Thank you for taking the time to read the article and respond. I agree there is an ironic element to the piece — or potential paradox as I describe it in my response to David Butterworth above. I too believe words like “conservative” or “socialist” can be dispassionate observations that accurately describe actual beliefs or ideologies that people hold. However, even to the extent this is true in any given case, simply attaching the label does not function as an actual criticism of anything being discussed. If tax cuts are a good or bad idea, it’s not because conservatives believe it is or liberals believe it isn’t, even if this happens to be true. The reasons the tax cut is wise or foolish will have everything to do with the economic context within which these cuts occur, the populations the cuts are targeting, and the track record of similar policies in the past.
Likewise with things such as universal healthcare. That this was originally a socialist idea isn’t what makes it either a good or bad one. A conservative challenging universal healthcare on the grounds it’s “socialism” may be technically correct, but we all know being correct isn’t what the conservative is trying to be in this case. He’s signalling to others they should oppose the idea on ideological grounds and completely ignoring the merit of the arguments being offered in favor of universal coverage. Even assuming these arguments are flawed, just being a socialist principle isn’t what makes them flawed. Likewise, anyone defending the concept on the grounds it’s a “fundamental socialist principle” isn’t actually addressing the merit of any criticisms or concerns some people may have.
My problem with ideologies as such isn’t that they get everything wrong. It’s that they prevent us from considering problems individually and adjusting our solutions accordingly. So, tax cuts are ALWAYS a good idea or deregulation/regulation is ALWAYS better than regulation/deregulation. The ideology becomes a default position that people go to before all the information is in or the debate has really gotten underway. Ideologies serve as a kind of bell that gets rung signalling the start of a policy boxing match. Upon hearing the appropriate ideological cues everyone goes to their respective corner and prepares to come out swinging. One of the punches that gets thrown is to simply label an idea “conservative” or “socialist” or “liberal”, etc. Often these labels are attached imprecisely or wrongly. Regardless, we should be more concerned that the label is being attached for ideological reasons and to silence debate than we should be about the accuracy of the label itself. Whether something is or isn’t a value shared by a particular ism has no relevance in any sincere debate regarding an idea’s merits.