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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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Land Wars

Here in Oregon, the home of the Bottle Bill and the Urban Growth Boundary*, or UGB, voters have just restored order, by passing Measure 49, after a temporary victory by the development powers in Measure 37.

More than 30 years ago Oregon voters moved to protect their farms and forests from the voracious appetites of a parasite known commonly as "Californians".

All Oregon cities over a few thousand people established a boundary around their already developed area and declared the land outside protected for farms and forests.

Every 20 years the local governments reassess the supply of available land and make small adjustments into contiguous regions that are not noted for their farm or forest productivity.

However, timber companies and home builders are a powerful lobbying force in Oregon politics. Last year they put a lot of money into a ballot measure, and the TV ad campaign required to pass it, that overturned the UGB's of Oregon.

Their media blitz proclaimed that Measure 37 would restore fairness and save Little Old Lady Dorothy by allowing her to develop her (farm) land under the laws that existed more than 30 years ago, back before organized land-use planning and the UGB.

When voters sleep-walked through the 2004 election and passed Measure 37 they thought they were simply "fixing" the claimed unfairness of local land-use laws.

However, what they did was make it legally, or at least financially, impossible for Oregon communities to protect the very qualities that brought most of these voters (many former Californians fleeing urban sprawl) to the state in the first place.

Along with Little Old Lady Dorothy came Stimson Lumber (the largest Measure 37 backer and the largest Measure 49 contender) with a claim to develop more than 109,000 acres of forest (now either already logged or protected as "Ancient Forests"), subdivisions as far as the eye could see turned out to be the real goal of Measure 37.

Under Measure 37 local jurisdictions would be required to either wave land use laws passed after a company or individual purchased their land or pay the hypothetical financial losses caused by limiting development of this land.

After Measure 37 passed claimants crawled out of the wood work. Thousands of claims, totaling hundreds of millions of dollars - thousands of new homes, industrial development - or strip malls suddenly appeared in the court dockets.

The state legislature tried to pass "fixes" to Measure 37, newspapers finally did exposes on the damage of the measure, and finally the voters were asked under this years Measure 49, to pass some limits to the potency of Measure 37 (Oregon's legislature often "punts" on controversial issues such as Gay Marriage, taxes, abortion, etc).

Now Measure 37 claims are limited to three houses (or so) and large industrial or commercial development is barred. It was passed last night by a wide margin - considering that this was an off-year election with only one other measure on the ballot.

Measure 49 passed with both educated, cosmopolitan urban areas (like Portland, filled with former Californians) and by rural areas (long-time farming residents), the rural/urban, liberal/conservative divide was collapsed by the need to save what the UN calls "the most at-risk, valuable farm land" in America.

The victory of Measure 49 backers today reaffirms the commitment of Oregonians to protecting the "livability" of Oregon (although the effectiveness of this measure remains to be seen).

The victory of Measure 49 also reveals the problems of the "referendum system"... average voters are not "policy wonks". They do not have the training, experience, or inclination to truly grasp the legal and practical ramifications of legislation and can easily be swayed by TV ads and other propaganda, convinced to pass legislation that is actually counter to their interests and harmful to their own values.

The ability of special interests, industrial and commercial interests, to "trick" voters into passing disastrous legislation designed to benefit only their own, usually out of state, interests, reinforces the sense of betrayal and helplessness that many American voters site as reasons to tune out elections and not vote.

I am pleased that Measure 49 passed, that Measure 37 will not "destroy" our state, but I am still worried about the development yet allowed, and still concerned that the "initiative process" will continue to undermine our community and ultimately our democracy.

Here in Oregon we should probably give up the old-timey idea of a "part-time" legislature that only meets for six months every other year. We should also limit the initiative process that makes us prone to outside, commercial and industrial interests that care little for our own local future.

*Urban Growth Boundaries: exist in places such as Portland, Oregon; Boulder, Colorado; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Virginia Beach, Virginia; Lexington, Kentucky; all cities within Ventura County, California, and in Miami-Dade county; Livermore and Pleasanton, CA; Vancouver, B.C. and Toronto, Ontario in Canada.

Sean: Wednesday, November 07, 2007 [+] |

Copyright (c) 2003-2008 Sean LaFreniere


Copyright 2003-2009 by Sean LaFreniere