Make An Educated And Responsible Choice On Election Day

Scott Krummey

So, dear reader, who are you going to vote for on November 2? Great choice, well done. Now quick! Name three policies of the candidate that you support. I ask this not because political thought is too often confused with emotion (because it is), but because lately I have been more aware of the fundamental liberal and conservative clash of ideologies. Although this is the peak of the campaign season, I would rather muse through some recent happenings in my Liberal Arts Education for the twenty-first Century that have provoked examination of my own ideological stances. Hopefully, I can do the same for you. So what are the principle ideologies of liberals and conservatives? What are the differences? A few months ago I heard a simple analogy that captures the essence of these questions. Pretend there is a town in which there are two farmers (no, not Hamilton). Each of the farmers owns two cows from which they live. One day, one of the farmers’ cows die, while the other farmers’ cows remain healthy. A liberal response: the farmer with two cows should give one of his to the other farmer because he has none. A conservative response: So what?! Although overly simplistic, this allegory touches on deeper ideological differences between liberals and conservatives. One such difference – the role of government in the lives of its citizens – was addressed in the Professor Debate last month between Professor Kraynak and Professor Wagner. Professor Kraynak spoke of ordered liberty, the need for balance of limited and defined government to ensure personal freedoms. Professor Wagner described the role of the government to include the duty of the government to provide assistance and participate in other humanitarian causes, implying a broader governmental role in everyday life. Which ideas are rights that should be guaranteed a central government: Education? Health care? Retirement wages? Unemployment wages? A minimum income-level? Surely, when programs are government-run, everybody has a share in paying for them – which raises a broader query: Is everybody better off when working towards the good of the larger whole, or when motivated by the prospect of personal property? Opinion on the role of government stems from an even more fundamental view of the nature of humans. In particular, the modern divide between this issue was echoed in a Challenge of Modernity discussion of the writings of T.H. Huxley and Andrew Carnegie. In his essay “Evolution and Ethics,” Huxley contends that humans have the responsibility to each other to create a certain level of comfort for all, to resist the competition associated with evolution. He argues that progress occurs through the advancement of the entire society, the “survival of the most.” In contrast, Carnegie maintains that Darwin’s survival of the fittest paradigm has real implications to society – that personal competition is what provides incentive for production and drives an economy. Further reduced, why do some people accumulate vast amounts of wealth while others go hungry? Can this be justified by an innate ability or desire translates to wealth? Should those who are so blessed have to subsidize the lives of those who do not work as hard or who are not as qualified? As we approach New York State Political Awareness Day (tomorrow!) it is easy to have a purely emotional reaction to politics. Emotion is certainly part of political orientation, but don’t fall into the trap where it is the only element. So much is spoken about the current condition of America – the disputes and interpretations of the facts are confusing and endless. I urge you to step back from the melee of information before you vote in November (especially if you are one of the ten undecided voters left). Give some consideration to not what currently is, but what you think should be.