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Author: Lokicious Big gold star, 5000 posts Feste Award Nominee! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 35259  
Subject: Re: Hot Topics ? Date: 6/17/2005 10:06 AM
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"But it's going to take a while for me to reframe thinking of Loki as a conservative."

Just playing mind games, but I'm fed up with right wing name calling and the absurd misuse of labels which bear no relation to what the words actually mean and with the failure ever to articulate what about those they label "liberal" they object to: the belief in fairness, the refusal to accept that greed is good or that achievement is measured by wealth?

"Liberalism" in Europe refers to what we might call "libertarianism": economics with no rules. Liberal democracy is simply making decisions using pure reason based on open debate of facts, without resort to lies or bullying or preconceived conclusions (something which the radical right would clearly object to, as would the ideological left or religious fundamentalists or tyrants and aristocrats). In the '60s liberals were defined as people with their feet firmly planted in mid-air (as in Phil Och's "Love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal"), what would now be called moderates or centrists, certainly not leftists. The label, "liberal," in this country, got associated with the kind of naive, do-gooder, policies of the Great Society and with civil rights (we rarely see direct attacks that equate liberals with helping blacks, but that is always just below the surface). But the right wing isn't really interested in offering objections to ineffectual social programs or ineffectual regulations (I'm happy to); they free associate these programs with anything that tries to promote equal opportunity or progressive economics or environmental, worker, and consumer protection, most of which are policies strongly supported by the vast majority of Americans, in the way welfare programs for those seen as not willing to help themselves are not.

What about "conservative": is there any way, shape, or form in which the neo-cons and the radical right can be called "conservative"? They want to return the country to their idealized version of Capitalism before progressive reforms started (over 100 years ago), or to the good old days when sex was a sin and women were kept barefoot and pregnant, which is more akin Osama bin Laden wanting to recreate the good old days of the Caliphate than anything actually "conservative." Being conservative means being cautious, undertaking change to existing conditions only what such changes can be convincingly shown to provide improvements to the status quo. (I would say the main difference between a conservative and a progressive is that a conservative demands that changes be proven to work beyond a reasonable doubt while a progressive is content with probably cause.) Conservatives don't go off invading Iraq on false pretexts because of a pipe dream of remaking the mideast into pro-Israel liberal democracies (in the European sense) on the assumption that Americans will be welcomed as liberators and that "democracy" is so compelling it will be embraced by all, even those who stand to lose. Conservatives don't repress evidence that goes against their agenda. Conservatives pay attention to facts and science and don't put their faith in what doesn't exist (such as unknown solutions to energy problems). Conservatives add up numbers and don't believe in myths (such as that Reagonomics created a balanced budget). Conservatives, when confronted with global warming, don't keep insisting the facts they don't like don't exist and that we can figure out how to solve problems down the road. Conservatives plan for unforseen contingencies, not to mention foreseeable contingencies. Conservatives don't promote waste and overconsumption and living beyond your means. Conservatives are ants not grasshoppers. Conservatives conserve.

So, yes, by any real definition of the word, I'm a conservative, though when warranted I'm a progressive (in the sense of risk taking on changes that have a reasonable level of success). Science and scholarship, of course, are always progressive-conservative. We seek new knowledge and understanding, but always within well defined rules for argumentation and proof. The same goes for business, at least businesses with any chance of success: business people take risks creating new products or expanding existing ones, but they have to have a realistic plan for how these products will make money. The radical right is faith based and is a throwback to the days before planning became a centerpiece of both intellectual work and business.

Obviously, planning has always existed to some extent, but there was a huge change that emerged in the early-mid 19th century, as science started to take center stage, when we started to have scientific farming and urban design and railroads and canals and locks and complex manufacturing plants. Such planning always requires worrying about contingencies and fact checking and being pretty sure what you are doing works, which inevitably slows things down. Sometimes those who are less meticulous in planning get there first and are big winners. I can also show you a whole lot of canals to nowhere and railroads that never got completed. Planning definitely gets in the way of "bold" action. I suppose sometimes there is a place for bold action, but addiction to the thrill of taking risks is definitely not "conservative."

I think a good gauge of who we are is in how we take trips to new places. Some people plan every detail in advance and leave no room for serendipity. Others go off without making reservations or reading up on what's out there. I do a lot of advanced research, make sure I have everything I'm sure I'll need, make reservations for anything I want to do that might get booked, have a solid itinerary, but leave enough room for serendipity. I'd call that conservative without being rigid.
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