En Tequila Es Verdad/progressive conservatism/post/2009/01/14/1516

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January 14, 2009 3:16 PM - Woozle

Woozle said...

"precedent" vs. "reason"... "reason" is, in turn, based on analysis of data (which includes experience). Are you saying that precedent is a more accurate predictor of outcome than rational analysis of data? Or is there some other consideration which trumps accuracy? How does one use "precedent" as a decision-making tool?

I believe your capitalism argument to be a straw man; liberals are not against capitalism as an economic system, they just favor curtailing abuses. Adam Smith, oft cited as the Father of Capitalism, was a liberal, and capitalism itself was "progress" -- an improvement over earlier systems. I like capitalism, or at least I like it better than feudalism (towards which many conservative policies seem to be pushing us).

Capitalism is a fine and worthy design for an economic engine, but even the finest engine needs regulation and tuning. Unregulated capitalism tends to become economic serfdom, as the powerful gain more and more control.

You're not really arguing against all market regulation, are you? And what's this body of experience which (you claim) shows us that interference is counterproductive?

If you're arguing for capitalism as the antithesis of social welfare, I think the numbers will show that failure to provide social welfare hurts business. (Many business owners are now pushing for universal healthcare for just this reason; the current broken system costs them far more than paying for universal healthcare through taxation would.)

Claiming that liberals happily defer to the judgments of their "beloved" economic thinkers is in stark contrast to the free-flowing governmental criticism I see coming from most blogs. Got an example?

Personally, I'm very suspicious of most economists. Like politicians, many of them have a vested interest in convincing people to do a certain thing, whether or not that thing is really in the people's best interest. There seem to be a few honest ones out there, but overall they're a group to regard with (almost) as much automatic skepticism as one does neocons.

So when I think a piece of regulation is needed, it's not because some econo-guru sold it to me; it's because I've thought about the situation, looked at it from a programmer's point of view ("where are the possible bugs and exploits in this system, and what can be done to prevent them?"), and arrived at an answer. If I then hear that same answer coming from the mouths of people whose opinions I respect, then I'm likely to believe I'm on to something.


Disraeli: sorry, didn't realize the rest was important; I was going with a charitable interpretation. "Arbitrary and general doctrines" is an accusation that is more properly leveled at conservatism, I should think. Liberal doctrines -- at least, the ones I agree with -- are neither arbitrary nor overly general, but based on what produces the best outcomes. (I'm more of a card-carrying rationalist than a liberal; I just find that liberal ideas tend to be more rational than so-called conservative ones.)


"Conservatives have a genuine fear of untested and untried ideas." How, then, do you ever try new ideas?

...and I have to ask: Why be afraid?


"pendulum theory": I think we're again getting closer to the heart of the controversy here.

As I'm understanding it, you see "change" as being part of a process of upset where a large forward motion must inevitably be followed by a series of decreasing forward and backward motions until stability is finally achieved.

That's not the way I see it. The "initial movement forward" is what I would call "progress"; the subsequent backwards motion is what I would call "unfortunate".

Civilization is a gradual process of changing parts we don't like and keeping the parts we do like.

Every now and then it happens that we realize we've perhaps discarded too much of a good thing -- the environmental movement, for example, was a recognition that in our mad push to industrialize and rein in nature, we were losing something of both practical and aesthetic value -- but this is a relatively rare occurrence (and more often due to conservative overenthusiasm, I should think). (Well, not genuinely conservative, obviously... but generally coming from people who call themselves conservatives.)

And even liberals recognize the value of allowing others to hang onto ideas that most of us discard. You'd have a hard time finding a liberal who thinks, for example, that the Amish really ought to abandon their anti-technological ways and get caught up.

I wish I could say that conservatives were as lenient about letting other people move forward before they (conservatives) are ready to do so, but unfortunately they seem to want to keep everyone back.


The example of "traditional" schools: I need more information about this. My own experience (as a student and in a parental role for 2 kids) is that some people do well with the "traditional" model of one kid per desk, everyone facing the teacher at the front of the room -- while some kids do horribly with this kind of setup. A rational approach (which I would also call progressive) recognizes whatever value can be demonstrated by either system (do we have numbers for this?) and tries to find the best mix.

A conservative approach, however, would rule unilaterally that the "traditional" approach is better just because it's traditional and isn't an utter failure. And of course sometimes even utter failure is insufficient deterrence to overcome this misplaced loyalty; e.g. the continuing 23% support for Bush...

Again with spanking: I've tried it. As far as I can tell, it wasn't the right approach, because other approaches led to far better behavior and discipline. Maybe it works for some kids, though, and I might break with the majority of liberal thought and say that it's not automatically bad -- but I also suspect that it tends to be used far too much, in situations where it causes damage rather than being helpful. Hence the liberal pushback against it, and hence I would also be very leery of using it, especially on a routine basis.

However... backing up to the big picture: You're offering me a lot of individual examples of how traditional approaches might be good (schooling, spanking) or bad (racial segregation), but you haven't explained how you determine which is which.

Going from how you've presented them, though, I think it's fair to say you are evaluating them more or less the same way I do -- by whether they do more good than harm.

In other words: reason.

So... what's the difference between liberalism and conservatism, again? (Or am I misunderstanding something?)

On the other hand, you refer to the "the tradition of marriage being exclusively between one man and one woman." Let's look at that for a bit, as an example of a tradition.

In the Bible, marriage was often between one man and many women. "For most of European history,", quoth Wikipedia ("The Encyclopedia Conservatives Don't Trust"), "marriage was more or less a business agreement between two families who arranged the marriages of their children." "[Greek and Roman] marriage and divorce required no specific government or religious approval. Both marriage and divorce could happen by simple mutual agreement." "Until 1545, Christian marriages in Europe were by mutual consent, declaration of intention to marry and upon the subsequent physical union of the parties. ...the presence of a priest or witnesses was not required." In the US, married women were once prohibited from owning property, and married couples were prohibited from using contraception until 1972. Married women were only allowed credit in their own names in 1975.

Why do you not argue as strenuously for a return to each of these "traditional" forms of marriage? Some of them I like and others I don't, but I can at least tell you why; what is it about the monogamous heterosexual nuclear-family affectionate marriage that is so freaking special?

Or are you still waiting for the pendulum to swing back to 1545? Or earlier? Where do you think it should stop, and why?

(Note than I'm not even getting into non-Western ideas of marriage, where a much broader palette has been pretty well explored and none of it, as far as I know, shown to destroy society.)


The conservative claim that abortion is being used as birth control is... obscene. Back that up with sources, please, right now, or you owe some serious penalty points for helping to spread a malicious lie. (Even some disreputable right-wing sources would help your case; then I can at least imagine that you too were duped rather than being complicit.)

Abortion is an EXTREMELY UNPLEASANT EXPERIENCE. No woman in her right mind is going to routinely have abortions just to avoid proper contraception... unless, of course, "abstinence-only education" has deprived her of the knowledge of such. And if she's not in her right mind, do you really want her raising a child?

Yeah, I'm flexible. If you don't want to have a free abortion, I promise not to force you. For the rest of society, it's money well spent (much cheaper than foster care, childhood medical care, proper schooling, proper nutrition) and far more merciful to the would-be unwanted child.

This isn't a case of a compromise between two extremes. Conservatives are welcome to their hetero-only marriages and their 37 beautiful children (be sure to set up some extra foster-care homes to handle those unwanted pregnancies, too); just don't try to force it on the rest of us.

If you can explain to me why that should be negotiable, I'll give a listen -- but I don't see why it should be.


January 14, 2009 3:20 PM - Woozle

Woozle said...

P.S. Where are all these conservatives who are willing to compromise and allow some free, legal abortions? What are their actual positions?