December 11, 2006 : Monday
LIBERALISM AND CONSERVATISM In the Philippines
Joyce R. Victorino
Liberalism and Conservatism mean different things to different people, places and periods of time. In the Philippine setting, liberalism exists in the form of liberal democracy—which is our form of government, the Republican Democracy, the actuality of the multiparty pluralism and not solely because of liberal parties. Conservatism, on the other hand, also exists in the Philippines on account that our state historically has a Christian nation. But what really is meant by liberalism and conservatism?
Liberalism, according to Wikipedia, is an ideology, a philosophical view, and a political tradition which holds that liberty is the primary political value. Broadly speaking, it emphasizes individual rights. It seeks a society characterized by freedom of thought for individuals, limitations on power (especially of government and religion), the rule of law, the free exchange of ideas, a market economy that supports free private enterprise, and a transparent system of government in which the rights of all citizens are protected. In modern society, liberals favor a liberal democracy with open and fair elections, where all citizens have equal rights by law and equal opportunity to succeed.
Many new liberals advocate a greater degree of government interference in the free market, often in the form of anti-discrimination laws, civil service examinations, universal education, and progressive taxation. This philosophy frequently extends to a belief that the government should provide for a degree of general welfare, including benefits for the unemployed, housing for the homeless, and medical care for the sick. Such publicly-funded initiatives and interferences in the market are rejected by modern advocates of classical liberalism, which emphasizes free private enterprise, individual property rights and freedom of contract; classical liberals hold that economic inequality, as arising naturally from competition in the free market, does not justify the violation of private property rights.
Liberalism rejected many foundational assumptions which dominated most earlier theories of government, such as the Divine Right of Kings, hereditary status, and established religion. Fundamental human rights that all liberals support include the right to life, liberty, and property.
Liberal ideology heavily relies on the notion that human beings are rational individuals who are capable of living freely by reason. Although self-interested and competitive among one another, it is within proper bounds that humans are able to control passions and desires. Liberalism aims for equality in the sense opportunity in the means of competition, success and liberty.
Conservatism, on the other hand, is a political philosophy that usually favors traditional values and strong foreign defense. The term derives from to conserve; from Latin conservāre, “to keep, guard, observe”. Since different cultures have different established values, conservatives in different cultures have different goals. Some conservatives seek to preserve the status quo, while others seek to return to the values of an earlier time, the status quo ante.
There are schools of conservatism namely Cultural Conservatism, a philosophy that supports preservation of the heritage of a nation or culture; Religious Conservatism, which purpose is to seek to preserve the teachings of some particular religion, sometimes by proclaiming the value of those teachings, at other times seeking to have those teachings given the force of law; and Fiscal conservatism, the economic philosophy of prudence in government spending and debt. In other words, a government does not have the right to run up large debts and then throw the burden on the taxpayer; the taxpayers’ right not to be taxed oppressively takes precedence even over paying back debts a government may have imprudently undertaken.
Conservative ideology generally regards liberty as a valuable aspect in life. However, freedom is only considered substantial under certain circumstances. These circumstances are aimed to uphold social order by controlling one’s actions and thinking to be wise instead of a result of an immediate passion. Because of fear of suddden chaos, the idea of liberty does not appeal to conservatives.
With the definitions of these two political ideologies, generally, the Philippines exhibit the marks of a liberal democracy because of the presence of our form of government and the constitution. But in some ways, our country still remains conservative when it comes to our culture and religious beliefs. Furthermore, although the separation of the church and state is declared in our charter, there remain times when the church meddles with the affairs of our government. And our liberal democratic government still honors the opinion of the conservative sector.