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Liberal Versus Conservative

Entry 1388, on 2012-05-15 at 20:50:18 (Rating 3, Politics)

I know many people who are proud to be conservatives and use the word "liberal" as a sort of insult. I guess conservatives do form their own little in-groups and rejecting outsiders is just part of that mind-set, but I should be careful to not be guilty of the same mistake myself. So let's have a look at the attributes of the two groups and do some comparisons.

First some definitions...

Conservative (adjective): holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion.

Liberal (adjective): open to new behaviour or opinions and willing to discard traditional values, favouring maximum individual liberty in political and social reform.

There is a bit of a trap here though. The term "liberal" can be applied in both the social and economic realm. There isn't necessarily much of a link between liberal political and social views and liberal economic views. In fact many people with liberal economic views are very much in the conservative political camp. They want to increase economic freedom while reducing it everywhere else.

But that aside, conservatives generally want to minimise change or even move back to a "better time" in the past, and liberals want to move forward and push through change, especially in social areas.

So in many ways it gets down to an argument over what many people instinctively think is true: that things were better in the past than they are now. A common conservative opinion is that things were better when they were young and liberalisation of society has made things much worse since then.

Of course, many people think their childhood was better but that is most likely just because they were younger and had less of the problems most adults suffer from. If you had asked adults at the time they were young you would have got a similar response.

Could it be that every new generation is worse than the one before? It seems unlikely, so a better approach might be to look at real, measurable, objective facts to establish whether life in general is getting better or worse as society "progresses".

Lifespan would be an obvious one and thanks to scientific advances and generally better standards of living in most countries that is improving greatly. The global world average life expectancy has increased from 31 years to 62 years in the last 100 years. Of course that varies greatly depending on where you live: from 32 years in Swaziland to 83 years in Japan.

What about violence? Despite many people's initial assumptions the world is not getting more violent. There is good evidence to indicate that deaths due to wars are decreasing over time and even violence due to crime is less now despite the assumption of many that it is worse. Again, this depends partly on where you live but the overall trend seems certain.

Most people would agree that work conditions, working hours, general safety, and many other factors have all improved so why would anyone want to stop this progress or even go back to an earlier time?

There seems to be some sort of general feeling that "morality" today isn't what it was. People are less religious, less patriotic, less dedicated to their families, and other nebulous ideas. These ideas are quite subjective and difficult to comment on, but I would say look at the real world consequences - those things I mentioned above - and it looks like morality in a real-world sense is increasing rather than decreasing.

But the lack of support for conservative ideas maybe shouldn't be too surprising. There are clear indications that conservatives have trouble with accepting reality (please note that this is not an absolute statement: there are plenty of liberals who are almost as bad and there are some conservatives who are fairly realistic).

Which group rejects evolution? Conservatives. Which clings to outdated religious ideas? Conservatives. Which can't accept well established science such as climate change? Conservatives. Which believes in all sorts of new-age nonsense? Liberals! Yes, I know these are generalisations but they are supported by real data and I don't think they can be ignored.

Change doesn't always lead to things getting better but that is the clear trend. Anyone who wishes for a return to the "good old days" is probably just reacting to a nostalgic emotion rather than basing that wish on reality. Generally conservatives' beliefs are wrong and they undoubtedly hold back progress for the rest of us.

So far from being an insult, being labelled a "liberal" should be embraced as a compliment. Liberals are responsible for the gains human civilisation has made over thousands of years and that's really something to be proud of.


Comment 38 (3186) by SBFL on 2012-07-03 at 09:58:52: (view earlier comments)

"depending on the circumstances"...says it all really. Ask Spain what their borrowing rate is..? Or Greece if you fancy? Or NZs even in a time of national debt? Yes, dear lefties, keep on borrowing more. That is surely the answer.

Cuts to waste can only always be good. Who disagrees?


Comment 39 (3195) by OJB on 2012-07-03 at 15:12:12:

Why do you equate the political left with borrowing? Have you looked at the amount the current government is borrowing? And yes, it does depend on the circumstances.

What exactly is a "cut to waste"? It's hard to agree or disagree with something with no real meaning. And I guess there would be some debate on what is wasteful and what isn't, if that's what you are getting at.


Comment 40 (3204) by SBFL on 2012-07-06 at 10:40:00:

OJB asked: Why do you equate the political left with borrowing? Because the election promises of any left party is to borrow more. Do you need any more evidence?

The argument should never initially be "cut to waste" but should be "justify the spend". Its an area the Left have no idea about. "Borrow and spend" is effectively the election manifesto of NZ Labour. There's noting left in their tank (mentally and financially).


Comment 41 (3210) by OJB on 2012-07-06 at 11:32:52:

Have you checked up in how much the current government is currently borrowing? Please compare this with the previous Labour government and get back to me.

Wow, you're anti-left rhetoric sounds just like what I hear from a genuine right wing nut job I sometimes debate with. Be careful! As the obvious inadequacies of the current government become more obvious it is too easy to slip into this way of thinking!


Comment 42 (3220) by SBFL on 2012-07-10 at 09:44:58:

Yes, and only because they are maintaining some of Labours initiatives (interest-free student loans, WFF). Do you disagree with this? Then please make a post telling National they should drop these. I can't wait.

Hehe, okay the previous comment got a bit rhetorical...some credit to Shearer who seems a bit more rational than Goff on the "borrow and spend" motif. Can't say the same of some of his caucus, but it's the leadership that ultimately directs the party, so it's in NZ's interest (if not National's) that Labour become more practical (and palatable). Lets see how things pan out there by 2014. Robertson is hungry in the wings from what I've read.


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