What Does It Mean To Be “Liberal” Or “Conservative?”

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Politics isn’t always fun – it is very trying and painful at times. However, politics is unavoidable. It is by definition the relations between some individuals with one another.

The confusing politics of over 6 billion people on one small planet logically needs rules. We often use labels to keep things from being too confused. Alot of unconventional (at least to the United States) rules have been adopted in recent years by prominent figures – libertarian, socialist – but the big two political terms remain: liberal and conservative.

Let’s take a look at one:

Liberalism is a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality.

I would say that most Gonzo Times readers and contributors are liberals, especially by this definition. Almost all of Gonzo’s posts are about violations of liberty and equality – the police violating innocent people or corporations like McDonald’s or Wal-Mart refusing to pay even basic living wages to the people who build their empire.

However, the word “liberal” becomes paradoxical because most people in the public sphere don’t view liberty and equality as things that go along with one another. They are either/or. The “conservatives” that cloister around the Republican Party are insensitive and unbothered by poverty, corporate greed and inequality because they firmly believe that most efforts to curb those things will take away from the liberty of everyone else.

Liberals are often unbothered about what happens as an inverse of government action and many, especially during the Obama era, have taken on an alarmingly display of embracing government force. Obama has managed to sell a police state, more interventions abroad than his predecessor (with the wisdom that the public won’t think of them as wars as long as there are “no boots on the ground”), a continuation of the drug war (no matter what the rhetoric is from the White House, raids are still made and resources stolen from people making an honest living trading marijuana) by framing his policies under a liberal image and the incredibly Orwellian lobbying for the right of the government to assasinate US citizens. Many of Obama’s actions would have brought out BusHitler signs ten years ago – now the uproar is silent.

Now for conservatism:

holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion.

Like liberal, being a conservative is very vague. There are values that are withering away that I would like to hold on to. There was a time when people would be protesting in the street, much more passionately than they are now, something like Obama’s drone policy. A government that can kill anyone it wants for any reason it wants isn’t change I believe in.

Unfortunately, in this country, conservatism is about social change – superfluous issues of bizarre personal hate such as the opposition to same-sex marriage or an opposition to a change in health care policy, since this country, which is young, had until now largely avoided large scale efforts at providing health care services to all of its citizens.

The terms are definitely largely inadequate yet we act like they are gospel. The terms “liberal” and “conservative” will probably remain in the lexicon of our ongoing dialectic but it’s indisputable that more accurate terms could be applied.

Author: Michael Powell
Visit Michael's Website - Email Michael
I started writing at Gonzo Times years ago. I am a long time libertarian who jumped to anarchism out of disgust for bigotry and militarism. I am helping manage Gonzo right now and hope to bring in as many diverse voices as possible. My political work can also be found at the Hampton Institute.
OrionWhat Does It Mean To Be “Liberal” Or “Conservative?”

Comments 1

  1. Ned Netterville

    ” However, politics is unavoidable.” Not really, or at least participation in politics is avoidable and to be avoided. The part that is unavoidable is witnessing the idiocy wrapped up in politics, providing the impetus for not participating. If one gets goes into the pig sty and wrestles in the mud with a pig, one is bound to get dirty. Even just voting leaves one soiled, and it only serves to encourage the pigs.