The Taser's Edge

Re: On Conservative vs. Liberal
October 13, 2006, 5:23 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Before reading this article you should probably check out this (the comments from my previous post which became unexpectedly heated and, even more unexpectedly, important) and this (an article to which T. Jarrett Harris provided a link in the context of that discussion).  The following is my follow up to the last comment by Jarrett, after reading the article in the link above.  It got really long, and I thought that people would be more likely to see it if I put it on the main page as a real post.

Here it is:

That is an interesting article, and I must say I am glad not to be that guy in the Streisand audience, in more ways than one.

As for teaching a man to fish, I guess I'm not sure that liberals and conservatives differ on that point. Although I am not an expert on this, I know that Clinton's welfare reforms were very effective at reducing the welfare rolls and encouraging people to get jobs.
I suppose, though, that it is not a liberal/conservative problem. In the first place, in many parts of the country there are not enough “fishing” jobs to go around. Secondly, I question whether I would want to take a minimum wage job that I knew couldn't support my family, and that would mean that I would still have to draw a welfare check.  It seems like that is a situation which breeds hopelessness.
Now, three disclaimers. First, last year I actually did work at close to minimum wage to support my family, and it worked. For a year. One that started out with a lot of savings in the bank, and with no major illnesses, or car trouble, or kids being born, or kids at all. And supportive laws and in-laws. A family cannot live on minimum wage.
But is welfare the way to fix it because it has less of an effect on inflation than wage increases? I don't know. And does making 9 dollars an hour for a job that last week made $5.15 really improve a minimum wage worker's sense of hope or self-worth? Probably not.
Disclaimer 2: Europe has already tried the welfare state thing, and they do have generally higher unemployment and inflation. I think that maybe Sweden and the UK have somewhat comparable figures to ours. But the US has among the best economies and lowest inflation rates in the world, and I am not sure how much that has to do with (mostly) free market capitalism, and how much to do with other, harder-to-quantify variables that the US has going for it.
Now, if the US had universal healthcare tomorrow, it would probably do bad things for the economy. But aren't there smaller steps toward making sure that everyone in our country is able to have some level of free basic healthcare? Isn't a good thing to hope for a time when that really is a basic right of being human? And isn't there room for some leveling of the playing field (although I don't know how to put controls on it) without handing out all free checks?
I guess that what I see in pure capitalism (which I admit that we, the US, do not have) is the rewarding of selfishness, and a lack of hope in greater things. I don't think that humans can save themselves (Jesus himself said that we will always have the poor), but I do think that we can help one another more than we do, and more than our leaders (and especially Republican leaders, at least in terms of policy) ask us to.
What I see in liberalism is hope. A hope that is often misplaced, and in pure liberalism is totally misplaced (i.e., on human beings), but a hope that can be redirected to something better. Something much better–Christ. 
And if that hope is redirected and the reason behind it becomes more than just, “Help people because they're, um, people” to “Help people and love people because they are our neighbors, because Christ loves us and them equally, and because tells us to love them,” then there is a growth of hope.
I think that this may be what I (today, at this moment) see as the difference which defines much of my leftward leaning. I need hope, and I can identify with people who also do. And I don't think that it is an accident that the oppressed and often under-represented populations of the United States share that view and are therefore more likely aligned with a liberal political party.
Disclaimer 3 (I have not forgotten): I am not really sure what hope has to do with current policy or with liberals that are just as interested in pure power and control as the most conservative. I do think it is more welcome in the liberal camp, and that makes me feel more welcome.

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