Four major political ideologies dominate society: Conservativism, Libertarianism, Liberalism, and Progressivism. These ideologies substantially influence the human services field, both in its implementation and progression, as well as, in its reduction. In viewing these vastly differing ideologies, one must look at the underlying beliefs of each one to understand how they influence, alter, and develop the human services field while also attempting to decide which is superior. In order to understand each ideology, their stances on both equality and the free market shall be discussed.
This will allow one to roperly demonstrate and understand how their followers think, and how their beliefs influence and affect the human services field. Libertarians stand firmly against human services and are staunch anti-collectivists who carry with them an unwavering belief in the free market to provide the most beneficial outcome for society. (Harrison, & Boyd, 2003a, p. 86) In terms of equality, Libertarians believe in equality of opportunity and freedom, however this does not mean they believe in equality of circumstance or outcome. Gerken, 2004, p. 147) In fact, a Libertarian acknowledges that inequality exists, ut believes that it is up to an individual, no matter their beginnings/background, to improve their social position. (Harrison, et al. , 2003a, 94; Gerken, 2004, p. 147)
A Libertarian puts a heavy weight on individual freedom (sovereignty), a freedom to do as one would please without being directly hindered by others, and to act with freedom from coercion (the state is seen as the greatest threat to this freedom). Machan, 2006, p. 88; Gerken, 2004, p. 150; Harrison, et al. , 2003a, p. 101) In keeping with the idea of individual freedom, a Libertarian would believe that the market should be as free as possible limited/no government intervention), and taxes should be kept to an absolute minimum. (Machan, 2006, p. 83) Furthermore, Libertarians believe that the choice in whether/how to aid others in society should be left up to the individual and, consequently, human services should be left solely to the private sector.
Although some Libertarians may support minimal levels of government funded social services, the majority believe that one cannot be made more equal through aid from government funding without hindering the freedom of other individuals. (Gerken, 2004, p. 153-154; Harrison, et al. , 2003a, p. 2, 94) Thus, a Libertarian “.. emphasises freedom as the highest social and political good”, and intervention by the public sector is considered an unwarranted attack on this freedom; a firmer stance than that of a Conservative. (Harrison, et al. , 2003b, p. 86) Conservatives tend to have a pessimistic view of human nature, a sense of tradition, and a belief that radical social improvement is impossible. (Harrison, et al. , 2003b, p. 178-179)
In terms of equality, a Conservative views society as an organic entity which has a natural social hierarchy: “Conservatives see nothing wrong in a hierarchy based on birth, ealth, authority… Conservatives see, therefore, a natural inequality among people in society; caused by the wide and unequal distribution of talents among people. ” (Harrison, et al. 2003b, p. 180) Thus, to a Conservative, trying to equalize the social status of members of society is a futile effort. Conservatives, though not initially, are also strong proponents of the free market, seeing it as an essential prerequisite for other freedoms. (Harrison, et al. , 2003b, p. 184-185) However, Conservatives tend to acknowledge the need for government intervention in times of market failure (ex. Depressions/ ecessions). Ultimately, Conservative policy seeks to strike a balance between an unfettered market and limited social security.
When it comes to human services, Conservatives believe that a welfare state, that seeks to reduce the inequality among members of society, is a fruitless effort that would only encourage social problems by creating a “… socially irresponsible and dependant underclass. ” (Harrison, et al. , 2003b, p. 184; Feulner, 1999) Most Conservatives would contend that though it would be unwise to provide no social services, the assistance provided should be intended for the short-term and hould be made available to those deemed as the “deserving poor”. Feulner, 1999; Lightman, p. 72-74)
Nonetheless, Conservatives do believe that there is a larger role to be played in the private sector when it comes to human services. (Harrison, et al. , 2003b, p. 183; Lightman, p. 63) They believe it is up to the elite to provide an example and aid/empower those in need, and for communities, families, charities, and churches to fill the void of government funded human services; in Conservative residualism, the state should be considered a last resort. (Harrison, et al. , 2003b, p. 0, 184; Olansky, 2000; Feulner, 1999; Lightman, p. 63, 69-76) Unlike Conservatives, Liberals have an optimistic view of human nature and a belief that every individual is unique and has innate rights of equal value. (Harrison, et al. , p. 197)
Modern Liberals realize that poverty and the unjust distribution of private property are the main limitations on the freedom of the common man. (Harrison, et al. , p. 205) Thus, Liberals believe that “… there is an important role for the welfare state to ensure a degree of equality and fairness”. (Harrison, et al. , p. 05) It’s important to note the hrasing “some degree” as Liberals do still believe that benefits exist for some degree of wealth inequality in society (caused by the unequal distribution of talent/ability). (Harrison, et al. p. 206-207)
Though Liberals believe in the necessity of a moderate welfare state, they are still supporters of the free market (seeing it as an essential part of a free society), especially in terms of internationalism and removing walls that would prevent an international free market, and of the right of an individual to engage freely in economic activity. (Harrison, et al. p. 206-208) Nevertheless, Liberals believe in a moderate sum of taxation to fund social welfare programs which, to an extent, may limit the degree of market freedom. Liberals avoid the residualism, voluntary, and family dependent style of human services used chiefly by Conservatives to aid the ‘deserving poor’, instead relying heavily on the state to provide benefits for many; the ‘collective’. (Lightman p. 77)
These benefits reduce the need for individuals to be self-reliant, equalize opportunity, and to an extent, circumstance, while also promoting unity and interdependence in society. Lightman, p. 76) Yet, despite its fforts, Liberalism has thus far failed to provide an optimal solution for issues like poverty; vast financial inequality still persists. (Harrison, et al. , p. 212) More so than Liberals, Progressives tend to be strong proponents of collectivism and the use of social justice to improve society and promote equality. Consequently, Progressives value equality of opportunity and outcome far more than the Libertarian notion of individual freedom.
Often ‘elites’ themselves, Progressives see a need to improve the equality of opportunity and outcome for others through many social services, and stand as the greatest tandard-bearer for their implementation. (PBS Online, 1999) In terms of the free market, as demonstrated by renowned Progressive Teddy Roosevelt, Progressives stand against the traditional free market more than any of the other main ideologies seeing it as a major cause of inequality in society. (PBS Online, 1999; PBS Online, 2009).
Progressive stances that reduce market freedom include limiting big business, government regulation of business, placing land under government protection, and government assistance for labourers. (PBS Online, 1999) However, to a Progressive, these ules and regulations would still result in a free market, perhaps more free than any other, as it would be a market based on ‘fair competition’. (PBS Online, 2009) Progressives’ higher priority is their desire to provide social security and safety through extensive reliance on government funded human services.
Through championing government services/policies such as minimum wage, accident insurance, and federal control over the banking system, Progressives display immense support for government funded human services, a regulated market, and large government. (Mintz, 2006) Thus, Progressives believe that ociety needs to take care of its own as its main priority and that human services should be both plentiful and universal.
Clearly, these ideologies vary substantially in their stances due, in large part, to their contrasting belief of what equality is, what freedom is, and what a free market is, and which of these is most important. As society moves to a more Liberal/Progressive stance, the state funded human services field tends to grow larger, and if society moves more towards a Conservative/ Libertarian stance, the human services field will tend to shrink or even cease to exist.
However, it is evident that there is not ny one universally dominant ideology in society; not all ideas are created equal, not everyone will agree, and in a world that is often less than ideal, it becomes difficult to make definitive statements as to which ideology exudes the ‘right’ answer. Nonetheless, when we have people with vastly different beliefs come together in a democracy, we develop a compromise that, though not perfect, forms a superlative fusion between Conservative, Liberal, Progressive, and Libertarian ideas. A compromise that has historically tended to shift more to the left and increased human services as time has gone on.