Jim Arkfeld: Conservative versus liberal

September 6, 2012 

The 2012 general election is rapidly approaching. To understand this confusing election campaign, we need to ignore much of the bias, claims and particularly the political advertising.

We citizens need to decide what we want our government to do. There are two major ways of thinking about the role of government.

One is called conservative thought and referred to as the political right. The cornerstone of conservatism is self-reliance. We are all responsible for taking care of our own needs. Self-reliance also means the young, the sick, the elderly, the unemployed, etc., often need to rely on help from parents, family members, neighbors, religious groups, and community organizations.

With self-reliance, only a small, limited government is necessary to handle basic needs such as military defense, safety and law and order. Individual rights and freedoms shouldn't be restricted by government. Business should be allowed to function with little or no regulation. With a small government, taxes will be low.

The second major view of government is liberal thought, called the political left. Liberals believe that self-reliance isn't always possible. Individual, family, and community efforts often aren't enough. Government needs to take a more active role and provide assistance to the sick, the poor, and the elderly. Business needs to be assisted but also regulated, or it will take advantage of people. This more active role of government costs more money and, therefore, taxes will need to be higher.

It could be argued that these two philosophies are of equal merit. It all comes down to a mixture of the two political ways of thinking and just how much we want government to do.

While politics are always complex, a basic understanding of political thought may help you make better choices in November.

Jim Arkfeld has taught secondary American government and American history. He is a retired teacher and lives in Los Banos.

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