Back to Political Basics

By John Eberhard

I recently spoke at a political forum in Glendale, CA. I decided, in light of the Occupy Wall Street protesters spouting Marxist complaints that were old 100 years ago, that it would be good to “get back to basics,” by which I mean taking a look at definitions of some of the basic words and ideas that make up politics. I also videoed the forum and if I have time I’ll edit and post video of it.

This article is a modified version of my talk at that recent forum.

We’re going to cover definitions and basic ideas of several political philosophies.

Many of these definitions have changed dramatically over the last 50 years, and many dictionaries feature outdated and incorrect definitions. I have endeavored to find definitions which reflect the current reality.

Capitalism

“An economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to the accumulation and reinvestment of profits gained in a free market.”

Yahoo Education

“An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market”

Merriam Webster.com

Socialism

1 : any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods

2 a : a system of society or group living in which there is no private property
b : a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state

3 : a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done

Merriam Webster.com

“A political system in which the means of production, distribution and exchange are mostly owned by the state, and used, at least in theory, on behalf of the people. The idea behind socialism is that the capitalist system is intrinsically unfair, because it concentrates wealth in a few hands and does nothing to safeguard the overall welfare of the majority. Under socialism, the state redistributes the wealth of society in a more equitable way, with the ideal of social justice replacing the profit motive. Socialism as a system is anathema to most Americans, although many social welfare programs like Medicare and Medicaid (once derided by their opponents as “socialized medicine”) and Social Security are socialistic in effect, since they are controlled by the government and effect a measure of income redistribution that could not happen if market forces were the sole factor in the economic life of society.”

American Spirit Political Dictionary
(Unfortunately at this time this excellent dictionary is no longer online)

Communism

“The political system under which the economy, including capital, property, major industries, and public services, is controlled and directed by the state, and in that sense is “communal.” Communism also involves a social structure that restricts individual freedom of expression. Modern communism is based on Marxism, as interpreted by the Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Ilyitch Lenin (1870-1924).”

American Spirit Political Dictionary

Liberalism

“In political speech now in the U.S. a liberal is a person who believes it is the duty of government to ameliorate social conditions and create a more equitable society. Liberals favor generous spending on the welfare state; they exhibit a concern for minorities, the poor, and the disadvantaged and often see these conditions as a product of social injustices rather than individual failings. This also applies to crime and juvenile delinquency, where liberals are as concerned with removing the social causes of such behavior as they are with detection and punishment. Liberals also tend to be concerned about environmental issues, the defense of civil liberties, and do not favor excessive military spending. The label of liberal is something that many politicians now seek to avoid, since it is out of keeping with the public mood. In the presidential campaign of 1988 George Bush used this to telling advantage, labeling his Democratic opponent Michael Dukakis a liberal, and making the term sound subversive and un-American. President Clinton tried to distance himself from traditional liberalism in his campaign of 1992, calling himself a New Democrat instead.”

American Spirit Political Dictionary

Liberal Policies

  • Higher taxes
  • More spending
  • Big government
  • More of the welfare state
  • Redistribution of wealth
  • Favors affirmative action
  • Favors government funded health care (Democrats voted in Obamacare)
  • Against federal immigration laws
  • Many against gun ownership
  • Gay rights
  • Environmental movement
  • Pro abortion
  • Victimology

Currently liberalism is very much aligned with Democratic Party leadership nationally in the U.S.

Conservatism

“A political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change; specifically : such a philosophy calling for lower taxes, limited government regulation of business and investing, a strong national defense, and individual financial responsibility for personal needs (as retirement income or health-care coverage)”

Merriam Webster.com

Conservative Policies

  • Lower taxes
  • Less spending
  • Smaller government
  • Against the welfare state
  • Believe wealth belongs to those who earn it
  • Against affirmative action
  • Against government funded health care (No Republicans voted for Obamacare)
  • Some for and some against federal immigration laws
  • Most favor gun ownership
  • Many against gay rights
  • Many against the environmental movement
  • Many, not all against abortion
  • Believes in personal responsibility rather than victimology

This list contains what I observe to be true conservative principles, which are not necessarily the same as what all Republicans stand for. However, all true conservatives are in the Republican Party. Most of the above are what the Tea Party stands for.

Keynesian Economics

The economic theories and programs ascribed to John M. Keynes and his followers; specifically : the advocacy of monetary and fiscal programs by government to increase employment and spending”

Merriam Webster.com

“Keynesian economics argues that private sector decisions sometimes lead to inefficient macroeconomic outcomes and, therefore, advocates active policy responses by the public sector, including monetary policy actions by the central bank and fiscal policy actions by the government to stabilize output over the business cycle. The theories forming the basis of Keynesian economics were first presented in The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, published in 1936. The interpretations of Keynes are contentious and several schools of thought claim his legacy.”

“Keynesian economics advocates a mixed economy — predominantly private sector, but with a significant role of government and public sector — and served as the economic model during the later part of the Great Depression, World War II, and the post-war economic expansion (1945–1973), though it lost some influence following the stagflation of the 1970s. The advent of the global financial crisis in 2007 has caused a resurgence in Keynesian thought.”

Wikipedia

“The idea that large increases in government spending will bring the economy out of recessions and depressions”

John Eberhard
(I added this definition myself to try to simplify things)

Marxism

  • History’s defining element is the class struggle, i.e. rich against poor
  • Assigns victim status to poor, they are victimized by business owners who grow rich off of their work
  • Redistribution of wealth
  • Hostile to business owners, sees them as victimizing workers
  • Government takes over business
  • Throw out the business owners and executives. The people then run the businesses.

When you see these ideas today, you will know where they came from.

Interesting note: Marx, who wrote extensively about the plight of the worker, barely worked a day in his life himself, living first off his mother, then off his friend Frederick Engels after his mother died.

Cultural Marxism

  • Expands on the idea of Marxism, with its victimization of the poor, to other groups that it considers have been victimized (blacks, women, Hispanics, gays)
  • Idea of redistribution of wealth or advantage to favored groups considered victimized
  • Origin of affirmative action

2011 Gallup Poll

  • 42% conservative
  • 37% moderate
  • 21% liberal

In past Gallup polls going back to the 1960s, the liberal element has never numbered over 22%.

Interesting to note that a segment numbering 21% happens to control all the mainstream media, Hollywood, and college faculties today

Quotes from Jefferson

 “The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”
Thomas Jefferson

“It is incumbent, obligatory, necessary, required, mandatory and binding on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. This is a principle, which if acted upon, would save one-half the wars of the world.”
Thomas Jefferson

“I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”
Thomas Jefferson

“My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.”
Thomas Jefferson

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
Thomas Jefferson

“To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”
Thomas Jefferson

“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.”
Thomas Jefferson

“The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history, whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

“The pillars of our prosperity are the most thriving when left most free to individual enterprise.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

“When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

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