In a commentary for Townhall.com, John C. Goodman explains what he believes liberalism to be. Whether he is right or wrong, he does not say what the goal of liberalism is. So, I will.
Liberalism comes in two forms: social liberalism and fiscal liberalism.
In a nutshell, social liberalism is born out of the desire to do anything that one wants without experiencing any unwanted consequences as a result. Fiscal liberalism is born out of the desire to obtain anything that one wants without having to compete for it.
First, let’s examine fiscal liberalism. You may have noticed that some liberals have openly promoted the redistribution of wealth through government action, but why would they do so? Well, the answer is quite simple. If the government were to redistribute wealth, then some parties would receive wealth without having to compete for it.
Normally, people acquire wealth through honest means using a combination of skills, talents and physical labor. However, not everyone has the same skills and talents. Those with more skills and talents tend to succeed in high-paying occupations where such skills and talents are in demand. Those lacking in skills and talents tend to have to engage in more physical labor in order to acquire the wealth that they want. Even then, the use of physical labor may not result in the acquisition of the wealth that skilled and talented people are able to acquire.
The human animal is prone to be an envious animal. When less-skilled and less-talented people see the wealth acquired by more-skilled and more-talented people, the former have a bad habit of becoming envious of the latter. The former want what the latter have, but the former aren’t skilled and talented enough to compete for what the latter have. One way that the former can acquire the wealth enjoyed by the latter is through government-mandated wealth redistribution.
Before continuing, I need to make clear that wealth redistribution has nothing to do with government-provided fiscal safety nets provided to people who are unable to complete for resources because of physical or mental handicaps. Government programs such as SSI, SSDI and Medicare fill a need.
Wealth redistribution isn’t about filling a need. Instead, it is about filling a desire to have wealth that others have acquired through competition in a free market.
So, how does the goal of fiscal liberalism compare to the goal of fiscal conservatism?
Let me put it this way: conservatives want equal opportunity; liberals want equal results.
Conservatives promote a level playing field for all, but a level playing field does not guarantee equal results for all, which is what liberals want. All too often liberals will interpret unequal results as being evidence of a playing field that isn’t level, when in reality the playing field is indeed level.
When a level playing field is used, better-skilled and better-talented people are going to be more financially successful than lesser-skilled and lesser-talented people. That is just the way that life works. The same level playing field can enable all people to acquire what they need, but the human animal is prone to want more than it needs.
It is common for liberals to describe their battle with conservatives as “have vs. have-not,” but that description is incomplete. A complete description is “have-more-than-enough vs. have-not-more-than-enough”. In short, it is a battle born out of envy, sometimes fueled by greed. Granted, conservatives are capable of being envious and greedy, but conservatives will still acquire the wealth that they want though honest means. The trouble comes when liberals wrongfully accuse honest conservatives of acquiring wealth through dishonest or improper means. An example of such was seen during the most recent presidential contest, when liberals verbally attacked Mitt Romney because he had been successful at acquiring a large amount of wealth. Romney’s liberal critics couldn’t point to one thing that he did to gain wealth that was illegal, and yet they vilified him. Barack Obama took the criticism a step further, when he told proprietors of businesses, “You didn’t build that,” implying that those business people hadn’t earned what they had.
Fiscal liberalism isn’t an American invention. It is universal and has existed as long as there have been people. One could say that every person is born a liberal, because children have to be taught to compete for resources. I don’t know who said it first, but I heard it said that a conservative is a liberal who grew up.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be one of the grown-ups.