Last week I received an email from a close friend since childhood, who happens to be a writer, a staunch Republican, and an Evangelical Christian. He said he’s writing a book about space colonists from Earth who get into a conflict between those who want a free market in their new world, and those who want government control to keep everyone equal. He said he knows the free-market arguments, but was having a hard time with the Big-Government concept. It wasn’t easy to find liberal arguments “for the Obama type of spreading the wealth around”… so we decided to have dinner last night to discuss it. Since my mind works better as a writer than a debater, I decided to send him an email first… to make my views as clear as possible. Here’s that email:
Unfortunately I can’t give you the liberal view of “big government,” because I don’t think there is a liberal view of big government, as I’ll explain below.
Your sci-fi book sounds like a good plot, since there’s always been a battle among (and within) us humans as we try to figure out what’s more important: the rights of individuals to be free or the rights of societies to be stable. And I firmly believe that the two desires or rights have always been at odds with each other. So there’s a great conflict there that could make the basis of a blockbuster book.
I think of humans as “noble-savage” creatures. We have a soul and finer spiritual part of us that flourishes on love, trust, good will, honesty, sincerity, and empathy. That’s the noble part. We also have a savage part driven by hormones and egos that stirs up our fear, mistrust, suspicion, envy, deception, lust, greed, and callousness toward others.
Basically, everyone is both a spiritual (noble) being and a carnal (savage) being.
When the noble side of humans is in the driver’s seat, I believe, it doesn’t matter what kind of religious or political or economic system people live under (Christian, Muslim, Hindu, democratic, capitalistic, socialistic, communistic, authoritarian…); human relationships will always flourish in peace and harmony. In this case, people want to serve each other… to make sure that the needs of the less fortunate are taken care of. They want to be conservators of the environment and stewards of animals. Their behavior is driven by love, good will, honesty, sincerity, and empathy. That’s our noble side at work.
When the savage side of humans takes over, again, it doesn’t matter what kind of religious or political or economic system people live under (Christian, Muslim, Hindu, democratic, capitalistic, socialistic, communistic, authoritarian…); human relationships will break down into chaos and conflict. In this case, people are concerned mostly with the needs and desires of themselves and the groups they belong to. They harbor fear and suspicion toward those around them, they prey on each other for personal gain, they justify the abuse of animals and the environment if they think it’s for a good cause. Basically, I think, their behavior is driven by fear, envy, desire, greed, mistrust, and disregard of (and perhaps a bit of disgust for) the less fortunate. That’s our savage side at work.
That’s my view in a nutshell.
Unfortunately we can’t unravel our human nature to become all noble or all savage (despite the efforts of monasteries and military SOF boot camps, respectively, to do so), so conflict will always be part of human civilization (hence the makings of a great book). Still, I’m a strong believer that the more we can foster our noble side, the better it’ll be for everyone and everything on Earth… and in Heaven.
Looking back through US history, I admire certain political and religious leaders who try to foster the noble side of human nature, who in my opinion include Eisenhower, Lincoln, both Roosevelts, Carter, Johnson, Obama, Billy Graham, Joel Osteen, MLK, and many others.
I don’t like leaders who stir up our savage side. Period. Those who monger fear and intolerance and greed and who advocate violence and conquest, I believe, do a grave disservice to humanity.
So, my good friend, I’m not sure if I can really help you with your project, even though I think you’re onto a great idea. Most novels are built around conflicts between opposing forces, like your idea of free market vs Big Government. That’s what keeps readers turning the page, that on-going conflict that needs a resolution. I can’t give you the liberal views that support Big Government, because I don’t think there are liberal views that support big government. I think “Big Government” is just a slogan being used by politicians to get votes by stirring up people’s fear and suspicion… by stirring up our hormones. Same as “No Taxes,” which stirs up our greed.
Still, I think that opposing forces of free market vs big government could be a popular, compelling book. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed a lot of best-selling fiction books and blockbuster sci-fi movies based on conflicts that seem a little impractical to me… 1984, Animal Farm, Atlas Shrugged & Fountainhead, Star Wars, ET, Ender’s Game, Alien….
Looking forward to dinner,
So we had pleasant dinner last night, prime rib for me, rib-eye steak and baked potato followed by carrot cake for him (how he stays so slim and healthy and vital I can only guess!), and we talked only briefly about my liberal views, which he said would be helpful in weaving the plot for his book. I got to hear about the progress of his kids and grandkids, all of whom I’ve come to love and admire for their creativity and kindness and exuberance for life. I don’t know how we’ve managed to remain such good, close friends through all of the political divisiveness of recent years… but I’m confident that, despite my email, that will not be our Last Supper together.