What is this guy? A “liberal” or a “conservative”?

2009 April 25

In my continuing quest to point out how our familiar political labels are failing us, let me submit the following three scenarios.

1.  A man says aloud at a public gathering, “I’m against the recreational use of narcotics; it should be illegal.”  Everyone in the crowd thinks, “Ah, that guy’s a conservative.”

2.  Then on some other day, at some other gathering, a man says aloud, “I’m against federal drug laws and the DEA, ATF, and the FDA”.  On this one the crowd is split.  Some say, “That guy must be a Libertarian.”  Others say, “That guy must be a liberal.”

3.  Then on yet another day, at yet another gathering, a man says aloud, “I’m for States’ Rights; the Federal Government needs to mind its own business.”  At this, most of the crowd thinks, “This guy is probably some Southern separatist, still bitter about the Civil War.”

Now what would you say if I told you that in all three stories, it’s the same man who is saying these things aloud?  What in the world would we call such a person.  We simply must have a label for him!  Right?

Or perhaps, on second thought,  we ought simply to stay away from this person, for he clearly is not sane!  I mean, nobody thinks like this guy!  He’s all over the place—completely inconsistent and irrational.  Right?  How could any one person possibly believe such a disparate set of views all at the same time?

It’s really quite simple, actually.  Here’s how.

1.  First he said, “I’m against the recreational use of narcotics; it should be illegal.” At this, most want to call him a “conservative”, but he would not call himself a conservative.  Rather, he is simply expressing his own philosophy on society—opining that it is better for a society not to allow the recreational use of narcotics.  Many assume that because he has said this, he would naturally be in favor of Federal laws prohibiting recreational use of narcotics.  But this is, in fact, not what the man believes, as we shall see below.

2.  Secondly, the man said, “I’m against federal drug laws and the DEA, ATF and the FDA”.  If you recall, some call him a “Libertarian” and others a “liberal”.  The man, however, would flatly reject either of these political labels, just as he would have rejected the “conservative” label in the previous example.  The reason he is against federal drug laws, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and the Food and Drug Administration is because he recognizes that the Constitution simply does not authorize Congress to make laws about drugs, nor to create such agencies as these.  It has nothing to do with politics or religion or philosophy in his mind; it is a simple matter of the rule of law.

3.  Thirdly, the man had said, “I’m for States’ Rights; the Federal Government needs to mind its own business.”  For this, you may recall, he is labeled a “Southern separatist”.  Again, the man would flatly reject this label, for he is neither from the South, nor in favor of secession for his State.  Further, his position has nothing to do with political parties.  Instead, his perspective is driven simply from the Rule of Law, for he finds the Constitution abundantly clear in the powers that are enumerated for Congress and for the Executive branch.  He sees no such things as federal drug laws, nor any of these agencies being authorized therein, so he opines that the federal government has over-reached its powers and ought to cut it out.  Further, he asserts that the 10th Amendment makes for an iron-clad case that any such laws or agencies as these must be created at the State level, and not at the Federal level.

Thus we see that our man is quite a reasonable man, and not a raving lunatic, as we might naturally assume.

This is my appeal.  We must drop our meaningless and obfuscating labels in favor of language that actually means something.  And we must drop our stubborn assumptions that all who agree with us on one issue ought to share the same label by which we brand ourselves—or that those who disagree with us on some issue ought to bear the same label that we brand upon our adversaries.  Such behavior only serves to keep us divided and dull as a people.  This senseless either/or thinking simply must stop if we are ever to get anywhere.

Liberal/conservative, Democrat/Republican, left/right…..

When such terms are used, it’s normally in a rush to define that which is not so easily defined, or to divide that which ought not be otherwise divided.

The Constitution is for us all.  Political philosophy has nothing to do with it……

….unless one’s philosophy is that we ought not follow our own laws and that ungoverned government is a good thing.

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2 Responses leave one →
  1. May 4, 2009

    ALL true , but the Constitutionb & rules of law can be changed..

  2. ruleoflawrevolution permalink
    May 4, 2009

    Tim,
    I agree. And since they *can* be changed, we *ought* to change them, rather than to ignore them and do as we please.

    I, for one, don’t see much in the Constitution that I think should be changed. Congress obviously does, though, for they disobey it routinely. Why, then, aren’t they constantly trying to amend it? It’s because it’s working just fine for them simply to ignore it; the public doesn’t seem to care.

    Jack

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