Written on Tuesday, June 12, 2012 by Chris Skates
Last time we stuck our toe just a bit into the history of the terms “liberal” and “conservative”. In this article, let us expound a bit more.
In order to articulate a larger point, let’s focus on a single right, the right to own property. We acknowledge of course that the topic of conservatism is much broader and multi layered than just property ownership. But remember, these articles are to be more of a conservatives cliff notes. Volumes have been written on this topic by greater minds by far. In these articles I want to provide something with depth but that are brief enough that you will have time to read them. So the focus is the right to own property. I would present to you that, politically speaking, this is THE most important of our rights. Even as I write this, North Dakota is voting on an amendment that would actually abolish property taxes because some North Dakotans believe that that tax is a violation of their right to property ownership.
In going back to our discussion in part one of this series, let’s agree that conservatives want to conserve. In this case, they want to conserve the right to own property. We will not go so far as to say that liberals want to abolish this right but they certainly want to diminish and weaken it. I should clarify that I am not only making an abstract point here. I am articulating something that is actually occurring in reality throughout our culture.
Now just looking at this on its surface, why would this be? I think we can all see why conservatives might want to conserve (protect) the right to own property. But why on earth would liberals not want to protect this right in its fullness?
To illustrate, I take you to Colonial Williamsburg. My wife and I took one of our first vacations there. The tour is great, I highly recommend it. But one thing I saw there was absolutely a bellwether moment for me. An exhibit there literally changed the way I looked at history and politics till this day.
Somewhere near the center of historic Williamsburg stands the armory. It is wonderful to see. It is a round building and when you step inside all the interior walls are filled with racks of muskets, pistols, gunpowder and drums of shot. This armory was the equivalent of the public library today. If you wanted to go and hunt and shoot a partridge or two for your family’s dinner table, this is where you came.
You came to the armory and you “checked out” one of the King’s muskets. Let that roll around in your mind. In Colonial America the agents of the King of England had to allow you to use a gun. Now granted there were exceptions and these laws were not enforced exactly the same in all the colonies. But suffice it to say that gun ownership was much more restrictive. (This is why we have an Amendment in the Bill of Rights that we can keep and bear arms).
But I am not trying to get into a second amendment discussion here. The reason that visit hit me so strongly was because I realized that the King didn’t think the people fit to own as many guns as they wanted. And that is really what this comes down to. The State (King) decided that private law abiding citizens didn’t need to have guns in their homes unless the State said it was okay.
I use that to illustrate the liberal mindset that exists until this day that some people don’t need the property they have. Now you might feel that way yourself at times. Have you ever lived in a neighborhood where one household just would not take care of their house and yard? Did you ever drive by, embarrassed for your neighborhood and think to yourself, “Wow, some people just don’t need to own a home!”
We have probably all thought that at one time or another. Yet here is the rub.
If the Colonials didn’t need a gun, and this hypothetical family doesn’t need to own a house, if the so-called rich don’t need any more money…then who gets to decide who does?
Who will police those who would police who gets to have a gun or a home (property) and who does not? Who is to say, “Well, if Colonist James ever gets a gun he will probably shoot himself in the foot with it so we shall not allow him to have a gun.” Will those who are given that level of power, exercise that power in an ethical manner in all instances? Did the King?
You see where I am headed I am sure. Who will make the determination as to who can have property and who should not? Should a King? Should you?
And now in this round-about way, we have arrived at our first fundamental concept in defining liberalism versus conservatism.
The liberal mind believes that A) Some deserve the right to property more than others and B) There are those who are worthy to choose who shall and who shall not have and even how much of it they shall have.
Some liberal is reading this and saying, “No we don’t. That’s not true at all. I am a liberal and I don’t want to limit who can own what.” If you are thinking that then one of two things are true of you as an individual.
1) You like some aspects of what you think liberalism says but you don’t truly and accurately understand liberalism, or…
2) You are really a conservative. You just don’t know it yet.
We are just getting started. We have not defined or even remotely summarized Liberal and Conservative just yet. Stay tuned…
Chris Skates is the author of the novel, Going Green: For Some It Has Nothing To Do With The Environment. He has been published in dozens of national magazines and has authored multiple technical articles in his field of Chemistry. You can follow his blog at www.chrisskates.com