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Conservatives vs. Liberals

May 20, 2013

I’ve been following politics for a number of years. I examine viewpoints from both the left and right side of the political spectrum. I’ve witnessed our country grow increasingly polarized, not only in national politics, but on an interpersonal level as well.

Democrats vs. Republicans. Conservatives vs. Liberals (or Progressives depending on the nomenclature).

It seems increasingly more difficult not to be on either the extreme left or the extreme right. Either you’re a gun-toting, bible-thumping, gay-hating conservative; or a tree-hugging, socialist-communist, gender-neutral liberal.

Those seem to be the differences on the surface, but I think the chasm is deeper. There are two huge gaps between conservatives & liberals that I feel need further examination:

1) philosophy vs. security
2) me vs. we

Conservatives base many of their arguments on philosophical beliefs. This is why you see so many conservative think tanks and references to the Federalist Papers and John Locke. This is also why you hear conservatives often talking about the value of ideas. For example, the idea that government should be limited as much is feasible is a philosophical viewpoint, and is quite subjective. Who is to say how limited government should be in the 21st century? A conservative might answer “as much as possible” but still, this is a philosophical discussion.

Liberals, on the other hand, base many of their arguments on security, and in a very personal way. Job & economic security, health security, security from other individuals or groups of people. For example, liberals want universal healthcare so that they can feel secure in their well-being. How much security is too much? A liberal might answer “as much as possible” because they want to feel safe.

Compound that with the “me vs. we” issue. Conservatives tend to value the individual over the collective. Individual responsibility not only means that I take care of myself, it also means that I don’t take care of you. Liberals on the other hand, tend to believe that we all take care of each other. This is a very sticky point between the two sides, and I think the intersection of these two big chasms lead to much of the non-communication between conservatives and liberals.

From the liberal perspective it’s easy to see conservatives as greedy, cold-hearted, out-of-touch folk because they’re coming from a totally different perspective. Likewise it’s easy for conservatives to see liberals as a bunch of leeches that want everyone to take care of them except for themselves. Conservatives are focused on “me” while liberals are focused on “we.”

Of course, the political divide is much more complex than this, that is why you have a whole field of study – political science – to sort this out and break it down.

Sometimes though, it’s good to sit back and think about what we’re really arguing about when we have political disagreements. Conservatives and liberals often have similar end goals but really just don’t agree on how to get there based on the differences outlined above. Other times it’s hard to believe we live in the same space. The reality is that neither side – especially the extremes – has a monopoly on what makes great policy.

From → Commentary

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