“Conservative vs. Liberal” is a misleading view of politics

Melvyn Magree

I saw “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires behind the Rise of the Radical Right” by Jane Mayer reviewed in the New York Times and decided to buy it.  Once I started reading it, I found it very depressing.  It just has too much about how the Koch brothers have inserted their pseudo-conservatism into our state and local governments.  Even the inside cover is depressing – hundreds of thousands and even millions given to dozens of organizations that support the Koch brothers views.

You can find a review at “Inside the List” by Gregory Cowles, New York Times, 2016-01-29, “Attack the Messenger”.

Every time I blow my nose or dry my hands at Essentia Health, I think how the Koch brothers benefit from the thousands and thousands of tentacles with which they have gripped our society.  Every box of tissue and every towel dispenser is labeled Georgia Pacific, a Koch brothers company.

I can’t help but wonder if the Koch brothers have the Benedictine values of Essentia Health. Essentia Health’s mission is “We are called to make a healthy difference in people’s lives.”  Its values are quality, hospitality, respect, justice, stewardship, and teamwork.

You decide.

“Conservative” and “right” are very misleading terms.  Some who call themselves “conservatives” are rather “liberal” with the idea of conservative.  For example, how can anyone who extracts resources without any consideration for the consequences be called “conservative”?  These extractors are being rather “liberal” with the resources.

Some who call themselves “liberal” are quite conservative in use of resources.  Except when they fly all over the world or drive hundreds of miles to attend conferences on being more “conservative” with resources.

Some who call themselves “conservatives” because they oppose abortion as murder of innocents seem to be quite “liberal” in supporting those who would wage war, which is almost always murder of innocents.

Some who call themselves “liberal” can be quite “conservative” with whom they will allow to speak in public ceremonies.  A real liberal would allow the invitee to speak and either stay away or sit quietly without applauding.

Sometimes I think the last great conservative was Edmund Burke (1729-1797), a British politician and author.  “He was a great political thinker.  Viewing English policies with something of the detachment of an alien [Burke was Irish], he was able to diagnose the situation with an imaginative insight beyond the range of those immersed in the business of the day and bound by traditional habits of mind.” The Age of Revolution, Winston Churchill.

Burke’s enemies accused him of being Catholic, a pejorative that presumed he was unfit for office.  Have we heard another religious “pejorative” used in our times?
Burke correctly predicted that the French Revolution with its chaos would lead to a military dictatorship.  He also supported the grievances of the American Colonies: “Again and again, revert to your old principles—seek peace and ensue it; leave America, if she has taxable matter in her, to tax herself.”

The whole idea of “right vs. left” is one-dimensional. I submit that political thought is four-dimensional.  Besides Conservative vs. Liberal, we also have Generous vs. Greedy, Rigid vs. Flexible, and Simplistic vs. Thoughtful.

Generous vs. Greedy

One can be generous by being willing to pay the taxes necessary for a civilized society.  That includes having enough food and shelter.

One can be greedy by working to get legislation that puts themselves at an advantage regardless of the cost to others.

Rigid vs. Flexible

We are seeing a lot of rigidity lately in that several candidates are trying to outdo one another in showing how well they promote “Conservative” orthodoxy, even at the cost of depriving others.  They also must regularly recite the Pledge of Allegiance and then work to deprive others of “liberty and justice”.

We don’t see much of flexible in politics nowadays.  It seems that so much political literature and writing contains “demand”.  No matter the party, it seems it wants us to demand something that is in their party orthodoxy.  One of the ironies is that the Coffee Party, which was founded as a civil alternative to the demands of the Tea Party, often demands some action.

Simplistic vs. Thoughtful

Simplistic always reminds me of the Tea Party member who said she could understand the Constitution by reading it.  The original Constitution is about 30 pages in an iBook version; the Federalist Papers to explain it are over 900 pages; and I don’t know how many thousands of pages Supreme Court Justices have written to interpret it.  Furthermore, the Supreme Court rarely has unanimous decisions, and what one Court rules could be overturned by a different Court.

As I thought about this article, I remember that years ago the Utne Reader had published a political map that had four axes: Liberal-Conservative, Freedom-Order, Decentralization-Centralization, and Equality-Liberty.  It was devised by Eric Selbin and Ron Steiner.  It has eighteen groups around the edges with representative literature, music, food, and personalities for each.  It was included in the November/December 1991 Utne Reader.  I was able to find an online copy at “Exploring the Dynamics of Polarization” by Tom Atlee at www.tomatleeblog.com/archives/175327148.  If you would rather see the map in color, try the Duluth Public Library (or your own local library).