Wednesday, April 20, 2005
A rose by any other name...
Liberalism is a political current embracing several historical and present-day ideologies that claim defense of individual liberty as the purpose of government. It typically favors the right to dissent from orthodox tenets or established authorities in political or religious matters. In this respect, it is held in contrast to conservatism.
With the coming of industrialization, a new wave of liberal thinkers began seeing government as a tool to encourage social progress and hence supported government action as a means to this end. This was a departure from the belief that government interventionism restricted liberty and thus inevitably retarded progress. The change led to a fundamental split in "liberalism" as a broad ideology, with one wing believing that the tenets of liberalism had been set by the late 18th and early 19th century, and another believing that liberalism was an evolving commitment to progress.
These two diverging branches of liberalism are known in the United States and some other countries today as libertarianism and social liberalism.
Neoliberalism is a political philosophy and a political-economic movement beginning in the 1970s – and increasingly prominent since 1980 – that de-emphasizes or rejects positive government intervention in the economy, focusing instead on achieving progress and even social justice by encouraging free-market methods and less restricted operations of business. In some areas of the world, it is simply called " liberalism". Though many liberals adhere to neoliberalism, their ideology has a broader content and other liberals oppose neoliberalism.
Libertarianism is a political philosophy which advocates individual rights and a limited government. In common with many other modern political ideologies, Libertarians believe that individuals should be free to do anything they want, so long as they do not infringe upon the rights of others. Libertarians typically emphasize civil rights (such as the right to a fair trial or political participation, sometimes thought of as negative rights) over social rights (the right to a free education or employment, sometimes thought of as positive rights).
Classical Conservatism - Opposition to rapid change in governmental and societal institutions. This kind of conservatism is anti- ideological insofar as it emphasizes means (slow change) over ends (any particular form of government). To the classical conservative, whether one arrives at a right- or left-leaning government is less important than whether change is effected through rule of law rather than through revolution and sudden innovation.
Ideological conservatism - In contrast to the classical conservatism, ideological conservatism is, as its name implies, ideological. It is typified by three distinct sub-ideologies: social conservatism, fiscal conservatism, and economic conservatism. Together, these subideologies comprise the conservative ideology in most English-speaking countries:
Social Conservatism is generally dominated by defense of existing social norms and values, of local customs and of societal evolution, rather than social upheaval, though the distinction is not absolute. Applied to foreign policy, a mild social conservatism manifests itself in Rudyard Kipling's defense of the Indian natives against British imperialism and in American opposition to the "forced democratization" of post-war Iraq, but conversely, betraying the complexity of ideology, the vast majority of American conservatives in keeping with their accepted values fully support the current effort in Iraq. In its more extreme foreign-policy manifestations, social conservatism breeds nationalism, tending towards isolationism, on the order of Pat Buchanan's anti-immigration, anti- internationalist stance.
Fiscal Conservatism is the stance that the government must "live within its means". Above all, fiscal conservatives oppose excessive government debt; this belief in balanced budgets tends to be coupled with a belief that government welfare programs should be narrowly tailored and that tax rates should be low, which implies relatively small government institutions.
This belief in small government combines with fiscal conservatism to produce a broader Economic Conservatism, which wishes to minimize government intervention in the economy. This amounts to support for laissez faire economics. This economic conservatism comes from two schools of thought: the classical conservative's pragmatism and the libertarian's notion of "rights." The classical conservative maintains that free markets work best, while the libertarian contends that free markets are the only ethical markets.
Neoconservatism -- strictly a U.S. term -- refers to the views of a subclass of conservatives who support a more assertive foreign policy coupled with one or more other facets of ideological conservatism. Historically, conservatives tend to be mildly isolationist, but with the rising internationalism represented by such groups as NATO. Neoconservatism is a somewhat controversial term referring to the political goals and ideology of the "new conservatives" in the United States.
But as a certain Massachusetts senator once said:
"But look, what's really important, ...is the president is just trying to scare everybody here with throwing labels around. I mean, "compassionate conservative," what does that mean? Cutting 500,000 kids from after-school programs, cutting 365,000 kids from health care, running up the biggest deficits in American history."