Notes From Babel

Contradictions on Both the Left and the Right

with 3 comments

There are lots of potential conversation starters here, but I’ll just offer these up as is for now:

  • Conservatives purport to distrust government, while liberals tend to favor government programs and regulation.  When it comes to law enforcement, however, conservatives demonstrate a strong bias in favor, and liberals a strong bias against.  (Perhaps the respective attitudes toward government are consistent when narrowed to legislative power—and even more specifically, legislative power concerning economic matters—versus executive power.)
  • Conservatives tend to take the long view toward policy, while liberals put a premium on remediating perceived present injustices.  When it comes to long term policies concerning the environment, however, conservatives exhibit a strong bias against, and liberals a strong bias in favor.
  • Conservatives tend to view moral values as objective and absolute, while liberals tend to view them as subjective and relative.  However, conservatives tend to view economic values as values as subjective and relative (i.e., depending on supply, demand, and other fluctuating market forces), while liberals tend to view the value of work as tethered to some objective and absolute standard (i.e., correlating to some predetermined standard of living).  (This relates to the distinction between procedural and substantive justice I touched on in a previous post; when it comes to economic values, conservatives embrace a procedural approach that allows the market to establish values based on self-executing, decentralized weighing of various factors, and is thus relativistic in terms of outcomes.  Liberals, on the other hand, tend to eschew market approaches in favor of fixing the value of work in the first event.)
  • Conservatives tend to eschew the vagaries of bureaucracy, while liberals defend bureaucracy as a positive good.  However, conservatives are apologists for the vagaries of high finance, while liberals are highly critical.
  • Conservatives tend to eschew centralized, top-down approaches to policy-making in favor of federalism and localism, while liberals tend to favor centralized planning.  When it comes to school reform, however, many liberals are critical of top-down approaches.
  • Liberals tend to favor industrial/urban to agrarian/rural lifestyles, yet they tend to be critical of the vast accumulations of wealth made possible in the former.

If you can think of others, I’d love to hear them.


Written by Tim Kowal

March 21, 2011 at 10:56 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Concerning environmental policy, I think conservatives react strongly to the wild predictions about climate change, and the increase of popular environmental rhetoric in politics drives them to reject the notion altogether.


    March 22, 2011 at 4:22 am

    • There’s something to that, for sure. But my intuition is that there’s some deeper bias. Or maybe it’s just a contrarian bias? Conservatives might also be more in favor of guarding against animal cruelty, for example, if it didn’t seem like the sort of thing only radical lefties campaign against. Many conservatives believe in the idea of being good stewards of the earth, after all, it’s just that the left beat them to it, and the prime directive of partisan conservatism is to oppose the left, rather than to take issues on their merits.

      That’s all over-simplifying and a bit cynical, of course.

      Tim Kowal

      March 22, 2011 at 7:17 am

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