The Modern Liberal – The Foundation of the Ideology

With the recent pejorative remarks made by Senator Ron Johnson, it’s time to look at liberalism and its ideological foundation.

What does it really mean to be labeled conservative, liberal, progressive, right wing, left wing, libertarian, TEA Party Patriot, Marxist, socialist, communist, etc? These are all stereotypical labels that say little about the individual and a great deal about the assumed ideological principles. Senator Johnson’s broad brush of derision of liberalism, equating it ultimately to socialism, Marxism and communism, is more than a bit disingenuous and was only used to inflame the passions of those in attendance. If Senator Johnson was pressed to share the details of his statement, he would probably be hard pressed to even define the foundation principles of the liberal ideology.

As with all ideologies, there are the principles of foundation from which that ideology grows and flourishes. Liberalism is no different. A central principle is the principle of Social Justice. The idea of social justice incorporates the highly held American value of Equal Opportunity. How equal opportunity is defined and limited is the first point of contention between conservatives and liberals.

Although in principle, all are created equal, this is far from actuality when one looks at the circumstances of birth. From the onset, the “accident of birth” phenomenon is the single one element that initially creates unequal opportunity. Some are born into abject poverty; some are born into unlimited wealth and every condition in between. That which makes opportunity unequal can be the non elements of wealth or wealth distribution; but physical and mental dysfunction, social structure inequities, race, religion, location, familial SES, economic structures, political system, etc; all will contribute to the condition of unequal opportunity. The modern liberal agenda and ideology is the commitment to the elimination of the conditions that lead to unequal opportunity and create a state of the “level playing field”. This is precisely the point where ideologies divide. What is the definition of a level playing field? How does one know when a level playing field has been created? What are the actions and revenues that must be invested to create the level playing field? When does it stop being the creation of a level playing field and when it becomes a state of guaranteeing outcomes? These are all the fundamental questions that are debated back and forth.

With the long history of racism in our culture and society, it becomes a challenge to overcome the obstacle that race plays in creating the equal opportunity. Hence, we have legislated mechanisms that compensate for the obstacles created by those not completely assimilated due to race. This has been and continues to be a very contentious issue, but seems to be consistent with our commitment to social justice and the creation of the level playing field. American society has had to seek similar solutions for others who find structural obstacles to the level playing field. Females, LGBTQ, and persons with physical and mental disabilities have required legislative intervention to equal the playing field to exercise opportunity.

Yet another element of creating equal opportunity is found in providing and assuring survival and security needs. Liberal ideology is committed to assuring that everyone has access to clean water, adequate sanitation, healthy food, clothing, adequate shelter, healthcare and education. No one can pursue any opportunity as long as they are faced with a deficit of the most basic human needs. We, as a civilized society, have mandated that all citizens should have access to these fundamental needs.  This has necessarily become an important part of government. There is no one single entity that can guarantee that basic needs are met, other than the government. Another basic function of government is to provide for basic security.

Individual security must be maintained to have a stable and orderly society. Coupled with basic survival needs, security ranks next in importance. A commitment to providing a safe environment and to remove elements from society that threaten the safety of individuals and groups is of a high priority. Only when society can guarantee a basic level of security can opportunity be truly equal to all.

To provide the revenues necessary to fund the primary function of government to eliminate the obstacles leading to the level playing field, it is necessary that members of society should contribute to the general effort based on the ability to contribute. The progressive tax system represents the best model for accomplishing the adequate funding necessary. The liberal ideology finds this to be inherently fair since those with a greater ability to pay, gain a greater advantage and benefit from the social system.  This is more accurately reflected in calling this an advantage tax. It is basic human nature to assure one’s permanent advantage for themselves and their progeny by accumulating wealth and power. The inequity of advantage and assurance of opportunity success for the advantaged can and should be offset with additional contribution, by percentage, to meet the needs of the less fortunate. In this case, sharing is the opportunity cost that leads to higher social stability and opportunity, leading to greater gain.

The right and the left both are focused on providing a stable and orderly society. Both are committed to the value of equal opportunity. However, what separates the two ideologies is at what point has the level playing field been achieved. Conservatives tend to set the bar lower than the liberals. Liberals are specific in what their expectations are for meeting the basic safety and survival needs of all. The debate will continue on.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Frank McGruber February 20, 2013 at 04:39 PM
Never ask for hard facts from a Progressive. (at least, don't expect an answer based in reality)
Dave Koven February 20, 2013 at 05:06 PM
Whether playing fields are level or not is not the issue. Reality is the issue. As long as we have a bell curve to describe people's intellectual abilities in a population, we're going to have "haves" and "have-nots." Luck certainly has an impact, and all the hard work in the world can be destroyed by a bad break (e.g. getting ill, being disappointed by a trusted partner, or an "act of God" on your business). The poor and/or the unlucky will not go away simply because no one wants to pay for aiding them. The best we can do is to weed out the scammers. History has taught that if you have a society with no strong middle class, you are ripe for revolution and destruction of even what the wealthy have. The high crime rate caused by a scrounging poor class would make for the kind of world no person would feel comfortable in. The best thing we can do for the population as a whole is to even out the distribution of wealth. Historically, we have chosen to provide tax support to programs that help the poor/infirm. As the population increases, so do the needs of those at the bottom. Unfortunately, the amount of money earmarked for their aid has not grown as fast as the needs have. If you want stability, you will have to pay for it, so you might as well, at least, get the warm feeling that goes with helping out your fellow man, since it is inevitable if we want to survive as a viable society.
ann February 20, 2013 at 05:17 PM
That's right Dave. Your ideas keep people poor and in squalor.
Chris February 20, 2013 at 05:31 PM
Dave, I agree 100% that there's a bell curve, however, I don't believe the curve is as large as it appears that you do with people's intellectual abilities. The real question that needs to be answered is what part of the bell curve needs to be supported to meet the most basic needs of survival. That's really the argument, isn't it? We need to provide for those that absolutely cannot provide for themselves. Those that choose not to provide for themselves, for whatever reason, are the issue that seems not go go away.
Mr Lundt February 20, 2013 at 05:33 PM
There will always be have and have nots. Some people work harder are smarter are luckier have better parents...the notion that the government COULD or SHOULD change that is absurd. Again show me an example where your Utopian society works.
AWD February 20, 2013 at 05:35 PM
Modern liberalsim is all about changing thousands of years of tradition. Social Engineering at it's finest.
Dave Koven February 20, 2013 at 05:38 PM
Mr. Lundt...The USA is as "utopian" as it is going to get, but it has to move with the times and needs, to maintain our relatively "utopian" stability.
Bob McBride February 20, 2013 at 05:39 PM
Feel free to send in an additional 20% on your taxes this year. I'm sure the government will do the right thing and see that it works toward lifting up the needy.
Lyle Ruble February 20, 2013 at 05:44 PM
@Chris....You and other conservatives question whether or not Johnson's Great Society was a success or failure. It depends from which perspective it is viewed. From my perspective it achieved much and if Nixon hadn't cancelled the programs, I don't know how far it could have gone. There are countless millions that were able to get a higher education, that the opportunity had before been denied. The civil rights legislation finally completed the promise of opportunity to millions who had been disenfranchised because of the color of their skin. The elderly finally had access to healthcare without bankrupting them or their families. The children born into poverty now had a guarantee of food, healthcare and education. All of that did not exist before the War on Poverty. Much of what we now take for granted didn't exist before the 60s and 70s. We need to keep things in perspective, up until the "Great Recession", people in general were better off, fewer lived in relative and absolute poverty and experienced a better quality of life than past generations. I think people have a false sense of how many live in impoverished conditions and how they got that way. The poverty rate has increased to around 16%, driven by the overall downturn in the economy. The vast majority are single parent households headed by women. All in all, it is not an issue of morality but that of economics.
Lyle Ruble February 20, 2013 at 05:50 PM
@Brian Dey....The "rags to riches" story is primarily a myth. The US has a lower upward mobility rate than any other first tier nation according to the OECD. We are also experiencing a growing disparity between the highest income and the lowest income, with the middle class sliding toward the bottom. If all we have to do is present the opportunity, why aren't we seeing more and higher upper mobility? It can't all be due to people just being lazy and unwilling to want to move up.
Lyle Ruble February 20, 2013 at 06:01 PM
@ann....The beginning of the destruction of low income families began back in the 1970s when the requirement was implemented that you couldn't have two adults in a household and still receive AFDC. This forced many families into becoming single parent families. Most children living in poverty, live in single parent households and many of them are single parent households because of divorce and not just out of wedlock births. From the time that AFDC was created in the 1940s until 1996, there were only about 5.8% of the population that were on permanent welfare. Welfare, for most, is still an emergency situation. We will continue to see high rates of government assistance until more people are finally employed.
Mr Lundt February 20, 2013 at 06:07 PM
Entitlements are unsustainable and taking all of the rich assets won't make Obama's plan sustainable. A high speed train to Bankruptcy is not utopia. Massive unemployment is not utopia Government dependency is not utopia. Having bureaucrats run your life down to the size of your soda is not utopia. But I do appreciate your perspective. You happen to draw a distinct view of the world. Others need to choose for themselves.
ann February 20, 2013 at 07:21 PM
Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) by the Social Security Act of 1935 as part of the New Deal, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) was a federal assistance program in effect from 1935 to 1996 created by the Social Security Act=legacy of the worst president of all time, FDR.
Luke February 20, 2013 at 09:59 PM
@Lyle, You know as well as anyone that we are one of the least homogenous of those countries, so the comparison is incommensurable. However, immigrants in our country are among the most upwardly mobile populations on the planet. So who isn't upwardly mobile in our country? The answer to that question brings us back to the problem that you are faced with every time you bring up the topic. You might as well embrace that problem now, since you have in the past. In fact, you made a great observation about the maladaptive behavior of NBA players not being resolved once they won life's lottery. The plight of the poor populations in the US will never be solved by giving them more money than is necessary to give them the basic necessities. As long as similar people group together and socialize one another, they will keep turning out a product similar to themselves.
ann February 20, 2013 at 10:01 PM
Mr Ruble said "The "rags to riches" story is primarily a myth." Mr Ruble that is the silliest and most stupid thing you have ever said. And that is saying a lot. Quadgraphics started how? Apple Computers? I could list people and corporations that started out in rags and are now in riches. You sir are a petty envious oldster who has apparently never amounted to anything so you trash this great nation.
ann February 20, 2013 at 10:31 PM
Liberalism is about equalizing misery.
Satori February 20, 2013 at 10:44 PM
Anyone else find it funny that good old crusty Alfred keeps changing his handle? Even funnier is that he chose a woman's name now. Ann Keep fighting the good fight Alfie!
Lyle Ruble February 20, 2013 at 11:19 PM
@Luke....There are already standards set for those that are considered developmentally delayed and they will receive benefits for the rest of their lives, Anyone above those standards have the capacity to be independent. Therefore, intelligence does affect equal opportunity under the law.
Luke February 20, 2013 at 11:36 PM
@ann These issues are complex. Lyle is twice as smart as any liberal that posts on the Patch. Right now he is doing the typical liberal thing and trying to extinguish an emotion by throwing money at it. I am confident , however, that reason will prevail, because Lyle is simply too superior to take the simplistic lefty angle. Like Lyle, I too am progressive, but I am a conservative. I am that way that I am because it seems the most reasonable.
Bren February 20, 2013 at 11:40 PM
Everyone should have access to the tools needed for a successful life I think. What one chooses to do with one's life is up to them of course, but there should be no barrier to education, for example, because of income, background, or health/disability. That's why I believe in public education and national healthcare as social investments. That's not being a liberal, rather that is recognizing the economics of the situation. The more people who enter the workforce well-equipped for high skilled jobs the stronger the economy will be. Having a national healthcare plan takes the onus off of businesses and increases/opens the door to competitiveness in the global market. Having a national retirement program (Social Security) that cannot be raided will ensure that people leave the workforce at a reasonable age so that younger people can enter it. These seem like practical ideas to me.
J. B. Schmidt February 21, 2013 at 12:03 AM
Its unfortunate that this country doesn't have equal opportunity. http://www.jsonline.com/sports/statecolleges/despite-scooter-cardinal-stritch-manager-at-home-in-field-house-of-dreams-es8r0la-191938771.html Oh wait! I guess you can succeed without government demanding you be given the position in some perverted idea of equality.
Born Free February 21, 2013 at 01:17 AM
One only needs to tune into the Jerry Springer Show to see the real time manifestations of social engineering by modern progressive liberal ideology that's occurred since the late 60's. Need more reality checks? Tune into COPS. For a little more of that reality check tune into one of Leno's Jay Walking street canvasing skits. VOTING FRAUD IS 'DISENFRANCHISING'
Steve ® February 21, 2013 at 01:48 AM
Jerry Springer is a classic hypocritical liberal. He and better yet NBC Universal Domestic Television moved the show Along with with other daytime crap shows out of Chicago a few years ago. Why? Because the tax rate kept going up. He moved to CT for a lower tax rate. Classic. NBC and Jerry, both left wing organizations move to Stamford, CT because their liberal buddies kept raising taxes. This is your modern liberal.
Brian Dey February 21, 2013 at 01:58 AM
Lyle- Please explain which barriers are there. Discrimination is illegal. Enforce the laws. As far as education, we have made access to good education even better with the introduction of vouchers. And since we bus a large percentage of children from the inner city out to the suburbs, access is pretty good to a quality public education or at least a "level playing field". We also offer school choice within the district so there is no reason if a child wants a better education, they can't get it. If you remember back to the good ole days of 70%+ tax brackets, there wasn't a whole lot of investment going on. The stock market remained below 1000, and was extremely vulnerable to crashes. Reagan proved that through lowing the tax brackets, you could receive more revenue. Companies and individuals weren't as apt to keep there money overseas, and employment rose. That is the formula you say didn't work, but history proves otherwise. Clinton had a modest rise in the upper tax bracket, but left corporate taxes alone. Yes he balanced the budget, but it wasn't because of a 4% tax hike on the rich. Further observation will show that he diverted funds from SSI to balance, but it was also an unprecedented growth dating back to the recovery of 1983 and continued unfettered through 2001 that kept the revenues flowing in. Bur regardless, I don't think anyone on my side doesn't bellieve in a safety net, but we don't want to subsidize a lifestyle choice.
Brian Dey February 21, 2013 at 02:02 AM
Unless someone is physically or mentally unable to work, there should never be a program to subsidize a lifestyle choice. Ther are plenty of jobs out there. Take a walk through Bayshore Mall and count how many places are hiring. Same applies to fast food places, service companies, etc. You might have to work two jobs, like many of us had to do at some point in our lives, But you have to start somewhere. And as long as we give people the option that they never have to work, then that gap in the middle class will widen.
Brian Dey February 21, 2013 at 02:04 AM
Lyle- Sure, help them get back on their feet. But don't make it permanent. Maybe, when those that choose to live in poverty understand that a baby is not their meal ticket via the government, they might just amaze you and go out and work for it like everybody else.
Brian Dey February 21, 2013 at 02:07 AM
And yet, you are against vouchers. Go figure...
Steve ® February 21, 2013 at 02:07 AM
Practical? No. There isn't enough money to pay for your socialism and "entitlements". http://www.usdebtclock.org/
GearHead February 21, 2013 at 04:47 AM
Funny you should mention tools Bren, given your being against Act 10 providing the tools needed by municipalities and school systems for successful self-governance.
Born Free February 26, 2013 at 03:30 AM
@Steve: I would have thought it was because Jerry and staff we're to affraid they'd get killed on the streets by one of their fellow Obama stoner constituents.


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