12 May 2009

Promises Versus Arguments

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Doctor Zero at Hot Air has a pretty good analysis of the differing viewpoints and methods of appeal of the two opposite American political poles.

Republican politicians often forget that conservatism is an argument, while liberalism is a promise. The conservative champions both the moral and practical superiority of liberty and individualism. The liberal promises tangible rewards in exchange for votes. The conservative argument will never be over, because any free-market system will always include a certain population who fare poorly. No matter how small that population is, or how much the overall wealth of society eases the burden of their poverty, they will always be extremely receptive to the seduction of collective politics: You’re not responsible for your lot in life. You were cheated. The wealth of others is unfair. Give us the “freedom” that wasn’t doing you any good anyway, and we will sharpen it into a weapon against those who took advantage of you. Give us your undying support, and you’ll never have to worry about feeling confused, guilty, or inadequate again. Voting for the Democrat ticket will fully discharge your moral and intellectual duty as a citizen – we’ll take it from there. In fact, we’ve got ACORN representatives standing by to fill that ballot out for you. You have a “right” to housing, a job, health care, a college education, easy credit, and a host of other benefits, and the liberal promises to provide all of these things, while making nameless rich people pick up the tab.

Liberal socialism is the ongoing critique of capitalism’s imperfections. To the casual center-left voter, the world seems overwhelming, confusing, and unfair. This was never more obvious than in the financial crisis that erupted last fall, when a large number of citizens became very angry and frightened about a crisis they couldn’t begin to understand. They just knew something terrible was happening, and they demanded action. The Democrats stepped in with a ready-made narrative, which the Republicans suicidally left unchallenged, and offered the exact same solutions they have offered to every problem since the days of FDR: massive government spending and control. Conservatives found this dismaying and horrifying – who in their right minds would solve the problem Barney Frank created by giving Barney Frank more money and power? But Democrat voters were willing to accept this diagnosis and solution, as they always seem ready to accept liberal solutions, despite a century-long track record of absolute failure… because they need to believe that someone out there knows what they’re doing, and has the answers to the overwhelming problems produced by a complex economy, and packaged by a sensationalist media in love with Big Solutions to Big Problems. …

We might ask the rank-and-file liberal why he’s so willing to believe slippery, corrupt characters like politicians would be better suited to distribute the wealth of the nation, than the people who earned that wealth. The answer is the talismanic power of democratic elections. The American voter has been raised since childhood to believe voting is a sacred process that confers tremendous moral legitimacy on the winners of elections. Dollar bills are ugly instruments of crass materialism and greed in the hands of private citizens, but they acquire a luminous aura of virtue when handled by an elected official. The liberal voter believes his political leaders are entitled to control whatever portion of their constituents’ wealth they require, because the voters gave them this power, voluntarily. They see ballots as an unlimited power of attorney to act on their behalf. Conservatives view their votes as a way to restrain politicians, while liberals view them as decrees of informed consent.

The liberal is comfortable with members of his Party descending from the heavens in private jets, to lecture citizens on the need to drive tiny fuel-efficient cars, and is untroubled by the spectacle of politicians who amassed vast fortunes through political corruption attacking private citizens for their greed… because those politicians were sanctified through the ritual of the popular vote. You might get a friendly liberal to admit that most politicians are crooks… but he’ll hasten to add that businessmen are all crooks too, and at least the politicians gained their power and comforts through the informed consent of the voters, instead of stealing it from them with elaborate business schemes.

The gulf that divides liberal voters from conservative ideas is a crisis of faith. The liberal voter does not believe the system is fair, or that businessmen operating in a free market will provide the necessities of life that every American is entitled to. The upper class liberal doesn’t have faith in the ability of the poor and downtrodden to seize the opportunities provided by capitalism, and build a better life for themselves. The dependent voter relies upon the benevolence of Big Government because he doesn’t have faith in himself – he sees the competition of the free market as a rigged game he is destined to lose, rather than an exhilarating opportunity. The moralistic liberal has no faith in the judgment or compassion of ordinary people, who are products of a society forever mired in racism, sexism, phobias, and greed. The cynical young liberal thinks he knows what the ultimate goals of a wise and just society should be, and doubts that uneducated, Bible-thumping rednecks will ever arrive at those goals of their own free will. The working-class liberal is fearful that collapsing corporations will leave hordes of unemployed people who won’t be able to find another decent job. High schools and colleges are filled with kids who have been taught to have no faith in the ability of free people to take proper care of their environment.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to the News Junkie.

2 Feedbacks on "Promises Versus Arguments"

Scott D

Liberals also behave as if they believe that the world is still a zero sum game. If I gain something, it must mean that someone else lost, and if I gain a LOT it must be because of some unfair advantage I employed. If the United States grows faster than any other country, it must be because they “exploited” the others. This, of course, is utter nonsense. The period from 1982-2007 represented an unprecedented worldwide economic boom despite the US disproportionate performance. Free markets do not grade on the curve.


Seems to me that the more that Republicans forget that politics runs on promises rather than arguments the more they will lose.

But they’ll feel good about it. All the way to the boneyard.

Are we there yet?


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