Friday, April 24, 2009

Two faces of liberalism

Although five factions of liberalism were explored in Liberalism, Conservatism, and Libertarianism and the relationship between liberals and libertarians was explored in Liberals versus the Nolan Chart, sometimes it is useful to re-examine a subject, to look at it from a new perspective.

One way to consider the problem of liberalism and the relationship between liberals and libertarians is to consider two distinct types of liberals. These types are very difficult to distinguish because they have the same goals and the same proposals to accomplish these goals.

In Liberals versus the Nolan Chart, it was considered that liberals and libertarians have the same end goals of economic fairness and civil liberty but take exactly the opposite approach to reach these goals. Since unlike the conservative to either camp the goals are the same, this could produce sympathy between liberals and libertarians. Since the methods are so diametrically opposed this more often produces friction between the two groups.

Theoretically it should be possible to open up a dialogue to discuss which method would achieve the goal. This seldom works, and one of the reasons it doesn’t work is because of the two types of liberals.

The difference between the two types is very fine. For all intents and purposes they are indistinguishable. What separates them is that one chooses the means in order to reach the goal, while the other chooses the goal in order to reach the means. For instance, while one supports unionization in order to achieve economic fairness for workers, one supports economic fairness for workers in order to achieve unionization. For one the primary purpose is economic fairness. For the other the primary purpose is unionization.

The two types are what makes it so difficult to engage in that dialogue. When a libertarian says "Universal Health Care is not the way to ensure everyone gets health care" one type may be willing to listen. Does the libertarian perhaps have a better proposal? The other type is completely unwilling to listen because any proposal the libertarian might have conflicts with the higher goal of implementing UHC for the sake of implementing UHC.

With that type there can actually be no compromise. While too many liberals are trying socialism in an effort to achieve the same goals of libertarians, these don’t actually care at all about the shared goals of libertarians and liberals but only use the words in an effort to advance an agenda of government power.

In other words, they are conservatives using different rhetoric.

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