Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Am I a Conservative Liberal or a Liberal Conservative?

For many years it's been difficult to articulate my political position (and indeed my position on many socially-related issues). That's because, as with most people, I have complicated positions; but I'm also picky about definitions, and it's hard for me to say I'm 'conservative' or 'liberal' without a whole bunch of caveats.

So here is some stuff about all that.

I'm politically a bit to what some people call 'the Left'. I believe that societies should make provision for their weaker elements, but I also believe that 'the poor you shall have with you always'. There will always be some freeloaders, and by the time that won't matter at all, we won't have political issues either. I don't like freeloaders, by which I mean people who can provide goods or services for remuneration sufficient to make themselves a living, but won't. However, I also believe that the 'better angels' of humanity need constraints in order to keep them better.

I'm socially a bit liberal in the sense that I believe that humans have inalienable rights and that they should be given freedom to express themselves within the meaning of those rights. However, I also believe that not all rights are equal and that some are downright spurious. I've written about such rights before. However, I am socially conservative in the sense that I don't think society needs to change without good reasons and sufficient infrastructural (both material and non-material) support; not all change is good, or good in practice even if good in theory.

I'm theologically conservative in the sense that given any particular body of religion, I'd examine the established canon of that religion before going on to speculative development of doctrine based on looser interpretation of that canon. If people have interpreted canon a specific way for a long time, I'd wonder why that would need to be changed if change were mooted.

Because of theological conservatism coupled with my other positions, some people think of me as morally and ethically conservative while others think I may secretly be a dangerous radical. I suspect I may be even more dangerous than that, but if so, I don't know it for sure. I just note, privately, that 'radical' comes from Latin radix, 'a root'. It doesn't quite mean what many people think it means: radicals are back-to-basics conservatives, who don't believe in preserving the existing complicated stuff-and-flummery structure of 'developed' society.

I think that all humans are essentially liberals at birth, but are made conservative later. At adolescence, some become badly-informed quasi-liberals. If they maintain the position into late middle-age, they often become pseudo-intellectual pseudo-liberals. It's only if they maintain their idealism into old age that they become true liberals again.

Not many humans let their offspring yell and scream without limit, throw their food around, remain unclothed, and set no limits on empirical education. This is what I mean by humans being 'made conservative'. Societies in general tend to have ideas about how children should be brought up, one way or another.

I've observed that universities in America are the most illiberal institutions with respect to what can or cannot be said, or their position on what is good, true and right for everyone else. British universities, by contrast, are hotbeds of dissenting opinion and subversive reasoning. They've honed the traditional British weapons of irony and satire well; nobody else is as good.

And here in Atlantis, the liberals are the ones who want more education for the masses, forgetting that education is the most conservatising force of all — unless of course you don't teach anything except how to reason without drawing conclusions and sticking to them and their consequences. How droll.

With all these opinions moving around in my head, and occasionally realigning differently, it's hard to say whether I am more liberal or conservative, or indeed which approach contributes more to my thinking. I am inclined to believe that my thinking contributes more to my perceived conservatism or liberalism. Politically, I'll vote for whoever makes more sense to me in a way that I like.

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