What’s important to conservatives and liberals, or why they talk past each other

Recently, there have been many comments on this blog and elsewhere disparaging Liberals. It is difficult to have a conversation with them because they are too emotional and don’t think rationally like we do. They refuse to accept facts. Even more extreme charges that they are out to destroy marriage, destroy morality, destroy America.

Perhaps we should pause for a minute, take a deep breath, and talk about the real differences between conservatives and liberals. After all, we conservatives aren’t always all that realistic ourselves. A rising tide does not lift all boats; it drowns those who can’t or won’t swim hard to keep up (or whose boats leak).

Though there are variations within each group, conservatives are essentially capitalists and liberals are socialists. Capitalists emphasize the overall health and growth of the economy and argue, undoubtedly correctly, that capitalism best achieves this end. Socialists emphasize the equality of distribution of the assets of the economy and argue, undoubtedly correctly, that socialism best achieves this end. Put differently, conservatives believe the fairest system is, “From each according to his ability; to each according to his contribution to society.” Liberals believe the fairest system is “From each according to his ability; to each according to his existence.” (Note: not necessarily “according to his need,” which is why liberals can deny medical care to people who unquestionably need it, solely because it would not be cost effective and would take from everyone else.)

Conservatives are correct that the capitalist system produces the most health, growth, progress, etc. Liberals will try to argue the point because they can’t very well concede it, but they do not have the facts to support them. To conservatives, these liberals appear to be “stupid” or “emotional” or even “dishonest,” and conservatives come to the conclusion that we can’t have an intelligent, rational conversation with liberals. But the truth is, the liberals don’t care about health, growth and progress nearly as much as they do about “fairness” defined as equal distribution of wealth. They’ll argue, even without facts, just because they don’t want to admit conservatives are right about capitalism, but even those who know they are wrong, simply don’t care.

Liberals hope that people will work hard and produce just as much as before even without being rewarded for it, just out of a sense of obligation to the community or some such, a hope which conservatives know defies human nature. But liberals believe that even if they are wrong about this, the socialist system should be adopted anyway, because it produces the “fairest” outcome and that’s more important.

Liberals are statists because it is only though a controlling central government that the redistribution of wealth needed for their idea of “fairness” can happen. They attack religion, not because they really have anything against religion, but because it competes with the government for power and definition of morality. A citizen’s first allegiance must be, not to God, but to the liberal, redistributive state. They attack marriage, not because they have anything against marriage but because it, too competes for power. A citizen’s first allegiance must be, not to the family, but to the liberal, redistributive state. They support education because they have completely taken it over and made it an arm of the state. They oppose vouchers because that would encourage an educational system not under the state’s control. They control the vast majority of the media and openly attack that part of the media they do not control.

I should stop here to point out that I’m obviously playing with stereotypes above. People’s goals and beliefs run on a continuum, with most people trying to find a hybrid that derives a maximum amount of benefit from both systems. Few people believe in pure capitalism and complete anarchy. A larger number, but still a very small number, believe in pure state dictatorship and a completely equal distribution of an ever declining pot of state assets.

The problem arises most seriously now for two reasons. First, the scales have been so long tipped in the socialist direction that a huge amount of damage has been done to our society. Institutions like religion and marriage have been severely weakened. The economy suffers under an unsustainable overhead burden imposed by a large, redistributive state. The morality of our society has been warped beyond recognition. A liberal controlled media and a liberal controlled educational system have taught the people to believe that profits are bad, corporations are greedy, success is a mark of dishonesty and selfishness.

Second, those who control our government (Pelosi, Reid, Obama) are far on the left of the continuum I just mentioned. Granted, they are hard to take seriously because they are such hypocrites – Pelosi jetting around on government planes at huge expense, Obama taking an entourage of hundreds wherever he goes, etc. But they really believe, as to everyone else anyway, in destruction of all other institutions, accumulation of all power in the state, and equal distribution of assets.

One problem conservatives have is that the idea that “I can get all this stuff from the government without doing anything to earn it, simply because I exist” is quite appealing to a lot of people. Just as conservatives believe that people will work hardest if they can keep the fruits of their labor, it follows that people will not work, and accept the fruits of other people’s labor, if they are given them without being required to work, especially if they are constantly told there is nothing wrong with that, they deserve it just for being born. The conservative message depends on people understanding that if people do not get to keep the fruits of their labor, people will not labor, and there will be nothing to distribute. This is a common sense notion, of course, but why believe it as long as the government continues to dole out the fruits? Surely the system will work just fine if only those rich people aren’t so greedy. Won’t it?

Well, no, but that is the subject for another post. Meantime, I’d be interested to hear your comments, especially on how you can improve on my surely over-simplified analysis above. I’m always impressed by the sophistication of the thinking of the visitors to the Bookwormroom and can’t wait to read your responses.