Means v. Ends

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.

del.icio.us | digg it

Be Sociable, Share!
  • http://paragraphfarmer.blogspot.com/ Patrick O’Hannigan

    Edsall’s thesis sounds something like Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter With Kansas?,” except Frank comes at the point from the other side, i.e., it’s not that people have been tricked into conservatism, but that they’re too stupid to see that their economic interests fare better under liberal Democrats.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    Decent liberals (and I think most are) hate dictators and murderers every bit as much as every other right thinking person.

    But Book, decent liberals are the neo-cons or the Christopher Hitchins. There ain’t a whole fracking lot of them on the Left now a days. At least not in public view or actively involved in the day to day ramifications of current events. A lot of them may be ignorant, but what more do they need in terms of a motivation to find things out for themselves, 2 more 9/11s?

    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.

    Book, understanding the enemy is one thing, it is a prerequisite for victory ala Sun Tzu. But understanding the enemy and becoming the enemy, sympathizing with the enemy, and supporting the enemy is another. What would be the point of understanding the enemy, even if we assume people like helen and the Left does understand the enemy truly, if they do not have the Will to Destroy the Enemy? Eh?

    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.

    Come on Book, I do believe you’ve heard many times from the Left that the US is invulnerable to invasion. So it is not that they disbelieve the ability of dictators to kill, it is that they care about themselves, period. They don’t care about dictators killing folks in Vietnam or Iraq or Iran or Venezuella. They care about Bush, because Bush is a danger to them here, in America. And since they think America is invulnerable to invasion, they focus not only on criticizing America and blaming America first, but they also cozy up to dictators simply because the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Inconceivable? People well know what people want because politics is something that the Left understands well.

    So long as dictators and killers abroad stay abroad, the fake liberals do not particularly care who they kill, so long as it isn’t them. That has always been the case. The Left kept writing letters and yelling about “do something about women’s plight in Afghanistan”, but the pocking moment Bush did something to free the women, they started attacking Bush, not the Taliban. It is cause they never gave a dam for women’s rights in the first place!

    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.

    But Chamberlain wasn’t a liberal, Book, technically speaking. And he did recognize his mistake when he gave the reins over to Churchill. Chamberlain is probably best described as “isolationist” paleo-conservative, realpoliteker. He thought he could deal with Hitler by talking “face to face”, sort of like those Baker’s dozen wishing to talk to Iran.

    The better example is Roosevelt’s treatment with Stalin and his laughing off of Soviet defectors telling him Alger Hiss was a communist spy.

  • Mason D Murch

    Book you said:

    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.

    You are correct. The only thing that I might add is that liberals do not believe there is such a thing as evil. To admit there is evil is to admit their philosophy and hence their desires, vis-a-vis restructuring the world, are useless.

  • http://ruminationsroom.wordpress.com/ Don Quixote

    On the contrary, ask any liberal and he’ll tell you President Bush is evil. Pretty much, though, only successful white American males can be evil in liberal eyes. Identity politics is everything.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Wow, Book! Welcome back. There is a lot here to chew on and it is going to take me some time to digest it all. However, a quick point about your opening statements: it’s true that the Liberal/Left loves poor people and Conservatives don’t – that’s why Liberal/Lefties want more of them and Conservatives want less.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Ooops! Meant to say “that’s why Liberal/Lefties want to make more of them”.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    I actually the thought the original 5 by Danny sounded better.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    http://drsanity.blogspot.com/2007/02/not-weird-at-all.html

    I’ve been posting a lot of links here, but This is a must read by Dr. Sanity.

    I have noted repeatedly on this blog that the political left has made common cause with, and routinely enables the Islamofascists and their religious totalitarian agenda. This reality is far from weird; it is the political strategy that has been adopted by the socialist and communist remnants of the 20th century.

    Maybe you haven’t noticed Hugo Chavez, the darling of the political left, and dictator extraordinaire sucking up to radical Islamic terror regimes as he establishes his socialist paradise in Venezuela? Or, perhaps you haven’t noticed how China and Russia frequently come to the defense of the new totalitarians of Islam quite regularly in the U.N.? Partly this is because they want to thwart the interests of the U.S.; but primarily it is because philosophically they feel at home with the totalitarian ideology promulgated under of the Islamic religion.

    Observe how easily Islam has been able to subvert key Western values–such as freedom of speech and expression (e.g., the Danish cartoons as just one example)–with a degree of invincibility and outraged virtue, capitalizing on a tactical opportunity that was not present prior to the latter part of the last century. Since then many on the political left, particularly the remnants of utopian socialist ideology, can be counted on to aid and abet Islam’s claims to victimhood by the West and the sense of entitlement they exhibit for the West’s money.

    Everywhere the leftists march and strut their stuff, you will see the tacit support given, either consciously or unconsciously, to all the thugs of the Middle East (and elsewhere) who engage in jihad, murder, and the most vile anti-semitism, sexism and homophobia.

    Yes, on the surface it certainly does seem weird, if you only listen to what they are saying. But when you consider the underlying philosophical principles of the left and those of radical Islam and then observe their behaviors, you will discover the philosophical harmony that exists between them.

    She has charts and flow charts as well. Pictures!

  • highlander

    Wow, Book, you’ve covered a lot of ground here.

    Your point that liberals often accuse conservatives of opposing worthy ends, when the only disagreement concerned how to go about achieving those ends, tallies perfectly with my own experience and observation.

    It’s a very effective tactic and has a lot of factors going for it:

    1. It undermines the credibility of those who disagree with liberal means. Why would anyone listen to ideas from greedy people who want to keep poor people poor or imperialist warmongers who seek war only to extend their power?

    2. Notice, too, that by imputing base motives to those who disagree it undermines not only their credibility but their integrity as well.

    3. It shifts the terms of the debate from the issues to the people themselves who disagree. The argument ceases to be about how best to eliminate poverty and becomes personal: “You’re anti-poor.” “No, I’m not.” “Yes, you are.” “No, I’m not.” …

    4. As a result, liberals no longer need to defend their proposals. Instead, it is conservatives who must defend themselves against personal attacks.

    5. The tactic plays exceedingly well with the liberal constituency who far prefer the delicious martyrdom of victimhood to taking charge of their own lives and solving their own problems.

    6. It also plays well in the media. Let’s face it: ad hominem sells better than reasoned argument, else why would supermarket tabloids have such wide circulations?

    7. As a result, and perhaps most importantly, it helps liberals to maintain their power base and thereby remain in power.

    No question it’s an effective technique and leftist liberals have used it extensively and repeatedly. It’s also very cynical, not to mention subversive. Antonio Gramsci would applaud.

  • http://thoughtyoudneverask.blogspot.com/ Zabrina

    Wow, great post! Welcome home.

  • expat

    Re Hans Blix: This is the same man who wanted to continue to negotiate with Saddam by appealing to his honor.

  • Trimegistus

    While I agree wholeheartedly with Bookworm’s point that liberals insist on demonizing anyone who doesn’t agree with them, I must respectfully differ with Book and Ymar about liberal means and ends.

    Book says liberals and conservatives have the same goals but disagree over methods — and liberals assume that means disagreement over the goal as well. Ymar says the liberals in America feel so secure they just don’t care if bad things happen abroad.

    I used to think that myself, but no longer. I think American liberals _do_ have a very different goal from American conservatives. They want America destroyed. They impute all manner of sins to us, and there is no part of our national culture they approve of. _Liberals hate America._ Just talk to one — listen to the dripping contempt for Wal-Mart shoppers and McDonald’s diners. Listen to the glee with which they repeat bad news. Listen to the scorn they heap on patriotism, Christianity, or basic human emotions like love of one’s family.

    And I don’t think this stems from a false notion of security. They know we’re vulnerable. That’s what they want. If anything, they want to convince the majority of Americans that we are safe so that we don’t take measures to defend ourselves. That would interfere with the liberal project of genocide against Americans.

    The only thing about which I’m unsure is whether liberals somehow think they’ll be spared — just jet off to Switzerland when Washington burns — or whether their total nihilism and self-loathing means they look forward to their own destruction alongside everything else. Probably there’s a mix of both.

  • Marguerite

    Trimegistus – Do you place the self-loathing and America-hating liberals you reference in any particiular generation or age group?

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    Book says liberals and conservatives have the same goals but disagree over methods — and liberals assume that means disagreement over the goal as well. Ymar says the liberals in America feel so secure they just don’t care if bad things happen abroad.

    I need more needs to be said on this topic.

    I believe some liberals, fake or otherwise, have the same goals as conservatives. Sort of like how Don and I weren’t in synch concerning how to accomplish the same goals, at least in the beginning.

    But the political wing and spiritual wing of the Democrat/leftist party? I think their goals are power, self-glorification, self-aggrandization, and their own ambition.

    Maybe the grassgroots moderate Democrats have the same goals, i.e. preservation of the US and the US Constitution as it is. But even if the grass roots outnumber the wingnuts, it doesn’t mean the voice of the moderates (Lieberman) will have loudness and strength over the voice of the extremists.

    I think American liberals _do_ have a very different goal from American conservatives. They want America destroyed.

    The logical question becomes “why do they want America destroyed in the state it currently is in”?

    My answer is that it is because they want power and the spoils of war. Wealth, status, eliteness, and the various perks of being on top. Like politics and illegal immigration business hiring policies, the Democrat/Leftists do not particularly care if they achieve their goals via a moral or ethical route.

    So they are basically trying to undermine America because they want the power and wealth of America at their fingertips, at their control. BUT if they believed that there was an external threat that would take America away from them either via invasion or big explosions, then the Democrats will fight the new comers first. It is just like how communists sided with Nazi Germany when Germany was allied with the Soviets, but then went apeshit crazy against the Nazis when the Nazis invaded Russia. They want the power and the benefits, and if you try to take it from them, they will go off on you. So long as you play ball, everything is okay because they are okay with dividing the spoils.

    So the only reason why the Left would attempt to divide the spoils of America is if they think there is no outside external enemies that might take it from them.

    They know we’re vulnerable. That’s what they want.

    But that is not what they want. War brings the reality to the carpetbaggers far more effectively than any Republican candidate or propaganda campaign could.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    I strongly recommend this post about the Left from Siggy.

    Appearance is not a substitute for substance. Religious garb is often spoken of as a sign of religiosity that must be respected, as if appearance alone were to be regarded as sacred. When it is all said and done, religiosity is not measured by what goes on the head, but rather, what goes in the head. That ‘magnificent’ Mohammed Atta spent the the night of September 10, 2001 in a strip club, paying for lap dances with a Quran at his side. So much for his religiosity.

    The left will support the redistribution of ‘nuclear wealth’ to unstable totalitarian regimes that threaten their neighbors and other- especially if they hate American and western freedoms. In their mind, that gives these regimes the appearance of equality with the west. The believe that appearance of equality, precludes us from noting their hypocrisy and their failures.

    (On the other hand, the very suggestion that a non nuclear western and democratic nation go nuclear is sure to set the leftists off into a wild frenzy.)

    Of course, it is only by managing behavior of those who threaten us or our allies that we can ensure our security. When values and beliefs are shared, we do not need to ‘manage’ behavior. We do not need to manage our relationships with other free nations because free and democratic nations do not go to war with each other. Free and democratic nations do not need to institutionalize racism, bigotry and religious hate.

    In the end, it is not the redistribution of wealth that will ensure our security. Rather, it is the redistribution of principles, values and beliefs of free nations that will make all the difference.

    http://sigmundcarlandalfred.wordpress.com/2007/02/27/show-me-the-money-and-other-leftist-failures/

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    These psychologists, I always knew that if I really wanted to understand humanity, human motives, and human behavior, that I needed to get at least a couple of levels of comprehension concerning the field.

    While a lot of people on the Left believe in “authority”, meaning a spiritual leader and his writings, I take what I need from the posts of Siggy and Dr. Sanity, and draw conclusions based upon the sum total of my own personal knowledge and the sum total of my wisdom.

    Individualism has always been rather de-centralized to a certain extent.

  • Trimegistus

    Marguerite:

    I’m middle-aged but live on the fringes of academia, so I have contact with people from their teens to their fifties on a regular basis. I can’t see any particular age group predominate in America-hating. For every collegesomething vandalizing a Starbuck’s there’s a grandmother demonstrating against American “war crimes” but somehow ignoring other people’s atrocities. I even recall a fellow parent at my child’s school gleefully reporting that “the economy is collapsing!” in 2004 just after the election.

    The poison seems to be widespread. Retirees and students have the most free time to act out in public, but middle-agers are the ones actively spreading the contagion in classrooms and media. I used to wonder if there was a Freudian component — people acting out resentment against their parents by attacking the parent-symbol of the nation — but that doesn’t really fit. Heck, some of the lefties are second- or third-generation America-haters. You’d think they’d rebel against their parents by joining the Marines or something.

    Nor are these societies failures, as we’d like to believe. These are not always people who cannot compete and so want to flip over the board; indeed, the rich tend to be more liberal than the middle class.

    If I have to blame it on anything, I blame it on the failure of religion, especially mainstream Protestant Christianity. These people obviously have a strong and deep need for something to believe in, they have a powerful belief in sin, and a desperate desire for atonement. In the absence of God, they’ve decided to believe in — well, just about everything, but it’s a hodgepodge of Leftist doctrines. In place of Biblical original sin we now have the American original sins of racism, sexism, destroying the environment, et cetera. But there is no atonement because there is no God to forgive them, so they turn loose their hate.

  • Marguerite

    Trimegistus – you really hit on it in your final paragraph. Mainstream Christianity is shallow and flabby and doesn’t often inspire worship of God – especially one to whom we are accountable. They tip-toe around sin – wouldn’t want to offend. I wonder if most of the world’s messes could be addressed by a more adequate view of God and a more accurate view of ourselves.

  • Pingback: The Glittering Eye » Blog Archive » Eye on the Watcher’s Council()

  • Pingback: The Glittering Eye » Blog Archive » The Council Has Spoken!()

  • Pingback: The Weasel Watcher’s have voted « Bookworm Room()

  • Pingback: Right Wing Nut House » THE COUNCIL HAS SPOKEN: A TWICE TOLD TALE()