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    Liberalism and Conservatism

    charradi myriam

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    Registration date : 2006-11-23

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    Liberalism and Conservatism

    Post by charradi myriam on Fri Dec 15, 2006 5:41 pm

    Liberalism and Conservatism

    The term liberal, in its Greek meaning, refers to the free man, as opposed to the slave. Liberals were originally the partisans of liberty. The American founders, for example were committed to three types of freedom: economic freedom, political freedom, and freedom of speech and religion. In their classical liberal view, freedom meant limiting the power of government, thus increasing the scope for individual and private action. The spirit of this philosophy is clearly conveyed in the formulations of the Bill of Rights: "Congress shall make no law..."
    This classical liberalism underwent two dramatic changes in the last century: the revolution of the 1930s, and the revolution of the 1960s. The revolution of the 1930s, the FDR revolution, was based on the assumption that rights are not meaningful unless we have the means to exercise them. As Franklin Roosevelt himself argued, people who lack life's necessities are not free. Roosevelt believed that to give citizens true liberty, the government should insure them against deprivation, against the loss of a job, against the calamitous illness, and against an impoverished old age. Thus the liberal revolution of the 1930s introduced a new understanding of freedom that involved a vastly greater role for government than the American founders intended.
    The second liberal revolution occurred in the 1960s. Its watchword was "liberation," and its great prophet was Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Before the sixties, most Americans believed in a universal moral order that is external to us, that makes demands on us. Our obligation was to conform to that moral order. Earlier generations, right up to the "greatest generation" of WWII, took for granted this moral order and its commandments: Work hard and try to better yourself, be faithful to your spouse, go when your country calls, and so on.
    But, beginning in the sixties, several factions - the antiwar movement, the feminist movement, the gay activist movement, and so on - attacked that moral consensus as narrow and oppressive. They fought for a new ethic that would be based not on external authority but on the sovereignty of the inner self. This is the novel idea that received its powerful expression in Rousseau's writing. To the American founders' list of freedoms, Rousseau added a new one: inner freedom, or moral freedom. Rousseau argues that we make major decisions - whom to love, what to become, what to believe - not by obeying our parents, teachers, preachers, or even God. Rather, we make such decisions by digging deep within ourselves and listening to the voice of nature. This is the idea of being "true to yourself." It is the new liberal morality.
    Now that we have a sense of what liberals believe, let us contrast their views with those of the conservatives. Modern American conservatism is very different from European conservatism, or from conservatism traditionally understood. For one thing, conservatism in this country is "modern," and for another, it is "American." Ours is not the "throne and altar" conservatism that once defined European conservatism, and that is still characteristic of many Europeans on the right. These conservatives were true reactionaries. They sought to preserve the ancient regime and the prerogatives of king and church against the arrival of modern science, modern capitalism and modern democracy.
    American conservatives are different because America is a revolutionary nation. For the founders, the ancient regime was the world they had left behind in Europe. Ours is a country founded by a bunch of guys sitting around a table in Philadelphia and deciding to establish a "new order for the ages." Being a conservative in America means conserving the principles of the American Revolution. Paradoxically, American conservatism seeks to conserve a certain kind of liberalism. IT means fighting to uphold the classical liberalism of the founding from assault by liberalism of a different sort.
    Classical liberalism, however, does not wholly define modern American conservatism. There is an added element: a concern with social and civic virtue. The term virtue has become a bad word in some quarters of American life. Young people, especially, tend to associate it with finger-wagging and with people who tell you how to live your life. This is a very narrow view of virtue: It applies to only what it is good to do, rather than what it is good to be and what it is good to love.
    The conservative virtues are many: civility, patriotism, national unity, a sense of local community, an attachment to family, and a belief in merit, in just desserts and in personal responsibility in one's actions. For many conservatives, the idea of virtue cannot be separated from the idea of God. But it is not necessary to believe in God to be a conservative. What unifies the vast majority of conservatives is the belief that there are moral standards in the universe and that living up to them is the best way to have a full and happy life.
    Conservatives recognize, of course, that people frequently fall short of these standards. In their personal conduct, conservatives do not claim to be better than anyone else. Newt Gingrich was carrying on an affair at the same time that Bill Clinton was romancing Monica Lewinsky. But for conservatives, these lapses do not provide an excuse to get rid of the standards. Even hypocrisy is in the conservative view preferable to a denial of standards because such denial leads to moral chaos or nihilism.


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    Re: Liberalism and Conservatism

    Post by pretybella on Wed Aug 27, 2008 7:48 pm

    wow thats an important subject... but can i know which book you get that imformation...merci

    Last edited by pretybella on Wed Aug 27, 2008 7:49 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : mistake)

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