What do you believe about government?
What is your highest political ideal? What should the role of government be, and what should motivate the actions of government? Political thought should have a basis in an overall philosophy, not just knee-jerk reactions to situations based on what “feels right” at the time, or what you were raised to believe. Counter to popular belief, people who disagree with you are not crazy, stupid, or evil. They may have values that are different from your own, but that does not mean that you cannot benefit from considering opposing viewpoints with an open mind. Most liberals do not advocate communism, and most conservatives do not advocate military dictatorship. We should, however, realize that this is the eventual outcome of those philosophies taken to their logical extreme. We should also recognize that even those who do advocate those extremes are for the most part well-intentioned, if misguided. Our own opinions should be flexible, open for debate, and based on critical analysis. If you are unable to defend your own position, then you should be willing to change.
Modern liberalism, or neoprogressivism, bears little resemblance to classical liberalism. Classical liberalism was a philosophy based on civil liberties and political freedom. Modern liberalism is almost entirely based on the idea that government should be used to promote equality. This is a lofty ideal, but completely unattainable in a practical sense. People are born with talents and physical and mental advantages or disadvantages. They are also born into situations with more or less resources of one kind or another available. Modern liberalism seeks to redistribute resources and to give opportunities to those who might not otherwise have them. This involves taking resources from those who have them by force or coercion, and implementing policies that place disadvantages on those who are presumed to be inherently privileged. This is a collectivist idea that completely ignores the personal situations of distinct individuals. It also grants excessive power to political authority, and produces an economic system prone to collapse. A society based on modern liberalism will tend toward socialism and communism, and will eventually produce a totalitarian political class. Of course, in practice this political class is always a bit “more equal” than the subservient workers they claim to represent.
Modern conservationism, or neoconservatism, likewise, has little to do with paleoconservatism. Paleoconservatism is based on moral traditions and limited government. Modern conservatism is based on the security of the state and military power. While the ability of individuals to protect their lives and property is necessary to preserve a free state and promote economic prosperity, no society can ever be made completely safe. Life is inherently full of risks and rewards. Liberty, civil rights, and personal privacy are considered unimportant in modern conservative thought. The modern police state and interventionist foreign policy have resulted from the idea that the primary role of government is to protect people at all cost. Over a trillion dollars have been spent attempting to protect people from their own decisions to ingest various substances. Wars have been fought for decades resulting in the deaths of thousands of people because of the possibility that a select few may be plotting to threaten the security of the homeland. A society based on modern conservative thought will tend toward military dictatorship and martial law. The economy will be entirely based on continual military expansion, and the common man will be controlled in every way possible.
Of course, both of these philosophies have their merits. However, when they are placed in opposition to one another the areas of agreement will be the only consistent trend for the government. Both philosophies are extremely expensive to maintain, and high taxes are necessary. A strong police and prison system is also necessary to put down political dissent. A media and school system based on indoctrination is necessary to convince the people that these actions are in their best interest. The two political parties disagree on small issues such as the role of corporations and which civil liberties should be preserved. Both agree that economic, foreign, and domestic affairs must all be carefully controlled. A tug of war takes place with the people outside of either political class at the center. The direction of the society goes one way, then the other, but always toward a system of total government control.
A third political party is necessary to pull society in another direction, away from from totalitarianism. Libertarianism is a philosophy which places the highest moral ideal on individual freedom. The foundation of libertarianism is the non-aggression principle, which states that aggression toward another individual is never justified. If an individual experiences threats of violence from someone else they are entitled to defend themselves, however. Modern libertarian thought borrows heavily from both classical liberalism and paleoconservatism. Taxation and government interventions are considered to be aggressive and unjustifiable. Security and success are both considered individual responsibilities. Many of the systems suggested by libertarians as alternatives to government control are based on those that were widely available to people at one time, and have established records of success. A society based on libertarian thought will tend toward capitalism and anarchy. While this is arguably a more efficient system which allows for a higher standard of living, it is extremely uncomfortable for those who believe that government should serve as a “safety net”, both in terms of economics and security. Some might argue that with a safety net in place, individuals are more free to take risks that have the potential to yield higher rewards, or that highly successful individuals might take advantage of those who are less successful.
No system of government is perfect, but a system based on three political parties with distinct values could balance one another. With a voice for personal freedom in the mix, neither modern liberalism nor modern conservatism could overreach to the extent that quality of life spirals downward for the common man. Totalitarianism is not the model of a successful nation. No system based on total oppressive control of the masses has ever been stable or lasted for more than a couple generations. By allowing government to continue unhindered toward that eventuality, we are only ensuring its eventual total collapse. As individuals engaged in political and philosophical discussion we should always be willing to hear the objections of those who disagree with us. If we can defend our position, it makes us stronger. If we can’t, then we should always consider the possibility that our position may be in the wrong.
By Ross Ticknor