Skip

You got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative...
January 23, 2012 1:39 PM   Subscribe

What the Right Gets Right and What the Left Gets Right : An experiment in "transideological friendship." What liberals and conservatives think their ideological opposition does well.
posted by crunchland (121 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Read trough the first one, trying to keep an open mind, gotta say there was a lot of "for a given value" prefixs going trough my mind.

Such as for:

It places a high value on “liberty/autonomy.”

It places a similarly high value on “good parenting.”


Then there where things I just couldn't agree with:

It acknowledges “the superiority of market systems for encouraging efficient use of resources.”

and

“They appreciate more instinctively the need for fiscal balance.”



Guess I'll go look at the other one and see what it espouses what I should be like,


BOXES, boxes boxes

we are all in boxes
posted by edgeways at 1:53 PM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I came here to say what edgeways already said.
posted by jepler at 1:56 PM on January 23, 2012


As I sifted through the responses, it became clear that a widely shared view among contemporary conservatives is that liberals are all heart and no head.

That's funny, I feel the same about conservatives.
posted by polymodus at 1:56 PM on January 23, 2012 [21 favorites]


guns, everything else
posted by nathancaswell at 1:57 PM on January 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


New York Times Op-Ed.

Promoting the NYT 'let's make nice and keep the status quo' agenda.

Your argument is bullshit.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:58 PM on January 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


It acknowledges “the superiority of market systems for encouraging efficient use of resources.”


It acknowledges something that is not demonstrably true.
What was it the article writer said about "ideological pap?"
posted by zomg at 1:58 PM on January 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


I miss the good old days of all-head-no-heart conservatives. Nixon was a good example. Most of the current crop seem to have neither.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:58 PM on January 23, 2012 [17 favorites]


I miss the days when Republicans were good at math.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:01 PM on January 23, 2012 [9 favorites]


"They more ruthlessly co-opted people's belief in religion to get more votes"

"They have a keener understanding of people's innate xenophobia and successfully use it to their advantage"

"They are much better at ensuring positive cash flow for those who have positive cash flow"
posted by scrowdid at 2:01 PM on January 23, 2012 [25 favorites]


I can't even read apparently benign phrases like "good parenting" and "small businesses" anymore, they just morph into "no gays" and "tax cuts" before my very eyes
posted by theodolite at 2:02 PM on January 23, 2012 [86 favorites]


So can metafilter do this? What are some things conservatives ARE good at? Asked in good faith.

Problem #1: like all monikers 'conservative' covers too much ground to be used universally.
posted by edgeways at 2:03 PM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Chesterton said it best:

The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected.
posted by ubernostrum at 2:09 PM on January 23, 2012 [23 favorites]


It didn't escape my notice that Rand Paul was a vocal opponent of PIPA/SOPA.
posted by Obscure Reference at 2:12 PM on January 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


The problem with this kind of thing is that it reinforces the fantasy that there are still two reasonable groups, liberals and conservatives, who hold opposing beliefs but are amenable to reasoned argument and compromise. In fact, while this still holds true for liberals/Democrats, conservative/Republicans have become a cult-like extremist fringe group in practice. Perpetuating the fantasy that it has not only serves to empower this fanatical group further
posted by haricotvert at 2:14 PM on January 23, 2012 [22 favorites]


Perpetuating the fantasy that it has not only serves to empower this fanatical group further

It's what the New York Times does best.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:18 PM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


edgeways: It's a tricky question, beacause "good at" and "right about" are such different things. If I read the question as "what are some things that liberals could stand todo as well as conservatives," though, there are a few answer I have in mind.

1. Consensus building
2. Getting their own side unified when something is on the line (very closely tied to #1)
3. Getting the business community on board with their plans
4. Standing firm
posted by Navelgazer at 2:24 PM on January 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


Conservatives (Congress critters and water cooler Joe) are quite good at selling you policies. Its interaction, policy making, and politics as advertising. You can make the sale and win personally, or not the make the sale and not win personally.

Liberals are quite good at showing you policies, and then expecting you to side with them given the preponderance of (really quite solid) evidence backing up their case. Its interaction, policy making, and politics as peer-reviewed science. Given the way conservatives often times present their cases, they're not going to accept the well reasoned argument for two reasons.

First, it would mean that they lose. Second, the liberal has inadvertently undercut his argument by making it well reasoned. He has put in qualifications, rebuttals of contrary evidence, and other things that bring the negatives to light (however vaguely). He has failed in advertising and cannot be allowed to prevail.
posted by Slackermagee at 2:28 PM on January 23, 2012 [11 favorites]


Hitler and Stalin, the original "frenemies".
posted by KokuRyu at 2:29 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


It acknowledges “the superiority of market systems for encouraging efficient use of resources.”

It acknowledges something that is not demonstrably true.
What was it the article writer said about "ideological pap?"


It's true, but only when certain conditions are met. Such as, all market players having the same information, the same resources, and the same desire to make rational decisions. When a market is roughly made up of these things, they function pretty well.

But you need regulations to make sure there's no information asymmetry, or the market's going to get cornered and rigged for those who know. You need to have a progressive tax system, otherwise the players with all of the resources will win every time, like a game of poker where one player has one million dollars in chips, and the rest have about fifty thousand. Even the most fiscally idiotic player can win that game, because they can lose more money more often compared to the others. (One can see how easy it is to arrive at aristocracy.)

The problem is that conservatives are idealistic about economic market theory but unwilling to use government to push markets towards ideal conditions. They're trying to believe two opposite ideas at the same time: markets work, but regulations that keep markets fair and functional don't work. They got away with this change to their platform until the fiscal crisis illuminated the reality of boom and bust cycles in unregulated economic environments. And then the whole nation found out what conservative capitalism means: using socialist-style government intervention to save capitalism from capitalism because we need unfettered capitalism. As Bush said in 2008, "I've abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system."

Eventually, they will have to face the economic realities that they claim everyone else is missing. A nation full of inequality is not nearly as strong as one with a vibrant middle class. An economy focused on exploitation and financial games is not as strong as one based on vibrant domestic manufacturing and investment in education and infrastructure. The question is, how much of America are they going to carve up and sell before the game is up.
posted by deanklear at 2:34 PM on January 23, 2012 [21 favorites]


It acknowledges “the superiority of market systems for encouraging efficient use of resources.”

It acknowledges something that is not demonstrably true.
What was it the article writer said about "ideological pap?"


Well, market systems are a hammer and not everything in life is a nail, but you have to admit competitive market systems have had some high profile successes - for example in the technology industry.
posted by Mike1024 at 2:37 PM on January 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


we are all in boxes

full of ticky tack
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:37 PM on January 23, 2012 [6 favorites]




MetaFilter: my reading trough.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 2:42 PM on January 23, 2012


I love the premise of these two articles. Great post.

I think that we often lose track of the possibility that there are people on the other side of the aisle who, while we may heartily disagree, are smart, capable people who also have the best interests of the country at heart. I keep finding people who have so much to say about what the 'other side' does wrong, when it is clear that this person has done little or nothing to learn about what the 'other side' thinks and why. When you look at the world through an 'us-vs.-them' mentality, it's easy to dismiss 'them'.

As a rhetorical point (no need to post comments here), how often do you read well-written, articulate information by people with whom you disagree? For me, the answer is 'not enough'.

I'm a liberal, but if I ever had the chance to grab a beer with Pat Buchannan, and listen to what he thought and why, I'd jump at the chance. Not because we agree on everything, not because we agree with anything, but because I find that I learn more when I listen to articulate differing viewpoints. I could care less about Anne Coulter, but I'd go to dinner with Ben Stein in a heartbeat.

My $.02.
posted by dfm500 at 2:43 PM on January 23, 2012 [21 favorites]


haricotvert -

It's interesting you should post that. I was just about to post this:

One of the things I think conservatives get right, more so than progressives, is that they understand progressives better -- at least in one limited sense. Conservatives don't, generally speaking, believe that progressives are actually evil. Misguided, sure, but they understand that progressives' motives generally don't boil down to simple malice or greed.

Sure, a lot of rednecks and yahoos identify themselves as conservatives. But a great failing (and maybe THE great failing) of modern progressivism is failing to understand that, yahoos aside, conservative thought represents a longstanding, coherent moral and ideological framework. If, back in the 90s, you were concerned with a welfare system that seemed to reward individuals for not working, it did not necessarily mean that you hated black people. If you're concerned by the wide range of implications presented by uncontrolled illegal immigration, it doesn't automatically mean you hate Mexicans. And one can feel strongly about the right of the unborn to be born without hating women.


And of course, there you can get into the seductive danger of progressivism: It's a lot easier to justify repression and violence if you really and truly believe your opponents are just greedy and evil. I mean, ultimately, they're a menace, right? When they commit violence, it's because, hey, what else do you expect. But when YOU commit violence, well, you know, it's regrettable, but, come one, they're EVIL. It's self-defense!
posted by Alaska Jack at 2:48 PM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


dfm500, I think I love you.
posted by Alaska Jack at 2:48 PM on January 23, 2012


deankler, Vernon Smith won the 2002 Nobel prize for research that seemed to demonstrate the opposite of your assertion -- i.e., that markets tend to function pretty well even when participants have relatively incomplete information.
posted by Alaska Jack at 2:52 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


This link [NSFW] is currently not working, probably due to a high traffic load, but it seems oddly relevant to this discussion.
posted by MattMangels at 2:52 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Great post.

Here's something else the right gets right: Understanding how appealing patriotism is to most people.

And here's something else the left gets right: Humor.
posted by bearwife at 2:59 PM on January 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Here's something that the right gets right: understanding that ideology is a servant and husband of power...
posted by ennui.bz at 3:05 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


The problem with this kind of thing is that it reinforces the fantasy that there are still two reasonable groups, liberals and conservatives, who hold opposing beliefs but are amenable to reasoned argument and compromise. In fact, while this still holds true for liberals/Democrats, conservative/Republicans have become a cult-like extremist fringe group in practice. Perpetuating the fantasy that it has not only serves to empower this fanatical group further

Pretty sure the more popular fantasy is that there's one reasonable group.
posted by michaelh at 3:14 PM on January 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


I've always thought of conservatism as being vital to American politics. Conservatism means caring about fiscal balance, moderating our extreme ideas, caring about the environment (isn't conservation, you know, conservative?), and preventing fraud and criminality. Of course, our current conservative party isn't in any way actually conservative.
posted by fungible at 3:21 PM on January 23, 2012


dfm500: "I think that we often lose track of the possibility that there are people on the other side of the aisle who, while we may heartily disagree, are smart, capable people who also have the best interests of the country at heart."

Of course there are such people. They've largely been read out of the conservative movement. I was a great admirer of Bill Buckley, but who has taken up his mantle in today's politics? I can't remember the last time I read or heard any of the conservative intelligentsia even mention him in passing, let alone claim to be an intellectual descendant.

It seems to me that in today's political climate, if the thoughts of reasonable, conservative intellectuals are published or aired at all, they are drowned out by the cacophony of those who seem more focused on delegitimizing and demonizing anyone who won't toe their line, be they liberal or conservative.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:21 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Republican party has dominated both Houses of the General Assembly in my state since 2003. Here are some things I would give them full points for doing well:

1. Keeping the state budget balanced. (However, there is a constitutional requirement to do so and I believe that was passed sometime within the previous 49 years, during a period when Democrats controlled both Houses of the General Assembly.)

2. Keeping taxes low--our state is something like the bottom 1/3 of states for tax rates. (Though again this position was already well established by the previous 49 year Democratic-controlled period--but the Republicans have certainly kept it there very well.)

3. Representing the interested of the rural part of the state, which is their power base.

4. Consolidating their power.

FWIW, this applies only to the Republican Party within my own state. I give the national Republican Party fully points for yarping to high heaven on Points #1, #2, and #3, but pretty much zero points for actually implementing any of them when they had the chance.

Also, these are things they "do well" but not necessarily things I personally agree with. For instance, I would far rather be in a state with average to above average tax rates, and then also enjoy the average to above average benefits those expenditures bring. We have among the lowest taxes, but also among the worst roads, rank way down in basic community amenities like parks and trails, way down in basic social services like basic health, mental, and dental care for low income residents, and so on and on for all the things government can do to make the state a decent place to live and work.
posted by flug at 3:22 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


What's funny is that even if you think a project like this isn't tenable, it's a good strategy, because people like you better if you pay them compliments instead of criticizing all the time. And if you like someone better, you're more likely to listen to what they have to say. It doesn't have anything to do with reason, really, but with the way that communities work. People more often sign onto ideologies because they like the communities that exemplify those ideologies rather than the other way around. So when you are kind, when you create environments where people are safe without ridicule, even safe to be wrong, you can sometimes win their hearts to right reason.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:23 PM on January 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Representing the interested of the rural part of the state

Sorry, that should be Representing the interests of the rural part of the state
posted by flug at 3:24 PM on January 23, 2012


dfm500, I agree completely. The best conversations of my life (in the "Didn't End With Sex" Category) have been with smart people with completely ideologically opposed positions to mine. Some other things that Conservatives are good at:

1. Selling crime agendas. I truly believe that the liberal side on these issues tends to be morally correct, constitutionally correct, and far more often practically correct, but the explanations of it tend to look a lot like risking public safety in the short-term for macro-benefits in the long-tern which are hard to define or guarantee. The conservative plans tend to evoke old-west lawmen coming in to clean up a town in trouble. Not better, but a much better sell.

2. Selling military victories. Now, this is one I'm kind of torn on. There's a tendency among Democratic administrations to not play up their military victories, or really their military engagements at all. In my life, I really noticed this with Clinton, who I imagine didn't want a lot of ink about his leadership as Commander-in-Chief what with the draft-dodger nonsense and everything else, but he ran a hugely successful (from the parameters of what the U.S. wanted) campaign in Kosovo without any American casualties, and didn't really mention it much.

In a way, I like this. Causing death is an evil thing, even when it is a necessary evil. It's not seemly to take a victory lap after doing so just to stir up jingoistic fervor. But it's not like Obama is going to campaign on being the guy who killed bin Laden, whereas I can see a conservative in the same position not needing to make his campaign be about much else. In The West Wing they referred to this as "the Mommy problem," that no matter what the facts are, people will vote liberal when they want a "mommy" to support and comfort them, and will vote conservative when they want a "daddy" to be strong and determined and defend them. So there's a thing.

But the flipside of that is something I think liberals do very well that the conservatives don't, or haven't done recently anyway, and I think many conservative leaders have given up on even trying to do, namely: Positivity. I mean, this is obvious enough with the Obama "Hope" signs, but aside from "It's Morning in America" I can't think of a time in my lifetime when Republicans have managed to present an idea of a bright future to work towards.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:29 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I note that the liberals in the articles are more generous with their assessment of conservatives than vice versa.

I proposes that this is because liberals, by nature, are more open to different solutions to problems, including those of conservatives. Conservatives, by nature, are conservative and, thus, would tend to stick to tried and true solutions that have worked since those solutions had a reason for existing.

To whit, liberals are better at changing with the times while conservatives are better at preserving tradition.

tl;dr - liberals are like this, conservatives are like that.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:38 PM on January 23, 2012


How does each side drive their cars Joey?
posted by MattMangels at 3:40 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


cf. From Gingrich To Palin To Gingrich by Andrew Sullivan
This is the current GOP. It purges dissidents, it vaunts total loyalty, it polices discourse for any deviation. If you really have a cogent argument, you find yourself fired - like Bruce Bartlett or David Frum - or subject to blacklists, like me and Fox.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:44 PM on January 23, 2012


Alaska Jack: is that the same Vernon Smith who proposed the deregulation of energy in California in 1999? I tried to read through his nobel paper, but I didn't see any concise area, even in the conclusion, that states that markets with information asymmetry perform like other markets, so I'd be interested if you could pull out a quote.
posted by deanklear at 3:46 PM on January 23, 2012


Navelgazer:

I couldn't help but feel a little funny when people were celebrating in the streets after hearing that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.

"...war is conducted like a funeral.
When many people are being killed,
They should be mourned in heartfelt sorrow.
That is why a victory must be observed like a funeral."
posted by steamynachos at 4:08 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Looked at another way, the two sides are fighting over what the role of government in redistributing resources from the affluent to the needy should and shouldn’t be."

This is an essentially conservative framing of wealth. Another view of is that all wealth (especially extreme wealth) originates from resources that are essentially part of a public commons: public domain ideas, natural resources, public infrastructure, human labor, law and order.

Since truly free markets with fair externalities tend towards a minimization between cost and price, extreme wealth is a sign that the commons are being unfairly exploited and some benefit should be returned to the public. Not redistributed -- returned.

Put another way: Privilege entails responsibility. Noblesse oblige.
posted by Skwirl at 4:20 PM on January 23, 2012 [16 favorites]


Speaking as a pretty left-leaning person myself one major problem with my side is that too many of us spend too much time worrying about things that really are not that big of a deal in the big picture. Some commenter somewhere (can't remember) said it best, most Americans are too busy trying to make ends meet to even remotely give a shit about whether some al-Qaeda asshole's assassination in Yemen was unconstitutional or not. And as bad as it sounds, it's true. And yes I agree, that people shouldn't be working such long hours for such little pay that they don't have time to think about moral questions like this. But that's reality. All I can think of when I hear people talking about how the US committed an illegal assassination when they went into Pakistan to get Bin Laden is "guys, I know you mean well, but no one cares about this and you are falling RIGHT into a conservative trap; they LOVE painting us as being soft on America's enemies, and god damn we have an election this year to win". Is that an ends-justify-the-means mindset? You bet. I know we're taught that the ends never do justify the means and that two wrongs never make a right but to me that sounds like the kind of black-and-white thinking that many liberals (correctly) chastise conservatives for. The world is a complex place, and there are always exceptions.
posted by MattMangels at 4:22 PM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Liberals believe that fairness refers to equality, conservatives believe in fairness refers to inequality.
posted by Brian B. at 4:32 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


deanklear -

I don't know if Smith would characterize his findings the way you have -- there may be some nuance there. His research in experimental economics seemed to show that markets in which participants are furnished with incomplete information tend to reach the same approximate equilibrium as markets furnished with complete information.

Podcast. Book.

Also, I think (please don't take my word for this) that Smith's position on the California electricity issue is that price deregulation was incomplete; i.e., price controls were lifted at the retail level but not the wholesale level -- or maybe vice versa. I don't know much about the issue. All I can recall is that simple supply-and-demand economics suggest that well-intended price controls typically lead to shortages (like rent-controlled housing in post-war NYC). But again, I know little about this issue.
posted by Alaska Jack at 4:37 PM on January 23, 2012


Another view of is that all wealth (especially extreme wealth) originates from resources that are essentially part of a public commons: public domain ideas, natural resources, public infrastructure, human labor, law and order.

I freely admit that much of anyone's ability to capitalize on his or her own ideas and labor is built on a foundation of public services, but that doesn't mean that they automatically owe all of their proceeds back to society.
posted by Etrigan at 4:40 PM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Who are the conservatives and liberals supposed to be in these articles? From my vantage point with respect to U.S. politics, I don't recognize the groups being described in the articles. Maybe they are referring to the people directly, not the representatives?
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 4:41 PM on January 23, 2012


Well, market systems are a hammer and not everything in life is a nail, but you have to admit competitive market systems have had some high profile successes - for example in the technology industry.

I don't think I have to admit anything of the kind, sorry, Mike1024. In the specific example you give here, the development of the technology industry was facilitated, if not outright created, by massive public investment in research and development (e.g. the Second World War, the Apollo Project, the Internet). The market was pretty happy to take advantage of the innovations, but they were handed over courtesy of the taxpayers.

And to re-rail this, I should point out that people on both "ends" of the political spectrum heartily protested some or all of these developments and vice versa, so this is not strictly an ideological issue.
posted by zomg at 4:46 PM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


steamynachos: I agree that it may be morally iffy, but do you really find it funny (strange, what have you) that people were celebrating bin Laden's death? No matter what other questions can be brought about it, he was as clear-cut a "bad guy" as we'll hopefully ever see in our lifetimes, and was adamantly evading capture in any other capacity. And the circumstances as they came to light made it pretty clear that asking Pakistan to hand him over wasn't going to be effective. But perhaps that's neither here nor there, and I get that.

Basically, watch an action movie. Bin Laden was the U.S.'s Voldemort for over a decade. Of course people were celebrating.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:48 PM on January 23, 2012


So can metafilter do this? What are some things conservatives ARE good at? Asked in good faith.

Conservatives are very good at towing the party line. They are good at creating a united front. Generally, Libertarians aside, they don't break rank. On an issue of, say, raising taxes, virtually every fucking Republican in Washington has signed troll Grover Norquist's stupid "I'll never raise taxes pledge." Show me any issue that all Democrats agree on, I sure as hell can't think of one.

On the left, we're too busy arguing the best path to take. Conservatives don't want to take any path, they want to plant themselves where they are and not change a thing. And they are very good at sitting down and doing a thing. Together.
posted by zardoz at 4:51 PM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


dfm500: "... how often do you read well-written, articulate information by people with whom you disagree?"
All the time. The problem is finding someone I agree with.
posted by brokkr at 5:03 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think conservatives are great at taking a very complicated and intractable situation and turning it into a binary. It doesn't matter that the binary really doesn't make sense when you look at it. People have a huge desire for things to be simple.
Like, say, sharks are your problem and they tell you: "well, you can fight the tail, or you can fight the teeth. What'll it be?"
It doesn't matter that you could fight the fin or the eye or the belly or not fight or get in the ocean in the first place.
You've been given a choice. Take your side, god dammit.
posted by Red Loop at 5:03 PM on January 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


Liberals are too naively optimistic about human nature.

Conservatives are too aggressively pessimistic about human nature.

Thats the whole dichotomy in a nutshell, really.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:05 PM on January 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I guess that's a pretty backhanded compliment, and reductive as well.

What the hell, it's fun!
posted by Red Loop at 5:05 PM on January 23, 2012


(me, that is... stopping now)
posted by Red Loop at 5:06 PM on January 23, 2012


Conservatives are good at representing the will of rich, well-connected white men.

Liberals are good at representing the will of rich, well-connected white men, but then they feel kinda bad about it.

Conservatives are good at talkin' 'bout Jesus.

Liberals are good at pretendin' they're Jesus.

Conservatives find sex a guilty pleasure.

Liberals find guilt a sexy pleasure.

Conservatives are good at organizing vast rallies of homogeneous people who insist that they are all unique individuals.

Liberals are good at organizing small crowds of people who insist that they each represent a larger whole.

Conservatives are good at winning despite being wrong.

Liberals are good at losing and comforting themselves that at least they were right.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:21 PM on January 23, 2012 [17 favorites]


Ugh. "And they are very good at sitting down and not doing a thing. Together."
posted by zardoz at 5:23 PM on January 23, 2012


I mostly only experiment with cisideological friendships
posted by crayz at 5:29 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just tuned back in. The Andrew Sullivan quote basically sums up my rebuttal to those who took issue with my comment, but quickly:

Conservatives don't, generally speaking, believe that progressives are actually evil.

Have you been following the Republican primary at all?

But a great failing (and maybe THE great failing) of modern progressivism is failing to understand that, yahoos aside, conservative thought represents a longstanding, coherent moral and ideological framework.

Again, I'd refer you to the Sullivan quote above. What's happened in practice is that a bunch of power hungry zealots have thrown on the mantle of the Great Conservative Tradition and used it as cover for their own extremist political ends. Nobody's denying the two great currents of political thought are the conservative and liberal. I'd recommend Lasch's book The True And Only Heaven to anyone who doubts the vitality and vibrancy of conservative thought throughout modern Western political history. But all that has nothing to do with what's going on today -- any more than the Republicans of today are "The party of Lincoln"

Pretty sure the more popular fantasy is that there's one reasonable group.

Could you possibly expand your mind to consider the possibility that, while unreasonableness exists across the political spectrum, one group just might be a tad bit way way way way way way more unreasonable on its side than the other? Or do you just want to stick with the false equivalency game?
posted by haricotvert at 5:37 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Faint of Butt: "I miss the good old days of all-head-no-heart conservatives. Nixon was a good example. Most of the current crop seem to have neither."

I honestly think that's what Romney is, and that's exactly why republicans hate him.

dfm500: "I'm a liberal, but if I ever had the chance to grab a beer with Pat Buchannan, and listen to what he thought and why, I'd jump at the chance. "

Amen. One of the things that bothers me (well, sometimes it entertains me) about these debates in Metafilter is the anger. People getting fucking angry at other people because they happen to be conservative. I never understood it. I would love to have a beer with, say, Naomi Klein, and I violently disagree with her in many aspects. But you feel there are many here who wouldn't be able to have have a civil conversation with, for example, a moderate like David Brooks. That may not be true for all cases, but honestly, I think there's a big component of projection on that hostility of course, which leads to deeper issues, but you know, people gotta look into that. And be less angry.

BitterOldPunk: "Conservatives find sex a guilty pleasure.

Liberals find guilt a sexy pleasure.
"

This is FUCKING GENIUS. Bravo.
posted by falameufilho at 5:41 PM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Liberals are too naively optimistic about human nature.

Conservatives are too aggressively pessimistic about human nature.



This strikes me as exactly backwards.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 5:43 PM on January 23, 2012 [9 favorites]


Have you been following the Republican primary at all?

Confirmation bias. You see what you expect to see. Look, I would never be so foolish as to suggest that NO conservatives describe progressives as evil. That would be stupid and obviously untrue. But what is true is that conservatives generally, and for the most part, describe liberals in terms that do not ascribe to them motivations rooted in evil or malice. Progressives, on the other hand ... well, look at this thread.

"all head no heart (selfish) ... ruthlessly coopted people's belief in religion (deceitful and exploitative) ... xenophobia (hateful of others) ... ensuring positive cash flow (greed) ... good parenting and small businesses morph into no gays and tax cuts (deceitful) cult-like extremist ... fanatical ... selling and advertising (cunning and tricksy) ... ideology as a servant and husband of power (power-hungry) ... demonizing (a perennial progressive favorite) ... representing rich, well-connected white men (selfish and greedy)." And this, frankly, is pretty mild compared to what you get elsewhere on metafilter.


Again, I'd refer you to the Sullivan quote above. What's happened in practice is that a bunch of power hungry zealots have thrown on the mantle of the Great Conservative Tradition and used it as cover for their own extremist political ends. Nobody's denying the two great currents of political thought are the conservative and liberal. I'd recommend Lasch's book The True And Only Heaven to anyone who doubts the vitality and vibrancy of conservative thought throughout modern Western political history. But all that has nothing to do with what's going on today -- any more than the Republicans of today are "The party of Lincoln"

Several people in this thread have expressed this sentiment. I wonder, do they realize that this trope is well understood -- and routinely punctured -- on the conservative side? Every time a prominent columnist expresses this sentiment, the writers at National Review and Weekly Standard dredge up example after example of those good old Titans of Good, Honest Conservative Thought -- Buckley, Reagan, Goldwater, Eisenhower, etc. etc. -- being vilified by contemporaneous progressives ... who then harken back nostalgically to the previous generation of Titans.
posted by Alaska Jack at 6:22 PM on January 23, 2012


Nobody's denying the two great currents of political thought are the conservative and liberal.

I am. They aren't even opposing terms. Perhaps conservative and progressive are the great currents of political thought, but that has nothing to do with liberalism, an idea as fundamentally modern as the oxidative theory of combustion. The distinction does matter, if we're making any serious attempt at bridging the gap.
posted by howfar at 6:24 PM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I freely admit that much of anyone's ability to capitalize on his or her own ideas and labor is built on a foundation of public services, but that doesn't mean that they automatically owe all of their proceeds back to society.

Does it mean they owe some of their proceeds back to society?
posted by Miko at 6:33 PM on January 23, 2012


all head no heart (selfish) ... ruthlessly coopted people's belief in religion (deceitful and exploitative) ... xenophobia (hateful of others) ... ensuring positive cash flow (greed) ... good parenting and small businesses morph into no gays and tax cuts (deceitful) cult-like extremist ... fanatical ... selling and advertising (cunning and tricksy) ... ideology as a servant and husband of power (power-hungry) ... demonizing (a perennial progressive favorite) ... representing rich, well-connected white men (selfish and greedy).

Which of these do you think fails to be descriptive of present-day Republicans and why?
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 7:29 PM on January 23, 2012


Miko -

That's an excellent question, but it's one that many people (myself included) would argue relies on a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of a free society. In fact, it's so fundamental that I'm not sure how well I can articulate it.

Imagine the following scenario.

1. A baker offers you a loaf of bread for $2.
2. You accept the offer.

In this exchange, who has profited? Obviously, you both have. You value the bread more than you value the $2. The baker values the $2 more than the bread. When the exchange is completed, you have both increased your respective wealth. This is how trade works, and the corresponding creation of wealth is the cornerstone of the free market.

In this framework, it makes no sense to say the baker somehow "owes" you or anyone else. He has already fulfilled his obligation: He has offered you the opportunity to increase your wealth by trading for a product that you value. It makes no more sense to say he "owes" you anything further than it does to say you owe him (which, of course, you don't -- if you don't like the terms of the deal he offers, you are free to pass).

As far as public infrastructure goes, from this standpoint, the baker has used the infrastructure exactly as intended; indeed, it is for precisely such usage that we built the infrastructure in the first place -- Not just so that we can use it, but so others can use it to offer us the good and services we want and/or need. This is what we want. What sense does it therefore make to penalize people who do so?

1. You no doubt are by now thinking this is a defense of "Greed is good!" Quite the contrary! Ultimately, giving back to your community is wise and good; I personally do so in several ways, and encourage others to do so as well. But forcing others to do so triggers all sorts of unintended consequences, as any kind of compulsion always does.

2. So why then do we take more from the wealthy? Well, obviously, because we can. They have money, we want it, there are a lot more of us than there are of them, and we'll throw them in jail if they don't give it to us. And maybe in the big picture it's justified, as long as we're taking from the rich and giving to the poor. But we could at least be honest about it.
posted by Alaska Jack at 7:36 PM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I freely admit that much of anyone's ability to capitalize on his or her own ideas and labor is built on a foundation of public services, but that doesn't mean that they automatically owe all of their proceeds back to society.

Does it mean they owe some of their proceeds back to society?


Absolutely. But the poster said that all wealth comes from the public commons and that it should be "returned" -- stated twice, once with emphasis. That's a slight but important difference.
posted by Etrigan at 7:37 PM on January 23, 2012


"well understood -- and routinely punctured"

Well understood, maybe. Routinely punctured? Citation, please.
posted by haricotvert at 7:41 PM on January 23, 2012


Jonathon

No one wants to hear this, but this boils down to the incredibly powerful nature of confirmation bias. People WANT to believe the “other guys” are all scum-sucking villains, and the nature of blogs sets up an incredibly powerful selection-bias mechanism almost designed to reinforce this.

One set of ideas may indeed be more “moral” or “virtuous” than another; that’s an entirely appropriate subject for debate. But there isn’t a shred of evidence that the *people* on any given side of the left-right divide are more moral or virtuous than their counterparts. But we all think:

1. I consider myself a good, moral person.
2. I believe XYZ. It is part of what makes me a good person.
3. Other people who believe XYZ are therefore probably good, moral people too.
4. Bob does not believe XYZ. In fact, he opposes it.
5. Bob is therefore cannot be a good person.
posted by Alaska Jack at 7:45 PM on January 23, 2012


haricotvert -

Please clarify. Do you mean that you doubt that conservatives routinely point out that past conservatives were vilified by contemporaneous progressives? That seems like it would be an odd thing for me to to make up.

In any case, the examples that readily spring to mind were in The Corner, National Review's group blog, on the occasion of Reagan's Death. I'm sorry I can't provide a page cite at the moment but no doubt you can look it up.
posted by Alaska Jack at 7:50 PM on January 23, 2012


1. A baker offers you a loaf of bread for $2.
2. You accept the offer.


Well thanks for patronising us all with your Just So stories of the invisible hand of the market. Now tell me about the baker who has made all other sources of affordable bread unavailable by leveraging his market advantage to drive his competitors out of business. Or the one who gave away free bread until the local farmers let their fields go to dust.

We can all paint our simple pictures of the way the world might be except for the way it actually is. But don't imagine anyone around here is going to be impressed by your "A Dummy's Guide to Mill" explanations of complex ideas.
posted by howfar at 7:52 PM on January 23, 2012 [11 favorites]


I know, please. You don't need to deliver a 101 lecture on free-market ideology. It's not that I've never heard your stories of the imaginary world where everyone is better off and that's a universally good thing, regardless of who becomes much, much better off than who else, and who picks up the pieces when those that are far, far better off overconsume and overexploit.

It's that I don't accept the offer.
posted by Miko at 7:56 PM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


So ... you don't really have any counter-evidence, but you think that I am suffering from a cognitive bias. Got it.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 8:02 PM on January 23, 2012


2. So why then do we take more from the wealthy? Well, obviously, because we can.

No. Not because we can -- because it's right. This is the public share of private success, and it has been earned and deserved as much as any other kind of investment. Because they have benefited more from the conditions we have collectively created than others have. Because we have already subsidized their ability to use public resources, hire capable workers we have educated, drive their product along roads we have built, burn fuel we have fought and died for and pumped out of the ground in their enterprises, defend their safety and security, protect their property, put out the fires at their plants when someone tries to burn them down, protect their trade relationships, inspect their plants for safety hazards, use research we have produced in our public agencies and universities, and enjoy the quality of life a first-world democracy offers.

I recommend that people who would like to live in a nation in which state power is virtually nonexistent and private enterpreneurs are free to establish their own businesses and communities according to the laws of self-interest have a nice long visit to Somalia.
posted by Miko at 8:03 PM on January 23, 2012 [9 favorites]


Alaska Jack: My answer to your reasonable question would be that "because we can is but a small aspect of it.

1. Capitalism not only assumes but depends upon exploitation at the micro and macro level. In general, we have decided that the benefits of capitalism are worth that cost, but it is still there, and can be measure indirectly (but to a worthwhile extent nonetheless) in profits. The more profits you are making, the more we feel free to tax you to bring some wealth back to the community which you depend on exploiting for profits. In the end (ideally) this will continue to benefit you as well as your customers.
2. Use of the commons is much greater by the wealthiest than by the common man. The wealthiest may be making fantastic use out of it, but that use is still, again, for profit. Those making the most use will deservedly pay the most fees for what belongs to the community as a whole.
3. Infrastructure is similar to the commons, but is what the commons build for their society to better function. Again, the wealthiest get more and better use out of it, as seen in profits. The common man has at best a car, maybe two, for driving on the roads. The industrialist has trucks and traincars. Does the industrialist help things? Sure, but by use of the infrastructure built by the community, and their rewards may again be seen in their own profits. Pay up to the community your share based on those rewards.

And this can go on and on and on with aspects such as pollution and so forth, but the point is not just that the 1% or whatever you will call them are taxed because the money is there to be taxed, but rather because money is a construct of society, and those with it have proven to be using more of the fundamental aspects of society in order to get it. And while we don't discourage that, society is still the more important thing. So pay up.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:03 PM on January 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Project Implicit has some papers on the way liberals and conservatives perceive each other (or fail to). I'd link, but you have to request via email.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:09 PM on January 23, 2012


No, you're missing the point. The point is that the actual current Republicans who are casting votes to hold the entire economy hostage to their agenda and ignoring science and denigrating "elites" in a way that disparages education and fomenting xenophobia and racism -- those Republicans are the ones who matter, not the ones who can cite Burke and Bentham and have no relation whatsoever to what's actually going on in America right now.
I'm sure that past progressives harshly criticized past conservatives. That takes nothing away from the fact that today's Republican party is a small, ideologically-driven, radicalized cult with a vicious persecution complex and an outrageous sense of self righteousness that is in no way paralleled on the current left.
As easy as it would be for you to dismiss that statement as confirmation bias, to do so would be to deny a reality that should be abundantly clear to any politically literate American -- and in particular a regular reader of "The Corner," for God's sake.
posted by haricotvert at 8:35 PM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Alaska Jack, the whole widget thing is really pointless outside of hypothetical economics. It can't be applied to reality. Imagine the following scenario:

1. A butcher offers you a piece of chicken for $2.
2. You accept it, and cook it for dinner.
3. Your son nearly dies of salmonella poisoning because the butcher was using old cheap meat so he could make more money.
4. You lost your job because you had to stay with him while you were sick.

Just because an economic decision is rational doesn't mean it is good, and by no means are humans rational in the first place. Yes, eventually the unregulated market will put the butcher out of business after x amount of people have been sickened or killed by his poor business practices, but at what savings to society at large versus taxing food sales in order to have regular health inspections?

This is especially illuminating when you look at tax ratios per GDP. It's no coincidence that, by and large, the governments who are more able to reliably tax their constituents are at the top end of economic prosperity. A collection of individuals doing exactly what they want with their money doesn't seem to have the same positive effects as a collection of individuals who are asked what they want to do with shared tax dollars. (I believe this is what my friends are talking about when they say "single money" versus "married money"...)

Obviously you need a somewhat uncorrupted government, and some balance of regulation and market correction, but to try and model an entire society on hypothetical widget scenarios is pretty far out there.
posted by deanklear at 8:47 PM on January 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Conservatives overgeneralize"

lol
posted by klanawa at 8:53 PM on January 23, 2012


howfar -

Well thanks for patronising us all with your Just So stories of the invisible hand of the market. ... But don't imagine anyone around here is going to be impressed by your "A Dummy's Guide to Mill" explanations of complex ideas.

I'm sorry you chose to interpret my post in such a hostile manner. Your hostility is not mirrored on my end.

Now tell me about the baker who has made all other sources of affordable bread unavailable by leveraging his market advantage to drive his competitors out of business.

This is outside the scope of the question I was addressing (i.e., do businesses somehow "owe" society above and beyond the service they already provide). I was not attempting to justify an unregulated free market.
posted by Alaska Jack at 9:17 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Miko -

You don't need to deliver a 101 lecture on free-market ideology. It's not that I've never heard your stories of the imaginary world where everyone is better off and that's a universally good thing, regardless of who becomes much, much better off than who else.

That is a common critique of socialism; i.e., that its proponents seem to prefer a world where everyone is miserably equal to one in which (in your own words) "everyone is better off" but some are "much, much better off."
posted by Alaska Jack at 9:24 PM on January 23, 2012


Jonathan -

So ... you don't really have any counter-evidence, but you think that I am suffering from a cognitive bias. Got it.

Jonathan, I was reading through your past comments even before you posted this, and you seem like a thoughtful guy. That being the case, I assumed your question was rhetorical. It didn't seem like I would need to point out that in order for me to offer counter-evidence, you would first need to offer, you know, evidence.

You asked

Which of these do you think fails to be descriptive of present-day Republicans and why?

So first, I would need to note that the discusssion up to this point has been about conservatives, not Republicans. I'm not a Republican, and I don't know very much about them or their party. Second, just to clarify, are you, in fact, making a positive assertion -- i.e., that all these things DO generally describe present-day conservatives? And third, if you are in fact making this assertion, what evidence do you have to support this claim?
posted by Alaska Jack at 9:33 PM on January 23, 2012


Navelgazer -

Excellent post -- well said. Naturally I disagree with you on many fundamental points, but -- harking back to my original point -- I certainly don't think you're evil or malicious for expounding on them. I'd love to have a drink with you in dm500's mythical pub.

(Just for example -- we would disagree that a cornerstone of capitalism is exploitation. I would say the basis of the free market is the *creation* of wealth, not the accumulation of it. And if someone makes an item, and sells a LOT of them, and becomes wealthy in the process... well, I would point out the other side of the equation: That person has injected an enormous amount of value into society. Lots of people valued that product so much that they willingly traded their money for it, presumably enhancing their lives in the process. As I stated before, I would hope that the businessman would voluntarily use a portion of his money to further help others, like Carnegie and his libraries. Only a fool would deny the social utility of this. My position would be that obtaining such utility through well-intended coercion would ultimately do more harm than good.)

Anyway, well said.
posted by Alaska Jack at 9:44 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


deanklear -

Thoughtful reply, and it may come as a mild surprise that I mostly agree with you. Like you, I don't believe in a completely unregulated market either. The specific example you provided -- health inspections -- are, as far as I'm concerned, a perfectly legitimate function of government.

And I appreciate the civil tone.
posted by Alaska Jack at 9:49 PM on January 23, 2012


As has been pointed out, regulation will need to be paid for, and thus some taxes are required. So we can agree that 100% taxation and 0% taxation are both routes to ruin.

Surely it will be hard to argue a specific tax rate, or brackets, without first deciding what precise role the government should play. I imagine then that some might say social programs--feeding the hungry, medicating the sick, housing the homeless--these should not be undertaken by government?

What if we could require any social welfare program to request funding based on present need only. Then, once a certain level of need was independently verified, it could be advertised and philanthropists given the chance to step in and meet the need. If an independently verified need was met by voluntary giving, then the tax money would not be spent, and the tax rate would automatically be decreased next cycle. This is of course a thought experiment.
posted by TreeRooster at 10:01 PM on January 23, 2012


As far as public infrastructure goes, from this standpoint, the baker has used the infrastructure exactly as intended; indeed, it is for precisely such usage that we built the infrastructure in the first place -- Not just so that we can use it, but so others can use it to offer us the good and services we want and/or need. This is what we want. What sense does it therefore make to penalize people who do so?

Buh? So if it's unfair to "penalize" the baker (by making him pay taxes) for using the public infrastructure in the way it was meant to be used, who exactly is supposed to pay for it? People who don't use it?
posted by alexei at 10:09 PM on January 23, 2012


Alaska Jack, thanks for the kind words. I too think we'd have a great time having a beer together and discussing this.

For myself, I'm both a capitalist and a socialist. I believe, more than anything, that we as a society - globally, nationally, and locally - owe a duty to one another and to future generations. And I believe that we and future generations need and deserve progress, and I have seen nothing through history which better serves progress of science and art and technology than capitalism (well, theocracy has been good at two out of three at some points, but I have no desire for that.)

But capitalism still, in my mind, serves the needs of society, via society creating incentives for people to make the best out of what society offers. In its ideal form, this acts as we'd most want (obviously) and as you have described in some of your hypotheticals. In reality, it can get perverted and destructive very easily if left unchecked.

So that's where I'm coming from. Capital is a tool for the populace, not the other way around.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:24 PM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Any libertarians out there want to do the same with the communitarians? Are there even any American communitarians out there?
posted by Apocryphon at 10:27 PM on January 23, 2012


I recommend that people who would like to live in a nation in which state power is virtually nonexistent and private enterpreneurs are free to establish their own businesses and communities according to the laws of self-interest have a nice long visit to Somalia.

You have read up on the history of Somalia, right?
You are aware how the currently hostilities relates to it being a failed socialist state (and also a casualty of the cold war)?

Somalia as a libertarian wonderland gets trotted out again and again, apparently by folks who have about as much knowledge of libertarianism as they do Somalia.

I appreciate that the left has adopted the "love it or leave it" stance however, as it makes it easier to ignore theirs and the far right's claims.


Any libertarians out there want to do the same with the communitarians?


That I am aware, libertarians never had any problems with communitarians (indeed, as it is a perfectly workable solution, and libertarians share much in common with regards to critiques, just different means to outcomes).
posted by quintessencesluglord at 10:38 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


"As far as public infrastructure goes, from this standpoint, the baker has used the infrastructure exactly as intended; indeed, it is for precisely such usage that we built the infrastructure in the first place -- Not just so that we can use it, but so others can use it to offer us the good and services we want and/or need. This is what we want. What sense does it therefore make to penalize people who do so?

bzzt. "Penalize." Nope.

What sense does it make to require a further investment in prosperity, the same investment that the baker has profited from?

It makes a lot of sense if you would like to see the prosperity continue and realize that individual rational actions can have a cumulative "irrational" or negative result (e.g. tragedy of the commons).

1. You no doubt are by now thinking this is a defense of "Greed is good!" Quite the contrary! Ultimately, giving back to your community is wise and good; I personally do so in several ways, and encourage others to do so as well. But forcing others to do so triggers all sorts of unintended consequences, as any kind of compulsion always does.

Bzzt. Asserts facts not in evidence; assumes unintended consequences both negative and controlling.

Simplistic libertarian cat is simplistic; it is entirely possible to have unintended consequences be positive, just as it is entirely possible to have the unintended consequences outweighed by the positive intended consequences.

2. So why then do we take more from the wealthy? Well, obviously, because we can. They have money, we want it, there are a lot more of us than there are of them, and we'll throw them in jail if they don't give it to us. And maybe in the big picture it's justified, as long as we're taking from the rich and giving to the poor. But we could at least be honest about it."

Bzzt. Inflammatory and question-begging framing.
posted by klangklangston at 11:09 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of the things that bothers me (well, sometimes it entertains me) about these debates in Metafilter is the anger. People getting fucking angry at other people because they happen to be conservative. I never understood it.

I'm going to try to give this an honest answer, despite the tone.

I think that the reason for the anger that I occasionally feel with conservatives - or people who call themselves conservatives nowadays and who defend far-right philosophy - is that their ideas hurt people.

If you say that the law should not endorse gay marriage, you are hurting people. If you endorse policies that help a small number of rich people to sit on resources and that prevent a large number of poorer people from rising in society, you are hurting people. If you use coded racism to appeal to the worst and most bigoted elements in your supporters, you are hurting people.

Furthermore, the people that conservatives insult and hurt by their policies are the vulnerable. They are people who have already suffered from bad luck or maybe even bad decisions and there is something really ugly about kicking people when they are down. Plus, there but for the grace of God go I - or you, or anyone. Even the most self-assured conservative.

Now, as far as I can see, most conservatives seem to be aware of this essential problem on some level - the problem of nastiness, you might call it, this issue that their philosophy ultimately involves privileging one group of people over another in a way that has all sorts of nasty real world consequences for the victim group. They generally respond by saying that such privilege is either inevitable or right or both.

As soon as you think about it and research it, though, that justification breaks down.

In practice, conservative policies have no better track record than liberal ones - significantly worse, in many cases. About the best you can say is that when "conservatism" watered itself down a lot and became essentially a kind of centralist liberalism in the mid-twentieth century, it was a lot better than nominally left-wing totalitarian communism. That's it. That's the great conservative triumph: we turned into liberals. For a while. Then we got greedy and messed it all up. And as soon as you bring in Latin America, Thatcher, modern American history, slavery, market bubbles, speculation, factory conditions, colonialism etc. etc. you really start to see that right-wing philosophy has a lot of skeletons in its closet.

So conservatism doesn't work any better. It doesn't reflect "reality" or "human nature" any better than liberalism. I'm not even saying liberalism is more right - just that it isn't less right than conservatism and it has the advantage that you don't start by harming others.

And that element of harming others really, really matters. It isn't something you can handwave away.

To someone who has suffered from the effects of racism, sexism, greed, debt slavery, corruption or privilege - or knows anyone who has - or even has a view of humanity that extends beyond the end of their nose - these things are not some abstract intellectual debate. They have terribly harmed real people and being able to treat them as if they were a scientific disagreement is a position of enormous privilege in itself. Responding to the actual problems of real human beings by saying, as conservatives always do, "Oh, well, you might try improving that, but it could have unintended consequences for me"? That is privilege speaking, and callousness and a remarkable small-mindedness.

So that, in a long-winded way, is why I sometimes get angry with conservatives: they hurt people, their reasons for hurting people are stupid and they don't seem to care. And I don't like people like that.

And I suspect that people like that on some level don't like not being liked, because who would? So they respond by evolving theories about why they are right and everyone else is wrong and it is necessary and good for them to do the things that perpetuate their positions of wealth and privilege and anyone who doesn't see that is naive/dumb/atheist/zealous/communist/nazi/over-clever etc etc. etc. It is, after all, difficult to get someone to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.

And on we go, forever, with one side recoiling from brutality and the other side saying "what brutality? this is necessary! oh, you liberals are so angry, but at least you entertain me!" until we all plunge into the abyss together, Christ returns to save us, an overclass evolves into angelic beings and leaves this earth behind or the machines rise and murder us all.

But at least some of us, occasionally, tried to make things a bit better.
posted by lucien_reeve at 1:46 AM on January 24, 2012 [11 favorites]




I'm going to try to give this an honest answer, despite the tone.

You failed.
posted by Etrigan at 4:21 AM on January 24, 2012


This is outside the scope of the question I was addressing (i.e., do businesses somehow "owe" society above and beyond the service they already provide).

Think of it this way: Society has paid to create the infrastructure that lets the baker buy his oven from a company in a different city, receive shipments through roads, use electricity, heating, a telephone and the services of the police, the fire department and whatever agency makes sure his food is up to certain standards, thus making it more attractive to consumers. Society needs to fund these services and renew the infrastructure so that the standards of living and doing business are retained. Inasmuch as someone uses all that society provides to a greater degree, it makes sense they should have to pay a greater share.
posted by ersatz at 4:51 AM on January 24, 2012


You are aware how the currently hostilities relates to it being a failed socialist state (and also a casualty of the cold war)?

For heaven's sake, calling Somalia a "socialist state" is like calling My Lai an "unfortunate incident." It was a communist military dictatorship of the kind that absolutely nobody is proposing for the Western world, and programs of social welfare and economic socialism never have to necessarily result in the structured economy of what you would call a "socialist state."

However, it's still a good example. It really doesn't matter how things got to a condition of a failed state; it matters that this is what weak central government looks like. Once the state has failed and power reverts to those with money, resources, connections, and land, you've created the initial conditions of extreme Libertarianism. And to be clear, I'm not saying "love it or leave it" so much as I'm saying: take a good hard look. Is this really what you want for America?I have not once yet heard a libertarian outline how the problem of warlordism would not arise once all property becomes private and competition for resources rules human interaction.

it makes sense they should have to pay a greater share.

Not only that, but that greater share will further increase standards and resources, again, to the point where they continue to benefit more from it. Incentive, incentive, incentive - for everyone This cycle of benefit/investment producing increasing gains over time, and is one of the engines by which we move forward.
posted by Miko at 5:07 AM on January 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Pretty much every ethical framework since the beginning of history includes or can be reduced to some variant of the Golden Rule. Progressive ideology is largely centered around implementing the Golden Rule, while conservative ideology is largely centered around justifying why not to follow it. I think this at least partially explains the discipline of conservative parties.

A moral imperative is necessary to be successful in politics. As much as people want to pay less taxes or whatever, parties, candidates and advocates will always invoke an ethical framework for their views. That's why even if a candidate says they will give everyone $500 if they are elected, they still need to offer a rationale, e.g., because it's money that was unjustly taken to begin with.

When you need to have an ethical framework, but your beliefs are in opposition to the foundation of practically all moral codes (Golden Rule), then it takes more discipline to maintain that ethical framework. Liberals have it easy. The idea that the state should tax the wealthy to try to make sure poor kids have food and an education that will give them a chance at success is some straight up Golden Rule shit. Conservatives typically need to use amoral frameworks (free market, social darwinism, etc.) as if they were moral frameworks in order to justify doing the opposite of what humans have considered ethical for thousands of years.

So basically, the original sin of conservatism demands the discipline that may be their greatest political strength.
posted by snofoam at 5:57 AM on January 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would also add that this underlying difference also explains why many conservative arguments are centered around abuse of a system. Very few people can accept that food stamps or subsidized school lunches are evil, so conservatives typically need to abuse of the system (real or imagined, see welfare queens) in order to justify their position against it.
posted by snofoam at 6:09 AM on January 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


So can metafilter do this? -- What's the verdict?
posted by crunchland at 6:46 AM on January 24, 2012


I was thinking more about this, and lucien_reeve, I think you nailed something in your comment that I've felt below the level of words and theory but never could explain. The difference I've found between policy ideas of the right and those of the left is just that - that the outcomes for individuals are, in fact, quite different, and when pressed to rationalize those outcomes, the answer is some version of "that's the way it is" (human nature, historical forces, inevitable processes) that themselves are assumed at the start. Outcomes for individuals seem to matter less in conservative philosophies. When you point out that most of the policy proposals and theoretical structures would create a group of losers, or overlook or exclude some kinds of individuals (the disabled, the poor, the undereducated, the rural, women, the mentally ill, the unskilled, the redundant, whomever), conservatives typically admit that the proposals cannot, in fact, take care of everybody, and that society will have its losers. Some must be sacrificed to improve conditions for all.

This is just an unacceptable starting place for me in political thinking. If we begin the project of setting up political structures by saying "this is only for the good of some; there will be losers in this system and they'll have to suck it up," then I think you aren't really playing with a full deck, or all the pieces. You're failing to create the best society you can by admitting at the outset that your ideas have not been formed with the aim of creating comprehensive benefit across the board. If we don't start from the place of raising the conditions at floor level to an acceptable standard for everyone, and structuring policy and legislation to do what that takes, the level we're working at is advanced tribalism rather than a truly sophisticated society oriented toward progress, growth, and the value and quality of individual lives. (Which raises the question - what is government for, if not for that?)
posted by Miko at 6:57 AM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


So can metafilter do this?

I certainly can do it, I'm just not sure I see a need. The article was an interesting project - why do we need to re-create it amongst ourselves? Is that what this thread is for? I'm willing to do this but don't find it especially interesting.
posted by Miko at 6:59 AM on January 24, 2012


Conservatives give more to charity.

They bloody well should, when they've taken the safety nets away.
posted by Summer at 7:43 AM on January 24, 2012


BrotherCaine: Conservatives give more to charity.

Because church counts as a charity. From the same article:
According to Google’s figures, if donations to all religious organizations are excluded, liberals give slightly more to charity than conservatives do. But Mr. Brooks says that if measuring by the percentage of income given, conservatives are more generous than liberals even to secular causes.
And don't forget that becoming rich tends to turn you into a conservative, so the top quintile has more conservatives than liberals. Even if they gave more by ratio, that would make sense, because they have more disposable income.
posted by deanklear at 7:55 AM on January 24, 2012


Conservatives give more to charity.

Giving to charity can be an awesome thing, but the fact that people have the option to give to charity does not make a just society less desirable. It's a weak argument used by some conservatives to justify policies that increase inequality and decrease the well-being of society as a whole. It's only used because conservative ideology is inherently opposed to any government attempts to level the playing field and take care of the disadvantaged. Charity is presented as an alternative because if there were absolutely no mechanism for helping the needy, the conservative position would become unpalatable for many more people.
posted by snofoam at 8:09 AM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


BrotherCaine: Conservatives give more to charity.

That's a complicated picture, and is really not accurate at all once you control for church dues and alumni giving, and look at it as a percentage of income and at the function of tax shelters in increasing take-home income. It's offered up a lot as trivia but doesn't stand up well to investigation.
posted by Miko at 8:49 AM on January 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sorry, that link should go here.
posted by Miko at 8:50 AM on January 24, 2012


Voluntary charity is a great thing, but as a solution to providing basic needs for a functioning civil society - food security, health care, housing, and education - it is a terribly ineffective one. It's uneven, localized and thus spotty in impact, open to bias, not accountable to the public, unpredictably funded year over year and decade over decade, subject to whim and personal inclination, and dependent on organizations with less less solidity and permanence than government.
posted by Miko at 8:54 AM on January 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


But Mr. Brooks says that if measuring by the percentage of income given, conservatives are more generous than liberals even to secular causes.

I never would claim that charity it a substitute for a proper social safety net. I just sat through a tax update seminar, and believe me when I say it is class warfare 101 if you are paying attention. However, if we are talking about things that liberals and conservatives do better, giving to charity whether it be cash, blood or time is done better by conservatives. I say this not to justify conservatism, but to say that to cast blanket aspersions on the compassion of conservatives is misplaced and probably counterproductive. The issue they have with the government implementing a social safety net appears to be the fear that there will be such gross inefficiency and fraud that it will drag down and corrupt our whole economy. They seem to function on a close web of trust in their communities, churches and charities, but have no faith in institutions beyond their immediate reach and environment. I can't see the world through the fearful lens of conservatism, so I don't know how to address that in a persuasive way. Appeals to reason don't appear to work on either extreme of the political spectrum.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:38 AM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


By the way, the papers I linked to above from the project implicit people on the perceptions of conservatives and liberals are worth a read to understand the scope of the problem, and the real differences.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:41 AM on January 24, 2012


Also, having looked at a lot of 990 returns, I very much understand the inefficiency of charities in distributing wealth across class boundaries. Most of the dollars given are expended on fundraising efforts (which probably effectively distributes wealth up), and what money makes its way down in such an inefficient system is constrained in its use by the prejudices of the donors against the poor.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:46 AM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


it*is* a substitute
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:52 AM on January 24, 2012


giving to charity whether it be cash, blood or time is done better by conservatives

This is just not true.
posted by Miko at 11:24 AM on January 24, 2012


Here are my top five favourite qualities about flat-earth theorists:

i) They are spirited and lively in discussions.
ii) They place great value on personal intuition and as such are well-disposed artistically.
iii) They are extremely loyal.
iv) Their concern with the terrestrial often makes them more environmentally-minded.
v) They probably believe in good parenting or something.
posted by metaman livingblog at 11:39 AM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is just not true.

Miko, I don't know what to tell you, of the links in the linked comment you claimed would refute that they either don't mention conservative vs. liberal giving, or they come to the same conclusion about conservative donations.

The Google study doesn't mention conservative versus liberal or republican vs democrat, but only income group.

Your link to the American article had this to say:

The fact is that self-described “conservatives” in America are more likely to give—and give more money—than self-described “liberals.” In the year 2000, households headed by a conservative gave, on average, 30 percent more dollars to charity than households headed by a liberal. And this discrepancy in monetary donations is not simply an artifact of income differences. On the contrary, liberal families in these data earned an average of 6 percent more per year than conservative families.

These differences go beyond money. Take blood donations, for example. In 2002, conservative Americans were more likely to donate blood each year, and did so more often, than liberals. People who said they were “conservative” or “extremely conservative” made up less than one-fifth of the population, but donated more than a quarter of the blood. To put this in perspective, if political liberals and moderates gave blood like conservatives do, the blood supply in the United States would surge by nearly half.

One major explanation for the giving discrepancy between conservatives and liberals is religion. In 2004, conservatives were more than twice as likely as liberals to attend a house of worship weekly, whereas liberals were twice as likely as conservatives to attend seldom or never. There are indeed religious liberals in America, but they are currently outnumbered by religious conservatives by about four to one.


Your generous giving link also fails to mention republican/democrat/liberal/conservative, and also mentions income and religiosity as factors.

Perhaps you are assuming income is not near parity for liberals and conservatives? That might be the case if you adjusted for regional cost of living.

So unless you can cite something that refutes Mr Brooks I'm forced to take him at face value. As a leftie, I'd like to see a refutation.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:12 PM on January 24, 2012


I'm not concerned with blood donations so maybe we can set that aside. That's actually an offset to healthcare costs and is connected to the private system anyway, not that it's not important.

But you're right, I lost focus on what categories we were talking about. I'm stuck in a different argument and apologize for not understanding what was being talked about here.

I do see that Brooks' data says that the single biggest predictor of charity is religion (and that teaching Sunday school and organizing church fundraisers count as charitable giving). Some of that may align with conservatism, though not all conservatives are religious and the majority of liberals are religious. Type of giving - in both time and money - does matter to outcomes for broader society. In other words, increased charitable giving of any kind doesn't mean increased attention to or interest in the needs of the poor.
posted by Miko at 12:22 PM on January 24, 2012


Brooks data also said that secular giving as a percentage of income was higher among conservatives.

increased charitable giving of any kind doesn't mean increased attention to or interest in the needs of the poor.

I cannot refute that, but I'd just like to reiterate given Mr Brooks study that painting conservatives as heartless seems like an oversimplification at best and more than likely petty partisan propaganda.

I hope there's an opportunity to reach out to conservatives to gain support for social programs (that support has been there in the past for some programs) if we can point somehow to the effectiveness of government programs, or tailor government programs to funnel money to the municipal or county level where conservatives seem to have more faith in their government.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:25 PM on January 24, 2012


I hope there's an opportunity to reach out to conservatives to gain support for social programs (that support has been there in the past for some programs) if we can point somehow to the effectiveness of government programs, or tailor government programs to funnel money to the municipal or county level where conservatives seem to have more faith in their government.

I'd like to believe that was still possible, but the climate of the past two decades encourages such hostility to government programs on principle that proofs of efficacy don't hold much water. The ideology of self-sufficiency and reducing government spending speaks much louder than the impact of government programs, and no amount of demonstrable success can overcome objectives based on abstract political philosophies.

We also tend to fall into a trap with this sort of argument where apples are compared to oranges: government and charitable nonprofit program outcomes do not benefit from the same trust that conservatives place in institutions they know and control such as church and local-governmental organizations, and end up being interrogated by accountability measures that are unrealistic and shortsighted, and often compared to standards from the business world where constraints aren't present or subsidies are in place or entirely different projects are being undertaken.
posted by Miko at 1:44 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


For heaven's sake, calling Somalia a "socialist state" is like calling My Lai an "unfortunate incident."

Would that be equivalent to calling a civil war a libertarian paradise? All wars, all libertarian- yeah, got it.

It was a communist military dictatorship of the kind that absolutely nobody is proposing for the Western world,

So exactly how do you propose to get people who don't agree with your world view to play along? Ship them off to camps? Throw them in jail? It certainly won't be from making a compelling argument.

It really doesn't matter how things got to a condition of a failed state


Actually, I think it matters a great deal. War is the logical end result when a point of view is imposed by force.

Do you honestly believe that government that can provide unicorn farts and free beer for all would be opposed by the most diehard libertarian? If there is functionally a better way, none would oppose it.

The problem is that there is no one better way. There is a mismosh of disparate ideas of how government should function, and none are so perfect to be applicable in all circumstances, at all times. There are enough examples throughout history of the best of intentions leading to brutal regimes, so much in fact it's easy to understand why some might be wary of the power of the state.

But take it at face value- nothing in libertarianism presupposes any other form of governance is verboten. Go off, form your collective, lay the ground rules as you see fit. As long as it only affects you and those who decide to play along, no one much cares.

But for those that disagree? It is only right that they should be forced (you've in fact become a warlord of your own). Why? Why can't you afford others to right to choose their own? You've lost any moral high ground before you've even begun.

Once the state has failed and power reverts to those with money, resources, connections, and land, you've created the initial conditions of extreme Libertarianism.


As opposed to those with money, resources, connections, and land within the state. Worse- now that power is magnified even more by the state. In fact, that is what is happening in America right now, and has happened in virtually all governments. Yet somehow you've stumbled upon the magic formula to keep this from happening.

I certainly don't think libertarianism is the be all and end all of ideas towards governance, but just as much as you could have chosen any other country, focusing on Somalia is trite.
posted by quintessencesluglord at 3:44 PM on January 24, 2012


As opposed to those with money, resources, connections, and land within the state

All concentrations of power have risks. But allowing only concentrations of power in private hands utterly disenfranchises the propertyless. Democratic government is absolutely the only mechanism by which people who are not at the top rung of power can exert any control over the conditions they live in. Only the state can stand in between people and abuses of private power. In the absence of a state, nothing can restrain abuses of private power.

I'm sorry you consider my example trite. I stand by it as apt, but don't think the level of discussion you are offering here merits further comment.
posted by Miko at 7:30 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Heh. I didn't even realize Somalia-as-example was such a widespread meme, and it really truly is. I was unaware. But inasmuch as it is, it looks as though it owes its original reputation as a test of libertarian ideologies not to leftist detractors but to...well, libertarians.
posted by Miko at 7:45 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


[I] don't think the level of discussion you are offering here merits further comment.

Miko, do you take apprenticeships?
posted by Zozo at 7:29 PM on January 26, 2012


« Older Moving forward, coast to coast   |   Caution: Intense geekery inside Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post