The more I engage in politics the less I see a grander issue of morality, as I know people who share my faith and morality and people with whom I disagree on both sides of the political aisle. Some in both parties believe in the state and disbelieve in the state. Others are naive while others could be considered quite intelligent.
And yet, as I look upon the multi-sided faces of politics, I’ve begun to see two rise above all others.
Short-sighted and Far-Sighted
Conservatism rejects change, sometimes to its detriment, but often because the values conservatism represents are those that lasted past the fads of yesteryear and proved worthy of being embraced. Like any rake, those values sometimes brought along with it negative beliefs such as protectionism and racism, but the root values of economics, responsible freedom, individuality and accountability, faith and charity were valuable.
Conservatives have seen the end of that accountability, self control, faithful morality and have fought against it. Sometimes that was done to the detriment of freedom. Sometimes it was to preserve it.
Social Liberalism, in turn, focuses more on ideals of collective welfare, direct intervention, social moralities that shift on a temporal basis, a disbelief in disparity and the morality of equal outcome over equal opportunity. Social liberalism focuses on the advancements of science to devalue conservative values, anchored mostly by the negative aspects collected by conservatives and also abandoning what good there was, too. Social liberals achieved what conservatives had long failed to: loving in the moment and learning not to set ourselves as judges.
The positive of social liberalism is in giving hope, however temporary, to people who otherwise were ignored and judged by the conservative base. Exiled because of differences instead of loved through them.
The negative of that is that such hope has little foundation, and proves weak in the long run. One prime example is FDR, who inspired millions of Americans to press through tough times, all the while making those tough times harder and longer than it ever needed to have been. He was thinking only of the short term, and in the end preventing the necessary economic corrections from occurring naturally and ending the need for his hope in the first place.
Those who look to the long-term realize that hurting in the short-term is often a necessity. Whatever poor economic decisions brings an economy to a recession are unhealthy, and like any overweight man or woman who wants to start eating right and working out, it will be difficult in the beginning while ultimately healthy and life-giving in the long run.
We keep asking for pain-free pills that require neither effort nor a lack of comfort to see through to better times. One benefit of hard times? They force us to put ourselves in check, promote self control, stronger discipline and creativity. They also put consumers on notice that ignorant consumerism is very dangerous. Consumers should be better aware of the economy and how producers make their products. They should know that when the government offers them multiple thousands of dollars of other peoples’ money just for being a homeowner that they will eventually have to pay the cost through a popping housing bubble and a severe loss in home value.
Short-sighted policies often focus on fixing the “symptoms” instead of addressing the root. For example, when you think that the minimum wage is too low, you must first ask why people are in an economic position to only be paid a minimum. We can keep trying and fix the amount of money they earn, but it’s not actually helping them get on and start climbing toward a better earning potential. We could promote better education, but we mandate only one class in the whole of a student’s pre-college education in how to manage money. Everything else is science and English and sports and math and … while these are all well and good, if you can’t manage money, it doesn’t matter what else you’re doing, you’ll go nowhere!
We keep saying college costs are too expensive, but ignore that every time the US government increases available student aid, schools raise their tuition to capitalize on the larger pots of money, known as the “Bennet Hypothesis.” If we stopped Federal aid, we’d see an initial drop-off of college goers in general. That’s a short-term hurt, but in very short order we’d see college rates drop like rocks and not only would college be cheaper in the long run, but it would put far less students in debt to achieve it and improve their own ability to pay off those debts in shorter periods of time and then reinvest in their homes and other elements of the community.
Long-term thinking isn’t popular. Cutting aid, ending the subsidy of poverty, and dropping welfare all sound like the hate of poor people. In actuality, we recognize that when we offer no one a free ride, it makes it easier for everyone as costs can’t artificially inflate themselves while the general quality of life increases due to market diversification and the natural decline of costs due to competition. We experienced this throughout the 1800’s but have long forgotten how the US quality of life increased more for the poor and middle class than any other point in human history, all due to that same market competition and hard-working people.
Start looking at politics with the question: If we help someone today, whom will it cost, tomorrow? If we don’t help someone today, will they benefit more in the long-run? Will our help promote unhealthy lifestyle and economic habits? Am I enabling others to steal from taxpayers when they should be finding better ways of earning money?
It’s not always easy to see when a particular policy is short or far-sighted. We must always strive, however, to promote freedom over protectionism. It is not the government’s responsibility to secure your welfare, nor your economic standard of living. Its policies must never offer to save people from their own poor decisions nor sacrifice our future children for our present wealth.