En Tequila Es Verdad/progressive conservatism/post/2009/01/15/0550

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January 15, 2009 5:50 AM - Mike

Mike at The Big Stick said...

Woozle, I apologize in advance for cherry-picking your questions. They are all interesting, but I just don’t want this conversation to turn into an unreadable display of fisking. (I’d love to have a side conversation on some of those points via email if you’re ever interested). So….

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.)

Now wait a minute, how can you argue that liberals prefer principles while conservatives prefer rules, the implication being that liberals are more flexible, and then say that conservatives more accurately prefer ‘arbitrary and general doctrines’ ? That seems contradictory to me. And I also don’t see how liberal doctrines can be based on what produces the best outcomes when you also admit that they are the ones that are most willing to try new, ideas rather than relying on precedent? Liberals base their policies on what they have reasoned will produce the best outcome while conservatives base their policies on what they believe precedent has already revealed to be the best solution. The difference between the two is that for liberals they can never accept a good solution when a brilliant one might be just around the corner.

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"

So you would contend that backwards movement is never good, nor is it ever ‘progressive’? This might be the nub of our disagreement over whether conservatives can be ‘progressive’.

I thought a lot about this last night and the best example I can come up with is the New Deal, to the Great Society, to Welfare Reform. We start with the New Deal, which was the first real social safety net we had as a country. It was built around the notion of offering citizens a hand-up. It created the middle class, helped us win WWII, gave us a huge post-war economic boom, etc, etc. By the mid-1960’s Johnson believed that the New Deal had failed to reach parts of the population in areas like Appalachia. So he proposed lots of new entitlement programs along a new ‘progressive’ model (indeed Johnson called himself a ‘prudent’ progressive). These programs left the New Deal behind by creating a system that was based more on hand-outs than hand-ups.

Now, like anything, the Great Society programs are still being debated, but I believe the general consensus is that they were a failure. They alienated the working class who resented people being given aid for nothing in return. They facilitated a welfare culture that was compounded by rapidly changing social lifestyles (rise in single-parent families). Great Society programs are blamed for many of the social ills that Nixon successfully ran against in 1968, like the rise in crime and civil disorder.

Fast forward to the Clinton years. With the pressure from conservatives on the Right Clinton signed into law a welfare reform package that is today hailed by both sides as a great piece of legislation. It has done more than experts ever predicted and has been a real step forward. But this was also a step backwards in a sense because it was a step away from the Great Society and towards the New Deal notion of welfare to work. I would say that welfare reform was a ‘progressive’ achievement but it was also more about the traditional American ethic of pulling one’s self up than the ‘reasoned’ approach of heavy government intervention.

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.

The ‘traditional’ program our schools offer (which my daughter has been in since middle school) produces the best results in our school district. These schools consistently place at the top on all standardized testing and graduation rates among high school seniors. Since we also offer a more flexible, liberalized classroom setting in our other schools, it would seem after years of having this system in place, we would be seeing similar results in all of our schools. The fact remains though that kids in the ‘traditional’ setting, with high expectations, strict rules and a basic curriculum seem to be our highest achievers.

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.

I don’t want this very interesting conversation about ‘progressivism’ to spin off into something else, but I will address your charges. To make the claim that abortion is being used as birth control, one need only look at two different sets of statistics. The first is the breakdown of why people are having abortions:

25.5% Want to postpone childbearing
21.3% Cannot afford a baby
14.1% Has relationship problem or partner does not want pregnancy
12.2% Too young; parent(s) or other(s) object to pregnancy
10.8% Having a child will disrupt education or job
7.9% Want no (more) children
3.3% Risk to fetal health
2.8% Risk to maternal health
2.1% Other
1% Mother was raped

As you can see over 90% of abortions in the U.S. are for what experts call ‘social reasons’. Now judging from your remark that abortions serve society well, I have no doubt that you will judge these statistics differently than I do, but when I look at those ‘social’ reasons I hear, “I got pregnant by ‘accident’ and I need to get rid of the child because it will affect my life in a negative way.” I call that birth control. It’s not a women that got pregnant by force or who wanted to have a child and the fetus has severe birth defects….these are women who had sex, weren’t careful and now need a doctor’s help to fix things.

The second set of statistics is also about the circumstances surrounding abortion:

Fifty-four percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method (usually the condom or the pill) during the month they became pregnant. Among those women, 76% of pill users and 49% of condom users report having used their method inconsistently.

Forty-six percent of women who have abortions had not used a contraceptive method during the month they became pregnant.

Eight percent of women who have abortions have never used a method of birth control

And what I consider the most damning statistic:

Each year, about two percent of women aged 15-44 have an abortion; 47% of them have had at least one previous abortion.

So almost half of the abortions for women 15-44 are the second abortion for these women. 47% of women were able to overcome the ‘emotional pain’ of an abortion to seek out a second one when they found themselves pregnant again.

Reading through all those statistics about not using birth control properly or at all and the fact that nearly half of these women have relied on abortion more than once…how can you not say abortion is used as a means of birth control in this country?