Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
Conservatives, Liberals, RadCons, and now RadLibs
Published on July 28, 2004 By Draginol In Democrat

Robert Reich has a new book that talks about the principles of liberalism, conserativism, and adds a new category "radcons". It's an interesting, if self-serving, look at things.  I say self-serving because he seems to imagine that the Democratic party is being run by the warm fuzzy liberals he describes.  But is that the case? Perhaps he should add one more category -- Radlib. Because apparently, in Reich's mind, based on his book and interviews, the radicals are all on the right.  Reich is fairly far-left.  Don't get me wrong, I like the guy.  When I see him debate the "RadCon" Sean Hannity I cringe because Reich comes across as very reasonable while Hannity seems to want to lump all liberals as tree hugging nuts. But I do suspect he is much further to the left than  he believes.  How can you tell? I use the "Bill O'Reilly" litmus test.  If you're describing O'Reilly as a radical conservative, you're probably pretty far left. Far left people tend to view those with any non-liberal views as conservatives just as far right-wingers tend to view anyone who believes in any liberal views as a liberal.

Let's look at the principles:

Issue RadCons Conservatives Liberals Radlibs
Religion Religious values should be imposed on society for its own good. Fuzzier line between church and state. Let local communities decide. Church & State should be kept separate but should be respected. Religion has no place in public life. Morality is subjective.
Economics Concentrated wealth in private sector benefits society. Slightly regulated economy strikes good balance. Heavily regulated economy strikes good balance. Concentrated wealth in public sector benefits society.
Foreign Policy Utilitarian view - work with existing institutions if they obey US wishes or work unilaterally if they don't. Prefers to work alone to avoid complexity of messy allies. Work to build international law and institutions to create a stable world of individual nation states. Act alone as last resort. Very strong international institutions and laws. International law supersedes US law when "necessary" (Kyoto, ICC, etc.). Act alone only as the very very last resort. Work to build a single world government where the US is just one state amongst many.
Society Government has no business providing "welfare". Self-reliance is the key to prosperity for citizens. Government should provide a basic safety net of temporary assistance to those down on their luck. Health care should be provided by private sector. Government should provide social insurance to help those down on their luck and basic health care to all citizens. Government should dramatically re-distribute wealth to ensure equality amongst citizens.
Trade Trade should only be done where it's to the benefit of US industry. (No free trade with China for example). Free trade amongst nations playing by the same trade rules. Less concern with how products are manufactured. Regulated trade amongst nations that adhere to the same internal regulations US companies have to abide by. Trade should only be done where it's to the benefit of US workers. (No free trade with China for example).

I added Trade since I felt that one needed to be broken out on its own.

The problem with Reich's principles is that he seems to want to pretend that the Rablibs a) don't exist and don't have significant influence.  I can't blame him for wanting to do that since it defeats his central thesis -- that most Americans are liberals and therefore the Democrats should win elections.  Democrats have both camps in there, fighting it out. Nader has managed to draw some of the Radlibs away but most have remained as part of the Democratic camp this time because of their loathing of Bush.

I'm described as "right of center" and yet I'm liberal on 2 of the 5 issues stated above (Religion and Trade).  So if a "conservative" like me is liberal on nearly half the issues, then it's reasonable to assume that most Americans are to the left of me and therefore make up the majority. But it's not that simple. The views of the Radlibs are such an anathema to most Americans that given the choice between a candidate that is mostly conservative and one that has a view Radlib views, they'll choose the conservative even if he's to the right of them on some of the issues.

Now, let's look at 3 groups: Bush, Kerry, and Independent voters.

Bush: Religion (RadCon), Economics (RadCon), Foreign Policy (RadCon), Society (Conservative), Trade (Conservative).

Kerry: Religion (RadLib), Economics (RadLib), Foreign Policy (Liberal), Society (RadLib), Trade (Liberal). Based on his voting record/statements.

Independent Voter:  Pretty much on every issue they are just slightly between the conservative and liberal view.  For example, most Americans support affordable prescription drug care.  But the liberals want to provide universal health care which is not supported by any distinct majority.  They don't want religious views being shoved down their throats but on the other hand don't object to having "Under God" in the pledge of allegiance.  And while they prefer to have the UN's approval, want other countries to like us, at the end of the day, would prefer the US act alone than to get clobbered. It's the RadLibs that see America as the greatest threat to the world. Does Reich believe that most Americans share that opinion?

In this election, the problem is that neither Bush nor Kerry represent the views of most Americans.  Bush is considerably further to the right than most Americans and Kerry is quite a bit left of where most Americans see themselves. It will be interesting to see where the cards fall.

As for Reich's thesis, me thinks he's spending too much time debating Radcons and hanging out with Liberals.  Most Americans are neither liberal nor conservative, they fall into that gray area in between. And what has made the Republicans so successful is that the RadLibs have become the most vocal part of the Democratic party in the past 25 years and the more moderate Democrats (liberals) have done nothing to distance themselves from it. 

When a Jerry Falwell says something nuts, the conservatives openly condemn him.  When Trent Lott says something insensitive, conservatives sack him.  But when a Michael Moore trashes America, the liberals applaud him.  When former Klansman, Robert Byrd says something outrageous in congress, the liberals salute him.  And for that reason, the Republicans have managed to become the majority party.  Because while the majority of Americans may have very centrist views, the Democrats have embraced the worst of the RadLibs while Republicans have managed to show more ethical spine in dealing with their more "radical" members.


Comments (Page 1)
on Jul 28, 2004
Well at least the RadCons and RadLibs agree on one thing; their stances on Trade. They just agree for different reasons.
on Jul 28, 2004
On that scale I wobble between RadCon and Conservative, with the exception of Church and State, where I lean more liberal.

If what has been projected at the convention is what Democrats think Kerry is, all Bush needs to do is advertise his voting record. Heck, I don't think most Democrats even realize what the party platform is.
on Jul 28, 2004
I'm sorry I have a problem with this. As a double major in software engineering and political science I don't believe this. If the central thesis to your argument is that Michael Moore gets away with more than Rush then you might have a point. You however have to remember that he is in the minority (party) right now and thereby that protects his freedom of speech (i.e. Rush 92) to a point.

Bush is not a radical conservative on economic issues. His administration has had once of the largest expansion in government after 9/11, probably with good reason, but that being said it was still expansion. Look at the number of people that are employed by the federal government. He has continued much of the Clinton legacy, not Ronald Reagan's. He is also a conservative on foreign policy. He may have went it alone for the most part in Iraq, but he often caves to international pressures.

Kerry is not a radical liberal on religion, support gay rights and abortion, does not make him one. The removal of all none profit status, not ever going to church, and harsh social pressures on the ills of believing would make him one. It has been established (at least it was) that religious influence is not part of the daily life of many, if not most Americans, and this is a divide between church and state. What a proper category might be is Morality instead of Religion.

Believe it or not there are a number of Republicans who are not religious, I used to be one of them. The party however lost me when the Christian Coalition moved into town. I personally have no time for religion, I find that only weak minded people worship or look for direction from "superiors". Not a very Republican ideal...
on Jul 28, 2004
This is a great article. I think that Americans are slightly more conservative than liberal though.

I think that eventually the Democrats are going to dump the far left and move towards the center.
on Jul 28, 2004
Interesting article.

I think for a lot of people, liberal views reflect their sense of "The way it should be", while conservative views reflect their sense of "How it really works".
on Jul 28, 2004
Interesting. Not every political candidate will adhere rigidly to those columns though. The chart is too rigid in my opinion. I understand why the radcon catagory was created. I couldn't imagine adhering to a code that ignores decades of diplomacy, history and trade all for the sake of self interest.
on Jul 28, 2004
" I couldn't imagine adhering to a code that ignores decades of diplomacy, history and trade all for the sake of self interest. "


Clinton, himself, lauded for this diplomacy and loved by the many, said in a speech that the US should intervene internationally only when it was in our direct interest to do so. Compounding the faux pas, this was during the Rwandan horrors. Our trade policies were constantly challenged during his Presidency, especially by EU nations. Radcons aren't the only ones that work on Machiavellian principles.

I think if you look closely, you'll find the there is very little in the way of "diplomacy, history, and trade" that wasn't done out of self-interest, by presidents on both ends of the philosophical spectrum.
on Jul 28, 2004
Of all the major ways to look at international politics, realism is generally the most accurate view to have.
on Jul 28, 2004
While this is a very insightful article, it again sees politics in terms of left and right. As a libertarian, I fall at radcon or radlib, depending on the issues, as do many of my cohorts.
on Jul 28, 2004
The main problem I see is serveral assumptions that he makes:

1. Lots of RadCons believe that religion has no place in government at all and any attempt to create legislation based on religion is a recipy for disaster. (are you listening GWB?) What you're referring to here is not conservativism, it is religion nosing in where it doesn't belong. The founding fathers would all be considered RadCons now, and all of them agreed that religion is not to be in the government.

2. RadCons are not for concentrated wealth. They are for no regulation where it shouldn't be (i.e. Anti-trust is evil by definition). If he actually had an argument that regulation has gotten us anything, it might make sense, but prior to the anti-trust legislation there was NEVER a monopoly (Standard Oil was already the #3 oil producer by the time the anti-trust legislation was passed) AT&T was CREATED by the government, thus ledgislation actually causes the problem it seeks to eliminate.

3. Society: RadCons not only say that welfare is not the business of government, but say that it is an evil concept because it holds the view that people are not able to live their own lives and need help. Further, it steals money from one group and gives it to a group that has not earned it. Just because it's government doesn't mean it's legal.

Democracy is not about the will of the majority. It is about receiving direction on policy while embracing the individual. The constituion is very clear that individual freedom should not be trappled upon. And in EVERY case where it has, regardless of intent, nothing good has come from it. (i.e. Equal opertunity)

My point is that there are a lot of assumptions made both both liberals and conservatives that grids like below are based upon. The problem is, that the assumptions made are illogical and not valid because they are clearly flawed. (i.e. the belief that just because it's the government theft is ok.)

If you took an objectivist and had them take the test below you would get:

Religion: Liberal
Econoics: None of the above, get rid of all regulation and allow capitalisim with all of it's automatic checks and balances that worked for 100 years before the goverment started interfering take hold
Foreign Policy: RadCons
Society: Right of RanCons
Trade: Goverment controlling trade in any way is an evil concept because it interferes with fundamental individual rights. The government does not need to protect Americans from others, we're the best in the world, and we will adapt and always thrive.

When someone points out the contradictions of all 4 of these views, and presents a non-contradictory position that doesn't justify oppression and theft by the government as "the greater good" and allows everyone to live their own lives and to succeed on their own merits, I'll vote for them. Until then, I'll keep spoiling my balot.

George Bush, you really screwed the pooch when you admitted on camera that you thought that you were acting directly on behalf of god. Good way to scare anyone with a brain.
on Jul 29, 2004
When someone points out the contradictions of all 4 of these views


Before income tax was the primary source of revenue for the federal government, tariffs were. It's contradictory to say you were in favor of the 1800s US economic policy but against any trade regulation.

Concentrated wealth in the private sector is the logical consequence of reducing/eliminating economic regulation. Most Americans would rather have government in charge than businesses in charge. I am not a big fan of government regulations, but I know that if business was unregulated to the extent it was in the 1800s, many businesses would exploit people in a harmful way.

When America was founded the vast majority of Americans were independent farmers. Economic regulations weren't needed because the economy was relatively simple.
on Jul 29, 2004
I think your categorization needs some calibrating. For example, you describe Bush as "conservative" on trade, when in fact he's much more liberal than the previous Democratic administration (Steel tariffs, anyone?) He's a classic protectionist.

Wouldn't he also be "liberal" given how he's pushing the prescription drug benefits for seniors, as well?
on Jul 29, 2004
Bush has raised some tariffs, but overall he supports free trade.

I think it would be appropriate to break down "Economics" into tax policy and spending policy. Bush has a very conservative tax policy, but a liberal spending policy.
on Jul 29, 2004
You'll have to talk to Robert Reich.  I just added the RadLib category to his thesis.
on Aug 02, 2004
As far as the chart is concerned, Draginol, I am completely and totally "RadLib" except for the trade issue, which I don't think really fits in as neatly as the others, for instance, you mention the RadLib foreign policy view being "Work to build a single world government where the US is just one state amongst many," so how does that work out with the Trade policy you list?

As I said, personally I agree with every single thing you have listed in the RadLib column, but not that one, I believe that while it's a shame that Americans are losing jobs to workers in other countries, it's a bigger shame that those foreign workers have to do work that an American wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole for the money they get. That's where the world government thing comes in, there to ensure everyone can have decent work and decent pay.

Of course, that's all just idealism, but the point is that I don't really agree with the way that Trade row fits in there, and I don't think most "RadLib" people I know, and I know quite a few, would agree with it either.

I have to say that I don't agree with your assessment of Kerry or the Democrats being "RadLibs," either. I think most "RadLibs" like myself think the Democrats are way too conservative, for our personal tastes of course. That goes for Kerry too, I don't understand how you can list him as "RadLib" under any category. Have you seen the candidate comparison at Billionaires for Bush or Kerry (http://www.billionairesforbushorkerry.org/toolsandresources/comparison.htm)? As far as we're concerned, he's just the lesser of two evils.

Besides all that, conservative and liberal are both way too vague these days, I don't know if you're familiar with the Political Compass (http://www.politicalcompass.org/), but I think that's a much more interesting way to look at things.