Are You a Liberal or a Conservative? Are You Sure?
(Dan here….perhaps food for thought on a Sunday)
Scott Baker is a professor at the Henry George School, the State Coordinator of the NY Chapter of The Public Banking Institute, and the author is America Is Not Broke!
Are You a Liberal or a Conservative? Are You Sure?
Quick, without looking at the answers – or at what your favorite pundit is saying – how would you answer the following questions? Is it Liberal or Conservative?
1. Being opposed to rescuing the big financial institutions
2. Wanting America to become (more) energy self- sufficient
3. Being in favor of expanding the Space Program
4. Supporting Family Farms
5. Supporting Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion
6. Supporting a check on the Executive and Legislative branches by the Judicial branch
7. Being in favor of a strong National Parks system, wherein the Parks are preserved for recreational use, kept clean and safe, and not for commercial development
8. Being in favor of strong enforcement of the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act
9. Support of a strong and well-funded Veteran’s Administration system for the health needs of former soldiers
10. Wanting to preserve Medicare and Social Security for future generations
11. Wanting to balance the Federal budget (somehow)
12. Being in support of monitored, open, and verifiable Elections
Whether you identify yourself as Liberal or Conservative, please find some friends or family who identify themselves as the opposite from you and ask the same questions.
You may be surprised at how close your answers are to each other. For example, on question 14, Conservatives and Liberals may both want to end the deficit spending that’s ballooned since Ronald Reagan – though Conservatives want to do it typically by cutting spending, and Liberals want to do it typically by collecting more taxes from the affluent. I think Conservatives will be surprised how many Liberals support a strong space program (#3) — as long as it is demilitarized — while Liberals will be surprised at how many Conservatives are in favor of supporting the Family Farm (#4).
So yes, we may disagree on the methods of obtaining the goals, but we can still agree on the actual goals.
Then what is going on here? Why are we shouting at each other in the media, in the streets, and in person? Could it be that we are not as divided as we believe, or even that we have a common enemy, something that we can almost all agree to dislike, even oppose?
Here is another question to help clarify things: Do you agree with the following statement: America should be a country where anyone who works hard and honestly, can obtain a better life for themselves and their families? -or- Is America a country where anyone who works hard and honestly, can obtain a better life for themselves and their families?
I am willing to bet more of you answered yes to the first question than to the second. In fact, the majority of answers for each question might even be reversed. This is bad. This means the American Dream – paraphrased above, has come into serious doubt.
Why? Well, take a look at the your answers to the questions and those of your friends’ of opposite political identification. Discuss. Does a common theme something like the following emerge: ordinary people do not have the same opportunities and rights as certain very wealthy people and corporations in America today? That is, do you and your friends who identify themselves as from the opposite political spectrum agree that something is just not quite right in the system (anymore)?
Perhaps you are not so opposite after all.
Perhaps as President Obama used to say, there really is more that unites us than divides us. I’ll leave it to you to decide to whose advantage it is to make us think we have less in common than we do. Politicians pandering for votes without really doing anything about the big problems? Media—including those pundits with vocal opinions and big ratings on TV? Big Corporations—who make us act against our own self-interests in order to preserve their profits?
Is there a moral difference from someone who becomes rich by creating a “better mousetrap” (e.g. a way to charge an electric car in 5 minutes and get 300 miles on a charge, a cure for cancer, etc.) vs. someone who lives off the wealth of his ancestor’s fortune, or who collects “rent” from others who are creating that better mousetrap, or are working for those who do? Or, to put it more generally, is it OK to get rich from the results of your own labor, but not OK to get rich from monopolizing resources while simply profiting from their scarcity?
If you answered Yes, you might want to consider if there is another way America should reward its citizens. Some way that supports the innovation and productivity that springs from the Free Market of ideas, while at the same time, doesn’t reward people who have “gamed the system” through favorable laws or connections, while not really producing anything of value. Note: if you think committing fraud while providing borrowers with loans they ultimately cannot repay, then stop here. Put the test down.
See a pattern yet? Americans, and perhaps all decent people, believe in rewarding someone who works hard and honestly to get ahead, but not in rewarding someone who just gets ahead by manipulating laws and the system, or who monopolizes resources and corrupts the system to exclude others from competing.
What kind of system would let you have it both ways? Consider that the common opponent of both Liberals and Conservatives may be the same: the Monopolizers of resources – natural, but also including political and monetary power.
Now, knowing that it is not the country that is poor, it is the people (or, at least, too many of the people), where should our focus lie? Should we spend our time making largely false accusations at people we have allowed others to label as different from us, or at the real source of the problem, the 1% of the people who own 40% of the country’s wealth or 50% of global wealth, via a monopoly, and not from production (which alone cannot provide that kind of wealth)?
Maybe we should return to that question I put aside earlier: In whose interest is it that we fight against each other?
Where is question 14? And what about 13? Is there a 15?
Other than as a lesson in the diffrence between connotation and denotation this is somewhere between absurd and dumb and just is shouting out the question “Can you define your terms!?”
Take question 2. Does energy self-sufficiency mean a shift to renewables and away from Canadian tar sands? Or supporting the Texas State law the prohibited the city of Denton from regulating fracking with city limits? Are we talking Bill McGibben’s self-sufficiency or the Koch brothers.
Or question 4. What is a “family farm”. A place where locavores can source free range chicken and organic eggs? Or a third generation Iowa pig farm that has introduced modern intensive rearing techniques, now has a huge manure lagoon, and is under a sole buyer contract with Smithfield?
Or the WTF question 12. Yeah everyone wants fair elections.But monitored and verified can be equally interpreted as ruling voter intimidation and discriminatory registration conditions in or out.. I mean Kris Kobach has made an entire career out of monitoring and verifying elections in ways that keep poor blacks from voting. No vote, no fraud. Simple.
No 7 on National Parks. Does “recreational use” meaning allowing RV’s (by name explicitly “recreational”) and ATVs IN or keeping them OUT of most of the Park.
And of course my favorite, no 10. Wanting to preserve Medicare and Social Security for future generations. Of whom? Are we preserving future taxpayers from unsustainable taxes to fund an unsustainable program and so endorsing means testing and price indexing and changes in retirement age and so to explicitly control the price curve? Or are we promoting various forms of revenue enhancement that would actually allow us not only to pay scheduled benefits but also expand and enhance those benefits for certain recipients.
The whole quiz is like that. It’s fricking Third Way Kumbaya. In this case the Devil is not only in the Details but in the Definitions.
There are a few subtleties here that bear a closer look:
“Do you agree with the following statement: America should be a country where anyone who works hard and honestly, can obtain a better life for themselves and their families? -or- Is America a country where anyone who works hard and honestly, can obtain a better life for themselves and their families?”
Better than WHAT? Better than those who do not work hard and honestly? Better than they themselves would have been had they not worked hard and honestly? Better than their parents were, who also worked hard and honestly?
We often hear the cry that people who work hard are not “getting ahead.” Getting ahead OF WHOM? If every time you get a raise you go out and buy a new car, or take a vacation, no you will never get ahead of anyone. If you take your raise or your bonus and go buy some stock, you will become one of those “who collects ‘rent’ from others who are creating that better mousetrap.” And what’s wrong with that?
And you speak of making a better life for oneself and one’s family, yet decry the children of those who do, saying they “live off the wealth of their ancestors’ fortunes”. (The Kennedys (Kennedies?) and Rockefellers come to mind right now.) And what is wrong with that? The hard (if not necessarily honest) work of their ancestors freed them up for other endeavors, such as public service and philanthropy.
And where the whole thing isn’t ambigous the answer is actually clear. Take no 8.
“Being in favor of strong enforcement of the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act”
You will rarely find a conservative in favor of this. Even among environmentalists. Because no matter how you slice it the Clean Water Act as implemented is a very strong claim of Federalism vs States Rights and based on a theory that most conservatives would find profoundly silly, that the Constitutional authority given Congress over “navigable waters” authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers the right to regulate water quality in every swamp and seasonal stream that has a hydrologic connection to a river that will float a boat.
Now me, I am a huge supporter of the goals of the Clean Water Act and of the way it is enforced. But that is because I believe that the General Welfare clauses should have actual applicability. Whereas the legal theory that has developed over the last 150 years has had to shoehorn in everything under the Commerce Clause and now things like the Navigable Waters provisions.
But the fact remains that most conservatives are resistant to “strong enforcement” of ANY Federal law that steps on either State authority or private property rights. And the Clean Water Act does both. I mean I love it, but then lots of people root for Godzilla.
The whole thing is cringeworthy Buzzfeed ‘top twenty’ listicle territory.
“The hard (if not necessarily honest) work of their ancestors freed them up for other endeavors, such as public service and philanthropy.”
Tell that to Paris and Nikki Hilton. Or the grandchildren of royalty and billionaires that make up the denizens of various European and Carribbean resorts whose hard work spending their parents money fully earned them their 70’s and 80’s label of ‘Eurotrash’. Or here “Trust Fund Babies”.
Sure some children and grandchildren of billionaires dabble in philanthropy. As defined by them and mostly as a hobby. Because yo can count the number of them who actually sacrificed their big houses and European ski vacations for a life living like Mother Theresa on the fingers of a two-time convicted Saudi Arabian thief.
Plus relatively few liberals think of stockholders as ‘rentiers’. Not just for being stockholders. For forming vulture funds like Bain Capital that use leverage to gain operating control of a going corporation and then roll in and gut employment and load it up with debt so as to extract many multiples of the investment they actually put in and then abandon the hollowed out enterprise to try to salvage itself in bankruptcy by shedding pension obligations and slashing wages. Well yes those are ‘rentiers’ simply extracting rent. As are high frequency traders who add nothing, not even real liquidity, to markets even as they extract trillions of tiny slices from millions of transactions that earn them billions of dollars. Those are ‘rentiers’.
Not some guy that has 50 shares of Microsoft in his retirement account. Come on Warren! Tighten up that argument. Don’t be trotting out lazy cliches about the virtue of saving that elide the difference between some middle class family’s college fund and Mitt Romney somehow having IRAs that have strict contribution limits in the low thousands annually but have current values in the multi-millions.
Don’t you want the Paris and Nicky Hilton types? Rather than hoarding their wealth and buying up more and more income-producing assets, they put their money back into the economy by buying goods and services they don’t need.
So they have big houses and take ski vacations. So what? Someone has to build those houses. Someone has to clean those houses and landscape the property. Someone has to build the snow-making machines and ski lifts. Someone has to run the hotels (of course, they probably stay at a Hilton). That’s the “better life for his family” that Hilton worked hard to provide.
How is taking what their ancestors have earned and giving it to those who have not earned it, morally superior to those ancestors’ giving it to their descendants who have not earned it? They will spend it, and perhaps some of those who would have been on the dole will actually have jobs producing the goods and services these heiresses buy. Isn’t that better than just handing people money for nothing?
As for Bain Capital during Romney’s tenure there, there were quite a few successes which created jobs, along with a few failures. That’s the nature of business. Bain tended to invest in troubled companies with turnaround potential. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t.
That’s called Capitalism. You put in some of your capital — freely given and freely received — to produce goods and services. Sometimes you win and make a profit. Sometimes you lose and take a loss.
Personally, I like high-frequency traders. Remember how much commissions cost before high-frequency trading?
A little zen needed:
Label me a conservative!
“If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,”
“But the fact remains that most conservatives are resistant to “strong enforcement”.
What is characteristic of conservatives is they discount “externalities” that is anything they gain from despite the damage to others.
They despise externalities.
All to restore the slavocracy where everyone that was different was in their place as their self defined deity devised.
I read someone’s post on Facebook which claimed that a difference between conservatives and liberals is that conservatives do not want their representatives to negotiate and that liberals value outcomes reached by negotiation. I don’t know whether this is real or just truthy, but it would explain things.
Does anyone know whether meaningful poll results touch on this?
The one I heard was that conservatives are valiant to your last drop of blood, and liberals are generous to your last dime.