Liberal/Conservative/Hammer…

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For many years, if really pressed, I’ve self identified as a liberal. Lately, I’ve called myself a progressive but say I supported liberal policies. In reality though, I think the whole liberal/conservative thing is meaningless. I’ve never found anyone who can describe to me what fundamental principles (not policies, but principles) a liberal or a conservative should harken too, and then could successfully map those on to people “everyone knows” is liberal or conservative. Free Speech? Whose? When? Where? Burning the flag? Publishing a column in a university paper decrying the Jewish conspiracy?

So long ago I came up with my own definition of liberal and conservative.  A liberal position is one where change from the status quo or historical behaviors is pushed in order to realize a  better outcome.  A conservative position is one where more strict adherence to the status quo or historical behaviors is pushed.  I worked with that for a number of years and then modified the conservative one to include imagined status quo.  Because a lot of time what is considered “the way things have always been” is not really the way things have always been, but I understand the intent.

So when someone asks me if I am liberal or conservative, I’ll often ask “about what?” Because “what” matters.  Under my definition asking if you are a liberal or conservative is equivalent to asking a handyman if he will use a hammer or a screwdriver before telling them what you need fixed.  We have a name for someone who always uses a hammer on every problem: “idiot”.

This definition makes me feel good, but unfortunately, no one else seems to hold it, so it really doesn’t do me

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One Response to “Liberal/Conservative/Hammer…”

  1. mortar Says:

    I agree with this totally…excellent analogy with the handyman. In most cases labels are way too general and do not always represent what we think…you clarified that very well here.

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