Monday, January 24, 2005

The Rights of the Individual vs. The State

One problem Democrats have had in recent years is in allowing the Republicans to get away to labeling the positions of both sides. Thus we have seen Republicans labeling themselves as the party of capitalism, despite advocating a form of crony capitalism which is as distinct from true capitalism as socialism is. Republican have labeled themselves the party of small government, while every elected Republican President has enlarged the size of government (and too few Democrats have pointed out that the important distinction is what the government does, not only its size). Republicans have labeled themselves the party which is strong on defense, despite pursuing a foreign policy under the neoconservatives which undermines our national security and places us at increased risk of terrorist attacks.
Republicans have labeled themselves the party of individual liberty and claimed Democrats are supporters of the collectivist state. Or maybe not. Christian Conservative, a blog which advocates Evangelical Christianity, has reversed these labels. The premise of a post today is that:

In spite of how the fundamental values of republicans and democrats have evolved over the centuries, it's still true today that democrats are preoccupied more with "what is good for the individual" rather than "is good for the society", the latter being a republican's first concern.
This turns around many of the Republican claims, ranging from the arguments of the libertarian wing of the Republican party to the battle cry of Ronald Reagan to get government off of our backs. They conclude by drawing this distinction:

Because the liberal democrat asks, "what is good for the individual" while the Republic and the republicans ask, "what is good for the society" Conservatives argue liberty of the society, not the individual, is ultimate in this Constitutional Republic, it is from that premise we argue.
While I don't agree with many of the points they make along the way, I am grateful to Christian Conservative for clearly putting liberals on the side of individual liberty. We have seen what happens when societies from Nazi Germany to Communist Russia and China have placed society over the individual to this degree, falsely claiming this to be freedom.
This placement of the state over the individual is something which not only liberals might find offensive, but which could also raise concerns in many Republicans. There is good reason why previous Republicans have made ignored the policy recommendations of the religious right once they have used them to get into office. They have known that actively pursuing the agenda of the religious right would be offensive to Americans of the left, middle, and even much of the right.
The views of groups such as Christian Conservative give liberals an important wedge between the various factions which resulted in George Bush's narrow victory. If labels such as this become more commonly accepted, it provides a frame work for areas of disagreement which might bring in support from new groups. Rather than being seen as the party which supports gays and abortion, the Democrats could have greater success as the party which supports individual liberties (which would continue to including standing up for the rights of those with different sexual preferences from the majority, and the rights of women to control their bodies without interference from the state). By presenting these as the issues of individual liberty which they really are, there is room to broaden support, and counter the Republican claims of being the party to keep government off of our backs.


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