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Re: [eldil] Re: Liberalism and conservatism

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  • Steve Hayes
    ... Not necessarily. But I do distinguish between political, theological and economic liberalism, which are three different things, and do not necessarily go
    Message 1 of 5 , Jul 29, 2008
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      On 29 Jul 2008 at 19:07, Yvonne Aburrow wrote:

      > Ah, I see you are using "liberal" in a 'special' sense of the word, to
      > mean vacillating.

      Not necessarily.

      But I do distinguish between political, theological and economic liberalism,
      which are three different things, and do not necessarily go together.

      > I think you are completely wrong about this, and here's why.
      > The Unitarian Universalists are about as liberal (in the true sense)
      > as it is possible to be. They stand up for gay rights, women's
      > rights, and include gays, Pagans, Buddhists, Hindus & Jews in their
      > congregations. Two of them died for their beliefs last Sunday. They
      > stood in front of other members of their congregation to shield them
      > from a gunman who was shooting at them. The gunman shot at them
      > specifically for their liberal and inclusive attitudes. Their
      > liberality is not built on shifting sands; it is an ever-expanding
      > circle of inclusivity. Their Kingdom of Heaven is not receding from
      > them as they march towards it; they are building it here on earth.
      > I am truly honoured to count myself as a Unitarian knowing that such
      > people are Unitarians.

      I really don't know enough about the theology of Unitarians (with a big U) to

      Jews and Muslims are unitarians (with a small u).

      > I'm sorry you had such a negative experience with the Rev Robinson.
      > Are you saying that he was going to betray you to the South African
      > Security Police?

      No, just that his liberal theology did not lead him to see any need to change
      the world.

      Perhaps this may clarify what I mean by the terms:


      Updated: 1 January 2008

      There is often a great deal of confusion about political terms
      like "left" and "right", or "liberal" and "conservative". In
      part the confusion arises because the terms tend to have
      different connotations in different places. They are also
      confused because they are often applied to different dimensions
      of social life, and in any conversation, unless both parties
      have the same dimension in mind, the listener may get a picture
      that is very different from what the speaker is trying to con-

      Another source of confusion is that political groups and parties
      may choose to describe themselves by one or more of these terms.
      So where there is a party called a "Liberal" party, or a "Con-
      servative" party, liberalism and conservatism will tend to be
      identified with the policies of those parties, even though the
      policies may change over time.

      Here is a rough indication of the different dimensions, or
      levels, of political and social life, and where the various
      terms fit in the left-right continuum. It is sometimes difficult
      to place some groups. Many who call themselves "libertarian" are
      actually leftist on the political level, and rightist on the
      economic level. Communist parties have tended to be the opposite
      - left on the economic level, and right on the political freedom

      LEFT <-- --> RIGHT

      <-- Anarchist Libertarian Liberal Authoritarian Totalitarian -->


      <-- Communist Socialist Mixed Economy Capitalist Laissez-faire


      <-- Revolutionary Radical Conservative Reactionary -->


      <-- Democracy Oligarchy Aristocracy Monarchy Dictatorship -->

      Anarchist - one who believes that "no government is good
      government". Most anarchists would agree on that,
      though on not much else. Some anarchists are
      socialist, while others believe in laissez faire
      capitalism. Some anarchists have been nihilists - they
      have believed that everything in society needs to be
      destroyed, in order to start again from scratch.
      Aristocracy - this comes from a Greek word meaning "rule of the
      best". Aristocracy is found in societies that have
      rigid stratification of social classes based on birth.
      Members of the aristocracy are born to rule, others
      are born as workers, peasants, traders, etc. It is
      very difficult to cross from one class to another,
      because the classes are defined by descent.
      Authoritarian - authoritarian government is "strong" government.
      It is a system in which the government has a lot of
      power, and uses it. Morality and certain standards of
      behaviour are laid down by the government and enforced
      by law, often with heavy punishments. There is often
      censorship of news and views that the government does
      not like. There may be some degree of indoctrination
      in schools and other educational institutions. Dissent
      is discouraged.
      Capitalism - a mode of economic production requiring the use of
      capital, or being largely dependent on capital, and
      the spirit underlying this principle. Capitalism
      appeared in early modern Europe. Capitalist enterprise
      showed a deliberate search for and acquisition of
      money, in place of a mere effort to maintain a tra-
      ditional livelihood. When the industrial revolution
      took place, those who accumulated wealth to own
      factories, plant and equipment became known as cap-
      italists. In our day, capitalism is largely defined in
      terms of Marx's critique of it - as a society in which
      the state and society are organised in such a way as
      to be favourable to capitalists - in other words the
      laissez-faire economy.
      Communist - communism is primarily an economic doctrine. It is
      the belief that all the means of production, dis-
      tribution and exchange should be communally owned. In
      its Marxist form, it is also the belief that there are
      several stages of history, and that communism is the
      final stage, in which the state will wither away, and
      that the principle will be "from each according to his
      ability, to each according to his need". But this must
      be preceded by the "socialist stage", which would be
      ushered in by the "dictatorship of the proletariat",
      where the principle would be "from each according to
      his ability, to each according to his work".
      Conservative - conservatives desire as little change as
      possible. They are happy with society the way it is
      (the status quo). If changes are needed, they are seen
      as minor ones, and conservatives believe they should
      be introduced gradually, and slowly. Conservatism does
      not say very much about the *kind* of society or
      status quo that conservatives wish to maintain. For
      example, in the USSR under Gorbachev, conservatives
      opposed the changes implied in the ideas of glasnost
      and perestroika. They wanted to keep things the way
      they were, with the Communist Party retaining sole
      power in the government. So conservatives may seek to
      retain an aristocratic, a communist, or a liberal
      democratic society. This is why the terms "con-
      servative" and "liberal" are not opposites, as many
      people seem to think. Where there is a liberal-
      democratic society, liberals will tend to be con-
      servative, in that they will see no need to change it.
      In a dictatorial or totalitarian society, liberals
      will not be conservative, but will tend to be radical
      or revolutionary.
      Democracy - democracy (derived from the Greek for "power to the
      people") is the idea that political power comes from
      all the people. Government should be with the consent
      of the governed. There are several varieties of
      democracy. Popular Democracy attempts to allow the
      general body of citizens to vote on particular issues,
      or at least important ones. This is difficult in a big
      country, though it might be possible in a small
      community. In big countries, the usual form of
      democracy is representative democracy, where the
      people elect their representatives who make the laws
      and administer them.
      Liberal - a fairly wide term, that can have different meanings
      depending on whether it is used in a political,
      economic, social or theological sense. Political
      liberals are usually in favour of democratic
      government (one man, one vote), and a limitation on
      government control of people's lives. This is
      generally expressed by the term "the rule of law" -
      liberals are opposed to oppression, arbitrary exercise
      of government power, imprisonment or other punishment
      without trial and so on. So political liberals believe
      that "the government governs best that governs least".
      Economic liberalism (which was associated with
      political liberalism in the 19th century) is in favour
      of laissez-faire economics and free trade. At the
      beginning of the 21st century economic liberalism is
      often called "neoliberalism". Theological liberalism
      is usually associated with the idea that Christian
      theology should be brought up to date, and made to fit
      in with the ideas of the current society. Theological
      liberalism often goes hand in hand with political con-
      servatism; political liberalism may be linked to
      theological conservatism. Using the term "liberal" on
      its own can often be confusing.
      Libertarian - libertarians are usually extreme individualists.
      They believe that everyone should be free to do
      whatever pleases them, as long as it does not harm
      anyone else. Unlike anarchists they believe in minimal
      government rather than no government at all - the pur-
      pose of government is simply to protect them from
      those who would impinge on their social, political,
      economic and moral freedoms.
      Monarchy - a monarchy is a society in which there is a single
      ruler, a king or queen, who may be hereditary or
      elected, in whom all power is seen to reside
      theoretically, if not in practice. Government is in
      the name of the king (or queen). The courts and jus-
      tice are the king's courts. The land belongs to the
      king, and the king allocates the right to occupy it.
      In pagan societies, the king or emperor is sometimes
      seen as the visible representation of a god. The god
      is a kind of "national spirit" and is the real ruler
      of the nation. In Christian societies, monarchs have
      been seen as the image of God's rule, so the king is
      seen as a steward of God's rule. Some Christian mon-
      archists therefore regard democracy as rebellion
      against God. On the other hand, in the Old Testament,
      monarchy (which was known in the pagan sense, among
      the Gentiles) was seen as rebellion against God, at
      least for Israelites (see I Samuel 8). A con-
      stitutional monarchy is a compromise between monarchy
      and democracy, in which the monarch and the people are
      co-rulers, and the monarch's power is limited.
      Neoliberalism - Neoliberalism is a revival of economic
      liberalism in the 21st century, and linked with
      globalisation. It favours laissez faire economics and
      free trade and investment across international
      boundaries, with privatisation of state-owned infra-
      structure like health services, telecommunications
      Oligarchy - oligarchy is the rule of a few people. Unlike a
      monarchy, there is not a single ruler. Unlike
      democracy, not all citizens have a say in government.
      Before 1994 South Africa was a race oligarchy - people
      had a say in the government only if they belonged to
      certain race groups.
      Radical - radicals believe that changes in the structure of
      society need to be deep. They believe that there is
      something wrong with society as it is, and it needs a
      deep and thorough change. The difference between
      radicals and revolutionaries is that radical change is
      not necessarily sudden or immediate, but it is far-
      Reactionary - reactionaries are those who think there have been
      too many changes already, and they want to change
      things back to what they were before (the status quo
      ante). After the French Revolution, there was a
      reaction, because some thought there was too much
      freedom and democracy. So this was replaced by the
      dictatorship of Napoleon, and eventually the monarchy
      was restored.
      Revolutionary - revolution is rapid and complete change
      throughout the ordering of society. Revolution may
      take various forms - political, economic or both. In a
      political revolution, the political power structure
      will change, such as from autocracy to democracy (as
      in the French Revolution in 1789), or from democracy
      to dictatorship (as in the rise of the Nazis in
      Germany in 1933). A revolution may be peaceful or
      violent, and needs to be distinguished from a coup
      d'etat. In a coup d'etat, there is a change of people
      in power, accomplished by force or threat of force,
      but there is little change in the social or political
      Socialism - for the Marxist definition, see "communism". There
      have, however, been other definitions of socialism,
      based on the general idea that cooperation is a better
      principle for ordering society than competition, and
      that production should be for use rather than profit.
      Totalitarian - a totalitarian government is one in which the
      state and its power is exalted to supreme power. Its
      ideal is that the government should control every
      aspect of the lives of its citizens. Totalitarian
      governments usually base themselves on an ideology,
      which all citizens are expected to accept. The
      government controls all the news media, and in schools
      everything must be in accordance with the official
      ideology. Non-conformity and dissent are severely
      punished, and those who get out of line may be
      imprisoned without trial. All institutions - courts,
      schools, religious bodies, commercial firms, etc.,
      have to toe the party line or be suppressed.

      This document was compiled by Steve Hayes from various sources
      Updated: 1 January 2008

      Steve Hayes
      E-mail: shayes@...
      Web: http://hayesfam.bravehost.com/stevesig.htm
      Blog: http://methodius.blogspot.com
      Phone: 083-342-3563 or 012-333-6727
    • Yvonne Aburrow
      Hi Steve That s a good list, but you missed out Distributism (invented by Catholic social theorists, and I *think* espoused by Chesterton): the distribution of
      Message 2 of 5 , Jul 31, 2008
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        Hi Steve

        That's a good list, but you missed out Distributism (invented by Catholic social theorists, and I *think* espoused by Chesterton): the distribution of power to the lowest possible level, and the fair allocation of goods and services.  Kind of a more practical version of Anarchism.

        Here's where I fit personally on the various spectra:

        LEFT <--                                               --> RIGHT
                              POLITICAL FREEDOM

        <-- Libertarian / Liberal  -->
        (I'd be an anarchist in an ideal world)


                          <-- Mixed Economy -->

                                SOCIAL CHANGE

        <--   Radical        -->
        (there was no middle ground on that one)

                              POWER DISTRIBUTION
        <-- Democracy
        (or Distributism, but without the Catholic overtones)

        As regards Lewis' politics, I'd say he made himself fairly clear about them in That Hideous Strength.

        There's an excellent article about the politics and theology of Unitarians here:

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