Beyond liberal and conservative values

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Beyond liberal and conservative values


When “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010” was published earlier this year, an intense debate was ignited between liberal and conservative intellectuals. Charles Murray, a researcher at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote about the division and exclusion of Caucasian-American society. According to Murray, white Americans in the top 20 percent income bracket live in a completely different world from the bottom 30 percent. Rich Americans live clustered in exclusive neighborhoods. The poor are virtually isolated in the slums of the big cities. Murray points out that the geographical and cultural divides between the two classes are already deep.

Murray alleges that “hard work, honesty, marriage and spirituality” are the four fundamental values on which the United States was founded. While the upper class still maintains these values, they are lost in the lower class. He argues that upper-class Americans should break out of the selfish attitude of enjoying their own lifestyles and be more proactive in propagating these values. In order for the U.S. to get over the crisis, citizens need to go back to these basic values. Murray’s theory is classic conservative rhetoric that finds individuals to be the cause of the nation’s problems. Naturally, the book was met with intense criticism from liberals.

If conservatives believe in the free will of individuals, liberals believe in reform of the social structure. When a problem arises, conservatives blame the individual rather than the society, while liberals would say society is responsible. Conservatives value liberty and competition, but liberals stress coalition and coexistence. As a result, conservatives tend to be individualistic and religious, while liberals tend to be social and secular.

If a ship tips to the side, whether left or right, it will capsize. In order for a society to continue its voyage, it needs to maintain a balance between the liberal and the conservative. But the most important value is equality before the law.

If the yardstick of the law is corrupted and warped by influence, society will get into trouble in any administration. Key figures in the Blue House are allegedly involved in the illegal surveillance of civilians, and even the law seems powerless against Samsung’s might. In reality, the law seems to have double standards. If power and money rule over the law, what does it mean to advocate conservatism or liberalism?

* The author is an editorial writer and traveling correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok

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