Saturday, May 2, 2009

Why economic and social liberalism trends are incompatible

US has two dominant parties - the economically liberal but socially conservative Republicans, and socially liberal and economically conservative Democrats.

Many in my circle - the professional class - were long yearning for the third alternative - a party that is liberal both economically and socially. Someone to represent me :-)!

Why is this not happening? Unfortunately, for a reason.

Unrestricted economic liberalism mostly benefits the upper classes.

The lower classes are less educated, more religious (church and especially Christianity historically being used as a way to keep people in their place), and therefore more socially conservative.

Since the upper classes do not have enough votes to advance their agenda, they need to coopt the lower classes to vote against the lower classes' economic interests.

This of course is done by throwing down whatever red meat issues are currently at hand - "family values", gay marriage, "security", "morality", "gun rights", etc. Most of it is either social conservatism or fear because this is what the masses respond to.

And this is why economically liberal parties are bound to be socially conservative. There is simply no way for them to attract enough followers to matter otherwise.

Which is why you have such a high incidents of hypocrisy among Republican leaders - from Rush Limbaugh abusing drugs while preaching death to (other) drug addicts, to Larry Craig's restroom incident. They don't really give a flying f*ck about morals (or anything else they sell - gun rights, security, etc). They are just using this to get more idiots vote for them.

What does this say about the rich? Not much, unfortunately (I cannot bring myself to call Wall Street bankers and automaker CEOs "the elites" which to me means "the best"). By trying to extract the last penny while stirring the worst instincts in the society, they retard the progress of civilization.

Yes, they are rich, but as a result time moves slower for everybody. But you know what? The quality of life and the average longevity of the middle class in the age of antibiotics turns out to be better than that of the royalty in the Middle Ages.

Trading stem cell research for a few thousand bucks in taxes is not smart, and proves once again that IQ and compensation in today's America are unfortunately not correlated.

And this is usually the beginning of the end...


Nick said...

Что меня поражает, так это то, что рассуждающий об "чтоб отвлекать трудящихся от классовой борьбы" переехал жить в Америку...
Пишите лучше о программировании - лучше получается

Anonymous said...

So what is it about the Democrats' "economically conservative" policies that annoys you the most? Since "Unrestricted economic liberalism mostly benefits the upper classes", are you worried that these policies might horrifyingly benefit the middle and lower classes?

nathan2209 said...

There are two definitions of "liberal". Classical liberalism has to do with individual freedom and limited government. Little of what I've read from you indicates a bent toward classical liberalism. Modern liberalism is another name for social progressivism which in many ways is the antithesis of classical liberalism.

Back when the constitution was ratified, the principles of limited government were very liberal. Since these principles turned out to be very effective, the nation prospered in the long run. These very "liberal" principles are what drive today's conservatives.

So you see, liberalism today is really about always trying out something new and being unwilling to believe that there is anything to learn from the past. Conservatism is about wanting to keep around what works. So you need a balance between the conservative wing and the liberal wing.

But, we don't live in a static situation. The U.S. has consistently swung to the left little by little for most of two hundred years. So it turns out that today's conservatives are the ones who are for change economically and it's liberals who want to keep the current trajectory in place.

So if my analysis is correct, you were yearning for a progressive policy both economically and socially.

What I want is to keep principles that I know work in place no matter what you call it. Once progessivist policies ruin the country, I can call myself a liberal again as we try out "new" policies like limited government and individual responsibility.

I think you're completely wrong to attribute conservative principles to some desire to control other people. My personal (conservative) view is that all individuals should be able to have more than enough freedom to hang themselves with. I draw the line when innocent people are hurt. Thus I'm against abortion since I view a fetus as a human being. Unless a woman is raped, there is nothing innocent about her wanting an abortion. There was a time when protecting the powerless was a liberal idea. Marriage too is about protecting the most vulnerable. So what makes me conservative is that the nation has moved to the left.

In short, I'm just saying that the conservative/liberal labels and stereotypes are overly simplified. I'd have liked to see more precision in exactly what it is you would like to see in a third party.

nathan2209 said...

And BTW, limited government only works when you have a virtuous and civic minded populace. Hence, it is TOTALLY coherent for political and economic [classical] liberals to be socially conservative.

John Adams:
"We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other"

And you can see that the converse is true: the more licentious and indifferent the populace becomes, the stronger and more paternalistic their government must become.

Sergey Solyanik said...


Nothing you say has any roots in recent (last 50 years) history.

"Conservatives are for small government?" - but the government grew much faster under conservative presidents, from Nixon to Reagan to Bush II.

"Conservatives are for individual freedom?" - it's the power structures that accounted for the majority of growth under conservative presidents - the ones that directly interfere with personal freedoms.

Speaking of which - care to tell me who supports torture in this country? Liberals? This is about individual freedom? It was Bush and conservative congress that got rid of Magna Carta's founding principles in this country...

The only individual freedom that conservatives are for is ECONOMIC freedom. The post above explains why. You should read it again.

Conservatism is neither about small government, nor about personal freedom. It is about using MY money to enforce Christian morality on ME, because it distracts idiot voters - who are a very significant (majority?) constituency in this country - from real problems.

nathan2209 said...

Conservative presidents rush to the center just as liberals ones do. George Bush II was very bad for the conservative movement, and ironically, Clinton was good for it. You see, it isn't always about ramming through your ideas. It's about give and take. And Bush gave and gave. I know most liberals are blind to it, but he signed way to many bills that compromised conservative principles.

But recent history as you describe it doesn't nullify anything I said. The presidents you mentioned were Republicans, not necessarily conservative. And as I said before, the label conservative is kind of a poor label given that most of us are classical liberals.

I think a good study for you Sergey, would be the life of Alexander Hamilton. He is the father of American government (big government back in those days) and yet, I regard him as a conservative. He was vilified by Jefferson and Madison for making a strong central government, for his desire to have a strong army, and for his willingness to promote industry.

There is something for everyone in Hamilton. Liberals and conservatives alike admire his vehement anti-slaver stance. Liberals loves his strong central government bent. Social conservatives admire his reverence for religion. Classical liberals love his devotion to private property and the sanctity of contracts.

Yet, in the end, I regard him a great conservative. Because in his day, we needed more government. Good government is about achieving the right balance. Our very constitution was about striking a balance that created a government just strong enough but not tyrannical.

Thus, the desire for limited government isn't an end unto itself. It is *relative* to where we are now. We see an imbalance in the force. We want to return to that balance. Under Hamilton, needed to move to stronger government. Today we need to return more power back to the states and the people.

Another clue that Hamilton was a conservative is that he understood that life will always be imperfect. Government can never (as progressive's believe) change human nature and cannot bring utopia.

He said "I have thought it my duty to exhibit the things as they are, not as they ought to be".

Liberals seem to only care about how things "ought to be".

Read Chernow's biography of Hamilton and I think you will come to understand what drives moderate conservatives. (Not all conservatives will claim Hamilton.)

Sergey, if you have any admiration at all for the Constitution, I'd like to know how and which founding father you claim?

Sergey Solyanik said...

James Madison, of course :-).

But that was a long time ago and for all practical purposes irrelevant today. Today, US constitution would have zero chance of passing because it would be too progressive a document...

You can redefine the term "conservative" and "liberal" all you want, but the fact is, these terms have come to mean something else completely.

Very few people will agree with you that Reagan was "Republican, not a conservative" - in fact, vast majority of people who call themselves conservatives today all but worship him.

Yet Reagan grew the government, promoted fiscal irresponsibility in the form of financial deregulation and the growth of debt to the extent that was unfathomable before, and had a complete disregard for personal rights - other than economic rights of course.

Much of the same goes for Nixon, Bush, Sarah Palin, and other conservative "leaders" of their ilk.

The reality is that conservative politicans today serve economic interests of their bosses in top corporate echelons, and throw religious red meat to their red neck adherents simply to amass votes. And conservative voters eat the red meat whole because they are (1) scared, (2) uneducated, and (3) just plain stupid.

This is how we get a country which will impeach the president for lying about sex, and keep the one who lied about war.

nathan2209 said...

I think the blog owner deserves the last word. I'll have to rest my case. In parting, there are two things that I think you should consider looking at. Google up a historical graph of the size of the Federal Government and notice the trends and what happened from 1980 to 2000. (The Reagan revolution took time) Secondly, James Madison is the poster boy for limited government. Google up some of his quotes concerning the "Promote the General Welfare" clause, and about the powers of the federal government versus the states. I'll add a third, read the Constitution and better yet, study the debates that went into creating it. The constitution was very progressive in terms of freedom. Its attempt to create a system of checks and balances against tyranny is timeless, not a relic of the past.