sent: Wednesday, May 07, 2003 2:44PM

Thanks for taking the time to respond. I think that your version of conservatism is pretty close to my version of liberalism. I think where you're not seeing the chain of thought that I see is here:

"Conservative ideology asks for the least government possible and looks for the tenets of the Constitution to defend individual rights."

There's nothing in liberal ideology that requires large government, per se. But the second part of that refers to the Constitution, which is after all a Federal document. How should that be enforced without the use of government? I think if you look at most "liberal" programs, you'll find that they have their root in that idea. Now, implementation varies, and the definition of individual rights is probably where most variance occurs. Does a child whose mother is a drug addict have a "right" to eat, or be educated? I agree help should come from the local level first. But the most important part of our difference is the idea of groups versus individual.

You replied, "Conservative belief is that the Constitution protects the rights of individual to pursue their right to happiness and success by establishing business and social entities that do not infringe upon the rights of others to do the same."

Again, we get into the question of the definition of "rights". Do southern whites have the "right" to form their own groups? Sure. When schools run by whites wanted to keep blacks out, conservatives supported them. Now, you could make the argument that school segregation is just fine, but you get to the "rights" issue. Do black kids have a "right" to a decent education? Maybe not. They could, in theory, hire good teachers to start their own schools, maybe by paying them with labor, or on long-term credit.

I think that what happens, if you can think about this, is that a group of people tends to acquire a "group mind". This "group mind" wants to pursue its own interests, and will support politicians that are in line with the group desire. This is the mind set that says "fit in, do what's best for the group, ive yourself over for the company, take one for the team, keep your bad elements out of our community."

Conservative belief appears to be in line with this thinking, while liberal belief opposes it. Take labor unions, for instance. While some conservatives like to call unions a "communist group mentality", they are just the opposite. They are about trying to defend the individual's rights against the group, or the corporation. They won't appeal to the Federal Government for help, but the government has historically been used to break strikes, and to make work stoppages illegal. Clearly, this is a matter of placing the rights of the group (the corporation) over the individual (the striker).

I think that if conservatives and liberals both adhered to what they claim to adhere to, you'd have a world where:

Individuals have the ultimate responsibility for themselves:
• The drug war would be ended (The individual has the right to do as he pleases, r regardless of how the group may judge him)
• In fact, all consensual crimes would be made legal
• A truly free press would exist. This is important to democracy, although the current "group mind" administration is destroying what few laws we had to protect our rights to a free press. Allowing one group to control huge amounts of the press is diametrically opposed to a free press.
• Gun control would be unnecessary, since the drug war would have been ended, and crime would decrease. (Look to prohibition for evidence of this)
• The issue of welfare, public schools, socialized health care, should be handled on a state by state basis. These issues tie into a larger view on immigration controls. (Basically, none of these programs will work, given our current poor control of immigration, and our tax structure. If we had strict controls on immigration, and our tax structure inverted so that most of our tax revenue would go to the local and state governments, and a small percentage to the federal government, to provide a military, border controls, and protect individual rights against infringement by corporations and groups, then perhaps ideas like public education, socialized health care, and even welfare could work on a state level.)
• Minimum wage laws could be taken off the books, if unions were allowed to operate freely, and the government allowed disputes to be handled through negotiations. Also, if a state provided health care and public education of a good quality, it would seem businesses would relocate there, since they ouldn't be expected to manage those things, and the workforce would be skilled.

Now, some of what I say sounds conservative, some liberal, some libertarian. But it's all the result of the assertion that the government exists to protect the rights of the individual. Government does not have a right to dictate how I live my life, whether I pray in school, do drugs, have gay sex, eat ho-who's, or burn flags. If, however, my group begins to infringe on individuals' rights, by lynching people, or by refusing them service based not on their ability to pay, but on their not being a member of my group, the government should dismantle the group, or require us, through the use of force, to cease infringing on the rights of that individual.

Bottom line, the individual supersedes the group, always, and in every case. That's liberal thought. Libertarian thought has this flaw: It believes that the rights of the individual are the most important, but it also believes the rights of the group are the most important. The two are diametrically opposed. One favors free markets, democracy, the free trade of ideas. The other favors totalitarianism, religious bigotry, and corporate exploitation.

Thanks again, sorry so long-winded!


Response from A Rational Advocate
Sent: Wednesday, May 7, 2003 6:38 PM

Well, seems like we've got a dialog going on this subject. Before I respond I would like you to understand that all of those who carry the label "conservative", whether by their own or others opinion, may not necessarily fit my definition of a conservative. For instance, there are those who consider the "religious right" to be conservative but I do not necessarily attach being religious to being politically conservative.

Now getting to your points one by one.

Regarding the Constitution, certainly laws must be enacted to deal with all kinds of situations but they must be constitutional. That's why we have a Supreme Court whose duty is to determine that point. It is also why we have people with different views on how to interpret the Constitution. There are those who look at things from the conservative point of view, who want to have justices appointed who believe in interpreting the Constitution as it was written and as those who wrote and enacted it so intended. Then there are those who want the justices to interpret it in ways that would alter it to conform to the way they think it should be viewed at a given time - in other words, to have the justices make the law. Laws are supposed to be made by the Congress with veto power given to the President.

When I say "least government possible" doesn't mean that we don't need laws. As regards to the laws themselves, certainly the Congress, as representatives of the people, write them and through the political process they are supposed to reflect the views of the majority of the people. Conservative and liberal views are reflected in this process, just as we are doing in this dialog, and what goes into a enacted law that may be objectionable to any party can be dealt with by the Supreme Court should it ever reach that level. Essentially what we are discussing is the need for certain laws and what should go into them if the need for them arises.

Most liberals, I find, like to deal with "other" people's problems - drug addiction, race, homosexuality etc. - and use it as a tool in advancing their own socialistic agenda. I only say that here because you are bringing up hypothetical questions like:

Does a child whose mother is a drug addict have a right to eat or be educated?
Do southern whites have the "right" to form their own groups?
Do black kids have a "right" to a decent education?

However, I will address them. The conservative (my definition) answer to all of the questions above is yes. However, the conservative would effect a response that would emphasize dealing with such issues starting at the lowest level possible and emphasizing personal responsibility.

For instance, if there are children whose mothers are drug addicts they should be brought to the attention of local official whose responsibility is to handle such issues so that those specific individual situations can be dealt with rather than conjuring up hypothetical cases.

Southern, Northern, Eastern and Western whites or blacks certainly have the right to form their own groups. Whether anyone likes that is something else. It is a free country and people should and can organize in any manner they wish, PROVIDED, it doesn't infringe on other peoples ability to do the same and on rights protected by our Constitution.

Black, white, green, blue, purple - all children in the U.S. have a "right" to a decent education. What is the definition of a decent education? Our government controlled education system is failing our children. It has become a political football. Teacher’s unions utilize the political arena to force conformance to many of their views on education. Attempting to resolve conflicting views of what constitutes a good education and what should be included in it relating to social aspects such as sexual mores and gender, morals, religion etal has resulted in an educational system that reflects a monolithic political consensus. Thus economically forcing on those who differ in what constitutes a good education a system not allowing parents to have a degree of control of the aspects that they feel will adversely effect their children. Aspects such as non-secular moral ideologies, contrary views on social issues and the banning of certain student expressions of their personal beliefs.

The public school system is overloaded with administrators who earn a higher salary than teachers rather than the reverse. The teacher’s union’s mandate is not to promote rewarding teachers on their individual performance and importance over that of administrators. Rather they prefer a monolithic entity that includes a bloated administration and rather than promoting the apportionment of funds based on merit and need, they ask for ever continuing funding that rarely reaches down to the classroom level.

Those with liberal tendencies in Congress, during the Clinton Administration (including a Clinton veto of a bill), denied parents in the District of Columbia the right to receive vouchers so that they could send their children to schools of their choice, private or public. This happened despite the fact a poll taken showed parents living in the District found 44 percent favoring vouchers and only 31 percent against.

Regarding labor unions, conservatives (my definition) are not adverse to private sector labor unions that do not violate the law. They are adverse to public employee unions because public officials find it easy to be pressured into acceding to demands and passing on costs to the taxpayers. In addition public employees, not being as exposed to the economic upturns and downturns as is the private sector, are able to have more secure employment with very attractive peripheral benefits and pensions.

You seem to have this thing about Corporations. A Corporation consists of people, employees including executives, and shareholders who own it. Unions consist of people, employees and executives of it. You want to take one over the other? From my observation the executives of Unions are not much different than the executives of Corporations. They both are looking out for interests of people. Employees and shareholders. Why do you want to take the side of either unless you are one of them? Isn't it the business of those personally involved and not of the rest of us? Your comment regarding the Federal Government used to break strikes must refer to the one rare instance I can recall. This when Reagan used non-union workers to replace union workers at the FAA. Remember the FAA is a government operation with public employees and I already have stated the conservative opinion in this regard. Otherwise I cannot recall of any strike breaking by the government.

Now let me address your feeling "if conservatives and liberals both adhered to what they claim to adhere to, you'd have a world where:"

I will deal first with those with which I disagree.

"A truly free press would exist. This is important to democracy, although the current "group mind" administration is destroying what few laws we had to protect our rights to a free press. Allowing one group to control huge amounts of the press is diametrically opposed to a free press". - You must be viewing a different press than I am. NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and others support, and have supported, the liberal ideology for years. It is only now with FOX news that we find a truly "fair and balanced" media. Regarding newspapers, the NY Times, Washington Post, L.A. Times, S.F. Chronicle and many others are bastions of liberal reporting and editorializing providing some token space to conservative op-ed contributors. What is this about the "group mind" administration? Is that to taunt me regarding my comments regarding the liberal tendency to deal with groups rather than individuals?

"The issue of welfare, public schools, socialized health care, should be handled on a state by state basis. These issues tie into a larger view on immigration controls. Basically, none of these programs will work, given our current poor control of immigration, and our tax structure. If we had strict controls on immigration, and our tax structure inverted so that most of our tax revenue would go to the local and state governments, and a small percentage to the federal government, to provide a military, border controls, and protect individual rights against infringement by corporations and groups, then perhaps ideas like public education, socialized health care, and even welfare could work on a state level."

All of the above could be addressed by repealing the 16th Amendment to the Constitution.
Click this link Power of the Purse in this regard

Regarding the following (points you make).

"• The drug war would be ended (The individual has the right to do as he pleases, regardless of how the group may judge him)
• In fact, all consensual crimes would be made legal
• Gun control would be unnecessary, since the drug war would have been ended, and crime would decrease. (Look to prohibition for evidence of this)"

I agree but with this covenant as long as doing what one pleases doesn't infringe upon another person's rights under the Constitution.

"• Minimum wage laws could be taken off the books, if unions were allowed to operate freely, and the government allowed disputes to be handled through negotiations. Also, if a state provided health care and public education of a good quality, it would seem businesses would relocate there, since they wouldn't be expected to manage those things, and the workforce would be skilled."

(A) I have already addressed the union issue. I just can't understand your opinion the government is interfering in the collective bargaining process of unions with employees. You evidently are not viewing the same world that I am.

(B)Government controlled health care?? You've got to be kidding. The government is incapable of handling anything efficiently and economically because of its bureaucracy and political makeup. This has been proven over and over with welfare and the like. The reason we are in the mess we are in is because of the interference in the market place by the government in setting the cost of medical services by way of Medicare and Medical. Certainly the government can provide leadership in working with the private sector but should not be involved in interfering with costs established in the marketplace. As said before it would be preferred to have that done on a local basis but the enactment of the income tax has vitally ruined that possibility.

I think I have covered most of your points in this quite long response. You did rouse my interest to counter your views.

Its obvious that neither one of us is going to change the other person's views but at least in this society we can express them without fear of big brother government watching over our shoulders. I hope this condition lasts.


Message from John McKay Sent: Wednesday, May 07, 2003 11:09 PM

Let me say that the division of conservatism into the religious right and the politically conservative makes a little sense, although clearly the religious right would have found no audience in the liberal world. That in and of itself suggests that the two are at least similar. A world where a group (sorry to use the group thing again) can dictate social mores is not a liberal world.

On the issue of media, I've heard the complaint from the conservative world about the supposed liberal-bias. But let's look at the ownership of media channels like broadcast tv:

NBC owned by General Electric
CBS owned by Viacom
ABC owned by Disney
Fox owned by New Corporation (Large portion owned by Rupert Murdoch)
source: http://www.thenation.com/special/bigten.html

Now, while these companies may be good companies, they are, after all, large corporations. They will naturally report and allow programming that promotes and favors large corporations. Whatever liberal bias exists is allowed at the bottom, in the little feel-good stories. I haven't seen any pro-socialized health care programming, despite the fact that almost every western nation has it, and it works very well in those countries. I don't see pro-labor programming, and I don't see much pro-environment programming (most nature shows are about holding an alligator's mouth open, and perhaps noting that the animal is nearly extinct, with no information as to why).

Looking at the chart I cited above, you'll see that the same is true of newspapers, radio, and every information channel, with the exclusion, so far, of the internet. (The chart doesn't show Clear Channel's dominance of the AM and FM bands). But, once cable companies are allowed to control the high speed access infrastructure, that can change. If government allows "filtering", then these companies can easily close access to sites they feel don't benefit them.

As to strike-breaking, you only need to look back to last October, when President Bush requested the use of the Taft-Hartley Act to force the end of the Longshoremen's lockout on the west coast.

Other historical "interventions" include the Ludlow Massacre in 1914, The Bayview Massacre, The Homestead Strike, The Pullman Strike, etc. You can find more info on these online, of course. Most of these are from the pre-New Deal era, but show that the government hasn't been on the side of the individual since the industrial revolution, and the subsequent entrance of big money into government.

I would agree that American public education leaves a lot to be desired. We can point fingers, but corporations distributing pro-business literature and advertising in schools isn't a good solution. Private schools are not a bad thing, nor are charter schools. I think the main issue in education is the underlying philosophy. It won't matter who's in charge, if it's nothing more than fill-in-the-blanks regurgitation. But that's a whole other subject.

As to big brother, you can look forward to more incursions: http://www.wired.com/news/conflict/0,2100,57005,00.html

Thanks again for the interesting discussion!


Response from A Rational Advocate
Sent: Wednesday, May 13, 2003 2:09 PM

I have been involved and have not had a chance to really check out my email in detail until now. Since I dread leaving some stones unturned, so to speak, I will again attempt to clarify the issue of "conservative" vs "liberal".

How can you say that conservatives are separated between the religious right and politically conservative? There you go again with groups. Let me say it here now and clear. As I have defined, individuals who believe in the least government possible etc. can say that they believe in that ideology. The fact that they say they believe in it does not make them a conservative in the eyes of others who would like to place them in a group. Groups are mostly defined by others for matter of convenience in pursuing their own agendas whatever they may be.

Let's specify that there is a difference between groups and ideologies. I know people who pursue politically conservative issues and prayer in schools etc. - and - others who also pursue politically conservative issues and advocate complete separation of Church and State - as well as - others who also support separation of School and State - and - others who support other causes that are sometimes of a liberal nature. These are individuals who might have similar ideological views of others but also might differ in views and aspects of positions on specific issues. In other words they are all individuals.

Regarding the news media, here we go again with your view of Corporations. Corporations consist of people organized to perform the aspects of a business for the purpose of providing desired goods and/or services for a reasonable profit. As for the news media, regardless of what business entity that owns them, those individuals who are in charge of a specific operation are responsible for showing a profit. They are delegated the responsibility and attendant authority to do their job. If they do not perform they eventually will be replaced. Over their many years of existence, the three main radio/tv networks (NBC, CBS, ABC), subsidiaries of the parent corporations , have been sold off to other parent Corporations based on their financial value at any given time. This changed in parent ownership has not changed their liberally oriented modus operandi. Corporate ownership of the subsidiary has never involved pressure to change their ideological direction but only to make the bottom line look as good as possible.

Regarding Fox News, Rupert Murdoch started it out with a different ideological bent because there was an audience that desired more fair and balanced reporting and it was not being served. It has been a tremendous success because of that very fact.

I don't know what you are viewing but I have seen more pro-socialized health care commentary to last me a lifetime. If you think the health care in other western nations is as good for you as what you have now you have not been well informed. Those who want comparable health care to what they now have, have to pay through the nose for it and the taxes paid to support their socialized plan leaves little incentive for individuals to devote themselves to work harder. For what, to have their supposed new wealth confiscated?

Those in Congress following the liberal ideology want socialized health care whereas those following the conservative ideology desire a private sector system. It is too bad that the government has already fouled up health care in this country by fixing prices via Medicare and Medical. It has been proven over and over again that the free market works. If the government had worked originally on an overall health program utilizing the private sector wherein the pricing was determined by the free market it is likely that this issue would be mainly behind us.

Again, in regard to labor and environmental issues evidently you are not viewing what I am viewing or reading - and - most of it is on the pro side. It's there if you want it. In a free country if there is sufficient demand, supply rises to meet it.

Regarding the Taft-Hartley Act, it was enacted 1947. The act declared the closed shop illegal and permitted the union shop only after a vote of a majority of the employees. It also forbade jurisdictional strikes and secondary boycotts. Other aspects of the legislation included the right of employers to be exempted from bargaining with unions unless they wished to. It also forbade unions from contributing to political campaigns which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1950. Another very important feature was that it gave the United States Attorney General the power to obtain an 80 day injunction (cooling off period) when a threatened or actual strike that he/she believed "imperiled the national health or safety".

Now GWB had the 80 day cooling off period imposed because either a lock-out or a strike effects the shipment of material essential to maintaining our economy and attendant national health. People in the whole country would be affected by the self interests of either party. Any President would be irresponsible not to use the laws provided by our Government to deal with such issues. That decision was not a strike breaker because the parties did come to agreement within the 80 day period. Our Constitution states that the federal government is responsible for dealing with inter-state commerce. That is what the President did and his decision was a resounding success for the American people and the parties involved.

All the other so called "strike breaking events" are ancient history and have many individuals who are and were pro and con on the issues involved at the time. Your comment "the government hasn't been on the side of the individual since the industrial revolution, and the subsequent entrance of big money into government" is ridiculous. You throw the term "individual" into your comment when you really mean "union" - big difference. A union is a group of individuals organized to present issues that are common to them for management for redress. Regarding "big money", it wouldn't be there to bribe members of both parties at the federal level if it wasn't for the passage of the income tax amendment in 1913 (I elaborated on this in a previous email). Money goes to support both management and labor. Unions do very well using their campaign contributions to effect their interests in Congress.

With your last email, you left me no alternative but to respond so as to leave few loose ends in our dialog. Obviously I would not have answered if you hadn't stirred my passions on these issues.

Take care, good luck and keep bringing up my website www.arationaladvocate.com.

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