The Myth of “Socially Liberal, Fiscally Conservative”
Jacki Flynn
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I apologize if this is long for a comment/response. I am not familiar with the cultural rules of medium, so forgive me if I break some of them.

I agree entirely with the problem you are trying to address in this article. I, too, have struggled with the simplistic and single dimensional boxes we as political animals are forced to check in our daily conversations with others. I find myself wondering what liberal and conservative mean.

I my youth I was told liberals wanted to progress forward and explore new ways of doing things. That is appealing to everyone, I think. Conservatives were rooted in tradition and following the ways of our forefathers. Now for a technologist that sounds uncomfortable but it also has its merits.

More and more I finding those definitions lacking if not entirety wrong.

In reality, I think everyone wants to progress in some areas but cling to the wisdom of the past in others. In truth, I don’t think either of these is what the people who label themselves liberal and conservative mean in any event.

Ultimately, I think this comes down to labels.

I suppose, depending on who you ask, I may be labeled socially liberal and fiscally conservative. I find myself, however, to be more complex. I know others who are also labeled socially liberal that I do not agree with on many issues. I think there is a great deal of nuance missing in today’s political discussion. I will attempt to be as neutral as possible to each belief system as I discuss them.

I am not sure we need more labels, but as an exercise let us look at what it would take to accurately describe my understanding of the spectrum that makes up liberal. I believe, in general, that a free person can chose to live their life however they see fit. As long as they do not harm, swindle, or steal from other people, they should be allowed to choose their lifestyle. This view could be labeled liberal, or libertarian, or classically liberal or something else.

I know others who believe that certain groups of people have been oppressed in the past and therefore deserve some manner of societal reparations. Often these are given in the form of government programs or legal advantages. Practically in our society this group is labeled liberal as well. Let us, for argument sake, call this believe recompensists.

Still another belief system, sometimes call egalitarianism, believes that all people, regardless of past oppression, deserve to have the same opportunities. So, they attempt to use the legal framework our government provides to bring this equality to society. There are, as always, levels to how much harm they would do to one group to bring up another or how close groups need to be in opportunity to considered equal.

Yet another “liberal” view would be that everyone needs a basic level of economic resources. I have heard this called a living wage or a minimum standard of living. It doesn’t necessarily espouse equality among groups but a basic minimum for all people, usually provided through a governmental framework. Let us call this basictarians (frankly I am running out of names).

To complicate things ever more, one can hold many of these views simultaneously. Politics is not math, as much as I wish it were. X does not necessary have one value. To continue the analogy X is a large matrix of opinions on a large group of issues. Someone may be libertarian on gay marriage and a basictarian with regards to healthcare and fiscally conservative on income tax policy (which I am not even going to attempt to describe in this already too long response).

I rambled on about all of that to make a single point. People are complex. When you speak to others about politics (or religion, or programming languages) pay attention to the person and what they believe and try to leave the labels in the filing cabinet.

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