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Is America Necessary? Conservative, Liberal, & Socialist Perspectives of United States Political Institutions

By Henry Etzkowitz; Peter Schwab | Go to book overview

1 Where do I stand?
The political process from three perspectives

In this part of Is America Necessary? we will show how conservatives, liberals, and socialists each view the American political system from different premises. Partisans of these groups have conflicting assumptions about how American political institutions should operate and what their goal's should be; in fact there is even disagreement on the fundamental question of which institutions in America are political. Uncovering these often hidden premises and assumptions is the task of the student.

We will not analyze in full the position of conservatives, liberals, and socialists towards political institutions in this part of the book. We will, however, describe the over-all framework used by each in their analysis of the political system. Students must proceed from that point to develop a more complete understanding of how different ideologies, (people's ideas of how society works based on their self or class interest) view American political institutions. The next task of students is to relate their own political ideas to the positions of conservatives, liberals, and socialists. The purpose here is not to develop a definitive and final statement of political principles but to clarify and bring forth one's own political premises and assumptions for self-examination. The authors hope that this process will enable students to be more aware, effective, and active in developing and translating into action their own political concerns.

Conservatives maintain that government must tend to its own concerns and that industry must be left alone to concentrate on making money. Since corporations are fundamental to American society, it is in the interest of every member of society to see that they are productive, profitable, and stable. The role of government is mainly to protect Americans from foreign and domestic threats, not to ensure that the social and economic needs of Americans are met. Individuals, through volun­s tary group organizations, must do what they can to solve their own problems--government is not a problem solver. According to conservatives, political problems in the 1970s exist because government has tried to do too much for too many people with the result that most Americans have become pleasure seekers who have lost their moral and individualistic underpinnings. Such Americans believe the world owes them a living. If these people would only return to the frontier spirit of rolling up their sleeves and working for what they want, rather than waiting for government to give it to them, the American political system would be relatively problem-frees.

In contrast, liberals believe that government exists to insure political rights and to maintain a decent standard of living for American citizens. They hold to the philosophies of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin D. Roosevelt1, that a strong government must protect the people from abuses that corporations will engage in if left alone. Liberals separate the political system from the economic order in their analyses of American political institutions. The essence of liberal thought is that that government is best which acts to protect people from abuses. Government is the American citizen's best friend: it

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