En Tequila Es Verdad/progressive conservatism/post/2009/01/20/0752

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January 20, 2009 7:52 AM - Woozle

Woozle said...

I take back what I said earlier about "generalizing" (regarding the Disraeli quote). Conservatives generalize with the best of 'em. The difference seems to be that conservatives seem to take particular sets of words as essential truths unto themselves (rather than being imperfect expressions of greater truths), while liberals seem to generalize more conceptually and abstractly.

Which I think is (another way of saying) what I meant about liberals having principles and conservatives having rules.

"I would contend that while the conservative opinion may sound harsh it is the more optimistic of the too in that it elevates human potential."

Well, sure -- if you make sure everyone does equally well, then "doing well" no longer means anything. I don't credit, for example, the educational idea that kids must always be told they're doing "great job" even when they aren't, on the theory that any criticism will hurt their fragile egos. A certain amount of self-esteem is important, but self esteem (indeed, any kind of esteem) must be earned -- and some kids arguably have too damn much to begin with.

And I'll grant that there's probably a lot of false-victimhood out there (...though lately it's as much or more on the political right as on the left).


1. You see the people who succeed as evidence that the system works, but you see the people who fail as being responsible for their own failure.

I don't think I need to point out what looks like a double standard here; instead, I'll just ask: What would you accept, hypothetically, as evidence of shortcomings in the system? If there is no possibility of failure, after all, then success is meaningless...

2. It misses the point. People are not one-dimensional. You can't measure a person's success or failure with a single number. Someone might be an excellent athlete, but be unable to compete because of an injury. Does that athlete's lack of medical skills then equate to failure as an athlete?

One of society's essential functions is to compensate for individual shortcomings so that the strengths of those same individuals are not unnecessarily hog-tied. Your stance against the idea of "victimhood" would deny special assistance to those who need it in order to be able to use their strengths -- and thereby hinders human potential.

3. It misses the point (again): How is it bad if we all get to "succeed" by some standard? Society isn't a zero-sum game, where any gain now must be counterbalanced so as to always hover around some eternal mean; it advances. If everyone "succeeds" by today's standards, that effectively raises the bar for excellence.

By your argument, universal literacy is a bad thing because it demeans the achievement of those who have learned how to read. Universal freedom demeans the efforts of those who have worked their way out of indentured servitude. I suppose you dislike universal healthcare because it would demean the struggle of those who have purchased overpriced private healthcare by their own efforts... yeah, right.

4. Are you really trying to say that the system is perfect now, and that none of the liberal reforms over the past century were necessary because the system was perfect then too?


"Nuclear power may be another example of what you’re talking about. Conservatives tend to like it more than liberals because it’s cheaper and more efficient and as a bonus it has far less immediate impact on the environment (all progressive goals)."

I think a lot of liberals are taking a second look at nuclear, especially in light of the (apparently accurate) claim that coal sludge contains just as much radioactivity. The main thing I don't like about nuclear power plants is the secretive, non-transparent, authority-driven way in which they are run -- which seems far more dangerous to me than the supposed risk of terrorist infiltration if plant layouts and procedures were widely known. How many power plants (of any kind) have ever been subject to terrorism, and how many nuclear plants have had "accidents" due to poor oversight? But obviously that's a whole topic unto itself.


"I also think that infrastructure spending is a fantastic idea and support it completely, but I also believe it may be conservatives, who tend to have a better ‘business sense’..."

From what I've seen, conservative "business sense" has mainly to do with supporting projects which they know will benefit businesses in which they have a stake.

Show me how improving light rail would be less economically significant than improving (already dominant) freight rail. (And we certainly don't need any more effing highways. Fix the ones we've got, yes, but enough is enough.)


"Hence my original statement cautioning you to not cite conservatism or liberalism in practice but to think of a more ‘idealized’ version of both."

If we're talking about an idealized form of conservatism (even if it's not specifically "progressive"), I am all for that. In most of what we have been talking about, however, it seems to me that the American Conservative movement has taken what I would consider to be an anti-[ideal-]conservative tack.

I would consider the following to be counter to ideal conservatism:
* the anti-abortion movement (babies are expensive and there is currently a glut)
* the anti-LGBT movement (attacking people for no good reason is destructive, and keeps them from doing their jobs)
* the anti-evolution movement (scientific knowledge is a hard-won triumph of civilization; not merely ignoring it but actively working to discredit is an incomprehensible waste of one of our most profoundly valuable resources)
* the anti-environmental movement (there's a reason environmentalism is called "conservation")
* the recent pro-war movements, especially with regard to the way those wars have been managed and the way we've causally thrown out all the international good will we had on 9/12/01

...and possibly others.

I'm not sure this type of conservatism exists anymore, but if it does it's become part of what is now called "liberalism".

How does "progressive conservatism" view these issues?


"I mean literally what I said, which is that abortion is used in this country as a tool to stop unwanted births i.e. birth control."

I think you've over-broadened your definition there -- even abortion for rape would be stopping an unwanted birth. Hopefully you've clarified later on...

"Doesn’t your opinion that this is somehow more culturally significant than taking a pill daily or putting on a condom presume that the people seeking abortions do so with ‘heavy hearts’?"

Yes, that's my contention. As for data, I have only anecdotal evidence and the following argument: if a woman is so uncaring that she had her very own potential bundle of love-n-joy aborted with nary a concern, do you really want her raising children??

I agree, though, that this is one question about which we need to be gathering data. If I hear back from Guttmacher, I'll ask them if they have anything on that.

"If there is a level of doubt in their minds as to the morality behind their decision, then doesn’t that make them culpable, regardless of the science?"

No, because:
* The default should be not to restrict an activity. (Aren't conservatives always complaining about government interference in private affairs?)
* Even if women are using abortion "too casually" (by whose definition, and why?), the idea that this calls for government regulation or moral censure has not been demonstrated.

"I guess the real question is that if you yourself believe that a first trimester abortion is no different that using a condom or taking the pill, what evidence do you have to prove most others getting abortions don’t feel the same way?"

* It's one thing to talk about in the abstract; I'm sure it's quite different in person (my advisor here, who once experienced an "involuntary abortion" i.e. miscarriage, assures me that it was a very emotionally fraught experience -- and that was without any moral issues involved, since it was involuntary).
* Again: if a woman really did feel that callous towards her potential child, would you really want her raising it?

"I don’t think liberals really believe that those women made a bad decision, but they are sympathetic to her anguish because it becomes a mental health issue for them."

It's about personal freedom -- not being shackled by one's biological heritage or some one-size-fits-all notion of "destiny" or "role". Liberals generally reject the idea that one can be held to obligations to which one did not agree. Having sex while female and fertile does not constitute an agreement to have children.

Whether or not they made a bad decision depends a great deal on the circumstances, I should think. (What is this thing where conservatives can't deal with the idea that context is important? It keeps coming up.) If they were completely responsible, used contraception properly and dependably -- then no mistake was made; just bad luck.

Yes, I de-emphasize the life of the fetus. I consider a grown woman's happiness to be more important than the life of an unborn who may or may not even have enough brain to feel with and who certainly has no opinion on whether or not life is good. Are there valid arguments for any other point of view?

Mother cats, under stress, will quietly kill and eat their kittens. Why shouldn't a human mother be allowed to make the same choice for her unborn child? She's probably a lot better informed than the cat, if nothing else.

Mother cats can also re-absorb their unborn kittens, under stress. Why can't we artificially provide this same option for human mothers, who bear a great deal more responsibility for their offspring than do cats?

I think there should be more adoption, yes -- but that's just one of the things conservatives need to work on fixing before you can start arguing for returning to a more restrictive approach to adoption. (Some of the others I've already mentioned -- get rid of abstinence-based "education", make contraception more widely available, support gay adoption.) The current approach -- criticizing for not using the alternatives, while actively working to take the alternatives away -- is rank hypocrisy.

Even so, I don't see the need for abortions ever going away completely, at least until the population stops growing exponentially. Conservatives never seem to get the fact that we already have too many kids -- why do we want to go to heroic efforts to save a few more unborns? What's this obsession with babies? There are plenty of them, they're made cheaply with unskilled labor, and they're very expensive to raise properly. How is maximizing this product "conservative", by any stretch of the imagination?

"So long as there are other options that would pose no long-term burden on the mother (adoption, adoption, adoption) then the mother is in fact practicing ‘birth control’."

You're speaking of a hypothetical, here. My understanding is that the adoption process is slow, ugly, and hard on the kids and parents. Again: Why do we need more kids?

If "Big three exceptions (rape, incest, health of the mother)" are the only legit uses of abortion according to you, then your complaint about "using it as birth control" is basically an objection to what I consider one of the primary functions of abortion: simply not wanting to bring a baby into the world, for whatever reason.

"I don’t believe in abstinence-only education, though I see no problem with holding it up as the most ideal solution."

O rly? So, the fact that IT DOESN'T WORK isn't a problem? The fact that IT RESULTS IN HIGHER PREGNANCY RATES doesn't make you think twice about it?

Are you trying to actually reduce abortion rates, or just trying to prove to someone how against abortion you are?

"So why is this liberal approach not working either?" In what way does it not work? Proper sex ed is linked to lower pregnancy rates. American conservatives fight against sex education, and it is not included in many school curricula; if Progressive Conservatism wants to reduce teen pregnancy, then its advocates should be fighting for mandatory sex ed in public, private, and home schools -- not to mention the other "liberal" solutions I mentioned earlier.

If you mean it doesn't eliminate the problem completely, then I'd say (a) it's still miles better than conservative-proposed solutions, and (b) the problem will only be largely eliminated when women can choose to turn off their egg-dispensers (why aren't progressive conservatives agitating for more research into this -- a 99% solution everyone could agree on?) -- but even then, there will be cases of "parents/spouse/bf unexpectedly unsupportive" to deal with.

Your strategy, as I understand it, is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies by (re-)attaching social stigma to them. We've already been there as a society, and only conservatives want to go back -- because it sucked leper donkey dick (to borrow a phrase).

You cite the lack of social stigma as a prime cause of the higher pregnancy rate, but do you have any evidence for that? How do you explain the higher rate among blacks, who live in the same society? How are abortion rates in highly religious-right areas of the US, where the "stigma" approach is being heavily applied, versus coastal metropolitan areas which tend to take the other approach?

Further, much of the actual-Right's agenda also runs counter to the supposed goal of reducing unwanted pregnancies -- and they generally refuse to acknowledge or counter this fact, leading to further liberal rage at their hypocrisy.

Conservatives get so focused on banning or outlawing things they don't like that they ignore any evidence which indicates they are actually making the problem worse.

In other words, they spend so much energy trying to enforce rules that they don't notice they're failing to advance the principle.

Do you really want to reduce abortions? Or do you just want to convince everyone of how thoroughly devoted you are to the anti-abortion cause? You start reasoning down lines which might lead to the former, but you always seem to slip into thinking which is more about the latter.

How is Progressive Conservatism substantially different from the failed "solutions" American Conservatism has so far been promoting?