I've spent much time over the past four decades and change trying to figure out the fundamental difference between the two sides of America's political aisle. What is it that made one side support slavery, the Klan, eugenics, Stalin, Hitler, eco-scares, et cetera while the other side opposed all those at the time. While I find it amusing that the slavery-racism-socialism-anti-semitism side repeatedly claims the moral high ground in discussions, but that's not the point here. The point is to try to understand the values that drove one side to be one way and the other side to be the other way.
The values of the two parties in this upcoming election follow in the footsteps of their historical values. The tyranny, racism, economic devastation, corruption, pseudo-science, and anti-semitism of the Democrats today go back to 1854 when the party was founded, athough it seems on a larger scale with less embarrassment today. The Republicans seem to be hunkering down with their attitudes of economic and freedom and personal prosperity. The religious-right faction that emerged in the 1950s as a response to communism's atheistic attitude is fading, although I still see more pro-life and under-God posts on Facebook than I would like.
The mathematician in me looks at complex systems and tries to find the simple source ideas. It's the pattern of Euclid's Elements (Στοιχεια) where he codifies all the various observations and practices of geometry into five postulates in Book 1 from which he derives twelve more books of theorems telling about geometry useful for surveying, planning, and other stuff. For example, we could look at the progressive scientific causes of eugenics, impending ice age, we're running out of oil, acid rain, mercury in tuna fish, the ozone layer, global warming, climate change, and corona virus individually and try to deduce political and social causes driving each one. The mathematician in me, instead, seeks a single driving mindset that makes all of these things possible, one that explains why the same politically-oriented people gravitated towards all of these pseudo-sciences at the expense of the real science concerning those issues.
So here we are looking at the biggest political issue ever, conservatism versus liberalism. It's a big bite and I think I've finally found a glimpse into the fundamental difference. It's all about values, but when I try to look at the values differences, they seem as elusive as the black dots in the famous no-dots-in-squares illusions.
Why is that? The difference is so obvious between us and them, but when we try to look directly at those differences they disappear. Both liberals and conservatives give lip service to life, love, world peace, harmony, kindness, freedom, fairness, helping people, decency, and good over evil. When I try to pin down the specific values, when I look for a moral compass to define which way is "good," the differences become elusive. I know they and we have been fundamentally different for two centuries here in the United States, I've been searching for specific details of this difference for four decades, I'm a smart person with strong mathematical and logical skills, and that difference has eluded my attempts to find it.
Let's look at some examples.
He complained about the price increase of his new prescription medicine. The drug company had done their extensive studies and all the certifications required by the regulatory process. (I'm told that process is made horrendously more expensive by the regulations of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in ways having nothing to do with drug safety or application.) It was within the seventeen-year protection of the drug-company patent, so nobody else could make and sell the drug for less. He said the government should step in and use its eminent-domain power to take the pills from the drug company and give them to him. I pointed out that emiment domain is for real estate and he said it should be extended to situations where a company charges more than it should for a product. Never mind the hundreds of millions that company spent on the certification process and the risk it took that the drug might fail one of the clinical-trial tests, never mind that he wouldn't have the drug at all but for that company's efforts, never mind he could still easily afford the higher price, he wanted the government to fix it in his favor.
She was appalled that people were shopping without masks on (the same masks that scientists explained don't help) and not keeping their six-feet-away "social distance." She posted several nasty rants on Facebook about it. I pointed out that she had the option of staying home, but she felt it somehow wasn't fair that these people could go shopping and she couldn't because she was more afraid of getting sick than they were. She also felt more institutions should be closed by government lock-down edicts. Exploring the values issue of this essay, I asked what value she used for her ranting and she said that life was her absolute value. I asked how she reconciled that she could stay home and be safe and the lock-down victims could regain their lost liberty, livelihood, and lives. She couldn't see how her right not to be afraid was less important than tens of thousands of other people's lives lost to suicide, drug overdose, and domestic abuse from the lock-downs.
They want restitution for slavery in spite of the fact that none of them had ever been slaves and none of the people they wanted restitution from had over owned slaves. That they belonged to the party that had been formed to promote slavery and that opposed the abolitionist movement seemed never to cross their minds.
He was whining about the high cost of insulin for diabetics. (I don't remember insulin being terribly expensive twenty years ago when I had a diabetic in my household, but things can change.) As he was a medical doctor and, presumably, knew the technical and political issues better than I did, I asked why he didn't go into the insulin business himself and charge a more-reasonable price. I figured he could say, "because it costs a lot to make insulin," in which case the drug company isn't evil to charge a lot. Or he could say, "because of a lot of regulation," in which case I would suggest that less regulation and a freer market is probably a better choice than yet another set of regulations and laws governing insulin price. Actually, he refused to answer my question as it would end his opportunity to whine about the issue.
She admitted that science, pragmatism, skepticism, and politics pointed against COVID-19 being enough of a threat to be worth the lock-down restrictions, but insisted promoting lock-downs was her opinion. I asked how many people's libery, livelihoods, and lives she was willing to sacrifice for those beliefs and I'm still waiting for an answer.
He complained about the tolls for the faster lanes (far left lanes here in the United States). He said it wasn't fair to have drivers who couldn't use the faster lanes pay part of their cost. He was okay with all the lanes being free and I think he was okay with the same toll for all the lanes, just not having people stuck in traffic subsidizing those who chose to pay part of the cost so they could drive faster. I asked if he was comfortable with the tolls on those lanes reflecting the full cost of adding them and he said yes, he was okay with them being free, he was okay with them having their full cost in tolls, but was uncomfortable with the tolls only covering part of their cost. I had a hard time divining the principle behind that and the best I could get was that it somehow wasn't fair.
The lightbulb went on in my mind. It isn't a difference in values, so my struggle to identify those values as different is futile. None of these liberal, left-wing, progressives seems to feel having a set of values is important at all! It's not a difference in values or standards and it's not a different set of goals for humanity. The difference between us conservatives and them liberals may well be that we believe morality is important. We feel it should be possible to communicate a set of values with enough specificity that we get the same answers from them on almost every issue. We believe there should be clear definition of right and wrong that transcends cultural, ethnic, and religious differences. I now believe my liberal friends believe in no such thing.
I have my own list of five values filled out from the historical values of liberty from the Magna Carta through John Locke to our American Declaration of Independence. These are human life, liberty, livelihood, property, and contract. Life, liberty, and property are specifically written in our American founding documents and I believe livelihood and contract are part of the same network of beliefs. The Constitution of the United States of America is a wonderful attempt to build a country based on these values. I strongly believe having a set of fundamental values is essential to any system of ethical law and economic prosperity. We need to know what the rules are if we're going to follow them and if people are going to invest in their success.
There are alternatives values out there. For example, there is Marxist, "small-c" communism where the values center around equality and fairness. "From each according to his ability and to each according to his needs." Values like livelihood and property aren't important here and liberty looks a bit different when one cannot own anything. While I usually judge these communist values negatively and harshly compared to my American-libertarian values above, I'll point out they have been used successfully in voluntary-choice communist communities called kibbutzim (singular kibbutz) in Israel. I'm told they follow the no-property maxim to the point where members get clothes to wear for the next week on Friday night from a communal clothing collection.
Let me explain a basic notion of a specification as it was explained to me in Mechanical Engineering class. "You should be able to give each mechanical drawing print in your design to a different machinist and the parts should all fit together when they all come back." Put in more abstract terms, if I give an ethical quandry to different people with the same values, then they should, ideally, get the exact same solution. That's a lot to ask because ethical and behavioral values are so general and because people differ in how they weigh values in conflict. I'll settle for a shared understanding of the important aspects of an ethical quandry and what matters of fact should be ascertained to make a decsion. That's kind-of what the jury system was designed to do, to offer a presentation of facts and an outline of law to an otherwise uninformed group of individuals so they can make a fair decision.
This explains why liberals seem to follow their leaders to the point of absurdity and horror on so many issues. When it becomes clear their opinions were wrong, when horrible outcomes come from their direction, they re-write history. The progressive predicessors to today's liberals supported slavery in the United States and socialism in Europe, these turned out terribly, and now they blame the Klan, Stalin, and Hitler on the same right-wing who fought those at the time. They can't both be right, either these ideas are right or they aren't. More recently, it explains how liberals were gung-ho on lock-downs for COVID-19 specifically because masks were ineffective against a dry virus and then became mask-police enforcers when people want to make the choice not to wear masks. They can't both be right. From 1984, "`Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously and accepting both of them.'" On a lighter note from Alice Through the Looking Glass, "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
I've noticed people trying to win without believing they're right play a game where they parrot meaningful words without meaning. I remember citing "fiduciary responsibility" to a company officer who was making a mess of a major project, that it should be made right and done right. The next day he defending his bad judgment citing that he was exercising his "fiduciary responsibility" even though I suspect he hadn't a clue what it meant and certainly didn't feel himself accountable to whatever it was. Similarly, I see memes citing "socialism" as being the post office, fire departments, public schools, and police as if these are what distinguish socialist regimes from those that would not be considered socialist. The only virtue left out for socialism was love of cute puppies. Liberals site "liberty" as the freedom not to pay for food, lodging, health care, abortions, or retirement by forcing somebody else to pay for it, the opposite of what the word "liberty" means in historical context. "Equality" was changed from equality of opportunity to equality of outcome, again the opposite of what it really means. Liberals are posting flags on Facebook claiming their values are American when they believe exactly the opposite of American values on almost every political issue. Again from 1984, "`It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.'" Again from Alice, "`When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean-neither more nor less.'"
It's not a huge leap from not understanding or believing in consistent values to not believing in consistant meanings of words.
The word "science" has been a buzzword of the political left since around 1880 when eugenics was the academic-intellectual rage. Whenever liberals want to make a silly issue sound sane, they claim "science" to justify their position. Sanctimonious pseudo-science becomes sanctified science in their misrepresentations of eugenics, an impending global ice age, oil depletion, acid rain, mercury in tuna fish, the ozone layer, global warming, climate change, and now COVID-19. The nonsense being peddled as science in the realm of sociology is even scarier. The scientific values of a theory being simple, observable, explanatory, quantitative, and predictive are lost in the valueless liberal world, just as ethical values of human life, liberty, livelihood, property, and contact are lost in liberal social and political policies.
There's another aspect of the same narrowness of vision. Support of BLM continues in spite of their support of violence, racism, and anti-semitism because racism is bad and their name suggests they're against it.
She said she favored pro-choice above all. She was comfortable with liberalism supporting hate and racism and poverty so long as it supported abortions. She was even willing to support Planned Parenthood, the agency of kinder, gentler genocide, because they were in favor of abortion. I happen to fall on the pro-choice side of that issue without supporting eugenics, genocide, or public funding of abortions.
When I said I felt flu deaths were just as important as corona-virus deaths, he spewed the most vile hate Facebook could communicate and "unfriended" me because I clearly didn't care.
When they bemoaned the children imprisoned at the border and blamed it all on President Trump, I asked how many children were similarly detained elsewhere. (Unlike those imprisoned in the United States criminal justice system, I believe the Mexican-border prisons have an open wall as they can head south without restriction.) The answer seemed to be that other children imprisoned were not important, these children deserved our pity and political action.
Mass shootings from shooters whose political affiliations are almost all Democrat are blamed on Republicans. The National Rifle Association (NRA) is blamed even though none of their members is involved in any of the publically-discussed shootings.
In a world desperately needing fresh water and electricity polluted by chemical discharge and packaging refuse, getting on a climate-change high horse seems silly. That data support neither CO2 increase from human emissions nor warming from CO2 only increases the absurdity of liberal climate "science."
With two centuries of racism clearly defined on party lines here in the United States, the party that supported the confederacy and opposed civil rights blames the other party for a badly-produced video of police brutality in Minneapolis. They even arranged national riots to emphasize their point.
There really is a concept of perspective that seems lost in liberal rhetoric. In each of these issues, there is a clearly-bigger vision in the same area with comperable gains and losses. Values give us more than a moral compass. Values give us perspective that is lost without them.
What kind of a world is built with a moral compass based on the traditional values I cited above? The United States grew enormously from 1800 to 1900, from its beginnings to a world economic, military, and political power. It ended slavery and built a manufacturing economy with enough mobility that people could escape extreme poverty. (If the poverty of labor circa 1900 seems appalling, it was lavish, opulent wealth compared to earlier and elsewhere.) As I have traveled around the globe, one of the most obvious differences between Asia, Africa, and South America and the United States is the absence of an American underclass. Europe seems similarly blessed, but I believe their standard of living at every economic percentile is far lower than ours. I have no desire to live anywhere else and that's why I'm so concerned we keep what we have.
The places and times that represent liberal non-values include the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics (USSR), National Socialist (Nazi) Germany, Communist Cuba, the People's Republic of China (PRC), Cambodia under Pol Pot, Venezuela under Hugo Chavez, and others. All of these had the support of American left-wing, progessive liberals at the time and all of these turned out very badly. Holocausts and genocides happen when people decide to reject long-term, stable values in favor of some immediate, expedient goal, one they're all too likely to reject with greater scrutiny later on. The people here in the United States who supported those holocausts and genocides at the time weren't the people with conservative values.
I hope I've made the case not only for my own political values but for having any values at all.
Today is 2021 January 16, Saturday,
2:06:08 Mountain Standard Time (MST).
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