Friday, November 14, 2008

Political Ideology

From a political perspective the conservative and liberal positions represent opposite ends of the ideological spectrum. Conservatives are characterized by a fundamental suspicion of human nature that manifests in their tendency to impose limits on the rights of the people. In this context, they generally believe rights should be earned. By contrast, liberals ascribe great value to human nature and so are inclined to maximize the rights of the people. This is because liberals typically believe most rights are innate.

People will invariably prefer a situation in which they have more rights over one in which they have fewer. As such, the more their rights are limited, the more oversight will be required to keep the people from circumventing these limits and thus undermining the stability of the encompassing political system. This is why the more conservative systems of government require greater oversight of the people, which usually manifests as more pervasive internal security forces. The underlying principles of liberal states lead them to impose less oversight of the people. As a result, the more liberal a government is the closer it is to anarchy.

An interesting juxtaposition of the liberal and conservative positions occurs in the context of corporations. Liberal states have a tendency to treat corporations in the same manner that conservative governments treat the broader population. As such, while they believe that the people should have the maximum rights; liberals also feel that corporations require greater oversight. The latter point implies that liberals judge corporations as deserving fewer rights. It can be argued that this judgment is based on the liberal perception that corporations’ greater capacity to influence society through their economic power provides them with the potential to abridge the rights of the people. In other words, liberals tend to view corporations as a prospective threat to any state-guaranteed rights of the people.

By contrast, contemporary conservative states are inclined to treat corporations in the same manner that liberal governments treat individuals. As such, while conservatives believe the people should have fewer rights, they also feel that corporations require less oversight. The latter position indicates that conservatives regard corporations as meriting more rights. This is because conservatives often interpret the relative success of corporations as proof that they have earned more expansive rights. Conservatives are inclined to regard corporations as having transcended the more dubious aspects of human nature.

The liberal manner in which conservative governments are inclined to treat corporations and the conservative way that liberal governments often deal with them indicate that today the practitioners of these political ideologies are not as far apart as one might think. By embracing qualified forms of these ideologies, today’s liberals and conservatives each have insight into the other’s position through which they could conceivably work together for the common good.

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