Attitude Part 10
Change Or Policy Options
People at each point on the political spectrum have an attitude about changing the existing political system (the status quo) by adopting certain policies or by pursuing certain courses of action. Political change is endemic to any society.
The terms left and right come to us from the French political experience. Those who generally supported the policies of the monarch were seated to his right, and those who proposed changes in the system were arranged to his left. While status quo means the extant conditions, one should take care not to be too literal about it when applied to positions on the spectrum. In this case, it should be understood to obtain only to fundamental things, like deep-rooted beliefs or foundational institutions. If a conservative, for example, wants to change a system in order to make it more conservative or to make it conservative again, the wish for change is certainly conservative and not liberal or reactionary. Put differently, the mere fact that a conservative wishes a superficial change to an institution does not mean he or she is no longer conservative. Such an approach would make the terms we are studying meaningless. The deciding question is, is a particular policy intended to change society or keep it fundamentally the same by learning each group’s attitude about fundamental changes, we will be taking a large step toward understanding what the terms radical, liberal, moderate, conservative, and reactionary mean. Political change can be a very complex subject. With reference to the spectrum of political attitudes, we must actually learn four things about the change or policy option desired. First, we must determine the direction, forward or back, in which a proposed change would carry society. In other words, is the change progressive or retrogressive? At this point, the reader should be on guard. Our society generally has a favorable bias toward progress. This is so because our ideological origins are rooted in eighteenth-century British liberalism, classical liberalism, which advocated progressive change. But, in fact, progress is not necessarily good or bad. It has no intrinsic value at all. Progressive change simply means a change from the status quo to something new and different in that society. Conversely, retrogressive change refers to a return to a policy or institution that has been used by that society in the past. For instance, the adoption of a universal compulsory government medical insurance program in the United States is a progressive policy because most people until 2018 are required to go to the marketplace to buy insurance. On the other hand, one might agree with the majority of the current U.S. Supreme Court that the states of the union are in some ways “sovereign.” Such a stance has been rejected since the Civil War, so reasserting it at this point is quite retrogressive, or reactionary. The watershed between progressive and retrogressive change lies between the conservative and reactionary sectors on the spectrum, and the line between these two sectors can be taken to represent no important change at all, or continuation of the status quo.In other words, everyone to the left of the reactionary is progressive. Even conservatives are progressives in that, although they do not want a great deal of change to the status quo, the change they will allow is a transformation from what currently exists to that which the society has yet to experience. Only the reactionary wants a change from the status quo to something that existed previously. Some people might protest that they consider themselves conservative or liberal, but that on a given issue they prefer a previous institution to them.