Milton Friedman was economic adviser to Reagan. The policies of that period, which the modern Right praises and claims as its guiding principles, were Friedman’s. He believed in free-market capitalism, with a very minimum level of government regulation. He also supported abortion.
You will notice here that he took a modern “Left” stance on abortion and a modern “Right” stance on the market. Was he straddling party lines, and being inconsistent? No. He was being liberal, and he said so.
You see, liberalism is the philosophy which emphasizes “freedom as the ultimate goal and the individual as the ultimate entity in the society.” This logically results in a philosophy of individualism and self-interest, on the assumption that this freedom will work out “for the best,” both on an economic and interpersonal level. This is why Friedman could support both free-market policies and legalized abortion. In liberalism, individual choice reigns supreme. When you hear someone, Right or Left, fighting for “individualism” and “personal choice,” remember that these are the banners of liberalism.
The opposing ideology is conservatism. Traditional conservatism holds that there is a transcendent moral authority which gives men certain inalienable rights, and that he is free to exercise those rights only insofar as he acts in accordance with that authority. The authority is inevitably God. This is what Thomas Jefferson meant when he wrote about men being “endowed” by the creator. Freedom must always operate within the transcendent moral structure. Jefferson, with his conservative logic, wanted self-reliance but not unbridled individualism.
Self-reliance is healthy for the family and the community—it only disdains dependence on others. Individualism is a different concept entirely. It disdains responsibility to others, and therefore destroys both the family and the community.
Now that we have a clearer definition of liberalism (Friedman) and conservatism (Jefferson), let’s look at the modern Right and Left and see which labels are most appropriate for their policies.
The modern Right embraces self-interest whole-heartedly in their economic policy. They say that man is selfish, and that this must be embraced. Not only is this possible, but they hold that this is the greatest economic system yet devised.
Individualism becomes a virtue, and the market becomes a benevolent deity. Anyone who has ever heard the right-wing defense for the market is aware that it sounds exactly like a doctrine of faith.
“If people would just get out of the market’s way, letting it work freely, it would benefit all in the long run.”
If that is indeed true, and self-interest is a social good, then we don’t really need the teachings of Christ. We have finally made Him obsolete. For the Right, the market is “the Way, the Truth, and the Light.” And the market is driven by selfishness.
Page 2 of 2 - All too late, they see the need for true conservative morality. They see the dangers of embracing an unbridled individualism in the realm of the family. They see that a philosophy of self-interest and individualism within sexual relationships is a recipe for social destruction. Families will fall apart, divorce will run rampant, and the social fabric will unwind. But it is too late. They have spent too much time endorsing “personal choice” within the economy; they only sound like Pharisees when they demand self-restraint in sexuality. They have undermined themselves with their liberalism.
The modern Left, on the other hand, embraces self-interest whole-heartedly in their sexual policy. They say that all have a right to “love whoever they want.” It is a personal choice. Women have the right to do whatever they want with their bodies. No-fault divorce is a victory for equality. Abortion is a victory for freedom. The negative results of such unrestrained embrace of individualism are invisible to them.
All too late, they see the need for a true conservative morality over individualism. They rightfully see the dangers of an unbridled personal freedom in economics. They see that a philosophy of self-interest within work relationships is a perfect recipe for social destruction. Communities will fall apart as the successful enterprises (like Staples) swallow up the small and less successful ones, creating markets of “employees” where local family-ownership once ruled. They see that economic inequality will inevitably result, which is the same as political inequality. On this basis they make laws, which attempt to govern these excesses. Basically, they try to become conservative. They fight to stop big business from destroying the community from the outside in; and then they destroy community themselves, from the inside out
Both of these two parties are primarily liberal, because they worship individualism. The Right embraces an economic policy of unrestrained individualism. When they later try to invoke a higher morality in favor of the family, they have already undermined themselves, and cannot be taken seriously. The left embraces a sexual policy of unrestrained individualism. When they later try to invoke a higher morality in economic or environmental policy, they have already undermined themselves, and they cannot be taken seriously.
For an old-fashioned moralist like me, there is no appropriate party. I am conservative, and I cannot condone liberalism.
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