It’s always difficult to figure out a way to accurately categorize people politically because nobody ever uses the same scale. What one person calls a liberal, another might find centrist. What one person calls a conservative, another might think is a neo-con. Then you have the people on the extreme fringes at both ends that are convinced that everyone less extreme than themselves is a member of the opposite side. As I’ve discussed in the past, labels are only of limited usefulness because there isn’t a generally agreed upon definition for anything.
I recently came across this chart and even though it supposedly allows conservatives to categorize themselves, it gives the whole range of political thought in very simplistic terms. Actually, scratch that, absurdly simplistic terms, to the point of being pretty useless. You can, of course, click on the chart to make it larger and easier to read.
Now taking the chart as given, I’d fall somewhere between a paleo-conservative and a modern-conservative, but I really think the whole idea behind the chart itself is fatally flawed. It makes the assertion that I’ve criticized before that the government is some alien entity, imposed on the people, which gives or takes away things without any influence or control from the populace. This is a ridiculous idea, common among libertarians, which only really exists because their own political ideas do not resonate with a majority of American voters and thus, they cannot get them enacted into law and therefore consider government, the legislative arm of society, to be their enemy.
A much more rational way of looking at things, without changing the actual chart all that much, is what society chooses to provide to people, what rights society chooses to grant to people, etc. Of course, since this is largely libertarian in scope, they’d never assent, but since when have I cared what delusional libertarians thought?
Anyhow, here’s my take on the list provided and why I either agree or don’t agree. I’d love to see other people’s take on things in the comments.
Energy: This is very undefined, which is problematic. I suppose I’d be in favor of providing the minimum required for survival, such as in very cold climates, for everyone but that’s really up for debate and discussion. People need to be responsible for their own upkeep.
Clothing: The same goes here. People need to be responsible for themselves. I guess in extreme circumstances, some minimal clothing or protective gear could be supplied but I’d much rather see this coming from charitable organizations than tax money.
Housing: Again, people and responsibility. This actually brings me back to an idea I had a long time ago for getting the homeless off the streets. Make it illegal to live or sleep on the streets and provide free transport to local closed military bases. They already have beds which provide shelter, they already have on-site hospitals and kitchens which local charities can use, free of charge, to prepare food and provide medical assistance. People will get the help they need, they will be taken off drugs, they will get the psychiatric aid and medical treatment for what ails them and they can be put back on their feet.
Food: Yes, there will always be some kind of food provision for the destitute but, like all of the above, it needs to come with strings and needs to require that people do what is necessary to get off welfare and stand on their own two feet. Today, we have no such requirements, we don’t force people to get an education, job training, get off drugs or even try to look for work. We just let them collect a check and get their card reloaded month after month.
Universal Healthcare: I really struggle with this because, while I can see a potential public good by giving everyone at least rudimentary healthcare, the conservative in me still demands that everyone be responsible for their own care and upkeep. I absolutely do not support the ACA, I think it’s a horrible system that takes a bad situation and makes it much, much worse. Instead of fixing the problems we had before, it ignores the issues and just piles more government bureaucracy on top of it. There may be a solution but I don’t think that anything we’re doing today is helping in the least.
Unemployment Insurance: I don’t know why this is on the list because, for the most part, it is paid for by the contributions of the employers. It is part of the benefit package, like social security, that every employee gets just for working. I think that it ought to be limited to only the money actually in the individual employee’s account. When the money runs out, the checks stop coming.
Retirement Insurance: This is paid for by the employee and employer, it doesn’t belong on the list.
Limited Healthcare: Likewise, this is part of social security, it doesn’t belong on the list.
Education: This one I feel strongly about, not only should everyone have access to education, and I don’t mean religious education, I mean secular, public, fact-based education, regardless of the religious beliefs of the parents. This is absolutely essential to the operation of a healthy society, people have to be educated and taught not only what to think, but how to think, how to question and how to be skeptical. This ought to be mandatory for everyone regardless of race, religious adherence, gender or financial status.
Fire Protection: This is a public safety issue, clearly if a building is on fire, we have to have people to put it out and protect surrounding structures, even if the owner of said building hasn’t paid taxes to pay for the fire department. However, after using such services, they should be fully billed for the costs to the taxpayers if it is found that they are not current with their bills.
Transportation: I’m not sure that I understand this one. Yes, we need to provide the infrastructure for transportation, we need to build roads, rail systems, etc. That doesn’t mean we ought to provide these services for free to anyone for any reason. We make an investment in transportation infrastructure and, over a number of years or decades, we recoup that cost through user fees. If you can’t afford a ticket, you don’t get to ride. We’re not going to buy people cars and provide gas, why should they get to ride any of the public transit systems for free?
Police/Security: Now we get to some of the most basic elements of our list. If we are going to be a society of laws, we have to have some way of enforcing those laws and that’s where the police comes in. What’s the point of having laws if there’s nobody to enforce them or hold people accountable?
Courts/Adjucation/Arbitration: Likewise and on the flip side of the coin, once you catch a criminal, you need somewhere to prosecute them and that’s the court systems. Without a court system to settle disputes, we’re essentially living in anarchy. And speaking of anarchy…
Volunteerism: I wanted to talk briefly about this absurd libertarian idea that people would magically be part of this voluntary system of goods exchange, that everyone would be fair and honest and truthful in their dealings, etc. Seriously, what is wrong with people who think this is at all likely? Do they not live in the real world? Do they not see how humans act? This is a completely unrealistic way of looking at humanity and human societies. Given half a chance, the majority of people will screw others over to get more for themselves. This is an absurd idea and anyone who thinks it is at all realistic has something wrong with them.