The competition/cooperation divide leads to the three divides I covered in earlier articles (parts I, II and III of Why I am a Liberal):
> Tradition vs. Modernity - Fear keeps conservatives in thrall to tradition, which they protect against competitive new ideas. Hope makes it easy for liberals to accept modernity and to cooperate with proponents of new ideas
> Money vs. People - Fear of changing the power structure leads to conservatives championing money. This is easy for them because they probably benefit from the current competitive power structure. Hope leads liberals to advance the needs of people, most of whom do not benefit from the current power structure. They hope to introduce a little cooperation, especially with those that are powerless
> Self-Interest vs. Public-Interest - Fear, competition and self-interest go together. Conservatives fight for what they deem to be their self-interest. Liberals fight for their self-interest too, but not as strongly as conservatives. Liberals cooperate with others for the public-interest because they hope this effort will help all of us
The competition/cooperation divide shows up in at least 3 other divides;
> Individual vs. Community
> Unilateralism vs. Multilateralism
> War vs. Peace
INDIVIDUAL VS. COMMUNITY
Conservatives believe in rugged individualism. A rugged individual competes with others in order to achieve success. Conservatives have succeeded in making no-holds-barred competition the secular religion of the U.S. The conservative view that competition makes you better, smarter, richer, a winner and a success is the prevailing view.
The prevailing view also is that there is a conflict between the individual and the community. Here in the U.S. the individual is supreme. The individual is not bothered by what others think, say or do. He has a right to do as he wishes. He is not subject to group think.
Liberals like me say that there is no true conflict between the individual and the community. An individual has rights. But he also has the responsibility to assure that the exercise of his rights does not conflict with the health of the community. There is no idealism here. What is good for the community is good for individuals in the community.
The liberal adds a little cooperation with his communities to his competitive individualistic activities.
The conservative also knows the value of cooperation. He gets together with like minded people in a self-interest group in order to achieve common goals. But this is nothing but a sophisticated way to increase the competitiveness of individuals. A true liberal seeks to find ways of helping other groups besides his own in an effort toward a more egalitarian society.
UNILATERALISM VS. MULTILATERALISM
Conservatives, who are individualistic and competitive, think in self-centered terms. The whole world revolves around them. They believe in unilateralism in foreign affairs. The most important nation is our country and we must do whatever we think is right, regardless of what any other country says or does.
Unilateralism takes two forms: Isolationism and unprovoked attack. There were times in our history when conservatives claimed that it was best for the U.S. to not get involved in any way in the affairs of other nations. Let us just take care of ourselves, they said. Today, they say the same thing: Let us take care of ourselves. No need to worry about other nations or the UN. We set our own goals and if we want to attack another country we do it.
To conservatives, the U.S. is the center of the world. They cannot see what their preemptive warfare policies do because they do not look. One glimpse would show that their policies are devastating not only to other countries but even more so to the U.S.
Cooperative liberals think about the needs of other people besides themselves. When liberals extend their concept of community to the world stage, they see that we must do more in cooperation with other countries. We must use multilateralism in almost all our endeavors. Together, we - the nations of the world - can solve horrendous problems.
WAR VS. PEACE
Conservatives have a strong competitive attitude. I am right and you are wrong. My country is right and your country is wrong. They are constantly fighting this way. And when other countries disagree, they label these countries enemies.
Isn't this the we got into the war with Iraq?
Conservatives have succeeded in making us think always in terms of competition and war. If ordinary economic competition does not work, we go to war. U.S. is the greatest arms merchant in the world. A tremendous part of our budget is devoted to war. The military-industrial complex beats all other interests. When negotiating with other countries we use the promise of arms to get our way. When we sign a treaty, the next thing we do is sell arms to the other treaty signer.
Since Bush has gotten into office he has kept up a steady drum beat on arms, defense, terrorism, homeland security and war. He even used the "liberation" of Iraq as a reason for the Palestinians and Israelis to seek peace.
Liberals seek to talk about peace, not war. They are not against protecting ourselves from terrorists and nations that attack us. Everybody agrees that you must protect yourself from criminals and aggressors. However, you cannot produce peace through war.
Instead of peace being the absence of war, liberals say war is the absence of peace. The primary subject under discussion should not be war but peace. How do we go about achieving peace? What institutions do we need (not defense departments)? What sort of companies would be helpful (not arms merchants or defense consultants)? What sort of laws do we need? What sort of treaties should we write (not arms selling)?
I am a liberal because I have hope for the future of the U.S. and the world. I believe that cooperation inside the U.S. to produce community and outside U.S. in the form of multilateralism can help reduce terrorism and increase harmony. A cooperative approach is more likely than a competitive approach to lead to true world peace.