Corrosive labels

By Sarason D. Liebler | Apr 27, 2012

Are you a liberal or a conservative? Most people when asked such a question reflexively fire back an answer. Despite the fervent and rapid response it is very likely that what each individual thinks is the proper label for themselves does not mesh closely with many of their peers who have chosen the same label.


This is good, but not good enough. Philosophy and political thought are necessarily nuanced. But neither our two party system nor our society allows for nuance. Instead we dumb everything down and go with labels that have become dangerously corrosive to reasoned deliberation.


The Republican presidential primary season highlights my contention. Each one of the candidates label themselves as pure conservatives and certainly more conservative then the other candidates standing next to them. The center or even right of center candidate, which none claimed to be, is labeled a liberal.


For the Democrats it is a must to be considered a liberal. Liberals are humane. They have deep feelings for their fellow man. They believe, or at least say they do, that our society must cosset those who are low achievers and that as a nation we can afford every effort to give people more. They believe that it is not only necessary to have a steeply progressive income tax but to really show their humanity they first excuse the majority of our citizens from paying any federal income tax and then advocate that the taxes paid by the more productive individuals be redistributed and be spread around amongst those at the bottom of the heap.


To me, such simplified thinking and adamant huckstering is an alarming threat. Is it possible for our society to thrive, to even maintain it’s momentum, reducing all issues to black and white, to single word labels?


The Affordable Care Act — commonly known as the Obama health care law — has been challenged by 26 states. The constitutionally challenged Act was argued last week in front of the Supreme Court and is a perfect example of my basic contention. No one can say that our present system of providing health care to our society is sustainable. But instead of both parties finding a way to act in the interests of the people, taking in to account the economic realities both in the present and foreseen for the future, conservatives and liberals refused any form of nuanced deliberation. The liberals wanted it all, full insurance with little recognition that insurance is an actuarial business that must make a profit. It is no more or less than a gambling casino operation where the odds must be predictable.


The conservatives response was that forcing people to have insurance was showing that Washington thinks it knows better how to spend a citizens money then the citizen does. This tracks back to Bush 43 claiming people could invest their money better than Social Security bureaucrats. Pure nonsense.


Still, there is merit to both arguments. Either way we must do something, both sides know it and whatever we eventually do must be affordable as well as constitutional.


However, until we all stop thinking in terms of single word labels we have not a chance of success. Historically, when the country was under a common threat we came together. The periods of common threat that achieved this reaction were external. Now we are faced by internally generated threats. Threats generated by simple minded thinking that is at least as dangerous as any possible armed conflict.

Sarason Liebler is a resident of Liberty.

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