Our Constitution granted each and every one of us the freedom to believe or not believe as we decide. That protection applies to all of us. When one group has decided by some form of spiritual osmosis that their version of the unverifiable and occasionally insane has been decreed to be the new Law, and thus their political mission is to ensure that is so, then it is up to the rest of us to put that crazy back where it belongs: away from public influence. Continue reading →
Conservatives take a dim view of progress. They are not so foolish as to deny that great advances have been made in science, technology, medicine, communication, management, education, and so forth, and that they have changed human lives for the better. But they have also changed them for the worse. Advances have been both beneficial and harmful. They have certainly enlarged the stock of human possibilities, but the possibilities are for both good and evil, and new possibilities are seldom without new evils. Conservatives tend to be pessimistic because they doubt that more possibilities will make lives on the whole better. They believe that there are obstacles that stand in the way of the permanent overall improvement of the human condition.
Liberals and conservatives don’t just differ in their opinions, they have fundamentally different ways of processing information, which in turn leads them to hold markedly divergent sets of facts. Even more frustrating for those who view politics as a rational pursuit of one’s self-interest, facts don’t actually matter that much. We begin evaluating policies emotionally, according to a deeply ingrained moral framework, and then our brains often work backward, filling in – or inventing -“facts” that conform to that framework.
Conservatives, argues researcher Philip Tetlock of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, are less tolerant of compromise; see the world in ‘us’ versus ‘them’ terms; are more willing to use force to gain an advantage; are ‘more prone to rely on simple (good vs. bad) evaluative rules in interpreting policy issues;’ are ‘motivated to punish violators of social norms (e.g., deviations from traditional norms of sexuality or responsible behavior) and to deter free riders….’ [citations in original]
It may provide some comfort to those bonding over their political and culture beliefs to ignore unpleasant truths and focus instead on the merits of abstract political traditions and ideals, along with tabulating today’s scorecard. But that comfort has limitations, and the consequences of legislative pursuits benefiting the few at the continuing expense of the many will be unpleasant at best if too many of us continue to rely on convenient rationalizations rather than working together.
The task for those of us on the Left is in part to better understand the traditions and significance of conservative thought which create the motivation for the Right’s “individuals-and-markets-first” approach to governing.
So too must we be both clearer about the motivations and values which drive our community-oriented philosophy, and more consistent in sharing those values. More information can only help lower the hyper-partisanship temperature, while diminishing both the knee-jerk inclinations and justifications for demonizing the Left.
There’s no denying the great divide separating the Left from the Right. The conflict does little but make problems more intractable, enduring, and … well, worse! But what we overlook too often is the divide itself. That great big “middle” has room enough for everyone willing to take a few steps away from the beliefs—genuine or the result of a lack of accurate information—to which each side is firmly anchored today.
In a rapidly-changing and evolving world, leading the way seems to be a better tactic than trying to hold back the tides of change. Conservatism has much to offer, and a more cooperative approach to policy and problem-solving will afford the Right a more meaningful role to contribute rather than merely obstruct.
Fear makes man unwise in the three great departments of human conduct: his dealings with nature, his dealings with other men, and his dealings with himself. Until you have admitted your own fears to yourself, and have guarded yourself by a difficult effort of will against their myth-making power, you cannot hope to think truly about many matters of great importance . . . . – Bertrand Russell