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It is my goal in life to figure out who I am and what I stand for.

A big chunk of this essence has to do with the question of where my political identity lies. It’s easy to try and place oneself on the political spectrum once the basic ideals are understood; am I a liberal or conservative? In tenth grade, I immediately clicked with the left, and have stayed (generally) there since. What I am finding out as life progresses, however, is that politics is not that simple, that stark. There are a multitude of problems to ponder, and Harvey’s text on neoliberalism once again jumpstarted that internal pondering. Why do I consider myself a liberal? To answer that, I have to explore why I don’t fit in with the conservative side of things. Conservatives enjoy the preservation of the status quo; things that were should always be. I like change – a lot. I rearrange the furniture in my room around at least six times a year. I naively supported Obama because he was different (that is not to say that I didn’t like his policies). Technology is so intriguing to me simply because it changes so often. Granted, these are surface examples, but they illustrate the fact that I am not someone to sit and enjoy the status quo. Things can always be changed, Improved, streamlined. I am a strong progressive in every sense of the word. Social liberalism is also important to me. Conservatives tend to look at things with an “every man for himself” attitude. It is a pessimistic view; to a conservative, a bum on the side of the street is one hundred percent at fault for his lot in life. I, on the other hand, tend to look at the world as a global community. We’re all in this together, and we should help our fellow man in every way that we can. (That’s not to say we should help every single bum on the street – it is an overarching view that should define general policy, not individual cases). I believe in regulation. Regulation generally has a positive impact on citizens and the market. It allows for safety to be observed, and guards against shady business practices. Deregulation, according to Harvey, is one of the fundamental principles of neoliberalism, and neoliberalism leads to a gap between the rich and the poor. This must be paired, however, with the understanding that this new economic paradigm pulled the United States out of a recession – but at what cost? A conservative would say that the rich deserve to be rich – it’s the only fair way to operate. Perhaps they do “deserve it” if they worked hard for it, but these statistics have to be taken into account: ‘…the net worth of the 358 richest people in 1996 was equal to the combined income of the poorest 45 percent of the world’s population – 2.3 billion people.’ Appalling statistics like these make me actually ponder the virtues of communism. I would like to say that I believe in the concept of big government, but my conceptions are constantly being challenged. Having a robust, strong federal government (in theory) allows for strong infrastructure, effective public education, expansive public facilities and more of the public services we take for granted. However, it is common knowledge that Washington doesn’t always use tax dollars effectively. On the other hand, privatization of these sectors means that they are driven by the invisible hand, greed. This leads to corporations holding a stake in everyday life, and, conceivably, monopolies (which must lead back to government regulation). Which is right? It seems to me as though we’re picking between the lesser of two evils. The
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lesser of the two, in my opinion, is government. Better to have a strong government than an increased gap between rich and poor. Is neoliberalism a good economic model, a perfect mixed economy? I would argue no. Karl Polanyi is quoted in Harvey’s text as enumerating good freedoms and bad freedoms having to do with privatization. Among the good: ‘freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, freedom of meeting, freedom of association, freedom to choose one’s job.’ Among the bad: “…freedom to exploit one’s fellows, or the freedom to make inordinate gains without commensurable service to the community, the freedom to keep technological inventions from being used for public benefit, or the freedom to profit from public calamities secretly engineered for private advantage.” The key here is whether or not big government and regulation can produce the “good” freedoms mentioned above. I think the potential is there. I don’t know about you, but the bad freedoms seem to exist in our culture today. Look at Goldman Sachs, BP, the Lehman Brothers, and others. In the end credits of the Will Ferrell and Mark Walberg comedy ‘The Other Guys,’ astounding statistics are listed, detailing the rise of shady business practices in our culture today. If only my internet was working, I would list those statistics here – but technology is kind of shady sometimes. (Google it to get the full effect!) Conservatives tend to sit on the side of the fence that encourages minimal government interference and deregulation, along with neoliberalist capitalism. It is the kind of system that, from a certain point of view, plays host to a wealth of individual and corporate freedoms, but it also widens the poverty gap. I’m not necessarily saying socialism or capitalism are better fits, but I think liberals would argue that the government can do a good job of reigning in the corporate greed and providing ample support for the individual. As stated above, there are no easy answers when it comes to discerning one’s political identity. I have tried to puzzle through some of my questions and feelings in the above text. I don’t believe that I’ve arrived at one definitive answer, but I think I can posit the fact that the neoliberalist paradigm is flawed. Different ideas should definitely be explored.

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