Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The "L" word

The word "liberal" originally was used to describe a person who espoused the political philosophy that championed individual rights and freedoms. It comes from the Latin "Liber" meaning free, or "liberty".

Honest. That's true. I just looked it up.

Much has changed.

The mark of a liberal thinker today is one who believes in the government taking care of the individual.

The mark of the liberal in olden days (like before the 1970s) was, according to the dictionary-encyclopedia that came with my computer, a willingness to think new thoughts and a willingness to question the old ways things had been done in the past. The word "progressive" was often used for such a liberal thinker, meaning such person was in favor of "progress" and betterment - defined as progressively more and more individual freedom and personal independence.

The idea was that the liberal was not afraid of change, as the old stuck-in-the-mud conservatives were. The goal of the liberal was ever more individual liberty (from the government, one assumes) through progressive new ideas. The thought of the individual citizen being subjugated by a government, or TO a government, was unthinkable to a liberal.

What used to be a quest for equal opportunity for all men as supported by liberals of old, has today "evolved" into a quest for equal access to material things. Before, the desire was for equal access to a good education, equal access to jobs. To a liberal, equality meant opening doors of opportunity.

When did that change? When did liberalism (which I would have been proud to have been a part of) change to material "things" being given to certain citizens (whom the liberals of today label "disadvantaged") instead of teaching them to fish and making sure they had equal access to the big lake?

I'm not talking about the sick and people with disabilities. I'm talking about people who just don't have a high income.

Today, the liberal no longer fights for equal opportunity and equal access. Rather he is concerned with finding ways to get "stuff" for people who don't have as much "stuff" as other people have. This "stuff" is taken, of course, from people who HAVE "stuff". Sorta like Robin Hood, don't you know.

Am I the only one in the world who thinks this is wrong?


Sheila @ A Postcard a Day said...

I'm not sure that liberal means quite the same thing over here in Europe, complicated by the fact that we have a political party which was once called Liberal, now Liberal Democrat.

I'm more interested in your LinkWithin. How long has that been there? I only noticed because Descartes mentioned it. It's blocked by my Firefox, or it was.

Janet said...

Around here, the word liberal is said with a sneer and is generally lumped into the same group with such nefarious and suspicious characters as atheists and environmentalists. I'm not sure the perception is for equal opportunities, OR equal amounts of stuff. Liberals are trying to mess with the status quo and by God, if it was good enough for my granddaddy, it's good enough for me, and we haven't changed the way we do things in 100 years, and if it ain't broke, don't fix it, and . . . .

But I digress.

Or do I?

I think you're right that much of the focus today is on getting people more stuff. However, there are still organizations who are focusing on justice and equal opportunity for all (I'm a member of one of them). But people have this perception that you're not helping them unless you're giving them something directly (money, food, whatever).

Descartes said...

In the good old days, when the law of the land said that you can't own land, or vote, or make money on your own-then the idea of spreading those 'rights' to everyone seemed like a good idea. So now everyone has the right to do and be all that they can be and have a say in how the country is run.

But somewhere along the line, someone decided that your average able bodied layabout should have to be hungry on the street while he is laying about. He or she should have a house, clothing, and food-whether they can afford it or not.

And so the movement to give people rights-which was a whooping success, so much so that there are no more rights to dole out-moved over to giving people stuff. It's also a lot easier to keep track of stuff than it is to keep track of rights.

It was also common sense in the old days that if someone needed help, that it would be in the form of temporary aide. Now we an American system that much like the British Dole in that once you get on, you never, ever need to get off.

The reason this happened is that no one passing the laws could honestly believe that people would be willing do nothing with their entire lives. They were wrong-pay people to watch TV and eat cheese, and that is exactly what they will do. And so will their kids. And their kids. And their kids. . .

Stephanie Barr said...

Well, there I can't help you.

I'm not a big welfare proponent. I'll explain why in a moment.

I don't have a problem with subsidized housing (especially in places where real estate is ungodly ridiculous). I don't have a problem with a progressive tax - because I believe tax should only be apportioned on the part of your income you don't need to survive. If you make $17K/year, that means you aren't taxed. If you make $370M/year, you should lose a sizeable chunk - you'll still have much more luxury money in hand than your employees will. If you see that as cruel and vicious redistribution of the wealth, we will have to agree to disagree.

However, I believe certain things should not be dependent on your personal wealth. I believe everyone is entitled the opportunity for an effective education, whether they live in the ghetto, the sticks or the Hamptons (and that it should be of comparable quality). I believe everyone should have access to libraries, mail services, police services, fire protection services. I believe everyone should be living in housing that meets the appropriate codes for safety and drive cars that do the same (if they drive) - not that the government is required to provide housing but to make sure it meets a safe standard. Ditto on the car.

I believe everyone in this nation should have access to health care and that the caliber and quality of care should not depend on their wealth or their employment status; part and parcel to that notion is the belief that necessary care should not be so costly as to destitute entire families as frequently happens now. I also believe that healthcare is less costly if it's done accessed proactively (physicals, screening tests that make sense, getting checked early) as opposed to reactive care (ER visits when the infection has moved into the bones). I don't know if you think of that as redistribution of the wealth; you could make a case for it, but I think it's not unreasonable.

I'm cool with the notion of unemployment insurance (which generally lasts a limited time) and social security. I'm not unhappy with disability payments to those who cannot work for health reasons. Can the latter be abused? Yes, but I don't have an issue in principal.

But welfare, that's harder for me to get behind. I personally am of the opinion, that nothing (including welfare) should last more than a short time. I'm fine with the notion that mandatory education be part of the deal and feel that hours of community service should go right along with it. If you "can't" get a job but you're able bodied, you can sub for the garbage man or sweep streets or answer phones. If you can't give up time, we can't give up money.

I'm kind of hard-hearted Hannah that way.

Here's the part I don't know what to do about. Destitution tears up children's lives, stunts their opportunities. I don't know how to solve that. I don't think welfare is the answer, but I also don't think children should suffer because their parent's laziness or failures. I don't know the correct resolution.

On the other hand, I don't understand having children unless you are confident you have the resources, responsibility, commitment and compassion to be a good parent.

Call me crazy.

Relax Max said...

@Sheila - Well, what do they stand for? Your liberals, I mean, not my Links Within. :)

Not less government, I'm guessing.

@Janet - It's not early. Oh, wait. That was the other one. :)

Have you ever been through Liberal, Kansas? On the way to Dodge City if you are coming up from Dalhart? I have. And it isn't. No sir.

You are a weird mixture of compassion and hardassedness, you know that? I think I like your philosophy. :) Or your grandaddy's.

@Descartes - "Be all that you can be"? Where have I heard that before? Well, there you go. Everybody should have stuff. And if you don't have stuff, then the rest of us should GIVE you stuff. Oddly, you are starting to make sense. In a cheese-eating television-watching sort of way. So what happens if you just stop paying them one day? Do you think they would notice? America is such a strange land.

Relax Max said...

@Stephanie B - You wear me out. You know that? Let me start at the end and just call you crazy like you said to do.

"I'm not a big welfare proponent", she starts out, as she begins to explain why I should pay for other people's health care. And stuff.

"I don't have a problem with subsidized housing", she continues, as if that were somehow in harmony with not being a welfare proponent.

I'm trying very hard to find even one thing I agree with you on. Trying to find common ground. Okay, I believe everyone is entitled to mail service. That's a start.

Well, I just can't answer all those things, can't do your remarks justice, here in a measly comment. You require a few actual post, which you can then rebut. I keep telling myself your heart is in the right place. I know you care.

Be brutally honest. You don't REALLY believe all that stuff you just said do you? Like trying to drive productive people out of the country and make them go live somewhere else? I mean, who is going to pay all these taxes when they leave? And why would they stay?

You and I will never run out of things to argue about. All I can say is I respect your opinion. I do. Well, that's not all I can say. But it is all for now.

I do take you very seriously so I will start with the first paragraph for tomorrow's post, and work my way down. You give me much food for thought. And I thank you for hanging in here with me. It is going to be such a glorious day when you see the light and I convert you.

Stephanie Barr said...

Good luck with that.

Janet said...

My whole first paragraph was my interpretation of the thinking here in eastern Kentucky. I should have put quotation marks around it. Around here I'm considered so liberal as to be dangerous, because I think coal companies should reimburse people whose houses get blown up or otherwise destroyed or.

Among other things. Someday I'll take a picture of the back end of my car. I wear my politics on my butt.

As to what Stephanie said,

Except she's not crazy.

Although I've been called that.


Relax Max said...

@Janet - I didn't know I was a liberal until I started reading definitions. Well, the "old" definition anyway. Before that, I didn't know what label to wear. I know I wasn't really a conservative because I really really wanted change. But I also knew I didn't want a purely socialist state because I thought (and still think) that too much of that suppresses individual creativity. It's hard to be happy in a thickly socialist state (the Danes alleged happiness notwithstanding) and even more so when the brand of socialism is communism. Like Stephanie B says, Communism is pretty hard to make work when you have more than a few people. So I didn't quite know what to call myself. "Traditionalist" sounded even worse than "conservative". Now I know: Liberal with an asterisk. :) :)

I am still not sure where I fit in, since both "modern" liberals (the "stuff" and "big government" people) and traditional conservatives both loathe me, but at least I am beginning to find my way.

You and your bumper stickers don't sound so bad to me, either.

I do believe in having a government, though. I believe government has a serious function. I should blog about that. So much to talk about, so little time!

Descartes said...

I heard John Wayne told his accountant not to set up any tax shelters for him, even though a good portion of earners were in the 100% tax bracket. He said that America had been good to him, and he felt it his duty to pay his taxes, whatever they may be.

Wow, was that guy nuts or what?

But maybe in those glory days of John Wayne, he didn't pay any attention to what they were doing with the money.

Also, I'm not sure about giving everyone mail service. . .

Relax Max said...

Doesn't sound like John Wayne. :)

And for what it's worth, the liberals in Hollywood don't try to pay their fair share of taxes to be given to the poor either. They deduct everything they can think of. You'd think they would want to pay more taxes to help the downtrodden they espouse loudly.

I am such a cynic. Sorry.

Janet said...

"To whom much is given, much will be required."

But it usually isn't.

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