The Advantages and Disadvantages of Embracing Liberalism

green brick wall with left and right arrows

Political beliefs involve questions about how society should work, especially how the government should operate. Liberals support equality more than freedom and order (conservatives). They support the use of government power, including restrictions of liberty in some cases, to promote equality. Liberals resist promoting their ends in a way that challenges basic institutions.  This sometimes leads them to be challenged by leftists.  

Political Beliefs

People have a range of beliefs. “A belief” is having trust and confidence that something is true.  You might believe what a parent or friend says without immediate proof that it is true. 

Political beliefs involve questions about how society should work, especially how the government should operate.  These beliefs help us decide who to vote for at election time.

Liberals and Conservatives 

I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.

Will Rogers

We can view political beliefs as a range of understandings about how society should operate. Some people lean toward the right and some lean toward the left. The right side is conservative, the left side is liberal.  This is called the “political spectrum.”

In today’s political system, Democrats as a whole are more liberal while Republicans are more conservative.  Each party has a range of beliefs, so there are conservative, moderate, and liberal-leaning Democrats and Republicans.  A “liberal,” however, is usually a Democrat.  

What Do Liberals Believe?  

A typical way used to divide people into political groups is to look at how they look at questions involving freedom, equality, and order.  Everyone thinks these things are important in some fashion.  But, sometimes we have to make choices when they conflict.   

Liberals strongly support equality.  They might not want to “defund the police,” but they are concerned about how they unequally enforce crime.  Protections should be provided to criminal defendants, even if there is a chance this will make it somewhat harder to fight crime.  

When liberals support freedoms, they often argue that freedoms are also important to promote equality.  Abortion rights, for instance, are important to maintain sexual equality.

Civil liberties are freedoms such as free speech.  Civil rights protect equality.  We also have social and economic rights such as public schooling.  Liberals believe all are very important.  

Liberals are often religious but argue that church and state are best protected by being in separate spheres.  Democracy is about an equal right to vote, which includes limiting the power of money in politics.  Personal firearms are acceptable but should be strongly regulated.  

Regulations sometimes can limit freedom.  But, liberals believe that as a whole their political program is the best way to promote happiness for society as a whole.  They also believe we share an interest in a peaceful world with other nations, including environmental concerns.  

Liberals also believe some with stronger left-leaning beliefs go too far.  Liberals support a more moderate approach.  But, they support change if it will lead to a beneficial result.  

Benefits of Being A Liberal 

A liberal supports many beneficial things.  Equality is right up there in the Declaration of Independence, correct?  Equality is front and center.  We fought the Civil War to promote it.

Civil rights movements in recent decades have provided a range of liberal victories. Racial equality, sexual freedom, and a stronger social safety net (social security, health care) are now strongly supported.  Civil liberties are a basic aspect of constitutional liberty.  

Liberalism also provides a moderate path to deal with the troubles of the modern world without using full-fledged socialism or communism. The government has expanded but liberals follow a middle-of-the-road approach with the checks and balances that limit possible problems. 

And, this includes when we look at our dealings with the world as a whole.  A small nation of George Washington’s day reasonably avoided worldly entanglements.  This is not possible today. Two world wars and their aftermath showed the need for a liberal-minded foreign policy.  

The Troubles of Being A Liberal 

President Washington supported the more conservative Federalist Party.  He believed that the Jeffersonians did not accept the need for restraint and order.  Washington did not like the level of criticism applied against him and thought it unfair and unjust.  

Tradition provided a settled path that experience showed was safe. The French Revolution showed the dangers of too much freedom and equality (remember the Reign of Terror from history class?). 

Complete equality was dangerous; there was an elite with a level of knowledge and wealth who had special abilities to lead society.

Liberals trust too much in reason and the inherent goodness of the people. 

Conservatives argue that morality plays an important part, including a need for government-backed religious rights. Change should come very slowly, including altering long-term traditions such as marriage.  

Society requires a strong hand.  A strong military and police are necessary to protect the people.  Foreign policy should follow this same principle.  And, such foreign policy should be concerned with the good of the United States, not some vague “international world order.” 

Conservatives are not the only critics of liberals.  Libertarians argue liberals restrict freedom too much.  Human freedom benefits us all and non-governmental methods such as the “invisible hand” of the free market are the best path as compared to the regulations of liberals. 

Populists support order and equality while accepting more limits to freedom.  They argue a strong leader is important to protect American interests.  Populists warn that liberals are not concerned enough about American values.  Populists are more likely to be isolationists.  

Leftists argue liberals are too moderate and rely too much on current institutions. Liberals should be even less concerned about order and be willing to change society more quickly.   

Personal Thoughts 

Politics is a matter of weighing competing interests.  There are rarely simple answers to fundamental questions when there is room for wide disagreement.  

No one political ideology has all the answers.  I have certain political leanings. I don’t deny it.  But, I do believe that as well.  We should look at the pros and cons of each ideology.

Teach and Thrive

A Bronx, NY veteran high school social studies teacher who has learned most of what she has learned through trial and error and error and error.... and wants to save others that pain.