The liberal, or as Hillary would say, progressive/conservative fault line is no less with us today than it was nearly seventy years ago, when I was a student in elementary school and returning home at night when I would hear my father berate Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s newly minted progressive social policies intended to alleviate the plight of Americans hit hard by the depression.
Today the progressive/conservative fault line is world wide. In France and Germany, we are told that students are being forced to undergo "a dangerous indoctrination." They are being raised on a "diet of prejudice and bias, taught that [conservative] economic principles such as capitalism, free markets, and entrepreneurship are savage, unhealthy, and immoral."
Free markets, these students are led to believe, are most of all supported by reactionary, conservative governments, such as that of the United States. Planned, highly regulated economies with "liberal" and extensive social safety nets, such as those of France and Germany, are much to be preferred.
The irony is that the victors of the Cold War have not fully shed the influence of the former Soviet Union. Even in the United States the presidential candidate, John Edwards, no less than the Soviet apparatchik then and the teachers in the French and German schools now, sees the American capitalist as exploiting the working man for the benefit of the super rich.
Elsewhere in the world, and especially in the Far East, which perhaps holds the future of civilization in its grasp, the free market is still alive and well. We learn, for example, that in India, that democracy of over one billion souls, Tata Motors has just made the world’s cheapest car, thereby bringing the family car to families up until now without. Probably not something the Indian government, or any government would ever have done.
But even here, when people so obviously benefit, the liberal/conservative fault line is no less in evidence. There are plenty of those who, knowing what’s best for the rest of us, loudly decry the additional pollution, the additional traffic congestion, the continuing neglect of mass transit systems, that the Tata people’s car promises.
But more numerous, certainly, are those who will quietly celebrate the placing of the car well within the economic reach of millions of Indian citizens. In this case, as in many others, the liberals would free the roads, the conservatives the people.
But of course the right is not entirely on either side. In fact, when will our politicians get it, that there is only one place to be, that there is no either/or, liberal or conservative, only a middle ground from which a cost/benefit analysis will usually determine which action to take, while, in this instance, being sure that the benefits to the individual of owning a car, no less than the costs to all of us of additional cars on the road, are not ignored.