Endless Curiosity

December 16, 2009

Liberals and Conservatives: Relics of the Past

Filed under: Politics, Psychology — Alec @ 3:59 pm

The battle lines have long been drawn between liberals and conservatives – or so myth would have it.

Reality is that conservation has been a concept alien to conservatives for many a year. Conservation of life, yet endless war. Conservation of the environment, yet endless despoilation. Conservation of money, yet budget-busting tax cuts. Conservation of old-fashioned lifestyle, yet the destruction of Main Street. I’m sure the word liberal has the same contradictions.

George Monbiot has a distinction that serves much better in these days of bitter argument over climate change and natural resources: expanders and restrainers. This is from his Guardian article “This is bigger than climate change. It is a battle to redefine humanity“.

Humanity is no longer split between conservatives and liberals, reactionaries and progressives, though both sides are informed by the older politics. Today the battle lines are drawn between expanders and restrainers; those who believe that there should be no impediments and those who believe that we must live within limits.

Of course it’s never so simple, and I suspect that it would be the restrainers who would argue for better health care and good water for the world’s poor, despite the fact that removing impediments to population growth is contrary to living within our limits. Oh, what a wonderful world in which we live.

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