Monday, March 11, 2013


I HAVE FOUND IN MY POST TO HUBPAGES that we (my commenter's and I) often talk past each other because when a word such as "limited", as in limited government, is used, it will mean different things to different people, often driven by their particular political persuasion.  There is often as much discussion about the meaning of certain terms in an article as there is about the Hub itself.  Consequently, before I get too far down the road in writing blogs, I would like the reader to understand where I am coming from.  So, let's begin.

I would like to cover one concept and six terms; the ones I think are very frequently used and most often understood in different ways by people talking to each other.  The purpose, assuming I build up any readership, is to give people a reference to go to when I use these terms in my posts, for this is what these concepts and words mean to me.  They are: 1) the U.S. Constitution, 2) "limited", 3) conservatism, 4) socialism, 5) liberalism, 6) Austrian economics, and 7) Keynesian economics 

U.S. CONSTITUTION:  This is the "contract" between the People of America and the various governments (state and federal) which make up the "more perfect Union".  Many people, especially those leaning to the Right, think the Constitution is an agreement between the central government and the constituent states that comprise the Union.  Even a cursory review of James Madison's notes to the Constitutional Convention will reveal the former interpretation is the correct one.

"LIMITED" GOVERNMENT:  When Madison, Jefferson, Adams and many of the rest spoke of limited government, they spoke of it in terms of two main ideas, none of them particularly concerned size (although that was mentioned as well).  When I speak of "limited", it is in reference to the relationship of the States to the Federal government and the relationship between the People and the Federal government.

CONSERVATISM: This is a philosophy that which emphasizes rights of class, be it royal, economic, gender, or other over that of individuals; it is a philosophy that would think the economic system should be constructed to support the political system.  Conservatives think that change, if it happens at all, should happen slowly and be based on only on tradition.  They refute the idea of a "social contract" between the People and the government, instead conservatives substitute a "contract" between themselves and God. Conservatives believe the purpose of government is to protect the rights invested in the "upper" class from incursion by those below them.  This implies that social and economic mobility is a foreign concept.

SOCIALISM: Like conservatism, socialism does not believe individual rights are more important than Class rights, especially the working class or proletariat.  Socialism also asserts that the economic system should drive the political system.  While socialist think there are inherently two classes, the "Haves" and the "Have Nots", they see ultimately see no need for Class at all because the political system will ensure wealth and resources will be distributed based on the value and contribution to society of the work performed. 

LIBERALISM:  Unlike to the other two systems, Liberalism is all about the individual and while recognizes they exist, oppose Classes of any sort (in theory anyway - I am not sure what Locke and the others of the "enlightened" period thought about women, but they certainly weren't part of the plan then.)  The goal of liberals is to ensure as much freedom of action of individuals as possible within the constraints of the contract they agreed to in forming a government. Liberalism is a political system, not an economic one.  Nevertheless, an economic system, capitalism, flows naturally from individual liberty.

There are two branches to liberalism.  One is active state liberalism (ASL) and the other is minimal state liberalism (MSL).  In today's parlance, ASLs are often called Socialist, which they definitely are not while MSLs are called Conservatives, which is antithetical to liberalism.  While each approaches individual rights in a different way vis-a-vis the role of the federal government, their common frame of reference is still individual rights.

AUSTRIAN ECONOMICS: I will use this term in reference to the economic system preferred by both Conservatives and MSLs.  While Austrian economics is only a subset of the adherents to this broader version of economic theory, it nevertheless is associated with the kind of economic system preferred by those on the Right; one based almost solely on the Law of Supply and Demand.

KEYNESIAN ECONOMICS:  This brand of economic theory accepts the supply and demand theory, but doesn't believe that theory alone can explain historic economic booms and busts.  Under Keynesian economics, again a well-known term covering many variants, presumes there are other, broader aspects of economic behavior that influence the economic cycles and that the boom-bust cycle can be mitigated by federal intervention.  This is the theory promoted by ASLs, but not socialists.

I will leave this article at that, given its purpose.  These definitions have prompted much discussion in my previous hubs but that discussion is swamped by the political discourse which has been arguing about it now for over 200 years.

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