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:



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.



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.



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



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



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



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.



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.



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.



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



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, April 02, 2005

Nationalism and Racism

Many people have the preconception that the United States has a problem with racism. This is largely because we air our dirty laundry in full public view. However, we should keep in mind that no other nation on Earth has doubled its population every 50 years through massive immigration and few could withstand this cultural friction with out a great deal more blood shed and even civil collapse. Read more here.

England is still having problems with African and Aisian immigrants more than 50 years after the end of its imperial era. After race riots in Bradford the Home Secretary commissioned a study of immigration issues. They concluded that, as a historically racially homogenous island nation the English are naturally resistant to newcomers and rarely give nonwhite citizens acceptance as "truly English". Read more here.

Japan, another racially homogenous island nation, even has two alphabets (actually three if you count our Roman letters) one for all things, and people, "Japanese" and one for all things foreign, including any Japanese who has lived for even a brief stay anywhere other than the home islands. And people of mixed ethnicity may never be truly accepted. Read more here.

Even continental nations of supposed ethnic diversity have their own problems with immigrants. France has never assimilated millions of Arabs from their old colony of Algiers. Paris is now ringed with Muslim suburbs so dangerous that the police will not enter with out military backup. Read more here.

African nations have endured seemingly endless civil wars as one race murders and removes another. In the Sudan Arabs are ethnically cleansing their black African neighbors. In Nigeria Muslims and Christians murder each other in a seesaw motion. And the most developed nation, South Africa, is still investigating the "truth" of the Apartheid era. Read more here.

In most countries immigration is still largely a tribal power struggle over economic benefits. The truth is that Turkish immigrants to Germany do not want to become German, they just want economic opportunity, and the Germans don't want them to ever feel at home, they just want them to do their "dirty jobs". In this context the roots of racism everywhere are revealed. Read more here.

America's most talked about "race problems", such as inner city violence and minorities in prison, are actually issues of urbanism and poverty that effect people in any nation. These problems can be largely resolved by reforming social services, education programs, and criminal justice systems to be simply "better" rather than making them racially focused. The British Home Secretary called the US a benchmark and model of immigrant assimilation. At least in the US we want immigrants to "fit in". Read more here.


Update: responding to a comment about past racism against Irish, Italians, and Chinese I would reply thusly...

Hey, I'm an "Irish-American". I do NOT discount that the US has responded to newcomers with defensive (and 'offensive') racism. But that racism is only "skin deep".

Once Italians, Irish, and even Chinese adopted [some of] the customs, dress, and educational/economic norms of the general population they were accepted and even celebrated in short order [in fact many individuals have actually retained many customs and costumes from home and are accepted anyway].

San Francisco is quite proud of its Chinatown, the Italians of New York and Chicago are the stuff of movies from the Godfather to Moonstruck, and the Irish have practically run Boston for 200 years and even got one of their own into the White House.

This "storybook success" can not be matched in Europe where racial tensions are always at a quiet boil. The recent murder of Theo Van Gogh and the violent backlash against Muslims in Denmark is a perfect example. In Japan "foreigners" cannot hold government jobs even if they were born to a Japanese parent and have lived in Japan all their lives.

The main difference between the US and Europe is that the US worries about race relations all the time. We are constantly examining ourselves, in public, and trying to improve our assimilation of newcomers.

And it largely works.... Europeans and Asians are now well accepted in the main stream of America while Latino immigration is relatively new and has not slowed down enough for assimilation as yet.

As an Irish-American I do not feel "discriminated against" and the jokes about drinking and fighting are annoying, but I probably don't help matters much by being a quarrelsome drunk myself. ;)

These stereotypical "tags" are probably an element of human nature that we will never get around. Humans like "branding" whether it be toothpaste or their neighbors.

The question is whether the public image of your group marks you as an outsider and hurts your chances of getting a job or if that image is considered "ethnic flare" and helps you get a date (consider a man with a French or Irish accent).

In Europe you will always be an outsider unless you look like the local ethnic group, have their last names, and speak their language (not to mention share either atheism or light Protestantism with the locals).

In America you can keep your swarthy skin tone, your Genoese last name, and your strict Catholicism and still "assimilate".

In Europe the problem is that the locals don't want you to get too comfortable, while in the US we cant wait for you to become settle down and become "one of us".


Sean: Saturday, April 02, 2005 [+] |

Copyright (c) 2003-2008 Sean LaFreniere


Copyright 2003-2009 by Sean LaFreniere