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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Friday, October 26, 2007

The Black Sheep of Europe

Recent election success by the far right in Switzerland has a lot of people talking. The story is that the Swiss are turning racist in response to rising immigration and crime.

Many have picked up this story with alarm and have focuses on the images from the party's ads. Others have defended the Swiss and claimed that their critics are politically correct sensationalists.

In the Swiss capital of Bern competing protest marches have led to stone throwing riots and police crack downs - yes, unrest in the land of the proverbial Swiss watch! LINK

The truth may be that the Swiss, like nearly all Europeans and most of the world, have always been racist - or at least race conscious. And they have always had a problem with immigration.

Exposure to difference breeds tolerance, while insulation breeds intolerance. For most of Europe's history only the nobles enjoyed a common language (French), the travel documents, and the financial resources necessary to travel or to immigrate.

Today the EU's new open travel and employment laws may bring more Europeans into daily contact with each other and this may soon foster a greater acceptance of other Europeans.

But this does not apply to "foreigners". New immigrants to Europe must wait many years, even decades (12 years in Switzerland), to apply for citizenship. Their applications are subject to the approval of their neighbors' opinions, DNA testing, and language requirements. Their children, even if born in the country, must also undergo this process to get their papers.

The Swiss have been more open than many EU members in accepting foreign refugees and immigrants. Partly this has come from social conscience (the same that brought us the Red Cross), and partly this has been economic necessity. With a wealthy and well-educated work force they need immigrants to do the dirty jobs they simply wont do.

Today over 1.5 million people, or 20% of Swiss residents, are not-citizens. Many have been living in Switzerland for 30 years and are still awaiting approval of their applications for citizenship. Nearly all are from Muslim countries in Africa, many are from Turkey (an EU applicant that is routinely denied membership because they are "different", i.e. Muslim).

As with most countries, the vast majority of those people jailed by the Swiss are from the lowest social and economic segment of society. As with many nations, these people are mostly immigrants who do not speak the language (and may have a religion outside the mainstream) and have limited housing and employment options. Today these people account for 70% of the Swiss prison population.

The most recent response in Switzerland is the rise of the far right SVP party. This party has just won 27% of the vote, ahead of the next largest party the Social Democrats at 22%. And grown its members in parliament from 29 to 55. LINK

The SVP's political activity includes an initiative to deport immigrants who commit violent crimes and benefit fraud, even after they have served prison sentences, and to deport entire immigrant families if the accused is under 18 years.

Another petition in the works would ban Muslims from erecting minarets. Next the party would abolish a federal law banning racial incitement and discrimination. Then they would ban Muslim girls from wearing headscarves in public schools.

The SVP television ads have shown Muslim men loitering unemployed on the streets, kids stealing handbags, schoolyard bullies (dark skinned), and women in headscarves. One recent add shows a crowd of brown hands grabbing at Swiss passports. And their most recent political poster shows three white sheep kicking a black sheep off the Swiss flag. LINK

One comment overheard in a pub was that these immigrants do not speak the Swiss language and only come to enjoy Swiss social services. If they do not want to be Swiss, then too bad if they get deported? On the other hand, even if they want to be Swiss they just don't share enough common cultural bonds to win a passport.

But Switzerland is itself a cultural melting pot... part French, part Italian, and part German - echoed in its art, architecture, and language (there really isn't a "Swiss language", there is a Swiss style of German which is dominant in the capital, but try using it in the south). What really ties the Swiss together are their political ideals, which can be taught and learned (they are the oldest democracy in Europe at 700 years and counting).

Two main arguments run in support of the SVP measures. One is that the deportation law is necessary in order to cut crime and increase security. However, all the SVP measures taken together have to be defended by pointing out that massive immigration is threatening to undermine Swiss cultural identity.

Perhaps 20% is indeed too high a foreign population for Switzerland. Perhaps they need to slow the influx and assimilate those they already have, rather than kicking them out. They could start by lowering the residency requirement, abolishing the DNA tests, and increasing the social services that teach Swiss-German language and democratic civic values.

Immigrants are themselves walking the line between fleeing their repressive home countries to enjoy the social, religious, political, and economic freedoms of the West and losing themselves to the new values and traditions of their host country. Immigrants often do not want to abandon the traditions and ways of their homes merely to better their economic positions (often their home countries have recently been taken over by a brutal dictator, whose regime caused them to flee, but they retain love for their culture and religion).

Switzerland will have to balance its own need for maids and janitors with its fear of (Muslim) foreigners. The immigrants will have to balance their desire for a more free life with an inevitable loss of cultural identity. And the rest of Europe should watch carefully since if the friendly Swiss can take a hard-line, so can any state (France is currently following along with DNA testing and deportation initiatives of its own).

Sean: Friday, October 26, 2007 [+] |

Copyright (c) 2003-2008 Sean LaFreniere


Copyright 2003-2009 by Sean LaFreniere