Help on my Political Science Essay!

Discussion in 'Community' started by ColoJohnBoy, Apr 19, 2005.

  1. ColoJohnBoy macrumors 65816


    Mar 10, 2003
    Denver, Colorado
    Okay. This may be moved to the Political Forums if it gets out of hand, but I hope everyone will just put their personal biases and prejudices aside and contribute however they can. I'm writing a 10-page essay for my Poli Sci class, and I'm absolutely stuck. The question I have to address is this:

    In the United States, conservatives are usually taken to be people who want less government. Is this an adequate understanding of conservatism in general? Why or why not?

    Blah. Any input is appreciated, especially regarding conservatism in other countries. I've read the party manifestos from the U.K. and Australia, but can't come up with anything I can work with. So, yeah, again, any help is appreciated. Thanks!
  2. miloblithe macrumors 68020


    Nov 14, 2003
    Washington, DC
    In Russia, the conservatives are the Communists.
  3. ColoJohnBoy thread starter macrumors 65816


    Mar 10, 2003
    Denver, Colorado
    Uhhhhhh... weird. I was always under the impression that Communism was a leftist philosophy.
  4. bluearsenic01 macrumors newbie

    Apr 19, 2005
    A bit of an odd first post for me, but I really wanted to reply to this:

    The belief of conservatives as individuals who would prefer less "big government" and liberals as individuals who prefer more "big government" is a fairly misconstrued version of history largely stemming from the Reagan era.

    I think, perhaps, your answer lies more in European history. Certainly, today's conservatives would state that they are in favor of:
    • smaller government (cheaper, and more fiscally sound)
    • "laissez-faire" style economics, such as Smith proposed (more on this later)
    • less of a separation between the policies of the church and the state, as the church is a conservative organization
    • a definite stance toward hegemony and Darwinesque political survival (this is the connection to Europe)

    What's interesting here is that modern conservatives actually sound a lot like yesteryear's Liberals. Adam Smith's ideas on capitalism, while certainly aiding the industrial revolution, were remarkably liberal, and it was the most liberal nation at the time (as prescribed by the founding fathers) that adopted these ideas and proved their worthiness.

    Now, to answer your question and stop sounding pompous. Conservatism is the "traditionalist" answer to history, whereas "liberalism" is the more radical, change-driven paradigm. Case study moment!

    Consider the economy, which is largely today the most visible separation between liberalism and conservatism. In the 1700s and 1800s, capitalism was a very liberal idea that nobody in Europe would dare prescribe to. It would endanger their own survival of their monarchy by weakening their control, it would allow lower classes a way to advance socially from caste to caste, and it was critically centered around the ownership of property, something that at the time was controlled only by the monarchy and God (the church) itself.

    However, once a liberal, democratic nation adopted capitalism, it quickly became a de facto method of managing an economy, and so it became adopted by other European nations and therefore became tradition. In doing so, mainly after it overcame the recession/depression in the 30s, capitalism became a conservative notion.

    So you can see through this how conservatism is not the need for smaller government, but the need for systems that preserve government. Institutions that propose change in government that reduce their size may be liberal, too. Social security is a perfect example. It consolidated many other government organizations into a central body, and provided intense government involvement in the economy (which is against conservative notions), however now, under a highly conservative Presidency, it is being revised into a conservative concept. Liberals consider this bad, however it is essentially the notion that the Bush administration is considering Social Security "non-threatening" and it is now working on transforming Social Security into a less-involving agency under the guise of small government.

    Wouldn't you support someone who claims you will have a smaller government, and therefore pay less tax, but have ultimately more benefits? Fairly utopian. However it is simply a government adopting liberal beliefs as its own, traditional, proven ideas and calling them conservative.

    Perhaps Churchill best sums this up: "Any man who is under 30 and is a conservative has no heart. Any man who is over 30 and a liberal is a fool." It is the notion that what you grow up with and is proven correct should remain that way throughout your life. Often, people will ask "then why don't we do things the same way we did them in the 1400s?" to which the answer is, "conservatism provides natural change, natural progression." Conservatism is always followed by Liberalism, which enacts changes, which conservatism then adopts as tradition. The two ideologies, in their most centrist formats, are merely a viscious cycle.

    You might want to check out an Austrian called Metternich, and look up the Carlsbad Decrees. Also check up on three sucessive British foreign ministers that attended the Vienna Congresses. I won't tell you their names because if you go through Wikipedia or something from the Congresses page, you'll learn a hell of a lot more. They'll explain more about what I said in a real-life format, and you'll see how conservatism is more about the preservation of self than anything else.

    Hopefully I haven't taken up too much of your time here with my long, melodramatic response. Don't flame me too much - I don't think there's flamebait here. Remember that conservatism and liberalism are very much a personal thing. I've really only outlined a historical definition.

    Hope you score high!
  5. LeeTom macrumors 68000


    May 31, 2004
    I disagree.
    Libertarians want less government, but see themselves as the ultimate liberals. And it's true, they do fit the classic definition of "liberal".

    I don't think that conservativism necessarily goes hand in hand with those who want less government, I just think that's the current "perceived" reality. I say perceived, because the current administration is conservative, and is also responsible for the largest spending and deficits in history, so in the end, they do not want smaller government.
  6. miloblithe macrumors 68020


    Nov 14, 2003
    Washington, DC
    By definition, as far left as you can get. Doesn't mean it's not conservative.
  7. jtgotsjets macrumors 6502


    May 20, 2004
    Lawrence, KS
    A few concepts. The best way (I've found) to measure something on a political spectrum is to use a dual axis system, one for measuring social conservatism/liberalism, one measuring economic conservatism/liberalism.

    For instance (names of famous people used to avoid party labeling and are not meant to be entirely accurate):
    Noam Chomsky is about as far left as possible on a traditional single axis, whereas George W. Bush is pretty far right. These are straightforward examples where the traditional spectrum works.
    However, one runs into problems when you consider take Michael Badnarik and Vladmir Lenin into the picture. Badnarik is all about liberty and will agree with Chomsky on most social issues, however, is sided closer to Bush when you get to economic issues, feeling the exact opposite of Chomsky. Lenin on the other hand, would side with Chomsky on most economic issues, but is much closer to Bush on the social side of things.

    In general, in America, the two spectrums are set up as follows:
    In the far left socially and far left economically, you have anarcho-communists and socialist libertarians.
    In the far left socially and far right economically, you have right-libertarians and anarcho-capitalists.
    In the far right socially and far left economically, you have Bolshevik style communists (dictatorship of the proletariat).
    In the far right socially and far right economically, you have dictator-style capitalists.

    So in answer to your question, in a general, over-simplified way, economic conservatism mandates smaller government (laissez-faire style capitalism, less taxes, etc), whereas social conservatism mandates bigger goverment in one sense (more laws, more control over citizens, etc.) and smaller in another (concentrate power in a smaller group of people).

    Granted, like I said, I used the most radical examples possible (the only one applicable to the current polical situation in America is that of the far right socially and economically, which describes the GOP, more or less. They aren't at the point of a dictatorship, but taking into consideration both size and extremity, they've got the others beat. The Democrats are pretty incredibly moderate, the Libertarians are pretty small in number and the Anarchists... well, they don't even want a political party).
  8. poopyhead macrumors 6502a


    Jan 4, 2004
    in the toe-jam of greatness (Fort Worth)
    do a quick search on edmund burke and his little platoons
    he is the founder of conservatism
    His idea and the reason it is called conservatism
    is that society should conserve old instituions and coffers of culture
    in effect if it aint broke dont fix it
    he primarily railed against the french revoloution and the break up of france's social fabric in part due to the tearing down of old institutions
    in effect conservatives want to maintain the status quo (and sometimes regress to previous ways) unless there is a problem apparent with the current ways of doing things
  9. ColoJohnBoy thread starter macrumors 65816


    Mar 10, 2003
    Denver, Colorado
    Thank you all so much for responding! I think my problem was organizing it into coherent thoughts that I could then adapt into an essay. Y'all have given me a great jumping-off-point. Thanks again!

    P.S. - If anyone else feels like chiming in, it wouldn't be unappreciated. :)
  10. Guitarius macrumors 6502a


    Jul 8, 2004
    All you gotta know is something that Lewis Black said.

    "A Republican stands up in the Senat and says 'I got a really bad idea!' Then a Democrat stands up and says 'I can make it ********!'"

    No, but seriously. I would consider US conservatives as people who are more traditional in the role they wish the government to have.

    And they hate gay people. Oh snap! Just kidding. I'm really right winged conservative when it comes to economics. I'm a firm believer in less taxes puts money into the consumer's hands, which spurs econmic growth. But that's a really uneducated opinion because the only econmics class I've ever taken was in highschool, and it was only half the year.

    However, when it comes to social issues, I'm very liberal, boardering on Libertarian. But yeah.

    My brother and I kinda started a philosophy we called Constitutionalism. I'll explain it more in depth later when I have time, if you like. But the basic premise is the government should only be there to regulate the laws of the constitution, because those are the only laws that should be recognized. Everything you need to have a happy, healthy, society is right in the constitution. It kinda started as a joke one night during a debate, but has actually turned into something quite interesting.

    I hope I helped at all.

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