Dave,I completely agree that the extreme right (who are not "conservatives," whatever they like to call themselves) lie and name call.But there was, and is, a genuine critique of naive 'liberalism," the desire to do good for society, without paying attention to costs and effectiveness. There is also a conflation of three distinct ideals:1) Providing protection and a safety net for those who want to work hard and participate productively in the national economy, by providing laws against exploitation (minimum wage, labor organizing, OSHA) and by providing a national or state insurance system (unemployment, work disability, social security for retirement) against hard times and old age. Naturally there are times this ideal gets bogged down in the details, and the details need to be criticized to get them done more effectively, including making the actuarials work out, as with social security, but there is only a small minority in this country, most vocally the heirs and heiresses whose family wealth is its own safety net, so they don't want to contribute to the whole (also some of the young and restless, who don't believe they will ever need the safety net), who are opposed to this ideal.2) Providing opportunities for those who are not born to privilege. This would include public schools, public universities, subsidized job training, and a well-functioning investment system, through which those with promising business proposals get funded (as opposed to crony capitalism, which funds the privileged regardless of quality of proposal). The basic idea is to let the best and the brightest, the true achievers, rise to the top, unlike in oligarchies and aristocracies, where connections and breeding substitute for achievement. It also is inended to let everyone become the most productive citizens they can. However, unlike the insurance system in ideal 1, which should pay for itself, this ideal requires subsidies and redistribution of wealth. Advocates of this ideal should have nothing to apologize for: in a democracy and meritocracy, providing equal opportunity for success is going to lead to a far better whole than perpetuating wealth in the hards of the underachieving privileged (look at any oligarchy, petty dictatorship with the likes of Saddam's demon seed or the North Korean monarchy as heir-apparents, or aristocracy to see the alternative. Where this ideal breaks down, of course, is when those for whom opportunities are provided fail to make the most of them (as with perpetual welfare or perpetual affirmative action). There is also a problem when some of what should be part of providing opportunity becomes confused with charity (ideal 3)—there is, in fact, a strong case that subsidized school meal programs are a necessary part of providing opportunities, since hungry, malnourised children can't learn, but it doesn't help to call the thing a "free lunch program," which is charity.3) Government charity. Liberals think in a wealthy, civilized society, basic human needs should be provided for everyone, regardless of whether we're dealing with the folks in ideal 1 who are drawing more from the trough than they contributed (actuarials say some will, and that's fine) or whether a case can be made that the opportunities provided will, on the average, lead to more productive citizens who over time will produce more wealth than they consumed to get there. Genuine conservatives (and I don't mean the mean-spirited dogmatists who believe the poor and suffering deserve to be that way) think charity is better done through private donations.Even genuine conservatives, let alone the extreme right wing proponents of oligarchy and aristocracy, rarely attack these principles, except at times whether government belongs in the charity business. What they do is point to abuses and inefficiencies, which certaintly happen, and use this to undermine the ideal most of the electorate would agree with.Most of the bureaucratic problems come, in fact, from attempts to prevent abuses. I would suggest my mother-in-law is a case in point. The disabilities act is so strongly worded to limit who qualifies for abuses, it really doesn't allow room for circumstantial disabilities (like being sick and unable to woalk in icy conditions). Of course, those who want to fake disabilities are pretty good at it, so the rules simply rule out some of those who could most benefit.
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