Dual ideologies strengthen system

Letter to Editor by Clinton Collins

Adam French presented a thoughtful account of conservatism in his March 30 column. I offer a response.

I, too, count myself conservative for my view that America’s liberal tradition requires constant vigilance for its preservation.

I believe America’s greatest contribution to the history of humanity consists of institutions and forms of government that preserve the basic freedoms of its citizens far more effectively than known alternatives.

But those freedoms face renewed attacks both from the left, who consider America’s traditions too individualistic, and from the right, who believe those freedoms undermine traditional hierarchies.

Both sets of critics judge liberal traditions correctly. Liberal democracy flourishes only by default of other political schemes.

That leaves the course available to conservative liberals such as myself to remind my fellow citizens of the great triumphs of liberal democracy in the world, to the point that it has become a model for many other nations.

But liberal freedom cannot include the conditions where America’s citizens die because of inability to purchase needed health care.

I believe in a personal freedom to end one’s own life, but dying for lack of health care does not provide that freedom.

A person’s freedom does not relieve them of the moral obligation to assist, where possible, their fellows who suffer against their will.

In a huge and complex society such as America today, some of that suffering requires collective action for its effective reduction.

Historically, liberalism has drawn criticism for its enshrinement of the independence of secular institutions from control by religious institutions. But that does not mean that liberalism promotes irreligion.

Indeed, I believe a critical step toward the creation of free societies came when Jesus of Nazareth quickened Jewish traditions that placed individual conscience as a basis for challenging laws.

Liberals hold all laws as subject to challenge, since law becomes a principle means by which governments gain power and control over their citizens.

Governments often try to curtail the rights of their citizens and to expropriate their wealth against their consent.

Conservative liberals lead the way in holding governments to account, and that provides much of the strength of American democracy.

Clinton Collins

UK professor emeritus