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Friday, 26 November 2010

Why conservative? Why liberal?

NOV 26th 2010

Why conservative? Why liberal? A general examination:

On the one hand, conservatives do tend to be conservative because the hierarchy of society based on achievement as measured by material success seems right and reasonable, and makes sense. After all, hard work surely equals reward, no?. And as they feel that the world does not owe them a living, why not maximize what they have by increasing their wealth by careful investment and husbandry, which might allow some of what they create to cascade downwards in the form of employment and largesse? They see the people who contribute little to society reaping rewards and benefits that they have not earned, and look upon their wastefulness and fecklessness with disdain. They see the balance of the society that they have worked so hard to create being eroded by those who seem to have little concept of fair play and balance.

On the other hand liberals (which include any form of left thinking people) prefer arguments from emotion, relativism, and pragmatism. They see hard working people striving to keep the wheels of family, social and cultural life turning and get nothing in return, and feel little valued. They see huge amounts of money changing hands among the super rich and then see them walk away unscathed when problems arise, while being certain that the entire weight of law will fall viciously on them if they tried anything similar. They fear that the little they have will be looked upon with disapproving eyes and removed from them as wasteful and somehow undeserved. And they know without doubt, that the path to survival as an individual, as a family and as a community or the chance of an education relies on ever higher indebtedness from which there is – can be- no escape.

Conservatives see things on a long time scale, both looking back and looking forward, knowing that things cant be done overnight and that plans made now can come into fruition later. They tend to be much more interested in history, sometimes seeing periods through rose tinted spectacles. Liberals see things in a much shorter time frame, expecting short-term fixes for solutions to immediate problems. Liberals accept history as an example, but usually for the purpose of not making mistakes again.

This is not to say that the political strategies either side use reflects these paradigms. In fact it tends to be the opposite, where conservatives largely use smear campaigns, exaggerations, evocative language, and outright lies or at best misleading arguments, with no compunction about doing the opposite of whatever they promise in a belief that the end justifies the means: whereas liberals use logical arguments, bald statements of fact, statistics and evidential truth as they see it, but base it on a set of sometimes spurious assumptions, from which they do not like to diverge.

The government has just the one job: to make the all people whom they represent as comfortable and happy as possible. Everything else that they do, be it defence, education, policing, managing the economy and wealth creation, for example, is a just subset of this, not an end in itself.

Wealth creation was controlled originally by those who owned land and who could demand support from the toiling masses in the form of tithes and taxes. The alternative being mass starvation and the fear of eviction. Later the industrialists would rely on an endless pool of surplus and desperate labour to mine for the resources thy needed, occupy and plunder other peoples countries where necessary, and operate the machines that are owned by others in order to create wealth they would never have a share in, set against the fear of those identical sanctions of starvation and homelessness, together with violent enforcement by police and army.

The conservatives and the liberals, were largely in agreement over the things they thought mattered, and there was no legitimate opposition.

The coming of the Welfare state and the trade unions stopped that cosy arrangement dead in its tracks, and removed at a stroke those two terrible weapons. Never again would any British person be allowed to starve, be ill of a curable disease, work for starvation wages or live in the streets if it could be avoided. Perfect it wasn’t, and people fell through the cracks, and others took ruthless advantage of the fact that the economy required a pool of available otherwise unemployed people that kept the wages of the rest high enough.

Stung by the drastic curtailment of their lavish lifestyle and their loss of power, how should the conservatives, who still felt that they had a natural right to govern react? Well just how you might expect. They used the power of their media to divide the nation until they could smash the unions, remove and price out of peoples reach the Council houses, limit the service provided in healthcare to the most basic, excluding dentistry and , and ultimately to dismantle most of the social safety net. If that were not enough they invent a form of wealth creation which not only does not require the participation of the population as a whole, by such things as the creation of invisible financial products and selling them to each other at a profit. Sometimes when they have no option but to require, grudgingly, some labour, it is sourced elsewhere, usually far away in a society where the original weapons of starvation and eviction and the use of child labour can be employed, albeit deniably and at arms length, to keep the prices low.

Without the safety net of hardship payments, and with homelessness, TB and hunger about to reappear, these measures will go a long way to restoring the status quo ante, and the conservatives can sleep snug in their beds a bit longer.

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