Thursday, October 09, 2008

Liberal Assumptions

The difference between liberals, and conservatives, is highlighted in the preface of Chris Boehm's Hierarchy in the Forest. In a book I truly love, he notes on the first page of the preface: 'We participate in this type of political leverage because we want to keep a say in our own governance, but, more basically, we exert it because we are suspicious of all governance and wish to limit the powers of those who lead and may try therefore to rule.'

He then highlights how this obviously leads to Democratic liberalism. For some reason, he thinks giving more power to the government to regulate diffuses power. But the power of Halliburton, Exxon, or Microsoft, is insignificant relative to the power of the state via its departments, laws, and regulations. I have alternatives for companies. The government, in various guises, is a monopoly.

Liberals think diffusing state power comes from regulation. Conservatives think diffusing power comes from taking authority away from the state. Same goal, different paths, based on assumptions about the facts.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think these characterizations apply to just a minority of liberals and conservatives.
Many folks that call themselves conservatives seem obsesses with maintaining an orderly society: no gay marraige, men at the head of the household, traditional roles.
Many liberals see the government as the ultimate insurance company, shifting all kings of economic risk from the individual to the government.
You could argue that many conservatives are an enigma: they support a stifling social environment, but an unfettered economic arena with the goal of generating the most growth.
You could argue that the that the liberal support of regulation is actually a protection of the market by removing the coercion implicit in unequal sizes (between individuals and giant corporations.
But I find that most people operate without a strong ideological framework for these things.
I'm paticularly irked by people that are pro-life and pro-death penalty. If you are one, then you should be the other. Those positions are often held by conservatives, even though both of those represnt a strong use of government power (invasion of the "right" to privacy on abortion, and ultimate use of coercive power by killing). Yes, I know that conservatives think that there is no right to privacy (the basis of Grimwald vs. Connecticut) in the constitution.
Then there are the liberals, usually for big government, are pro-choice (to limit government power in individual decisions). And they are anti-death penalty, because they want to limit the government's power to take life.
Not a lot of intellectual consistency on anyone's part.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think it is quite a bit simpler. Democratic liberals tend to think that the importance of economic freedom from state interference is trivial (and likely to be replace by interference by large companies, i.e. it is a push for them) compared to more personal freedom from state interference (abortion, lax criminal law, etc.). Democratic conservatives tend to think the reverse.

Only libertarians and communists are really consistent.

Anonymous said...

Todays sp called Conservatives (only in name) have proven to be for both big government (at the federal level) and big business. When you get the two together you get a crisis like we've got going. I'm afraid this site is written by a neocon who can't see the trees for the forest.

Eric Falkenstein said...

Oh stop. I'm a conservative like Milton Friedman. That is, I think the liberties Republicans uphold are more material, on average, than those the Democrats cherish. I'm a Libertarian, but they don't have a real party.

Thus, while I strongly dislike NCLB, the Iraq war, the farm bill, and lots of other things Bush supports, I think the Democrats are worse.

But more fundamentally, I do think Republicans see business as better as decisionmakers, than Democrats, who consider regulators as better decisionmakers. Both want to maximize freedom, but have different methods. Similar objectives, though, which is encouraging.

Anonymous said...

At the heart both dems & repubs are owned by multinational corporations. The problem isn´t big business, it's both of them together, big business AND big government. You see it's much easier for a corporation to bribe one central government than 50 different ones at the state level. Government has grown tremendously under Bush and therefor the influence of the Corporation. This crisis is at heart a reflection of this (deregulation gone bad).

Pete Sattler said...

The differences between the GOP-Democrats are not as simple as you state.
Most Democrats and Republicans have VERY VERY close views on Economics. They are at 45 and 55 on a scale from 1 to 100. Democrats believe slightly more in social insurance and investment in public goods.
But most Democrats want to vomit because of the religious right. Plus there are the wacko socialists/unionists/redistributionists in the democratic coalition, that are tolerated and paid lip service to in order to expand the coalition.
Most GOPers are moderates who tolerate, pay lip service to, or rationalize limited support for the religious right (and ultra-nationialists) to enlarge their coalition.
Put all the leftists in the Green party, and a lot of GOPers would move into the Democrats (might have to get the lawyers in the green party too). Put the religious right and xenophobes in their own political party, chaired by Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson, and many Democrats would join the GOP.

Eric Falkenstein said...

I don't the the religious right is so important, because its not like banning abortion, or teaching creationism, are realistic fears. On the left, the black muslims, black christians, Mexican Catholics, and Jews, if taken to their logical extremes of their religion, generate the same kind of silliness as the Christian right. Further, these religious groups on the left are fundamentally inconsistent, which makes me think they aren't really the essence of why they are all in the Democratic party.

Both candidates have been vague about how they are going to change things, but we know Obama will start with some pure red meat for his base: increasing taxes on 'the rich'. That's one idea that appeals directly to Democrats as an obvious way to make society better, and for Republicans, an obviously bad idea.

Anonymous said...

The rich in reality don't pay their share in taxes. They have their offshore loopholes etc etc. One could argue that the less well off pay more taxes in proportion.