Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Conservative Moral Error

The conservative moral system relies on the model of the strict father family, with the father as the ultimate moral authority in the family (with God as the ultimate strict father). The father will protect the family, support the family, and will be strict with his children so that they will develop internal discipline.

To protect the family, fathers will control reproduction and will oppose non-traditional families. To support the family, competition in the marketplace will provide resources; anything which detracts from the marketplace must be opposed. With discipline, children will prosper and become moral beings. In this view of family life, the strict father rules. God "rewards and punishes according to individual responsibility in following his Biblical word." People who are not prosperous are seen as not having discipline and not being individually responsible. Without discipline and without individual responsibility, they are not moral, and so they deserve their poverty. In this view, prosperous people are the good people. Helping others takes away their discipline, makes them unable to prosper on their own, and makes them unable to function morally. If people are helped, if people rely on government welfare, they develop a sense of entitlement and are denied the satisfaction of self-reliance. They become spiritually weak.

Spending on social programs is seen as government welfare, and as socialism. It is seen as a confiscatory system, and as a "satanic threat." It is the forcible taking of the fruits of one man's labor to provide the bread for another man's table. Charity can only be given freely. When the power of government picks a man's pockets, it breeds resentment. It is not godly. It is trying to force a man to do what he should righteously do himself.

The market is seen as natural and moral. It is natural because people naturally act with self-interest. It is moral because it is where individual responsibility is allowed to function, and because "if everyone seeks their own profit, the profit of all will be maximized." ("A rising tide lifts all boats.") It is people being rewarded for their individual efforts.

Consider the views of rising GOP star US Representative Paul Ryan (Republican, Wisconsin). According to him, we need to give more tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans, and we need to eliminate all taxes on corporate profits, capital gains, and dividends. He denounces Social Security and Medicare as part of a "collectivist system." As for the deficit, Rep. Ryan says that "Spending cuts have to come first." He doesn't want a system which lulls people into "dependency and complacency" with a "European-style welfare state." He is in favor of privatizing Social Security and replacing Medicare and Medicaid with a voucher-based system. He views FDR's public spending which reduced unemployment from 25% to under 10% as "repeating the mistakes of a flawed economic doctrine that deepened our Depression in the 1930s." And thanks to corporate sponsorship, Ryan had a 325 to 1 funding advantage in the 2010 elections (according to the Center for Responsive Politics).

Progressive values are seen as evil. Science must not be valued over the market and the conservative view. Global Warming and evolution, both of which weaken the authority of a paternalistic and market-oriented world view, must be ignored or denied. Social responsibility is to be practiced on an individual, voluntary basis. Corporations, as the engines of prosperity, must not be fettered with regulations and taxes. Any wrongdoing by corporations will be punished by the market.

A "biblical" and paternalistic view of the world, a reliance on individual responsibility without "mandated" social responsibility, an insistance that corporations are inherently good, a perspective that says that only families headed by a father figure are legitimate and moral; all of this is part of the conservative view.

What is the alternative? A view which does not give corporations dominion over individuals; which values human rights, consumer safety, environmental protections, responsible and just use of the military, a safe and secure retirement system, living wages, healthcare reform. A view in which government is run by the people rather than special interest groups with almost limitless funds. A philosophy which protects individual rights while promoting the common welfare. A view that advocates an end to corruption in politics, an end to corporate welfare, and a sharing of the costs of government. A view that values fairness in economic policies and systems (freedom without responsibility is freedom to be tyrannical, exploitative and destructive). A view which does not insist that it has a monopoly on christian values, or that it is the standard bearer for the only correct religion (all others being products of Satan). A view which does not prohibit workers from banding together to protect themselves from exploitation. A view that social responsibility and individual responsibility are both necessary. A view which has given us unemployment benefits, public libraries, voting rights, a 5-day work week, child labor laws, desegregation, Social Security, health care for seniors, and environmental protections.

Ask yourself if the people you voted for have that kind of vision.

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