This is the first post in my “Side Notes” subseries of the broader “Political Series” of posts on this blog. “Side Notes” will be for when I give my flat opinion on an issue that I don’t believe requires a great deal of dissection and debate.
Is it odd that my first post after the “Rights and Role of Government” post is in the “Side Notes” subseries, rather than something like the “Economics” subseries or the “Race” subseries? Yeah, maybe, but I feel this particular topic should be addressed before going forward. Let’s get started, shall we?
There is something pleasing about putting things in a box. By putting something in a box, you know what it is and where it is. It is either safe and treasured, or it can be forgotten and stored away in a closet. It is compartmentalized. Its contents will not mix with other materials. It is clean. Things can’t get messy, and pieces won’t become lost.
This is not too dissimilar from what we feel happens when we define a concept or term. By putting a box around something, we feel we have solidified it in some way. We have control over it. Fortunately or unfortunately, that is not how language works. Instead we find that the box is made of cardboard, and our concepts and ideas are liquid and leaking through.
So when it comes to terms like “Conservative” or “Liberal,” we may feel we have put a really solid definition on these that are immutable. They aren’t messy, surely. There is always air space between them. If a politician or a policy fails to fit the definition, then that just makes them a bad “X.” However, that just doesn’t work. The definitions of these loaded words change from person to person.
When you think of the spectrum of political thought, the two terms that tend to represent the different sides of the middle point are “conservative” and “liberal,” and they are also often referred to as “right” and “left” wing. But what exactly do these two opposites mean?