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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Big vs Small G

Liberals = Big Government
Conservatives = Small Government



Check out today's TNR piece by Jonathan Chait. (annoying free registration required - unlike National Review) Its very well written, and I don't know that I have any issues with his definitions, honestly.

Mark and Eric may, though...


  • I've been meaning to write about that article for a while, now. I'm not sure if I agree with all the definitions, but ultimately that doesn't matter. It certainly is the definition of liberalism as it applies to me. It goes back to the whole Enlightenment thing I (we?) keep going back to. The question I and everyone else keeps asking, is liberalism more than just Enlightened pragmatism? Is it less than that? Is 'good government' a strong enough selling point without idealism? All good questions.

    Check out the liberal debate from Matt, Mark and Kevin.

    Basically, liberalism won all the big battles and has little left to fight for accept a few smaller points and to counter the backlash. I mean, raise a hand if you hate feminism but fundamentally believe men and women are equal. Even many (most?) Republicans believe government can be part of the solution to many problems, not necessarily just a cause of problems.

    I started blogging largely to help myself develop a clear political philosophy other than "I know what I like". Turns out I'm not alone in that quest.

    By Anonymous Mark, at 3/02/2005 11:13:00 AM  

  • Mark,

    I agree that liberalism has won the major battles---and we're better off for it. I'm talking about the liberalism that removed the barriers to civil rights for everyone and promoted the idea that all men were created equal. I'd be hard pressed to agree that this is what the modern "liberal" is fighting for.

    By Anonymous David Hunley, at 3/02/2005 11:13:00 AM  

  • There's a saying that in twenty years you can go from liberal to conservative without changing a single opinion. I try to point this out as much as possible because the word 'liberal' has such a negative connotation today. Actually, I think it often does, there some great rhetoric from Abe Lincoln trying to squirm away from the word, just like a modern Democrat.

    Gay rights is a natural progression of the same fight. Abortion is far more complex, though. The basic notion that government can be used to solve problems certainly has won.

    But the specific definition of 'liberal' in always changing, always in flux because the base definition is just 'openness to change'.

    Right now we are really just resisting Bush moving us backwards, which puts us in the awkward position of, in some sense, being the conservatives resisting change. As you may have noticed, no one really has a handle on this, yet. If you read this article and follow the links above you'll see just how confused the current situation is.

    By Anonymous Mark, at 3/02/2005 11:14:00 AM  

  • 1. I think Milton Friedman would be astounded to hear himself lumped in with conservatives, whether economic or not.

    2. As usual I'm astounded by the corruption of classical liberalism. What Chait describes as liberalism is not, it is New Deal collectivism. I know I'm fighting an uphill battle here, but liberal does not mean using the government to solve social ills, or it did not in the past.

    3. In my opinion Chait has conservatives and classical liberals and collectivists mixed up. Most people who call themselves liberal today are actually moderately collectivist, including our pal Mark.

    Some days I realize that because I eschew the Orwellian newspeak of our current political environment I'm not even speaking the same language as you guys. I read Chait's article and couldn't finish it because the assumptions, use of terms and so forth were so far from how I see things.

    By Anonymous Eric Cowperthwaite, at 3/02/2005 11:14:00 AM  

  • Hammer,

    Are we talking about the same article?? The anti-dogma dogma? I picked up the new republic today at the Rowan County Library (didn't see NR though) and I couldn't force myself to read through that whole article.
    I don't know what Chait is talking about (well...actually, I think that it is HE who doesn't know what he's talking about but my idea of Liberalism promises NOTHING but what you can accomplish with your freedom; believes most social programs are failures; believes that just about every government regulation (unless they're worked around) produces shortages, high costs, and hinders progress.
    I tried, but when he said something about "liberals preferring more government" I couldn't read any further.

    By Anonymous David Hunley, at 3/02/2005 11:15:00 AM  

  • Mark,
    I'm not trying to be too extreme here...but the problems you say government "solves" are the ones they created in the first place! Civil rights? It was the government that created the need for that movement with unjust laws. Gay rights? Once again, it was the government that got itself into that mess when it was allowed to meddle into something which it had no business. Foreign Affairs? HA! We're still dealing with the appeasement practices of the 90's. Social programs? HA! What "success" has been claimed in that arena should rightly be called "property confiscation and wealth redistribution" and we still heard during this last election that the number of people in poverty had increased (and when you consider that the greatest number of people in poverty in America are single mothers and their children, I'd argue the government has even contributed to that little statistic).
    The battle certainly has NOT been won about whether or not the government can solve problems...unless those who claim so are ready to appease me . If not, then the battle has just begun.

    By Anonymous David Hunley, at 3/02/2005 11:16:00 AM  

  • Very nicely written David. And I pretty well stopped seriously reading what Chait wrote when lumped Friedman in with the conservatives. As soon as I saw him say that conservatives want smaller government I knew he was clueless and that was it.

    By Anonymous Eric Cowperthwaite, at 3/02/2005 11:17:00 AM  

  • I'll have to re-read it. I thought he was saying that wanting smaller government was not a defining point of conservatism, which I think is what the stereotype is, yet seems more libertarian to me.

    There was an online test to 'how much of a libertarian are you' sort of thing, and I knew I was not one when I saw "Do you think the military should be reduced by 75%?" Obviously the creators felt that a military infringes upon individual rights somehow...I'll go find the link.

    Here it is.My score was 41. "Your libertarian credentials are obvious. Doubtlessly you will become more extreme as time goes on."

    I predict Eric falls in the over 139 range, that David will be below him, and that Mark will make me look like Friedman.

    On this one I fell exactly between conservative and libertarian.

    Interestingly enough, typing 'libertarian quiz' into google gives a recommended search of "William F. Buckley". Touche.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 3/02/2005 11:21:00 AM  

  • Hammer,

    91 !!

    91-130 points: You have entered the heady realm of hard-core libertarianism. Now doesn't that make you feel worse that you didn't get a perfect score?

    You sure called it for me. But, of have a quibble with the test. I'd HATE to think I scored a perfect libertarian score...something about "perfection" on this earth bothers me.

    By Anonymous David Hunley, at 3/02/2005 11:22:00 AM  

  • 131-159 points: You are nearly a perfect libertarian, with a tiny number of blind spots. Think about them, then take the test over again. On the other hand, if you scored this high, you probably have a good libertarian objection to my suggested libertarian answer.


    By Anonymous Eric Cowperthwaite, at 3/02/2005 11:22:00 AM  

  • My actual score was 149. I took the test from my ideal, not what I thought was practical. I think if I went by practical I would score more like a 120.

    By Anonymous Eric Cowperthwaite, at 3/02/2005 11:23:00 AM  

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