Beyond the simplistic liberal-conservative scale
Ricardo E. Trelles (7/oct./04)
To align human thinking in a left-right, liberal-conservative scale is simplistic. Simplism is killing us, is killing the American society. Digging into that matter through the humanist vision would be very rewarding.
There is people that is narrow-minded and emotionally immature. They prefer to stay as they are because change and incertitudes scare them. Once they have a way of doing things that is advantageous to them, they stick to it. They avoid intellectual intricacies in their minds and decisions. Their limited elevated thoughts or feelings often make them show disregard for others. Those are commonly called "conservatives" and their way of thinking, "conservatism".
It is important to understand conservatism is not an extreme position in life from which one can move away linearly. It is a primitive state from which one can differentiate advancing in varied ways. The practice of grouping all that have evolved from, or that have not been formed into, conservatism, and call them "liberals", is simplistic and creates confusion.
As part of that common practice there is the sorting of thinking ways according to positions on important issues. A way to see this is also wrong is by just checking my own following positions on some of those issues. Am I a "conservative" or a "liberal"? (Answer in advance: I'm a humanist that tries to make full use of the rich humanist understanding of life, thus certainly a "non-conservative"!)
Here we go:
1. On social welfare. It is a principle in life each individual is totally responsible for his own welfare and that of his descendants. Society doesn't *have to* feed you, educate you, nor take care of your health. Human societies are mainly associations for collaboration, essential for humans, but not independent entities to lean on. Although a minimally developed human society wouldn't let any of its members starve, nor suffer from a curable disease, nor a child grow improperly educated. A modern, developed society sees that all of its members get properly cultivated to support themselves and to collaborate for the common growth and well-being.
2. On reproductive rights. Any healthy adult have the right to conceive and rise at least one child, whose well-being is his/her total responsibility, shared with the other parent; being that responsibility the first priority for the use of their resources. If it is a proven fact a parent can't provide the means for adequately rise a child, society should complement those means as necessary, while taking measures for that parent stops conceiving more children unless his/her capacity for support combined with his/her partnerīs becomes adequate. Surely this ruling could be stretched if somebody else formally accepts responsibility for the support of the new child.
3. On homosexuality. Homosexuality is a serious abnormality whose only proper way to be dealt with is to study it in earnest and to find ways to correct or avoid it. It is not simply another sexual preference. A homosexual is, despite all denials and efforts to disguise it, a wretched person that needs all our help and compassion. To just "understand" and "tolerate" them is a way to turn our backs on them.
4. On education. In agreement with what I said above, proper education of a child is a responsibility of its parents or mentors, as is all of its rearing. What society can and must do is define recognized standards for the education and rearing of a child and make sure those standards are met. And, again, whenever it is proven some parents lack the means to rise and educate a child, then society should complement the required resources.
5. On prison confinement, death penalty. Prison is a very important institution in society. It should definitely be corrective, instead of just punishing or isolating for dangerous people. Prison can and should be rough for the inmates without ever violating their dignity or physical integrity. Roughness in prison can and should be variable both ways from mild to extremely rough in response to the inmate's behavior. Life termination of some criminals is necessary in extreme cases and must be executed in the most humane way possible.
6. On illegal immigration. Nothing illegal can be tolerated, and must be brought to order. To accommodate blatant illegal residents as such is a disrespect for the sound working of a country. However, once somebody has demonstrated good functional behavior even under an illegal status, his or her legitimate residency should be considered.
Those are some positions that could be labeled "conservative". Here are some "liberal" ones:
1. On ownership of the Fatherland. A nation belongs to its existing members. A nation evolves, grows and matures. The founders of a nation make a very important and valuable contribution to it, but don't seal its destiny. Even a founding constitution could be replaced.
2. On ownership of a country's natural resources. Non-generated resources or wealth in a country belong to its existing members, collectively, forever. That includes *all* lands and other natural resources. Explotation and use of those resources can be only by a social concession, under specified conditions.
3. On earning wealth and sharing it. Legitimately earned wealth belongs exclusively to its owner. This doesn't have to share it, nor can be stripped of it. Earnings are legitimate if they represent an equivalence to what was given in exchange to society in its acquisition.
4. On health care. Health care just can't be another business in society. It should be mostly privately provided, but strictly following comprehensive standards developed and updated by the government. It must be limited to reasonable regulated profits and malpractice should be controlled mostly through ongoing quality assessments and recertifications.
5. On the judicial system. An intricate, expensive and slow system to determine who deserves society used its force against is not the right judicial system. Society usually has several institutions that use vast resources to give unsatisfactory results in return, the judicial system being one of those institutions. Justice must be essentially constructive and educational, for the parties involved in each case and for society in general. From the writing of the laws to the attitudes of the judges.
6. On the electoral system of access to government positions. There are two important ideas in reference to the electoral system. First, a candidate must be required to get a majory of votes from *all the citizens with the right to vote* to win. Neither a majority of just the registered ones nor much less the current practice of just requiring majority over the opponents, are acceptable. Also a requirement of a 66% majority should receive a serious consideration. The second idea is that all ballots must include an explicit "none of the above" option for each item in them.
Too little would be said when somebody just classifies the above last set of positions as "liberal". All previous positions on fundamental issues show that the humanist principles can guide uniquely well in all aspects of life and society. To make those principles work is just a matter of us humanists be really convinced of them and put them to work.
Finally, I hope the narrow idea that basically conservatism is being strict, and "liberalism" being a loose, everything-goes attitude, gets shaken by the above remarks too.