Politics in Stereo

West­ern cul­ture prefers to sim­pli­fy things into two oppos­ing camps, black and white/red or blue/liberal or conservative/left or right. Amer­i­can pol­i­tics have long been divid­ed into two major par­ties, and I find this to be one of the most indica­tive signs of the trend I men­tioned above. As an exer­cise with that thought in mind, I ask my read­ers, mea­ger hand­ful as they may be, to dis­cuss one of these two top­ics.

Please do your best to prove either (or both):

  • How Amer­i­can Lib­er­al­ism is essen­tial­ly REgres­sive.
  • How Amer­i­can Con­ser­vatism is essen­tial­ly PRO­gres­sive.

What I’m look­ing for is the his­tor­i­cal view look­ing back, and the out­looks look­ing for­ward. As an anal­o­gous per­sp­sec­tive, con­sid­er Dis­raeli and Glad­stone how the philoso­phies they embod­ied served Britain for good or bad. To keep peo­ple on the same page, please dis­cuss the over­all (macro) view and then choose one or two (micro) points to exem­pli­fy.

I con­sid­er these points to be counter-fac­tu­al in real­i­ty, but that is my opin­ion. Even if I get no respons­es, you must real­ize that I plan on being a his­to­ry pro­fes­sor. I think it is a nat­ur­al fit for me.

1 Comment

  1. Ah, how tricky the Eng­lish lan­guage can be! It is dif­fi­cult to seg­re­gate ideas into two dis­tinct camps when the words applied change mean­ing in rela­tion to the por­tion of soci­ety you are refer­ring to at the time.

    For instance:
    pro­gres­sive (adj.)
    1607, “char­ac­ter­ized by advance­ment” (in action, char­ac­ter, etc.), from progress (q.v.). Of tax­a­tion, from 1889; of jazz, from 1947. Mean­ing “char­ac­ter­ized by striv­ing for change and inno­va­tion, avant-garde, lib­er­al” is from 1908; the noun in this sense is first attest­ed 1865.

    or should we use…
    pro­gres­sive — adjec­tive
    1. favor­ing or pro­mot­ing progress; “pro­gres­sive schools” [ant: regres­sive]
    2. favor­ing or pro­mot­ing reform (often by gov­ern­ment action)
    3. (of tax­es) adjust­ed so that the rate increas­es as the amount of income increas­es [ant: regres­sive]

    When used in the sense of tax­a­tion, Amer­i­can Con­ser­vatism has typ­i­cal­ly favored pro­gres­sive tax­a­tion (income tax which dis­pers­es the bur­den based on what is earned) while Amer­i­can Lib­er­al­ism has favored regres­sive tax­a­tion (sales tax which charges every con­sumer the same amount despite their abil­i­ty to pay). An exam­ple would be Wash­ing­ton state which leans lib­er­al and has no state income tax, but a 90% sales tax on tobac­co and some of the high­est hotel/motel tax­es in the coun­try vs. Con­ser­v­a­tive lean­ing South Car­oli­na which charges a state income tax but has kept sales tax­es to a bare min­imun (the rea­son gas is cheap­er there than in the rest of the coun­try).

    How­ev­er, when we apply these terms to edu­ca­tion we see Con­ser­v­a­tives lean­ing toward “clas­si­cal” pub­lic edu­ca­tion that focus­es on the rote learn­ing of facts and “test-able” knowl­edge that might be con­sid­ered “regres­sive” while the Lib­er­als tend to push for pro­gres­sive edu­ca­tion that focus­es less on the accu­mu­la­tion of facts and more on expe­ri­ence and process of learn­ing. The prob­lem here is that pub­lic edu­ca­tion is by nature a Lib­er­al idea, yet even a Con­ser­v­a­tive state like South Car­oli­na has fall­en into the “Lib­er­al” pit and become depen­dent on Fed­er­al fund­ing for its schools. Clas­si­cal Con­ser­vatism (not nec­es­sar­i­ly the same as “Amer­i­can Con­ser­vatism”) would leave edu­ca­tion in the hands of the com­mu­ni­ty and per­haps the local gov­ern­ment, but not involve the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment.

    With­out get­ting too much fur­ther down the rab­bit hole, I ven­ture to pro­pose that per­haps the two sides must be divid­ed into at least four:

    Amer­i­can Eco­nom­ic Lib­er­al­ism is Regres­sive
    Amer­i­can Eco­nom­ic Con­ser­vatism is Pro­gres­sive
    Amer­i­can SOCIAL Lib­er­al­ism is Pro­gres­sive
    Amer­i­can SOCIAL Con­ser­vatism is Regres­sive

    At least that’s what my brain is telling me while stuck in a lit­tle con­ser­v­a­tive town under buzzing and flick­er­ing floures­cent lights in a hotel room.

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