The framework I’m hanging my hat on, so to speak, is “systems’ thinking.” A systems’ thinking problem solving framework is neither Conservative, nor Liberal. It is scientific. What divides individuals who consider themselves “Conservatives” from those who consider themselves “Liberals,” more than anything, is how they answer the central question of how system purpose should be defined.
The United States itself can be seen as a system, and the general question, both Liberals and Conservatives need to answer, is, How can this system, known as America, be made to work? But, made to work at what? The first question to guide any system analysis is: What is the aim and purpose of the system? I gave my answer to the question, about aim, over a year ago, when I wrote: “How Can The System Known As The United States Be Made To Work To Provide “Liberty and Justice For All”?
My assertion that system aim should be “liberty and justice for all,” I imagine, might label me as “Liberal.” Someone who considers him or herself “Conservative” might define the aim of the system in other terms — maybe, instead of fulfilling the vision of “liberty and justice for all,” for example, rather, fulfilling the vision, as they understand that vision to be, of the founding fathers for individual liberty — as expressed in property rights or shown in freedom from governmental interference, etc.
Liberals and Conservatives simply have different views of what the purpose of the system should be.
A discussion, for example, on abolishing the progressive income tax system, conducted by Liberals, would center on whether or how or to what degree, such a change would add or subtract from the overall liberty and justice of individuals in the system. A discussion on whether tax rates on the rich should be increased would be based on the same criteria.
A Conservative might object and heap scorn on the notion that the founding fathers would have approved of “the power of the majority to steal from the minority.” But, the question as to whether the founding fathers would have approved of a progressive income tax is a useless distraction. It’s useless to argue about things that can’t be changed. And the 16th amendment is not going anywhere. So-called Conservative views often seem an expression of a wishful thought that the last 200 years of American history somehow never happened, and that the aim of the system should be the same as that of the founding fathers.
This is 2010, not 1810, and 18 yr. olds, and the unpropertied and women and blacks can vote, and, I believe, the proper way to frame the question that should determine our political discussion is: Can our system be made to work for the common person, be made to work for the common good? Can we make the system work to produce a government for the people?
The idea of a government by the people, for the people, is opposed to the reality of a government by special interests, for special interests. A government chosen via an authentic and robust democracy would be quite different from the government we have, one chosen via antidemocratic and corrupt processes.
There needs to be consensus about the purpose of the system, if there is ever to be any coherent dialogue as to how the system can be made to work. If the purpose of the system is not “liberty and justice for all,” then what should it be?