“We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it” – Nancy Pelosi
Do you ever wonder why the Left always seems so unanimous? How Democrats seem to circle the wagons around their own while Republicans seem a more fractious bunch? I have been exploring the differences between the Left and the Right in general, and specifically in two earlier pieces, The Left and the Right – Shoulds and Coulds and Liberals, Conservatives and Fiscal Choices. Here are a few of the earlier thoughts I had on the matter:
Most on the Left start with good intentions and end in poor implementation.
Conservatives favor issues. Liberals favor causes.
Conservatives argue with logic. Liberals argue with emotion.
Conservatives are fiscally focused. Liberals are socially focused.
Conservatives think Government is the problem. Liberals think Government is the solution.
Conservatives want to give power back to the people. Liberals want to take power from the people.
Conservative policies motivate you to do something. Liberal policies tell you what to do.
Conservatives view others as needing empowerment. Liberals view others as needing help.
Conservatives favor individualism. Liberals triumph the collective.
Conservatives carry their own beliefs. Liberals want you to adopt theirs.
Conservatives revere the Constitution as it was written. Liberals want to rewrite the Constitution.
Conservatives want a smaller government because government is expensive and wastes money. Liberals want a bigger government because government is expensive and wastes money.
That last one is a little tongue in cheek – but only a little. Some real truth is hiding there.
But I think these things are all symptoms. I don’t think they capture the essence of why there are such differences. They are just manifestations. I think there’s something deeper lurking underneath. Consider the statement “We should save the environment”. Actually stop and ponder some deeper meaning from that seemingly simple group of words. We shall return to this statement later.
I stumbled across a study on the differences between Conservatives and Liberals from Northwestern University – Conservatives and Liberals Do Think Differently. The study found that liberals were more likely than conservatives to “achieve solutions with a sudden insight or an Aha! moment. Conservatives have more structured and persistent cognitive styles. Insight solutions contrast with methodical and analytical problem solving, which involve a gradual approach toward the solution and awareness of the steps involved.”
After I thought about this for a bit, I decided there might be something to the study. Typically I choose topics for my site because I am interested in them, already have a generalized opinion and want to learn more. For me, it’s an educational experience – an exploration. It’s why I do this. I like walking through the logic – discovering facts and answers. It’s an insightful process but it’s not a sudden insight. It leads me towards a concrete argument or position in the matter I am studying.
Now contrast this with a “sudden insight”. It comes hidden and unbidden. There is no overt process, no steps of logical progression. It’s just there – a sudden flash – a sudden…position. It feels like a truth. And perhaps for that person it is. But it has no foundation in a logical process. By definition it is not fully fleshed or thought out. It’s just there. But it lends an air of superiority – of power – of rightness.
Kind of like a lot of Liberal causes:
We should have cleaner air.
How much cleaner? What are we actually getting for our money? Give me a cost/benefit analysis.
We should have healthcare for all.
How do we pay for it? Why would you want the government to run it? And don’t say tax the rich. High-income taxpayers earned 28 percent of income in 2014 while paying 55 percent of taxes.
We should have a $15 per hour minimum wage.
Why should we have any minimum wage? A set minimum wage guarantees less low income jobs.
Medicare should provide better coverage.
Where does the money come from? You realize entitlements and interest on our national debt already make up 57% of Government Spending and is projected to be 82% in 10 years?
We should do more for the environment.
Same points as Cleaner Air.
We should stop Climate Change.
Why should we pay billions – even trillions – for something we don’t begin to understand (For a critique and exploration of the highly questionable science and politics of Climate Change click here).
Government should run healthcare.
Why would you want the government to run anything? Give me one example of something the government has run efficiently.
Some basic questions to be asked of any Liberal policy:
How are we to pay for your goals?
Who is to pay for your goals?
Exactly why should we pursue them?
When do you reach conclusion – attainment of your goal – and how do you know?
What is the cost/benefit analysis?
Have you thought through the real world outcomes – the Law of Unintended Consequences – from taking any of these actions?
Have you considered what you are prepared to cut funding to, in order to provide funding for these goals?
How did you prioritize your goals?
The devil is always in the details. And a basic understanding of economics provides a doorway to understanding the details. If I could be King for a Day, I would decree that in order to vote you must provide two forms of I.D. – one proving citizenship and the other proving you’ve passed Econ 101.
I kid – sort of.
But again, these are just symptoms – although the questions I pose help unmask the “cause”. Let’s look a bit deeper.
Time to go back to a Left/Right truism. Conservatives tend to favor issues. Liberals tend to favor causes.
The difference in approaches creates a set of problems for each party. Liberals like to take up causes. And causes are inherently difficult to measure. They are often emotional leaps of faith. That’s a big problem when you’re spending other people’s money. Or it should be. Results are often intangible. It may be impossible to know if – or when – the goal is actually attained. Specific details and ideas of implementation are usually missing. Long-term consequences almost never considered. Nancy Pelosi summed it up perfectly; “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it”. It might sound funny but that’s so often the way with Liberal causes. They are so big and undefined – and certainly not thought out – that the full ramifications won’t be known until later. It’s why our National Debt has doubled under Obama to $20 Trillion. Decisions are driven by emotional responses. It’s part of the reason we have spent trillions globally on climate change and have no way to measure any effectiveness of our spending. Liberal policies inherently lack concrete results but are full of intangible outcomes.
Conservatives face a different problem. Conservatives look at costs, benefits, cause and effect and budget prioritization – details. And looking at details is hard work. It takes time and effort. And debate – lots of debate. Conservatives are always subject to more division and ideological factions because they look at the details. When you take the time to examine – and work through – details, you inherently form opinions, establish positions and take sides. You are forced to make hard choices. And with this comes friction and dissension.
And this is exactly what we are seeing transpire in the Republican’s struggle to come up with a replacement Health Care Plan. Personally, I was glad to see the bill fail. I thought it was a poor replacement and one that would become a contentious issue for Republicans in coming years. Take the time and get it right.
Not so if you carry a cause. You are convinced you are right so there is no need to search for facts or explore costs.
Now, let’s return to our Liberal friend’s statement “We should save the environment.” Again, really think about all that implies.
It’s a cause, yes, but it’s also much more. It implies something about the person saying those words. It means they are not just noble – it means they are special – even powerful. They can do something mere mortals cannot. It is grandiose.
It’s a form of religion – especially for those who have none. They have “seen the light and the way”. They are the ones who recognize and see clearly what all those around them do not. It is a mantle to be picked up and carried. It is self-righteousness.
It is also a direct form of judgment. There is an inherent rightness in causes for the one who believes – otherwise they would not be causes. Causes are not something that allow for the interjection of facts. If others do not agree with your position they are not just dissenters, they are fools who cannot see and understand what you have come to know. But worse, they are now the very enemy against whom you are fighting. Any who disagree – or who don’t agree with enough conviction – are now your direct foe. Causes are ideological weaponry without facts.
Lastly, the statement is open-ended and unclarified. Exactly what is the environment? How does one go about saving it? What steps are entailed? What is sacrificed by doing so? What is saved? How much will it cost? What benefits are gained? How do you even know if or when it has been saved? In my experience, answers to these questions are as open-ended as the initial statement.
Try debating Climate Change with a liberal. Explain to them how the science is biased and flawed – how it is not really science. Explain how it is impossible that we could actually understand and predict something so staggeringly complex. And watch what happens. There will likely be little in the way of actual debate. Why? For one thing, they are not approaching the topic with facts. They are approaching the topic with personal belief, rightness, moral justification – and emotion. It is not just something they believe in. It is something they stand for. And you just attacked that personal foundation. You attacked them. And you are wrong – they are convinced of this.
Facts simply don’t matter in the short-term. They may gain weight over time, but in the long-run we’re all dead. Facts fail in the face of a core belief. Your facts must be wrong. Or worse yet, you are putting forth misinformation in an overt effort to sabotage their cause. To sabotage them. Which makes you a bad person. It makes you wrong.
The New York Times Editorial Board put forth an op-ed today entitled President Trump Risks the Planet, in the wake of Trump’s repeal of Obama’s Climate Rules. They note the “rock-solid scientific consensus” and highlight the “great risk to future generations” all while they ignore – or refuse to acknowledge – the real underlying science – or lack thereof. They ignore the facts in the face of their cause.
Michael Moore took to Social Media with the following statement: “Historians in the near future (because that may be the only future we have) will mark today, March 28, 2017, as the day the extinction of human life on earth began”. I think I will just let Mr. Moore’s statement speak for itself.
In a 60 minutes examination of “Fake News”, social media consultant Jim Vidmar stated that in using “their language about very specific words that kind of get that emotional response. That’s the key to all fake news”. Jeff Green, CEO of Trade Desk noted “fake news readers on the left were more likely to be affluent and college educated”. Mr. Green admitted to being surprised by the results.
But it’s not surprising if you view it as people with causes in search of validation. It’s not surprising at all.
Causes can be dangerous because causes don’t care about consequences. Only the cause itself is of any importance. Causes are unifying and divisive in the same moment. Unifying for those who share and believe and divisive against all who don’t. A cause – to those who believe – is by definition righteous and moral – and acts taken to forward one’s cause must also be moral by extension.
When one has a “Aha! moment” it appears with a sudden flash of pure insight, it’s so gravitational that it’s fully believable – but logical foundation is lacking. It’s a belief in what should be. When one hears things that reinforce that insight those thoughts become their logical foundation. Those things become their facts. But they didn’t have to work with them, to wrestle with the logic. They just internalized someone else’s thoughts. Someone else’s opinions solidified as their facts. And this is why Liberals tend to operate and believe things en masse. Their positions spill from one person to the next with no real questioning or introspection. Facts are not seriously investigated – indeed, they are avoided.
In my experience, Liberals lack a foundational philosophical base from which to operate. Conservatives approach the world from the realization that resources are limited, choices must be made and spending must be prioritized. For Conservatives, the world has economic roots. For Liberals, causes are simply that – causes. They stem from singular beliefs and a sense of rightness. They may be attached peripherally to other goals but only loosely so. There is a lack of an underlying coherent and cohesive approach to the world. This is why so many liberals accept positions that are seemingly hypocritical – or at odds with themselves. The pursuit of so many differing, lofty – and expensive goals – illustrates this issue. In a world of finite resources the pursuit of one goal crowds out the accomplishment of another. Yet that is rarely – if ever – acknowledged or recognized.
Causes are expensive because they generally cannot be measured nor quantified. How does one know when Climate Change has been “fixed”. How do we know the appropriate amount of resources to dedicate? Or if we should dedicate any? Causes almost always require ever-spiraling dedications of other people’s money to satisfy a sense of personal rightness and purpose. Public spending to quench moral indignation.
“We should save the Environment”. How – and at what cost?
Ask this question of any Liberal.
And you will get an open-ended answer to an open-ended cause.
For those in need of a chuckle here’s a semi-humorous yet fairly truthful compare/contrast I came across. I could find no author – my apologies to whoever originally wrote this.
If a conservative doesn’t like guns, he doesn’t buy one.
If a liberal doesn’t like guns, he wants all guns outlawed.
If a conservative is a vegetarian, he doesn’t eat meat.
If a liberal is a vegetarian, he wants all meat products banned for everyone.
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 thinks about how to better his situation.
A liberal wonders who is going to take care of him.
If a conservative doesn’t like a talk show host, he switches channels.
Liberals demand that those they don’t like be shut down.
If a conservative is a non-believer, he doesn’t go to church.
A liberal non-believer wants any mention of God and religion silenced. (Unless it’s a foreign religion, of course)
If a conservative decides he needs health care, he goes about shopping for it, or may choose a job that provides it.
A liberal demands that the rest of us pay for his.