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

Making a Straw Man to Beat Ourselves With



I was reading John Derbyshire in the National Review today. He mentions that many Brits report to poll queries that they will not support a war in Iraq with out UN backing.


Derb, "The Anglosphere Goes To War" (10/8/01):

"A lot of these people [i.e. Tony Blair's Labour party] were choking on their tea and crumpets listening to Blair's speeches in support of the war. Those not actually pacifist are generally anti-military and anti-American. ... Things are not quite as bad as in the Vietnam War, when Prime Minister Harold Wilson made all the right noises on behalf of Lyndon Johnson but dared not commit any troops for fear of an uprising by his Labour Party rank and file. Still, Blair can only take his party so far on this one, and we do not yet know how far that will be.

"The Daily Telegraph recently surveyed 74 constituency Labour party chairmen. [Note: For electoral purposes, the U.K. is divided into 659 districts, called "constituencies." Each district returns a member to the House of Commons. Of these 659 members, 410 currently belong to Blair's Labour party.] Of these constituency party bosses:

· 69 percent said that war with Iraq would cause resignations among their party members.
· 5 percent said they would resign themselves if there was a war.
· 89 percent opposed any war not authorized by an explicit U.N. resolution.

"Three members of Blair's own cabinet have publicly warned him that his war policy is in deep trouble. A TV poll turned up 80 percent of the British public opposed to war without a U.N. resolution. Blair's foreign secretary last week said he thought the chances of a war were "60-40 against." Another cabinet minister declared on Sunday that it was Britain's "duty" to act as a restraining influence on Washington. The chairman of Blair's party has said that a way must be found between the two "extremes" of rushing into war and refusing to accept that military action might be necessary. Even Blair's chiefs of staff are unenthusiastic about a war. The Telegraph reports one saying that: "The country doesn't have the stomach for a war in Iraq at the moment and frankly neither do many senior officers." You get the picture. And this is our most-willing ally!"


In fact, many Liberals (and Conservatives to boot) express that the only thing stopping them from supporting this war is "Unilateralism" and the UN. The suggestion seems to be that if only the UN would sign off and other nations would join us, this would make the war ok.

No matter if the evidence of WMD is still kept secret. No matter the current status of debates into Saddam's "real level of threat" visa vie nukes in the Liberal Salons of the Internet.

This strikes me as either incredibly stupid or incredibly dishonest.

And I am also struck by the similarity of the status of the UN in these people's minds to that of "smart bombs"

Let me explain.

Smart bombs are our creation, both the actual missiles and their image in the minds of the public. Today it is seen as a "tragedy" beyond words when a bomb dropped from 15,000 ft strikes a school and not an armory. Which it is, of course. But the key is that it is seen as an AVOIDABLE tragedy. Never mind that the bad guys purposely built the armory next to the school, or vise versa. Our bombs are SMART, we all saw this on TV during the Gulf War, Bosnia, and Afghanistan. So, there is no excuse for such "realities of war".

Only the thing is, few of our bombs have actually been "smart" (until, they tell us, right now). And even those "smart" bombs still retain error rates. For one thing they remain programmed and fired by real live, fallible, humans.

But we are reaping what we have sown as far as public perception goes.

And then we have the UN. We created this beast after WWII and we are the ones who continue to pretend that ourselves, and every other nation, should be bound by it. On the face of it the UN sounds like the panacea of Liberal values. Here we have a gathering of world leaders who's sole purpose (in the eyes of the public) is to stop wars! Oh happy days!

But the reality is that not one representative to the UN is elected. And of those governments with a man in NY, less than half are Liberal Democracies. And the majority of UN time and energy is given over to economic development of the Third World.

Furthermore, the only leaders who find their activities hampered in any way by the UN are the leaders of the "Free World". Neither Slobo, Saddam, Komeini, or Kim Il Sung worry one night's sleep over whether or not they have UN approval. That sort of headache is reserved for ol' W. In fact, the UN protected Slobo and may yet save Saddam, and it might cost Tony Blair his reelection.

Do we see a pattern here?

The UN is not what the public perceives it to be. But we are being hung on the cross of its fictitious image.


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