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Pathology of Progressivism and Conservatism

CriticalThought

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I have a very libertarian friend and he holds a very unique view on progressives and conservatives. He believes that both suffer from a pathological condition in which they hold an unconscious fear of personal responsibility which manifests itself through two distinct coping strategies. By "personal responsibility" he means the power an individual holds to be a decision maker in a free society towards shaping one's own character and behavior.

He believes that progressives use a coping strategy of projecting their own unconscious fear that the world is not fair onto others, and seek to help others in a misguided attempt to make the world seem more fair. In so doing, progressives can argue that the world owes them something for their efforts and that their decisions inherently have merit no matter how they turn out because they were made with altruistic intentions.

He believes that conservatives use a coping strategy of putting complete unquestioned faith in tradition. By doing what they can to maintain a certain status quo or ideal vision of how things should be, they don't have to be accountable for coming up with their own ideas. In fact, it would be better to stifle creative ideas or new ways of doing things because they might threaten the cherished institutions and systems that provide structure in their lives. "If it isn't broke, don't fix it", is just another way of saying, "I rely on it so I don't have to make my own decisions, so don't mess with it."

I thought I would share this perspective, since it is bound to not make anyone happy and I find it somewhat cartoonishly applicable.
 
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to reply to his critique of conservatism:

why do you insist on the traditional modes of flight? since those who design airplanes have nothing better than the combined experience of centuries of testing, billions in research, and countless hours of experience in flight and engineering behind them, aren't you really better off just jumping off a building and flapping your arms?

:)
 

CriticalThought

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to reply to his critique of conservatism:

why do you insist on the traditional modes of flight? since those who design airplanes have nothing better than the combined experience of centuries of testing, billions in research, and countless hours of experience in flight and engineering behind them, aren't you really better off just jumping off a building and flapping your arms?

:)

I'm pretty sure he would argue that it was innovative thinkers who pushed technological development of flight. People who took risks, used trial and error, and over time developed a better and better understanding of the physics and mechanics. He would argue that the conservatives were the people who watched all this and argued that nobody would fly because God did not give man wings, and so it was unnatural and ridiculous to even try.
 

cpwill

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I'm pretty sure he would argue that it was innovative thinkers who pushed technological development of flight. People who took risks, used trial and error, and over time developed a better and better understanding of the physics and mechanics. He would argue that the conservatives were the people who watched all this and argued that nobody would fly because God did not give man wings, and so it was unnatural and ridiculous to even try.

then (though i disagree), i still have to ask him why he is so tradition bound when he flies. why doesn't he radically chuck the combined experience of mankind overboard and invest in radical experimentation by leaping off that building?
 

CriticalThought

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then (though i disagree), i still have to ask him why he is so tradition bound when he flies. why doesn't he radically chuck the combined experience of mankind overboard and invest in radical experimentation by leaping off that building?

I don't think he would have a problem with traditoin, he simply believes that conservatives have unquestioning faith in tradition. He would argue there is a difference between a man who believes that tradition is valuable as long as it can be questioned and a man who believes that tradition is valuable because it can't be questioned. The former is an innovator, the latter is a conservative.
 

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I have a very libertarian friend and he holds a very unique view on progressives and conservatives. He believes that both suffer from a pathological condition in which they hold an unconscious fear of personal responsibility which manifests itself through two distinct coping strategies. By "personal responsibility" he means the power an individual holds to be a decision maker in a free society towards shaping one's own character and behavior.

He believes that progressives use a coping strategy of projecting their own unconscious fear that the world is not fair onto others, and seek to help others in a misguided attempt to make the world seem more fair. In so doing, progressives can argue that the world owes them something for their efforts and that their decisions inherently have merit no matter how they turn out because they were made with altruistic intentions.

He believes that conservatives use a coping strategy of putting complete unquestioned faith in tradition. By doing what they can to maintain a certain status quo or ideal vision of how things should be, they don't have to be accountable for coming up with their own ideas. In fact, it would be better to stifle creative ideas or new ways of doing things because they might threaten the cherished institutions and systems that provide structure in their lives. "If it isn't broke, don't fix it", is just another way of saying, "I rely on it so I don't have to make my own decisions, so don't mess with it."

I thought I would share this perspective, since it is bound to not make anyone happy and I find it somewhat cartoonishly applicable.
Although I don't like generalizations as a rule (Hidden irony intended), I do think this is a clever post.

Since you are likely going to be flamed in a manner of speaking, I should mention up front that I don't take any offense to the implications your post makes. The subject would get muddled to bring up that political labels are merely used to quick reference and a simple expiation of ideology. In truth, most people probably have a fairly individual set of political principles, choosing to call themselves Left, Center or Right simply for convenience. But I'll try to stay on topic.

My own criticism of both ideologies is this: While Conservatism tends to falsely profess there was a "better time," child-labor, slavery, oppression of women and disease are things we left behind in the past; Liberalism falsely professes that society can reach an optimum state, through an intellectual process of progressive advancement. Liberals, to a certain extent, are pursuing a Utopian society; but ironically, so are Conservatives. But Conservatives believe we can reach an optimum social state by regressing certain social advancements and simulating an idealized vision of the frontier days of America (without the rampant crime and poverty and disease and genocide).

The problem is that both of these groups, of which I count myself among, are simply mistaken. We can't make society perfect--all we can do is be the change we wish to see in the world, as Gandhi famously said. Both the Left and Right are wrong on a lot of critical issues. For that reason, I enjoyed the OP quite a bit.
 
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Hoplite

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I have a very libertarian friend and he holds a very unique view on progressives and conservatives. He believes that both suffer from a pathological condition in which they hold an unconscious fear of personal responsibility which manifests itself through two distinct coping strategies. By "personal responsibility" he means the power an individual holds to be a decision maker in a free society towards shaping one's own character and behavior.
It's an interesting theory, but one I'm not entirely sure is sound. We ARE shaped by our surroundings far more than most of us would like to admit and there are plenty of people who are progressive or conservative AND who take personal responsibility.

He believes that progressives use a coping strategy of projecting their own unconscious fear that the world is not fair onto others, and seek to help others in a misguided attempt to make the world seem more fair. In so doing, progressives can argue that the world owes them something for their efforts and that their decisions inherently have merit no matter how they turn out because they were made with altruistic intentions.
How does it change the idea to know that the world really isn't fair? If someone believes that it is their responsibility to do as much as they reasonably can do to MAKE the world a more fair place and as a result are progressive, I dont see that as avoidance behavior.

He believes that conservatives use a coping strategy of putting complete unquestioned faith in tradition. By doing what they can to maintain a certain status quo or ideal vision of how things should be, they don't have to be accountable for coming up with their own ideas. In fact, it would be better to stifle creative ideas or new ways of doing things because they might threaten the cherished institutions and systems that provide structure in their lives. "If it isn't broke, don't fix it", is just another way of saying, "I rely on it so I don't have to make my own decisions, so don't mess with it."
This I think is somewhat more accurate if a little over-the-top. I think many conservatives are traditionalistic because they see tradition as something that worked and something they often have fond memories of.

The problem is the human psyche tends to selectively remember things depending on how we felt about them. A date with a bad outcome remembered two months later will probably consist of mostly negative memories, even though what made the date bad may have only been a single event in the whole evening. Whereas a date that had a good outcome remembered two months later will probably be remembered as being better than it really was. This is pretty normal human psychology.

I thought I would share this perspective, since it is bound to not make anyone happy and I find it somewhat cartoonishly applicable.
It's definitely interesting and merits further investigation, but I think it misses the fact that we have evolved to be social creatures. The creation of societies was a key factor in our survival as a species and a successful society requires some sort of structure and glue to hold that society together. Politics is a way for a society to self-regulate and maintain stability but you cant have politics without people who are political.


to reply to his critique of conservatism:

why do you insist on the traditional modes of flight? since those who design airplanes have nothing better than the combined experience of centuries of testing, billions in research, and countless hours of experience in flight and engineering behind them, aren't you really better off just jumping off a building and flapping your arms?:)
Your argument misses that there are MANY new ways of flying than we started with and the process is constantly being improved.

Flight is actually a fairly accurate synthesis of a moderate viewpoint; preservation of a core idea with changes made to it's execution to keep it modern and useful.

If you want an example of what happens with too much conservatism, look at the Catholic Church. If an organization, group, or individual is too conservative, they never progress even remotely in step with the times and get left by the wayside. They stagnate and fade away.
 

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I have a very libertarian friend and he holds a very unique view on progressives and conservatives. He believes that both suffer from a pathological condition in which they hold an unconscious fear of personal responsibility which manifests itself through two distinct coping strategies. By "personal responsibility" he means the power an individual holds to be a decision maker in a free society towards shaping one's own character and behavior.

How very typically libertarian of him, thinking that we are not only solely responsible for ourselves but that thinking otherwise is pathological. Our character and our behavior are not shaped in a vacuum, but through a process of constant conflict and negotiation with the greater society that surrounds us. One might say that the libertarian suffers from a pathological condition in which he lacks confidence in his sense of identity, and thus denies both society's influence upon him and his own power to influence society, for fear of being lost among the multitude.

I am responsible for my own actions and their consequences, including how those actions mold others. I am responsible for how I wield my power. I am responsible for the environment in which I live and the people with which I share it. I am responsible for every last square inch of the universe that is within my grasp, and I am responsible for the limitations of my reach. "Personal responsibility" is for people too timid to dare remake the world in their own image.
 

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The benefit of both conservatism and liberalism is the understanding and acceptance that our actions do affect the greater society and the state of society affects us. Ultimately, we have as much right to reshape society as it has the right to reshape us and ultimately the influence of society on people is unavoidable since nobody lives along in the wilderness. However, the link exists and has power, so it is our right and responsibility to manage that link to the best of our ability. People may have different ideas on how best to do it, which is why we have politics, but it will never go away.

Anyone who denies this is not really taking reality for what it is.
 

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I find both criticism valid, but would add that libertarians are equally pathologically in their denial that a single person's actions have consequences that effect all of society. The underlying truth is that the simplified nature of any ideology is far too narrow to ever match the incredible complexity of reality.
 

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My own criticism of both ideologies is this: While Conservatism tends to falsely profess there was a "better time," child-labor, slavery, oppression of women and disease are things we left behind in the past; Liberalism falsely professes that society can reach an optimum state, through an intellectual process of progressive advancement. Liberals, to a certain extent, are pursuing a Utopian society; but ironically, so are Conservatives. But Conservatives believe we can reach an optimum social state by regressing certain social advancements and simulating an idealized vision of the frontier days of America (without the rampant crime and poverty and disease and genocide)..

Interesting view. Conservatives favor making society into a utopian past and Progressives favor making society into a utopian future?
 

CriticalThought

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It's an interesting theory, but one I'm not entirely sure is sound. We ARE shaped by our surroundings far more than most of us would like to admit and there are plenty of people who are progressive or conservative AND who take personal responsibility.

How does it change the idea to know that the world really isn't fair? If someone believes that it is their responsibility to do as much as they reasonably can do to MAKE the world a more fair place and as a result are progressive, I dont see that as avoidance behavior.

On one end you argue that we are shaped by the world and on the other end you argue that it is us who shape the world. Which is it? Are we the product of the society or is society the product of us?

This I think is somewhat more accurate if a little over-the-top. I think many conservatives are traditionalistic because they see tradition as something that worked and something they often have fond memories of.

The problem is the human psyche tends to selectively remember things depending on how we felt about them. A date with a bad outcome remembered two months later will probably consist of mostly negative memories, even though what made the date bad may have only been a single event in the whole evening. Whereas a date that had a good outcome remembered two months later will probably be remembered as being better than it really was. This is pretty normal human psychology.

So it is human psychology to try to recreate the good ol times?

It's definitely interesting and merits further investigation, but I think it misses the fact that we have evolved to be social creatures. The creation of societies was a key factor in our survival as a species and a successful society requires some sort of structure and glue to hold that society together. Politics is a way for a society to self-regulate and maintain stability but you cant have politics without people who are political.

Isn't that simply an excuse for some individuals in society to try to coercively impose their perspective of how society should be on the rest of the population? My friend tends to argue that progressivism and conservatism are simply means by which people justify to themselves the use of social control because they fear taking personal responsibility in a world that is inherently unfair and which will always be unfair.
 
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CriticalThought

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How very typically libertarian of him, thinking that we are not only solely responsible for ourselves but that thinking otherwise is pathological. Our character and our behavior are not shaped in a vacuum, but through a process of constant conflict and negotiation with the greater society that surrounds us. One might say that the libertarian suffers from a pathological condition in which he lacks confidence in his sense of identity, and thus denies both society's influence upon him and his own power to influence society, for fear of being lost among the multitude.

Libertarianism as a fear of losing identity by acknowledging the power society has to shape us and the power we have as individuals to shape society? That is deep. I'll have to let him know that persepctive.

I am responsible for my own actions and their consequences, including how those actions mold others. I am responsible for how I wield my power. I am responsible for the environment in which I live and the people with which I share it. I am responsible for every last square inch of the universe that is within my grasp, and I am responsible for the limitations of my reach. "Personal responsibility" is for people too timid to dare remake the world in their own image.

That seems like an awful lot to put on any one man's shoulders.
 

CriticalThought

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The benefit of both conservatism and liberalism is the understanding and acceptance that our actions do affect the greater society and the state of society affects us. Ultimately, we have as much right to reshape society as it has the right to reshape us and ultimately the influence of society on people is unavoidable since nobody lives along in the wilderness. However, the link exists and has power, so it is our right and responsibility to manage that link to the best of our ability. People may have different ideas on how best to do it, which is why we have politics, but it will never go away.

Anyone who denies this is not really taking reality for what it is.

How much does society shape us? If you are indeed right that we have as much right to shape society as it shapes us, then it would be pertinent to know to what degree it shapes us so that we know the limitations on our right to shape it. Furthermore, where does this right come from? It sounds like a distortion of the golden rule, "Do unto others as they do unto you."
 

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On one end you argue that we are shaped by the world and on the other end you argue that it is us who shape the world. Which is it? Are we the product of the society or is society the product of us?
Actually it's both. We create society as a means to protect ourselves and foster cooperation. Part of society is being introduced and worked into it, so people are shaped to be able to work within that society from birth. We did create society, but we are also a product of that society.

So it is human psychology to try to recreate the good ol times?
Not necessarily, it is human nature to polarize our emotional responses to memories.

Isn't that simply an excuse for some individuals in society to try to coercively impose their perspective of how society should be on the rest of the population? My friend tends to argue that progressivism and conservatism are simply means by which people justify to themselves the use of social control because they fear taking personal responsibility in a world that is inherently unfair and which will always be unfair.
That's how society works, the biggest and strongest group gets their way. Society works based on very evolutionary forces; the elements of society that are strongest and best able to adapt and survive will endure while the elements that are not will fade away. We are all driven to make society a better place once we've satisfied our lower needs, that's because society is how we survive as humans. Originally, it meant we could gather more food, protect ourselves, share knowledge. Now it means communication, wealth, connections, and knowledge. Society is ALWAYS changing, evolving. The forces that drive it are the people in that society and the different points of view are different aspects of that force of change.

At least, that's how I see it.

Libertarianism as a fear of losing identity by acknowledging the power society has to shape us and the power we have as individuals to shape society? That is deep. I'll have to let him know that persepctive.
I would contend that Libertarianism is a result of the hyper-individualistic attitude Americans tend to take. We want so much to be different and individualistic that we push that desire far beyond a healthy state.
 
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CriticalThought

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I find both criticism valid, but would add that libertarians are equally pathologically in their denial that a single person's actions have consequences that effect all of society. The underlying truth is that the simplified nature of any ideology is far too narrow to ever match the incredible complexity of reality.

I somehow don't believer libertarians ignore the effect that a single indivudal can have on society. They seem perfectly content to pont out Bill Gates and Oprah as the "self made man" and the "self made woman" who do much to shape society.
 

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Actually it's both. We create society as a means to protect ourselves and foster cooperation. Part of society is being introduced and worked into it, so people are shaped to be able to work within that society from birth. We did create society, but we are also a product of that society.

So up until a person is 18, parents get to coerce them into accepting their respective values, and once 18 a person gets to start calling the shots in society and coercing their values into their offspring?

Not necessarily, it is human nature to polarize our emotional responses to memories.

I'll have to dig into some psychological literature to see if this is true.

That's how society works, the biggest and strongest group gets their way. Society works based on very evolutionary forces; the elements of society that are strongest and best able to adapt and survive will endure while the elements that are not will fade away. We are all driven to make society a better place once we've satisfied our lower needs, that's because society is how we survive as humans. Originally, it meant we could gather more food, protect ourselves, share knowledge. Now it means communication, wealth, connections, and knowledge. Society is ALWAYS changing, evolving. The forces that drive it are the people in that society and the different points of view are different aspects of that force of change.

At least, that's how I see it.

Natural selection even influences society eh? Very interesting.
 

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How much does society shape us? If you are indeed right that we have as much right to shape society as it shapes us, then it would be pertinent to know to what degree it shapes us so that we know the limitations on our right to shape it. Furthermore, where does this right come from? It sounds like a distortion of the golden rule, "Do unto others as they do unto you."

There is probably no real way of knowing with our current level of knowledge. The right comes from the fact that is unavoidable and fundamentally a part of what humans do and part of the reason the idea of natural rights does not work. We cannot avoid it, so we need to acknowledge it and try to utilize it for good, which is indeed in line with the golden rule.
 
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So up until a person is 18, parents get to coerce them into accepting their respective values, and once 18 a person gets to start calling the shots in society and coercing their values into their offspring?
Sort of

I'll have to dig into some psychological literature to see if this is true.
Look up "idealization"

Natural selection even influences society eh? Very interesting.
Why not? Evolution is a fantastic system of design and self-regulation. It allows a system to change to adapt to changes in it's environment and not become arcane and broken.
 

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CriticalThought said:
He believes that conservatives use a coping strategy of putting complete unquestioned faith in tradition. By doing what they can to maintain a certain status quo or ideal vision of how things should be, they don't have to be accountable for coming up with their own ideas. In fact, it would be better to stifle creative ideas or new ways of doing things because they might threaten the cherished institutions and systems that provide structure in their lives. "If it isn't broke, don't fix it", is just another way of saying, "I rely on it so I don't have to make my own decisions, so don't mess with it."

Your friend is wrong. That's not what conservatism is. It's not throwing out what demonstrably works until something better comes along. It's resisting change until change is warranted. If something demonstrably better comes along, then great, embrace it, but don't change, simply for the sake of change.

Of course, the problem here is your friend is attributing conservatism to those who are conservative in name only. There are virtually no actual conservatives anywhere in the Republican party. It's a bunch of so-called neo-conservatives, people who started out as Southern Democrat liberals in the 50s and 60s, but who abandoned the party over religious issues like civil rights and abortion. They've taken over the Republican party, but still maintain many of their liberal philosophies that betray them for what they really are. There haven't been any fiscal conservatives on the national stage in the Republican party in nearly 30 years. We have the left-wing nutbag Democrats and the right-wing religious zealot Republicans, but no conservative party anywhere.

Granted, some conservatives have ended up in the Libertarian party, but that's not a conservative party either. Conservatism seeks to maintain a balance between personal responsibility and social responsibility. We are a social species, our social bonds and the culture and society in which we live is essential to our overall health. Therefore, it's necessary to maintain at least a minimal amount of social stability and commonality in order to bind us all together as a single cohesive unit. That's something else that's entirely fallen apart over the past 30 or so years in the absurd "diversity" movement. It's not diversity that matters, it's similarity. Together we stand, divided we fall. Right now, America is about as divided as it's ever been in it's history.
 

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joe six-pack said:
My own criticism of both ideologies is this: While Conservatism tends to falsely profess there was a "better time," child-labor, slavery, oppression of women and disease are things we left behind in the past; Liberalism falsely professes that society can reach an optimum state, through an intellectual process of progressive advancement. Liberals, to a certain extent, are pursuing a Utopian society; but ironically, so are Conservatives. But Conservatives believe we can reach an optimum social state by regressing certain social advancements and simulating an idealized vision of the frontier days of America (without the rampant crime and poverty and disease and genocide).

Anyone on any side who thinks we can ever reach a utopian society is out of their ever-loving minds. No such thing exists, mostly because if you asked 10 different people what they thought a utopian society was, you'd probably get ten different answers. There's no such thing as perfection, let's not pretend we can ever reach something that isn't real in the first place.

That said though, we can improve society by taking slow, deliberate steps and testing the waters ahead of us constantly. You cannot get a healthy society by throwing anything that you come across at a wall to see what sticks, or by eschewing the idea of societal health altogether and arguing that all that matters is individual satisfaction.

Liberals want an absurd amount of control over what everyone thinks, how they act and what they can do. They want a top-down infrastructure where the power elite at the top makes demands and everyone below follows. You cannot dare do anything that might make someone feel bad, it's an imposed equality, which really isn't equality at all.

Libertarians on the other extreme want no control over anything, it's entirely irrelevant what anyone else does because people are only concerned about themselves. It's not really even a society, it's just a group of individuals who happen to live in the same area and occasionally interact for their own benefit. As individuals, there's no real impetus to band together or come to the aid of each other if you're not going to specifically benefit from it. There is no equality because equality isn't even part of the equation.

Nobody in their right minds wants the frontier days of America to come back, but there are some limited aspects of the social process that certainly would improve the way America operates today.
 

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I am responsible for my own actions and their consequences, including how those actions mold others. I am responsible for how I wield my power. I am responsible for the environment in which I live and the people with which I share it. I am responsible for every last square inch of the universe that is within my grasp, and I am responsible for the limitations of my reach. "Personal responsibility" is for people too timid to dare remake the world in their own image.

That seems like an awful lot to put on any one man's shoulders.

It is a heavy burden, but it is no more of a burden than that borne by any other man. We manage that burden by deciding what is important, what is worth the investment of our time, energy, and resources. The world belongs to each and every one of us, and it is ours to shape to our will. Of course, our greatest power is the ability to convince others to share our goals.

How much does society shape us? If you are indeed right that we have as much right to shape society as it shapes us, then it would be pertinent to know to what degree it shapes us so that we know the limitations on our right to shape it. Furthermore, where does this right come from? It sounds like a distortion of the golden rule, "Do unto others as they do unto you."

So up until a person is 18, parents get to coerce them into accepting their respective values, and once 18 a person gets to start calling the shots in society and coercing their values into their offspring?

I would say that society shapes us totally. It is not just our parents and our families, it is our schools, our neighbors, our churches, our media, and our State. It is our interactions with all of these institutions that shape our thoughts and our beliefs, not just as children but throughout our entire lives. Our right to shape these institutions in turn is likewise total; they belong to those who have the will to shape them into desired forms.
 

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Liberals and conservatives want an absurd amount of control over what everyone thinks, how they act and what they can do. They want a top-down infrastructure where the power elite at the top makes demands and everyone below follows. You cannot dare do anything that might make someone feel bad, it's an imposed equality, which really isn't equality at all.

Fixed it for you. Who wants to control what symbols you can burn? Who wants to control what words you can hear on the radio or how much skin you can see on tv? Who wants to control who you can marry? Who wants to control what you do with the cells in your own body?

Its downright silly to pretend that the liberals want more control over how people think and act than conservatives do.

Libertarians on the other extreme want no control over anything, it's entirely irrelevant what anyone else does because people are only concerned about themselves. It's not really even a society, it's just a group of individuals who happen to live in the same area and occasionally interact for their own benefit. As individuals, there's no real impetus to band together or come to the aid of each other if you're not going to specifically benefit from it. There is no equality because equality isn't even part of the equation.

This is pretty much accurate I think. A group of individuals who each govern themselves rather than being controlled by whoever has the biggest stick. It sounds downright civilized to me.
 

CriticalThought

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This is pretty much accurate I think. A group of individuals who each govern themselves rather than being controlled by whoever has the biggest stick. It sounds downright civilized to me.

Oh good, an opportunity to argue the other side.

I'm not so sure with your point of view. Assuming that every person was always a rational decisoin maker, then I could see it as a possibility. However the reality is that people are not always in their right mind. The stresses of life or society can drive a person to act outright irrational.

I think the state has an interest in coercing those people into treatment or whatever else they may need, in order to protect them from themselves and to protect society from them.
 

Cephus

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Fixed it for you. Who wants to control what symbols you can burn? Who wants to control what words you can hear on the radio or how much skin you can see on tv? Who wants to control who you can marry? Who wants to control what you do with the cells in your own body?

Its downright silly to pretend that the liberals want more control over how people think and act than conservatives do.

Neo-cons, who are absolutely not conservatives. Actual conservatives want as little governmental control over your life as possible. Like I said, there hasn't been a party for actual conservatives in this country for more than 30 years.
 
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