Liberal is not what we think it is

Don Boudreaux says it well:

I refuse to call the likes of, say, Paul Krugman or E.J. Dionne or Rachel Maddow or Alec Baldwin or Nancy Pelosi or Bernie Sanders or Francois Hollande or Thomas Piketty or Pope Francis “liberal.”  They are not liberal.  They are authoritarian.

“I support it, but it doesn’t apply to me”

On page 154 of his book The Secret Knowledge, David Mamet wrote:

I recognized that though, as a lifelong Liberal, I endorsed and paid lip service to “social justice,” which is to say, to equality of result, I actually based the important decisions of my life–those in which I was personally going to be affected by the outcome–by the principle of equality of opportunity; and, further that so did everyone I knew.  Many, I saw, were prepared to pay more taxes, as a form of Charity, which is to say, to hand off to the Government the choice of programs and recipients of their hard-earned money, but no one was prepared to be on the short end of the failed program, however well-intentioned.  (For example–one might endorse a program giving minorities preference in award of government contracts; but, as a business owner, one would fight to get the best possible job under the best possible terms regardless of such a program, and would, in fact, work all legal, perhaps by semi- or illegal means to subvert the program that enforced upon the proprietor a bad business decision.)*

*No one would say of a firefighter, hired under rules reducing the height requirement, and thus unable to carry one’s child to safety, “Nonetheless, I am glad I voted for that ‘more fair’ law.”

Reading this passage brought to mind a conversation I once had with a friend about minimum wage.  He listened to my arguments.  It reduces opportunities for unskilled workers.  It increases unemployment.  It’s a private transaction between two individuals.  The worker can always opt not to take the low paying job.

He listened, but he still couldn’t get over what he saw as an imbalance of power between an employer in areas with few other opportunities (still not recognizing that those limited opportunities may be a result of minimum wage) and an employee.

It occurred to me to ask how he pays the individuals that worked for him on his car lot.

He answered: Them?  Well, they are not “my” employees.  They are independent contractors.  They are paid a commission based on how much they sell.

Me: So, if they don’t sell any cars over a several hour period, they make nothing, which is less than minimum wage?

Him: Well, yes. Technically.  But they usually average more than minimum wage.

Me: Usually?  What about when they don’t?  There has to be hours or days that go by when they don’t sell a car.  Why don’t you put your money where your mouth is and ensure that they make at least minimum wage all the time?

Him: Do you know how much that would cost me?  Besides, then they wouldn’t have as much incentive to sell. 

A perfect example of what Mamet wrote about.

Mamet finishes his chapter:

In the waning days of my belief in “Social Justice” I discovered, in short, that I was not living my life according to the principles I professed, that I disbelieved both in the probity and in the mechanical operations of those groups soliciting first my vote and then my money in the name of Justice, and that so did everyone I knew.  Those of us untroubled by this disparity, I saw, called ourselves “Liberals.”  The others were known as Conservatives.

Liberal and Conservative Paradoxes

Regular commenter Zombiehero213 made these excellent remarks to the post Central Planning:

If you think about it, the people that give control over to a higher power [religion] have a much easier time accepting the chaotic free market, then those that don’t accept a higher power.

Spontaneous order is real interesting because, those that believe solely in evolution. You know, those liberals that are “so scientific” (Sarcasm implied), they cannot accept the idea of spontaneous order in the market. But they do (I doubt they really do, I think they are just trying to be scientific because it’s the hip thing to do) accept some spontaneous order if they want to keep their belief in evolution.

Basically, people who have no faith in evolution as the origin of life seems to put faith in evolutionary markets, while folks who believe in evolutionary life seem to be more skeptical of evolutionary markets.

I don’t know if this paradox is widely held.  I know people who have this paradox in their minds, but I know others on Continue reading

Conservative v Liberal

Credit to the Shanin & Parks Radio Show in Kansas City for the Conservative vs. Liberal distinctions below.

I’ve seen similar things before written from a liberal point of view where the conservative side was distorted or exaggerated. I’d love to hear from liberals on this.  I wonder if liberals think their side is distorted here or if it’s a fair representation.   If these aren’t correct, I’d like to see suggestions.

I think the conservative side is true for many conservatives, though there are exceptions to all rules and there will be factions that call themselves conservative that think differently or disagree with some of these.

The gist is that conservatives generally don’t want to force their will on others through the government, while liberals seem to think that’s okay as long as it meets some logical test of being intended for the greater good.  Whether or not the imposition fulfills the intention in reality rarely seems to be a concern.

If a conservative doesn’t like guns, he doesn`t buy one.
If a liberal doesn’t like guns, he wants guns outlawed.

If a conservative is a vegetarian, he doesn’t eat meat.
If a liberal is a vegetarian, he wants meat products banned.

If a conservative is homosexual, he quietly leads his life.
If a liberal is homosexual, he demands legislated respect.

If a conservative is down-and-out, he tries to better his situation.
A liberal wants to know who is going to fix it for him.

If a conservative doesn’t like a talk show host, he switches channels.
Liberals want those they don’t like to be silenced.

If a conservative is a non-believer, he doesn’t go to church.
If a liberal is a non-believer he wants any mention of religion silenced.

If a conservative needs health insurance he shops for it, or looks for a job that will provide it.
A liberal demands that the rest of us provide for it.

A conservative will read this and will forward it, so his friends can have a good laugh.
A liberal will read this and delete it, because he’s offended.

Insulated Opinion

Forbes magazine columnist, Rich Karlgaard, made an excellent point in his latest column, The Blind Side.  Karlgaard believes “conservatives are generally better acquainted with liberal America than are liberals with conservative America.”

He gives education, media, entertainment and political correctness where the mainstream view tends to have a more  liberal bias.  There are outlets for conservative biases, but those are not in the mainstream and liberals aren’t naturally exposed to these outlets.

Here’s his reasoning on media and entertainment:

There is now a healthy spectrum of news and opinion media in America, from Fox News and talk radio on the right to MSNBC, CNN and the networks on the left. We pick our poisons. Call it a standoff. Yet, at the same time, most of the commonly consumed media in the U.S. is still decidedly liberal. Prime-time television shows tilt liberal, e.g., showing businesspeople as bad guys, etc. Hollywood is mostly liberal. Avatar–and I liked Avatar–is a movie shot through with liberal sensibilities. Media “celebrities” overwhelmingly donate to the Democratic Party.

Fair point.  In discussions with liberals, I find that o spend a great deal of energy presenting the basic foundations of conservatism and correcting false perceptions.

Medved is Underrated

Michael Medved impresses me with his ability to clearly communicate the true differences in political spectrum as evidenced in by his latest column, Choice and Reward vs. Force and Punishment.   At least I think so.  I would love to hear from the Force and Punishment side of the spectrum to see if they agree.

One example:

Liberals want to protect citizens and even companies from the harsh consequences of their own mistakes – providing bailouts for floundering companies, subsidies for failing, non-competitive “green” technologies, and food and rent subsidies even for those whose poor choices (substance abuse, dropping out of school, criminality) have left them idle and unproductive.

To pay for this misplaced “compassion” the left inevitably punishes those who’ve made better choices and contributed more to society. Generally, we raise taxes to discourage conduct that carries with it a social and economic cost — like consumption of alcohol or cigarettes. Why, then, do we raise tax rates for those who succeed in generating the profits that make economic growth and new jobs possible? We treat the creation of wealth like a vice, not a virtue – as if the pursuit of economic advancement represented a greedy, guilty habit that requires regulation and discouragement.

Conservatives for Government Intervention in Social Affairs?

In the comments section of this post at Cafe Hayek, JohnK posted that conservatives advocate intervention in social affairs.   I asked for examples.  MichealSmith provided this response:

…but let’s take a look at what many (perhaps most?) Republicans advocate, even if they’ve not succeeded in getting much of it put into law:

1) Outlawing of virtually all abortion
2) Prayer in public schools
3) Teaching of creation on an equal basis with evolution
4) Constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage
5) Denial of a gay’s right to serve in the defense of his country
6) Government intervention to block termination of life support for those in hopeless conditions
7) Faith-based grants of taxpayer funds to churches.
8) Banning or severly limiting certain biotechnology research, such as stem cell research and cloning.
9) Immigration restrictions
10) Government regulation of private sexual behaviors through, for instance, laws banning sodomy.
11) Denial of speration of church and state; advocacy of displays of religious artifacts like the Ten Commandments in courtrooms.

It’s pretty clear to me that the Republican party, for the most part, supports a significant amount of “government intervention into social affairs”.

I think this is a good direction for this conversation, but out of respect for Cafe Hayek who recently requested to minimize off-topic posts, I thought I’d host the conversation here.  I think it’s worthwhile to respond to MichaelSmith’s comments.

Response (work-in-progress):

1) First, I don’t consider abortion a social affair, so I don’t consider outlawing it government interference in a social affair.  Second, I view one of the only roles of government to protect our liberty from the exercise of illegitimate power from others.  I view ending the life of another prematurely, without due process, an exercise of illegitimate power.  I happen to believe that’s the case whether that life is still in the womb or not. To convince me otherwise, you would need to convince me that a life in the womb is somehow not a life or has not yet earned the basic liberty of life yet.

2) I’m not clear what government interference MichaelSmith is referring to here.  I’d hate to speculate.  I won’t respond to this until I know the specific government interference he’s referring to.

3) Like #2, I’m not sure what government interference he’s referring to.  I’d need a more specific description of it.  I don’t know of many cases where conservatives have tried to force everyone though government intervention to be taught creation on equal footing with evolution.

4) What does ‘outlaw’ mean here?  I don’t believe anyone would be prevented from or prosecuted for being married with the amendment he referenced.

5) Serving the military is a social affair?

6) I believe any intervention here was to ensure that the people with the appropriate power made the decision to terminate life support.  Like #1, this is to prevent the exercise of illegitimate power, i.e. someone deciding to end a life who may not have the legal authority to do so.

7) If he means giving government funds to religious organizations, fine.  I don’t see this as a defining characteristic of a conservative.  In fact, most conservatives would rather reduce taxes so we will have more funds to send to the charities of our choosing.

8) To my knowledge, conservatives do not want taxpayer funds used to research stem cells, which is consistent with their belief in minimal government intervention.  As for cloning, like #1, that comes down to exercising illegitimate power over another life.

9)  I don’t think most conservatives want to restrict immigration.  They want to observe and enforce the laws we do have. Many also want to make it easier for law abiding people from other countries to come here and contribute to our society.

10)  I don’t think this is a defining conservative characteristic.

11) How is this intervention in social affairs?