Scott Anderson’s letter about “real conservatives” in The Morning Star says that the conservative philosophy is about values of “liberty and self-sufficiency.” These words sound impressive, but remain undefined by conservatives in general, thrown out as a good sound bite that most people might agree on.
Certainly liberty is good. The primary definition of liberty in the Oxford dictionary is “being free from captivity, slavery, or despotic control…subject only to laws established on behalf of community.”
It is based on the Latin root libertus, made free. From that definition I would have to ask Mr. Anderson from whom are we being freed?
I suspect his answer would be big government, but that poses a few problems. How does that relate to “laws established on behalf of community?”
Laws that protect our environment – clean water, safe food, limits on pollution from automobiles – and the necessary institutions to sustain those. Laws that protect our citizens and the institutions needed for that protection – police, firefighters, emergency medical personnel. Laws and institutions that safeguard working conditions for the majority of Canadians, and assist them when injured, ill, or laid off.
Laws that guarantee that when a person is ill, they will be able to obtain medical help whether they are rich or poor. Laws that guarantee – at least to a limited degree – that the elderly retired citizens, who have contributed to this country all their lives, will have some modicum of resources to feed and clothe themselves in their later years.
The connection and question for the conservative thinker here is, are we to be “liberated” from all those annoying laws “established on behalf of community” because of some misguided belief in “self-sufficiency?”
Are we really self-sufficient?
I like to think that yes I am self-sufficient that I have made my own way in the world, that I can do it on my own, but I am only lying to myself when I think that way. No one is self-sufficient. We all depend on other people throughout our lives for everything from the mundane to the extra-ordinary.
Good financial fortune may be seen as a sign of self-sufficiency, but that good financial fortune depends on so many interactions with so many other people – your boss, your employees, the state of the real estate market, the state of the economy in general, the laws that allow you to keep much of what you earn – laws that enable corporate greed.
No one is self sufficient. No one is “self-propelled” (an aside to the outdoorsy green movement). Everybody relies on a myriad of other people with many other skills in order to have what they believe they are achieving on their own.
Certainly there is a thing called individual initiative, but there is also a thing called circumstances. Circumstance plays a large role. The circumstances of poverty, ill health, racial prejudice, lack of education, work lay offs through a poor economy – or an economy being placed overseas in Asia – circumstances of mental health, drug addiction, peer pressure – old age is a circumstance we all face sooner or later – all these “circumstances” are frequently beyond an individual’s control.
If I am to vote for a government I will vote for one that will provide services to my fellow citizens, whether I need those services or not. I am not self-sufficient, never have been never will be, even though my ego would like to think otherwise.
What I have has depended on an enormous number of other people. I have nothing to be liberated from, other than the dogma of the illusory and socially crippling idea of the “liberated self-sufficient” individual.