Looking Left and Right: Different Choices? Pt 2




Conservatives are too prone to engage in zero-sum thinking (either I keep my money or the government takes it). They fail to appreciate the possibility of positive sum solutions to social conflicts.
Conservatives hold the laissez-faire ‘minimal-state’ view that, although we have a moral obligation to refrain from hurting others, we have no obligation to help others. Conservatives cling to the comforting moral illusion that there is a sharp distinction between allowing people to suffer and making people suffer.




Consistent with the conservative inclination to seek the shortest route to a quick solution without being troubled by most if not all of the relevant factors and considerations, the quote above is another affirmation of the conservative’s need for closure on an issue, with little or no accommodations for the fine points or ambiguities. It’s a decidedly Manichean mindset hopelessly out of touch with the demands and complexities of 21st Century issues. But it is a time-saver!

It’s fairly well-documented that a prime identifier of the liberal/progressive personality is the degree to which empathy factors into the decision-making process. [A lot.] There are no absolutes, so like any other personality trait, it can be used for the good just as it can be a disadvantage. But from our perspective, when we see fellow citizens caught in the gears of modern society and opportunities foreclosed by policies and principles which cater more to the few than the many [but they do feel their pain … really!], we will seek means to address the problems.




Since most modern day solutions are not free, we rarely lose sleep over the fact that those who have greatly benefited from what society has made possible for them will in turn be called upon to pay it forward. To the conservative, that’s a nice way of saying they’re being robbed. Not much room for contemplation when that’s the immediate conclusion, and given the reluctance to consider the many other components required for effective and enduring solutions, they won’t waste much of their time on that, either.

Simplistic approaches generally lead to simplistic solutions. In matters of greater complexity than the Right cares to dwell on, simplistic isn’t much of a solution. So why bother doing anything at all, Right?

Allowing others to suffer may offer comfort to the conservative soul, but it is intellectually and morally bankrupt—not exactly overflowing with Christian charity and kindness. That probably isn’t of much concern to the Right, but are those the values and principles we rely on to boast about our exceptional nation?

If so, we need to either re-define the concept, or educate about its meaning and intent.

Modern society urgently needs true community: and true community is a world away from collectivism. Real community is governed by love and charity, not by compulsion. Through churches, voluntary associations, local governments, and a variety of institutions, conservatives strive to keep community healthy.
Conservatives are not selfish, but public-spirited. They know that collectivism means the end of real community, substituting uniformity for variety and force for willing cooperation.

That’s from one of conservatism’s leading lights, Russell Kirk, in his essay “The Essence of Conservatism.




More than a half-century ago, that likely made more sense to more people than it does in this day and age. It’s certainly a quaint notion: voluntary associations, the kindly neighborhood pastor gently urging his [definitely not “her”] flock to extend a hand to the less fortunate, and undoubtedly borne of genuinely compassionate motivations. That’s not nearly as evident now, yet it remains a convenience to lean on that underlying principle and pretend it’s still justified today.

And as for “compulsion” being a source of objection … well, that’s certainly consistent with the Manichean approach, isn’t it? It’s either forced on others, or voluntary. Period. Full stop. No consideration for the issues themselves; the conditions, advantages, and disadvantages faced by all involved parties are off the table; why the need exists will require some evaluation and time, and there’s little willingness for those investments, so let’s go with “compulsion” and call it a day. Right?

Of course, if instead of immediate opposition, more of the broader community actually decided to be “public-spirited” and exhibit more than perfunctory concern for the plight of the many less fortunate so that “true community” actually meant something, we might actually develop even more of that cherished notion of community.

What a concept!


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Note to readers: In addition to my other blogs and writings here [see the links above] and at Peak Oil Matters, I invite you to enjoy some brief excepts from my eBook political thriller:

The Tretiak Agenda

They began [here] on June 15, and will conclude this week


~ My Photo: Boston Harbor sunrise – 05.11.16  ©


Looking Left and Right:
Inspiring Different Ideas, Envisioning Better Tomorrows

Be the change you want in the world Gandhi

The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm, but because
of those who look at it without doing anything Albert Einstein


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As I state in the “About Me” section, I’m driven by an intense commitment to learn why those on the conservative side of the fence view so many matters of great importance to us all so differently than do those of us on the progressive side. Those contrasting behaviors, beliefs, and ideologies are contributing factors to the very problems we’re trying to solve—the ones we must solve if our own ambitions and our hopes for a peaceful and prosperous world we leave to our children are to be well-served.

If we don’t recognize and accept that bitter partisanship is not always the wisest or most beneficial strategy, the goal of a better future will forever be as far away tomorrow as it is today.

The late Senator Paul Wellstone’s observation continues to hold far more truth and power than we give it credit:

We all do better when we all do better

Why make setting up inevitable and enduring conflict the primary objective of policy and planning?