My long-ago post about the Marin County NIMBYs who were upset that Habitat for Humanity was coming to their neck of the woods, sparked quite a debate. The very first comment, which I understand was tongue in cheek, struck me strongly, though. Because I agreed with the NIMBYs, who feel you can’t just go around dumping poor people in affluent communities in the hope of social engineer, Helen jokingly concluded that I must not like poor people, with the further implication that I don’t care what becomes of them.
Helen’s is an interesting point because I think it’s consistent with the liberal belief system that conservatives hate the poor and downtrodden, thereby explaining why conservatives keep shooting down all liberal legislation aimed at aiding the poor and downtrodden. I believe that conclusion is profoundly in error.
As far as I can tell, conservatives — including ex-liberals like me — would love to see the poverty problem resolved, making it a goal we share with the liberals. However, where we differ, is that we do not believe liberal means, which amount to government intervention in the marketplace and to wealth reallocation, will achieve this goal. And to give conservatives their due, this belief isn’t just grounded in theory, it arises from watching the myriad failures of 40 years of Great Society experimentation.
So, it seems to me that one of the great divides between liberals and conservatives is the liberals’ belief that, if you don’t buy into their economic means, you must be rejecting their economic ends. If you don’t want wealth reallocation, you must hate the poor. If you don’t believe in unlimited welfare, you must hate the poor. If you believe corporations should be taxed within an inch of the corporate lives, you must hate the poor.
All of this swirled to the fore of my brain when I began reading Thomas Edsall’s Building Red America : The New Conservative Colation and the Drive for Permanent Power, a very well-written book that attempts to understand conservative successes over the last 40 years, and to come up with ideas about how Democrats can again grab political power. By well-written, I mean factually accurate, well-organized, with a lot of manifestly correct analyses. It’s also a profoundly wrong-headed book, to my way of thinking, in that it assumes that Republicans have done well, not because their ideas are better and more appealing, but because they’ve sold a false bill of goods to the American people. That is, in the author’s mind, only manipulation could get the American people to turn their back on high taxes, wealth reallocation, and government intervention in economics. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that the American people might have concluded have 40 years that these heavy-handed government based systems don’t work.
It turns out that I’m not the only one who has noticed that, on the Left, there are certain core beliefs that exist regardless of practical experience or hard evidence. Robert Godwin, writing at the blog One Cosmos, has done a lengthy post regarding the academic Left’s rigid adherence to theory over fact. (Hat tip: American Thinker.) I think you should read the whole post, but I’m quoting one section of it here to emphasize my point about flawed erroneous premises:
Why is it that the the smartest people are often the most unintelligent? Why is academia full of presumably bright people with such foolish or shallow ideas? And why do so many of them think the same way? Why are they so predictable? (And please, I am speaking of generalities here; I am well aware of the exceptions.)
Academia seems to be a culture, like the MSM, that is simply so permeated with the leftist worldview — and all of its many hidden assumptions — that it is utterly blind to those assumptions. And because academics mostly associate with their own psychoclass, they come to regard their worldview as normative instead of an aberration — even an illness of the soul. Thus, they may not be so much arrogant as clueless. And the more elite the university, the more predictable they are. For example, professors at so-called “elite” universities are much more likely to be irreligious than those from junior colleges and state universities. It’s like a Darwinian process of natural selction, in which the dark academic environment selects only the metaphysically blind, who are somehow able to “see” there, like those fish at the bottom of the sea.
I’ve mentioned before that I have a relative by marriage who is a renowned historian. I remember once having a conversation with him in which I brought up the obvious innate differences between male and female nature. Not only did he disagree with me, but he insisted that I show him the data that I relied upon to arrive at this conclusion. There seems to be a sort of mental disability that can afflict the overly-educated person, so that he can no longer understand certain things that have always been known — and in a way, cannot not be known. Something interferes with the “naturally supernatural” process of direct “internal” knowing, and must be replaced from the outside with “data” or an empirical study. I suppose it’s analogous to someone who only ate processed food. Eventually they would lose their taste for natural foods. Compared to a fried academic Snickers bar, an intuitive apple just won’t do.
The whole means versus ends thinking also appears in connection with dictators and other murderous government types around the world. At Contentions, the excellent new Commentary Magazine blog, one of my favorite writers, Joshua Murvachik, wrote a post about a dark horse Democratic candidate, General Wesley Clark. It’s not a general post, but a very specific one, focusing on Clark’s cozy chit chat with General Ratko Mladic, one of the Serbian mass murderers. The post got me thinking about the fact that liberals have, for decades, had a truly distasteful habit of cozying up with the worst of the worst. Chamberlain, in 1938, was convinced that Hitler was a friend and Truman, who learned from his mistake, believed that Joe Stalin was a good guy. (In Truman’s defense, Stalin was certainly a necessary, although unsavory, ally once Hitler turned on the Russians.)
In recent years, the liberal/murderer friendships have come thick and fast. Carter leads the pack, of course, holding hands and making kissy faces at anyone who is evil. But you can run out of fingers (and toes), counting the famous liberals who have made nice with today’s bad guys. Every liberal loves Castro and the Che chic on the Left is an embarrassment, lauding as it does one of Castro’s mass murderers. Gore and Kerry fly around the world, to the most repressive regimes, where they denounce America. (And, if Kerry is to be believed, he conducted private peace talks with the lovable East Asian Communists during the Vietnam War.) Cindy Sheehan, of course, has regular love-fests with Venezuela’s despicable Hugo Chavez and, just recently, the LA Times denounced the United States for picking on the beleaguered Iran and their innocent (and, to the LA Times, unproven) nuclear program. This mind view exists even when we stop talking about nations and start talking about individuals. It doesn’t take a very long memory to recall liberal horror that the State of California was going to execute Stanley “Tookie” Williams, a Crips founder, who was convicted of murdering four people, and who doubtless killed dozens more during LA gang wars.
It would be easy to say that liberals love dictators and killers, but I think that’s unfair. Decent liberals (and I think most are) hate dictators and murderers every bit as much as every other right thinking person. Thus, both liberals and conservatives envision the same end, which is the cessation of the bad acts that these dictators (and murderers) commit. The difference is the way in which liberals and conservatives think these bad people should be treated. Conservatives believe them to be inherently evil and think that they should be removed from power, whether the power to rule a nation (Ahmadinijad, for example) or the power to control a gang (Tookie or Che). Liberals, however, simply think that these evil-doers are misunderstood, and that if we could just figure out what they really want, they’d stop doing such bad things. In liberal land, it’s inconceivable that what these bad guys might really want is, in fact, unlimited power, and the ability to kill and torture people both at home and abroad.
Nor do liberals change their minds in the face of evidence contradicting their premise. In 1938, Chamberlain gave Hitler what he wanted. World War II resulted. Since 1994, with Carter’s connivance, America has repeatedly given N. Korea what she demands, with the result that N. Korea continuously escalated its nuclear program to the point where it can no longer be stopped. The same holds true for the naive West’s dealings with Iran and the Palestinian. Every time, we think that we’re stopping their need for blood by satisfying some deep psychological urge (an urge that, coincidentally, usually requires money, arms, and room to use them), only to be surprised that, instead of getting better, they get worse.
Putting aside poverty and war, I suspect one can come up with dozens of examples in which, contrary to the liberal view, liberals and conservatives do in fact seek the same goal (quality education comes to mind), but they pursue very different ends to achieve those goals. And having myself achieved a comfortable middle age, and having seen the means put forward by both liberals and conservatives to achieve those goals, I’ll come down on the side of the conservatives every time. Contrary to Thomas Edsall’s view that conservative achievements are just luck, and that their stated principles are nothing more than canards meant to deceive the American people, I think that conservative achievements result from a hard-headed pragmatism that desires positive ends, but that recognizes that all people have some vices, and that some people are all vice, and that then works with those human foibles, rather than pretending they don’t exist.
UPDATE: Here’s Hans Blix pretty much making my point about the Left’s habit of using therapy to deal with bad guys.