Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Liberalism: treating the symptoms, ignoring the disease

Imagine you break your leg. You go to the emergency room and the doctor gives you an examination. "Well, you're clearly in pain," she says, "so let me take care of that for you." She gives you a couple Vicodin and goes off to treat the next patient. Do you take the drugs and happily limp home, pleased that your condition has been treated? Or do you yell after the departing doctor, "Hey, I'm glad it doesn't hurt anymore, but what about that broken bone in my leg?"

Liberal democrats (a group that is largely synonymous with capital-d Democrats of the party) are doctors that prescribe Vicodin but ignore fractures. They look at the country, or the world, and they clearly see there are problems. The liberals want to do something about them.

So what do they do? Well, consider war. There is a war going on in Iraq, if you hadn't noticed, that has killed more than a million people. Most liberals oppose the war, and rightfully. They want the troops brought home. But then the liberal Barack Obama's platform says this:
Barack Obama will work to solve the military's recruitment and retention crisis by asking Americans to serve in the military, increasing the size of the Army by 65,000 troops and the Marines by 27,000 troops, and properly training and equipping our troops to face the battles of the 21st Century.
Obama, and the liberals in general, are not anti-war, they are anti-this war. He actually wants to increase the killing power of the military. Liberals proudly oppose the Iraq War without recognizing that it is only a symptom of the militarized warfare disease. To treat the disease would mean not just bringing home combat troops from Iraq, but closing all of the nearly one thousand military bases we have in over a hundred countries worldwide. It would mean reducing the size of the Army and Marines. But liberals are only concerned with the symptoms, not the disease.

Or look at the ongoing economic crisis. Following the Federal Reserve's support of corporations, Hillary Clinton quipped:
If the Fed can extend $30 billion to help Bear Stearns address their financial crisis, the federal government should provide at least that much emergency help to families and communities to address theirs.
Families and communities are suffering under profit-driven investment capitalism and the liberal solution is, of course, to help them get through it. And we all want for people who are being hurt to get better. But once again, Clinton wants to treat the symptom of the the disease that is capitalism. Families and communities have a financial crisis because the system worked as it is supposed to: people with money using any means possible to try to make as much more money as they can. Profit motive, the driving force of capitalism, caused the crisis. But there will never be a word spoken about, say, the entire concepts of profit, interest, and rent being nothing more than means of the already rich getting richer by exploiting poor people without actually doing any work. This is because liberals aren't interested in curing the disease, if they even know it exists, because they are busy relieving the symptoms.

The dichotomy between liberals (who treat symptoms) and radicals (who treat diseases) is stark, but it is not too stark. There would be no problem if the doctor set the broken bone and gave you Vicodin for your pain. But we can't confuse the latter for the former, or pretend that somehow treating the pain over and over again will eventually heal the bone.


  1. Good post. The welfare state is like the working people getting a few crumbs back from the lorries full of bread daily nicked off us!

  2. That is not a criticism I think is justified. The welfare state is indeed merely treating the symptoms, but as long as we still have a capitalist market economy, treating the symptoms is better than letting the people that economy harms suffer even more. The cure is not the elimination of the welfare state, but the elimination of the capitalism that necessitates it.