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Thursday, August 04, 2005

A War of Ideas

On feminism:
“It all happened because of an idea that spread because of its own intrinsic power.”
I am Charlotte Simmons, Tom Wolfe

A lot has been said of America’s political split that seems to have us divided, 50/50, into two camps: liberals and conservatives. I personally don’t believe that 50% of this country is liberal at all. I would say that about 80% of Americans are conservative in their view of the world. Perhaps I am being a bit conservative myself in this assessment, but I do believe that the majority of us are conservative and must be pulled, kicking and screaming, to accept the radical liberal concepts that made this country great.

The greatest liberal concept, the idea that made this country truly great, was universal public education. I grew up during the height of America’s commitment to public education. I went to an outstanding public high school that every school age child attended. The children of the city’s poor and wealthy (or what passed for wealthy in that era) attended the same school, the same classes. The only exception was the Catholic high school which was for the Catholics and was not a refuge of the elite. I went on to attend an excellent (and inexpensive) state university.

The great conservative idea in this era is that we should stop paying taxes. We are constantly told that every tax we pay is unnecessary and wasteful. This is also an era in which we are abandoning the idea of universal public education in favor of privatization. This probably is a great idea if you are wealthy enough to send your kids to a wonderful private school. I just think that an elite education is not a very American concept.

Most of the great ideas that liberalism has put forward have taken quite a while to build up enough stream to enter into the thinking of the average citizen. The intrinsic power of ideas like public education, feminism, equality, and equal rights eventually became so apparent to almost everyone that when these concepts were finally more or less universally accepted, anyone who had opposed them now seems incredibly short-sighted and ignorant. This will also be the case when Americans finally accept the inevitable ideas of gay rights and public health care.

The only “ideas” put forth by conservatives these days seem to be strictly fiduciary in nature. Their grand ideas of tax cuts have no intrinsic power. The conservative ideas carry more the power of a bribe, a bribe to accept the lies that pass for promises. With every tax cut in every state in the union we are quickly dismantling our public school system that once raised the living standards of almost every one of us. Twenty percent of Americans now live in poverty, and this group has been steadily growing with every tax cut that heavily favors the fabulously wealthy. They used to call this the “trickle down” theory, but since that proved a grand failure; they don’t give it a name. They just say, “Fuck you, we run things” and keep giving themselves tax cuts.

We have already been through an era of unbridled privatization and it proved disastrous. Now we are dismantling the liberal institutions that were created to combat the evils of the completely unregulated laissez-faire economies of the early 20th century. We are putting ourselves into a position in which we will have to fight the battles that our working grandparents fought and won 100 years ago instead of building on their achievements and improving our society.

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