I’m compelled to provide my definition of what it means to be a Liberal versus Conservative. In my opinion both terms have been hijacked for political purposes. The best way for me to provide clarity is to use a metaphor to illustrate the mindset behind each school of thought.
Let’s say 2 people, one Liberal and one Conservative, are standing on a street corner when a poor person comes by and asks for help because he’s starving.
The Liberal approach to help this person is to go out to the community and take “fish” from those people to give to the poor person. The poor person is then able to eat the fish taken out of the community and thus is prevented from starving. Problem solved. BUT, the community will have to give up their fish everyday in order to keep the poor person from starving.
The Conservative approach to help this person is to take the person down to the community pond and teach him how to fish. After the first day of lessons, the poor person may not have been successful so the Conservative will also take fish from the community and give the fish to the poor person to prevent that person from starving. BUT, the Conservative will take the poor person down to the pond every day and make sure that the fishing lessons will continue until the poor person no longer needs to take fish from the community to keep from starving. At that point, the Conservative will stop giving fish to the poor person and inform them that it is now up to them to decide how good they want to become at fishing. Some people want to accumulate as much fish as possible and devote lots of time and energy to become great at fishing. Others think that there is more to life than just catching fish and spend time pursuing other activities besides fishing even though they understand that they’ll never have as much fish as some other people. But in the end, all people are able to accumulate enough fish to keep from starving so just as with the Liberal approach, problem solved.
Both approaches have worked. Both approaches were based on good intentions (helping the poor); and, at this point neither approach is superior to the other.
But what if a second poor person comes by also looking for help? The Conservative, having made the first person self-sufficient has the capacity now to repeat the process with the second. The Liberal however, will now have to go back to the community and take a bigger portion of fish from the community in order to keep both poor people from starving. In both cases, problem solved.
But what if 10 more poor people come in town, then 50, then 100? At some point, the community will tell the Liberal “STOP, if you take any more fish from us, we’ll starve!” so at that point, the Liberal reduces the amount of fish given to the poor to equal the amount left for the community. Now all are prevented from starving, the Liberal has achieved “Equality”.
The Conservative however will never achieve “Equality”. Even if all 100 poor people show up at once, eventually each one will learn to fish and stop requiring fish from the community. Additionally, as each poor person becomes self-sufficient and therefore a contributing member of the community, they create more available fish with which to feed those who are still learning. In time, all will be prevented from starving, many will have more fish than they need to survive and start living better and some may end up with more fish than they can eat in a lifetime.
In this metaphor, the fish represents wealth. Liberals believe that wealth is finite and therefore the only way to solve the problem is to take from those who “have” and give to those who “have not”. Conservatives believe that wealth is infinite and the acquisition of wealth is only limited by a persons desire to pursue it.
Oversimplified? Look at the numbers. Since 1964 when Johnson signed into Law “The Great Society”, the Federal Government has spent $8.29 Trillion (by the way, that’s $8,290,000,000,000.00) on entitlement programs designed to fight poverty, but not to teach people how to become self-sufficient (which is the definition of an entitlement program). The result, in 1964 the number of poor people was 36.1 million; in 2004 that number was reduced to 35.9 million. So we reduced the number of poor people by 200,000 at a cost of $4,145,000 per person or $103,625 per person per year. By the way, the cost to run the entire Federal Government in 1964 was $118 Billion, so where did all that money come from if not from the increased wealth being created by the community?
At the core of the problem is the political process. Politicians have learned to use fear and Class hatred to stay in power and not only defend, but also perpetuate the failed policies of the last 40 years. By telling the poor that these rich, greedy conservatives want to keep all their wealth for themselves and let the poor starve to death, they have created what I call the “Dependent Class” who will obediently vote to “keep the fish coming” out of fear of the unknown. Then, adhering to the short-term election cycles, the politicians will create more entitlements aimed at showing the poor who is really on their side by keeping them from starving to death.
Can the cycle be broken? I don’t know. But I do know that as long as there are politicians who will benefit by maintaining the existence of a Dependent Class, it will be an up-hill battle.
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