May 29, 2011

Understanding a different mindset.

Evil bogeymen.
Why? It's the most powerful question a person can ask. Some of the greatest learning opportunities can arise by asking that question. This post wasn't premeditated - it was written this morning as a hypothesis in response to asking myself this question: Why do liberals act differently, and even deeper, perceive things differently, than conservatives do? Let's take a step back for a moment from the partisan combative political environment the United States finds itself currently in. What inspires a progressive liberal to think about government the way they do, and how is it different from what inspires a conservative to think the way they do about government? Conversely, are there any similarities? I believe the similarity is a fundamental human emotion - fear. The difference, is what it is that they fear.

At a foundational level, liberals are afraid. They are afraid of big business. They don't trust it to do anything other than serve its own interest, and to do so at the expense of everyone else - customers, employees, the environment, even other businesses. Their view of capitalism is Darwinian - it's survival of the fittest, it's dog eat dog. Naturally, curbing those inclinations, or preventing them from happening by preventing the opportunity is their driving imperative.

It explains a lot. They tend to do a lot of things that conservatives would view as anti-capitalist. From the context of what they believe to be true, their actions make sense. They are in fact coherent. Put in that context, of course ANWR shouldn't be opened up for oil exploration, Alaska would be despoiled by big business. The Gulf oil spill clean-up took forever because of big business. McDonald's is indoctrinating your kids. Perhaps it isn't as intense in some individuals as others, but that underlying notion is there - big business has the potential to run amok.

The natural ways to combat that potential for bad behavior - and for some it is fair to say business has been assigned a nefarious nature and it is no longer potential, but simply normal behavior - is obvious. Trade unions, and government are the two primary and immediate ways to oppose such evil. Secondarily, making people aware that they need to join the fight - hence getting control of the education process and the mass media. As it becomes more and more important to control the message liberals, ironically, take on themselves the attributes they despise in big business. They try to drive out competing messages, and ruthlessly so. The church has a message of either irrelevance, possibly opposite or at least one that is too docile to suit the needs of progressives on the march against evil corporate America.

Are liberals wrong about their fundamental premise about capitalism? It does suggest that businesses should compete and the efficient ones win and the losers adapt or die. That's sort of Darwinian if you take it in a closed loop. The business may die but the owners and employees are free to move on to other opportunities. Therein lies the differences in fear between the two mindsets. Conservatives fear the consequences of power in the hands of few government bureaucrats. We fear government, the way liberals fear business.

To our minds, capitalism is predicated on freedom, and on competition. The natural evolution of a business that is successful is to grow. At some point those businesses can grow to be huge. But success is not something to fear - it drove those companies to consistently improve. In the conservative mindset, businesses need not be nefarious to succeed - the successful ones didn't start growing that way, rather they were based on good ideas. People are not required to buy Coke, they just like to buy it. Success breeds imitators and competition and therefore choice. The nefarious companies are more likely to be ones that are failing and are panicking into foolish actions.

Businesses are after all made up of people, who are typically good. That's why businesses and employees donate time and money to charities. But even those who are bad are not enough of a reason to throw away a perfectly good system.

Government at most should serve as the playground supervisor, catching those who aren't playing nice and dealing with them. The government as supervisor should not be telling kids which games to play, or taking goals away from one side in a soccer game because they are playing too well.

Every time the government tries to intrude, freedom is threatened. Freedom is what makes America truly great, and to impinge on that is inherently anti-American. The dangers of a super-powerful monopolistic government is far greater than an oligopolistic few big companies. For starters government can make the rules to be followed, business plays within those rules. Government is bigger than any business and it has a military and police. If America ever got to the point where there were a cabal of corporations, they still could not control everything. The human spirit will cause more people to try to formulate ideas and try to compete. Competition is a self replicating notion. It just happens. Leveraging that is what has driven American to economic greatness, to the moon even. For an oligopoly to try to outlaw competition is impossible. For a government to do so, the threat is real - small perhaps, but possible.

As a result of that (partial) conservative mindset, our focus naturally is on big government, and it's increasingly oligopolistic partners in unions, the media and schools and how to prevent the concentration of power into too few hands and have the United States turn into Simon Bolivar's vision of South America.

1 comment:

  1. I just realized that I ended that post rather abruptly. Perhaps I will do a follow up and expound on it a little more at some point.


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