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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Saturday, January 25, 2003

MY Political Rant of the Day


Preservation vs. Progress


Occasionally it is useful to restate an issue at its simplest form. Today I believe the world is on the knife-edge between two views of History. Interestingly it is one of the oldest questions of Judeo-Christianity. The essential question is: “Are humans good or bad?”

If you believe that humans are essentially selfish and cruel then you would tend to fear the idea of people creating a government to suit their needs and to answer to them. You would look for an exceptional individual who seems to be above the human condition, a prophet or a king blessed by God.

If you believe that humans are essentially good and interested in social justice then you would cherish the idea of people creating their own government and you would reject the advances of any men who see themselves, or are seen by others, to be exceptional and strive for ultimate authority.

In the West the two camps are the Liberal and the Conservative parties. Being a rather secular political system in the West we might suffer a bit from labels and rhetoric obscuring the essential nature of this divide.

In the Middle East things are much more obvious. There, the two camps are the religious fascists and the Democracy advocates (the Reform Movement in Iran, for example)..

So, now we must face our ideological confusion.

G W Bush, the paragon of the Right, the man of Conservative Values, has been championing the right of Afghans, Iraqis, and even Palestinians to challenge their governments and establish a state based on their own consent.

Then we have Liberals from France, Germany, Canada, and even Australia, the UK, and the US all arguing that not upsetting the apple cart is the most important thing. Their mantra is “peace at all costs”, or at least lack of support for war no matter what.

This is, quite frankly, preposterous, and more than a little dangerous. So, to set the record straight, here is a basic Civic History lesson (If you already know all this stuff, you can skip directly to the test at the end).


Liberalism


Main Entry: lib·er·al·ism
Pronunciation: 'li-b(&-)r&-"li-z&m
Function: noun
Date: 1819


1. A political theory based on belief in progress, on the natural goodness of humans, the autonomy of the individual, and favoring civil and political liberties, government by law with the consent of the governed, and protection from arbitrary authority.

The great proponent of this theory was John Locke, a 17th century English philosopher. He wrote many essays on government and political theory. He proposed that humans were born with Natural Rights. He suggested that just governance relied upon a "social contract" whereby the people granted authority to the state in exchange for the state protecting their liberties and developing the progress of their society.



This is essentially the political theory of Hope.



No Original Sin: Liberals believe in the natural goodness and potential of humankind.

Reason: Liberals hold that individuals choose their values based upon personal experience, third party advice, and ultimately intellect, logic, and reason.

Progress: Liberals believe in the perfectibility of man and of systems of government and ethical institutions such as the Church and the State.

Rights of Man: Liberals hold that the duty of government is to protect the Liberties of its subjects.

Authority by Consent: Liberals accept no inherent right to govern coming from God, military power, or simply tradition. Rather, Liberalism asserts that the right to govern comes from the consent of the governed. Essentially that people accept the authority of political intuitions in exchange for those institutions protecting the liberty of the individual and working towards the perfection of human society, i.e. the “social contract”.

Right to Change: Liberals assert that when government fails to meet the needs of the people it may be changed, quickly and drastically if necessary. Essentially this is the “right to revolt”

The Duty to Assist: Liberals believe in the right of ALL PEOPLES to be governed by a consensual political order and that it is the DUTY of all Free Peoples to assist in the liberation and progressive development of all other humans on Earth.



Conservatism


Main Entry: con·ser·va·tism
Pronunciation: k&n-'s&r-v&-"ti-z&m
Function: noun
Date: 1835


1. A political disposition based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, distrust of government activism, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change.

One of the most influential Conservatives was Edmund Burke, an Englishman born in Ireland in the 18th century. He witnessed the French Revolution and critcised it as a "break with history". He was a proponent of gradual political change and reform.



This is essentially the political theory of Fear.



Original Sin: Conservatives believe that man is inherently corrupt, dishonest, selfish, and evil.

Tradition: Conservatives assert that a person should accept the values and customs handed down to them by tradition and that ultimately values are “what feels right” and should not be rationally questioned.

Establishment: Conservatives believe that human nature cannot be changed and that societies cannot improve over time, the duty of a Conservative is to preserve what we have now as the very best, or even to revert to a past glory day.

Property Rights: Conservatives hold that the duty of government is to enforce private property rights.

The Right to Rule: Conservatives accepts that those in power have been granted authority by God, or by the prior authority of the last ruler, or by the might of their military, political, economic power.

Preservation: Conservatives resist change and fight to preserve the status quo. They DO allow for change, but only at the slowest and most gradual pace. A Conservative will work to avoid civil strife, uncertainty, and instability at the expense of social justice.

Non-Intervention: Conservatives do not believe in risking the security of their state to assist people in neighboring states in transformation or revolution. Oddly, historically, as with the Holy Alliance of Russia, Prussia, and Austria in 1815, Conservatives WILL risk money and men to help a neighbor preserve their status quo.

So, based on the above information how do you rate yourself? Hopeful, or fearful? Now, do you support the overthrow of Saddam or no? And are you willing to risk their lives and ours to do it?


Sean: Saturday, January 25, 2003 [+] |
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