My biggest gripe about radio commentator Rush
Limbaugh is his continued misapplication of the word "liberal" when describing
elitist Democrats. Limbaugh comes closer to being a liberal than do Democrats
who tend to qualify more as ultraconservatives and reactionaries.
What is a "liberal"? One description I saw
on the office door of a political science professor at the University of
Kansas many years ago said: "A conservative is satisfied with current problems.
A liberal wants to replace them with new problems."
One way of describing liberals is to compare
their attitude toward change with the attitudes of others.
A radical says, "Let's change everything."
A liberal says, "That sounds like a good idea.
Let's try it."
A conservative says, "That might be a good
idea, but let's examine it closely first to make sure it won't cause too
An ultraconservative says, "Let's not change
A reactionary says, "We've changed too many
things already. We need to go get rid of some of these new things."
I'm not a liberal because I tend to be a political
cynic. A cynical liberal would be a contradiction. Liberals tend to be
chronic optimists. They look for the positive.
For example, a liberal would approach the issue
of the shrinkage of the ozone layer by looking for ways to replace the
ozone. The liberal attitude would be: "If we can put a man on the moon,
we can supplement the ozone layer."
Reactionaries would blame man and his evil
modern technology for the problem and say the only thing to do is to get
rid of the technology or chemicals that is causing the problem. A reactionary
wouldn't consider the possibility that the changes in the ozone layer could
Liberals favor a diversity of ideas. A liberal
believes, "Your ideas may be just as valid as mine." Conservatives tend
to be skeptical of new ideas, but will consider them. They want proof the
new ideas are valid.
Ultraconservatives tend to be True Believers
who are convinced they are RIGHT and anybody who disagrees with them is
WRONG. There is only one valid point of view...theirs.
Liberals are pragmatic rather than ideological.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt was a liberal because when something he
tried didn't work he would try something else. Modern Democrats want to
continue doing the same thing regardless of whether it works or not.
For example, federal aid to public schools
has failed to provide adequate educations to poor inner city kids. Democrats
want to continue the approach but with more money and federal regulations.
They won't consider the possibility that the primary problem with big city
schools is that they are already too bureaucratic.
The idea of school vouchers to allow poor parents
to send their children to private schools is a liberal idea for two reasons.
It involves a new approach to helping children get an education. Sending
children to schools that teach children differently would insure a society
with different ideas.
Requiring all children to go to school in the
same little boxes with the same teachings could create a society in which
everyone thinks the same. Conservatives and ultraconservatives are more
likely to find this approach to education attractive.
Liberals tend to become conservatives when
they become committed to specific ideas or institutions. They decide that
the idea or institution is the only way to do something and stop looking
for, or considering, alternatives.
As Friedrich Nietzsche observed, "Liberal institutions
straightway cease from being liberal the moment they are soundly established:
once this is attained no more grievous and more thorough enemies of freedom
exist than liberal institutions."
Liberals generally favor fewer and less detailed
regulations than conservatives. Liberals are more trusting of people than
are conservatives. Fewer regulations allow greater freedom of action. Regulations
Republicans like Rush Limbaugh favor the "liberalization"
or reduction of regulations because they believe business owners will act
in the public benefit without the need of government regulations -- a liberal
attitude. Democrats generally have the conservative attitude that businesses
cannot be trusted to act in the public interst without government regulation.
Republicans want to change the way electricity
is distributed by allowing "wheeling". A true conservative would be likely
to question how customers could benefit from allowing companies to sell
electricity they don't produce delivered over lines they don't own or maintain.
Wheeling would provide insufficient incentive for companies selling electricity
in a state, for example, California, to spend a lot of money building new
transmission lines. Such companies could make higher profits by trying
to increase sales to areas with surplus transmission capacity.
A healthy society needs a mix of radicals, liberals, conservatives, and reactionaries. Radicals help point out potential problems. Liberals come up with new ideas. Conservatives help preserve those aspect of society that work. Reactionaries balance radicals by pointing out with changes are happening too rapidly.
I also write at Mediard
You can support this site through PayPal.