Sean LaFreniere

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Sean's Political Dictionary
So that YOU know what SEAN is talking about when he opens his big mouth:

 

Conservative:

Date: 1831. From Latin conservare, for "to keep", "guard", or "observe". A Conservative relies upon family traditions and figures of authority to establish and maintain values. 

A Conservative puts group security above personal freedoms. 

A Conservative believes that successful use and maintenance of power proves God's favor for the government. 

A Conservative believes that social values, religious rules, and forms of governments may only be altered gradually. 

Stability and continuity are the goals of government.

 

Liberal:

Date: 1820. From Latin liberalis for "free". A Liberal uses reason and logic to set personal, social, and religious values. 

A Liberal places personal freedom above group security. 

A Liberal believes that governments rule by the consent of the governed. 

A liberal believes that governments may be changed or removed at the will of the people.  

A Liberal supports rapid change in the pursuit of progress and reform.

Freedom and Justice are the goals of government.

 

Note: a nation, and an individual, may move back and forth between these positions often. They rarely sum up a personality completely. And they should never be permanent blinders for anyone to view the world.

When a people succeed in a Liberal revolution, for instance, they often find themselves in the Conservative position protecting these gains. Similarly a person might have a Liberal view on public financial assistance and then move into a conservative position once these demands are met.

One might say that Affirmative Action is a prime example. At one point instituting Affirmative Action was a Liberal position, it was needed to reverse decades of discrimination following the end of Slavery. However, today the Liberal position might well be the ending of Affirmative Action, as it has largely completed its task and now stands as a stumbling block to truly moving the nation beyond race as a discriminatory trait. Meanwhile, the position of defending AA is now actually a Conservative stance (whether its so-called "liberal" defenders realize it or not).

Another way to think about this is that these terms describe a way of thinking about issues, not the positions on those issues. That is a Conservative might support a war because politicians they respect urge it, because the enemy scares them, and ultimately because it just "feels right". A Liberal might also come to support the war in spite of the position of authority figures and celebrities, not because it feels right, but because hours of research and consideration support the cause.

Neither is a "better way" of coming to a position, necessarily. Sometimes too much thinking interferes with a solid moral judgment, such as on the Abortion issue. And then other times only rational examination can skip over the emotional baggage and come to the most reasonable decision, as we see in the Abortion issue.

I realize this might be difficult for some people to accept after a long time of hearing party dogma on the issue. Personally I find value in BOTH positions. On some issues I am myself rather Conservative and on others I am quite Liberal. The same with the terms Radical and Reactionary, noted below. I found that stepping beyond these labels opened up my thoughts and cleared my head of a lot of bs.

 

Reactionary:

Date: 1840. From Latin reagere for "to act". A Reactionary uses government pressure as a means of containing and responding to changes in society.

 

Radical:

Date: 14th century. From Latin radicalis from radix for "root". A Radical supports social movements and political pressure groups as a means of affecting change in government.

 

The Right:

Date: early modern. The term comes from  English Parliamentary Rules; which place the party in power on the right of the Speaker. As the Conservatives held sway for a long time, the term Right came to be associated with the "Establishment" and thus with Conservative politics.

 

The Left:

Date: early modern. The party in Opposition sits on the Speaker's left. The Left came to be associated with labor movements, the lower classes, and socialist politics. It has also come to be associated with Liberalism. This was useful for Conservative politicians, and Socialists as well, during the 60's. But I find this to be a big intellectual and political mistake.

 

Capitol Goods:

Date: circa 1639. From the French from Latin capitalis for "top", used in French for "principal" or "chief". (1) : a stock of accumulated goods; especially at a specified time and in contrast to income received during a specified period (2) : accumulated goods devoted to the production of other goods (3) : accumulated possessions calculated to bring in income

 

Capitalism:

Date: 1877. An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market

 

Socialism:

Date: 1837. From Latin socialis for "friend" or "companion" or "associate". Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods; usually there is no private property; in Marxist theory this is also considered just a transitional stage between capitalism and communism and it is distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.

 

Communism:

Date: 1840. From French communisme, from Latin communis for "common". A doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed. It is the final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably. In its only examples of practical application, in the USSR, China, and Cuba it became a totalitarian system where a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production and the people are enslaved in production geared to support the power of this party.

 

Note: in Marxist theory these three systems represent a sliding scale, with Capitalism on the Right, Socialism in the middle, and Communism on the Left. A nation was supposed to move from one to the other over time. However, in practice few systems in the world have ever been purely one or the other. Most national economic models employ some of all three.

While the US and Europe are considered the paragons of Capitalism, they both retain many Socialist elements. Both the US and Europe offer state sanctioned monopolies of public utilities. The American Postal Service is a state owned enterprise, as are the European aerospace entities. Europe offers state run healthcare, as do many American states, and both regulate the health industry heavily.

Through out history Europe and the US have also held some Communist elements. The common grazing lands of town centers and the great unfenced Western plains were both representative of these traditions. One might say that Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and the Dole are also holdovers from our more communal days.

On the other hand, while China has long been a paragon of Socialism / Communism, it still has many elements of free enterprise. They allow small farmers and craftsmen to sell excess production on the open market, they have private telecoms and industrial companies, and now they have a stock market, the ultimate symbol and apparatus of Capitalism.

When one system or the other fails to serve a nation, many proponents argue that actually the system simply was not implemented purely enough. However, attempts to purify these systems require a heavy hand in government, education, and economic practice. And this has led to oppressive regimes and brutalized citizens.

 

Democracy:

Date: 1576. From Greek dEmokrati, from demos "people" + kracy "rule". A government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections; usually accompanied by the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges.

 

Republic:

Date: 1604. From Latin respublica; from res "thing" + publica "of the people". A government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who is elected by popular vote.

 

Note: that the root of the word Democracy is Greek, while the root of the word Republic is Latin. These terms are NOT antithetical, they do not even derive from the same language.

In common use they both have come to describe types of Liberal governments, specifically the one is a type of the other. It is possible for a nation to be a Democracy, but NOT also a Republic. However, a nation that is a Republic is ALWAYS also a Democracy. A Republic is a TYPE of Democracy.

The UK is a Democracy, but not a Republic, because of the Queen. Ireland became a Republic only after it dropped from the Commonwealth and replaced the Queen with an elected President

 

Fascism:

Date: 1921 From Latin fascis for "bundle" or group. Last, but not least, is this term, which actually combines the economic system and the political system entirely. In this system the state and large corporations merge, the rights of the individual are subordinated to the glory of the State, and all dissent is suppressed. It often utilizes a racial or religious cause to motivate the people into giving up their rights in the first place. These states usually rise out of an economic collapse or hardship with high inflation and unemployment.

 
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Friday, January 24, 2003

The Empire vs. the Rebels



Think about this question for a moment... "The Empire has moved troops into Acer. The rebels are fleeing." Is this good news or bad news for you? Why?


Americans have been brought up on a Star Wars view of the universe. The Empire is always an evil power and the Rebels are always the good guys. Heck we even took this to the Wild West and made heroes out of horse thieves, bank robbers, kidnappers, rapists, and murders. There are more than a few Western movies where the bad guy is the Sheriff and the hero wears a mask!


I think some of this comes from our history as a nation. We were born out of a conflict between American rebels, dressed up in Indian costumes and vandalizing ships, versus the British Empire with its greedy king, its dismissive parliament, and its hated "redcoats". We then fought on the side of Texan rebels against the Mexican Empire and on behalf of Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Philippine colonists against the Spanish Empire. The World Wars could both be seen as fighting the Second and Third German Empires. Then we defended Bosnians and Albanians against the Serb "empire". And in Afghanistan we liine up with the bandits in the hills against the totalitarian powers in Kabul


So it seems rather natural that Americans picture Darth Vader in one corner and Han Solo in the other.











But our view of the world may not be so accurate.


The Roman Empire was not always ruled by an emperor. For much of its life the Empire was a rather benign master comprised of elected leaders and ruled by the vote. The Empire often fought neighboring regimes that we would never find ourselves rooting for. These enemies of the Empire included the Persians, Carthage, and brutal northern tribes. Many were ruled by absolute monarchs, practiced Slavery, and performed ritual human sacrifice.


On the other hand, when Rome won it regularly granted citizenship to the conquered and brought advances in agriculture, road building, and the rule of law to the conquered lands. Rome even offered religious freedom for many centuries up to its conversion to Christianity. Quite arguably, for centuries, the Empire was in fact "the good guys".


Similarly, the history of the British Empire was also not all black. Part of the common heritage of the Commonwealth nations included English as a lingua franca, modern civil infrastructure, rail links, democracy, a Free Press, and the Rule of Law. To this day many nations retain this heritage.


And when the US fought the Mexicans, the Spanish, and the South it was our "American Empire" that fought for Liberty and Human Rights, an end to brutal Colonialism, an end to Slavery, and to bring Democracy to the oppressed.


In truth, the rebels of today are not fighting for the little guy, they are not driven by nationalism, or even a simple love of personal Freedom. No, by their own words, these rebels would subvert and bring down democracy and replace it with theocracy. They would severely restrict personal liberty, indeed end this right for all women and religious minorities. They would end the Free Press altogether. And they would replace voluntary, changeable, civilian Law with one man's interpretation of an ancient religious text. Worse, they would eventually unite all Islamic governments into one single all world government.


Meanwhile the Empire in this case has already toppled a multitude of autocratic regimes. The Empire has freed millions of poor farmers, city folk and minorities. The Empire has fostered Democracy and the Free Market. And the Empire stands as the sworn enemy of some of the most brutal dictators this world has ever known... Slobo, Saddam, Mullah Omar, Kim Il Sung, etc.

So, what is a good Liberal-minded person to do with the idea that we might well be today's Empire and the Rebels are Islamofacists? Indeed, what DOES a good American Liberal do when it is the Empire that fights for Freedom and the Rebels who would enslave us all?


Sean: Friday, January 24, 2003 [+] |
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