This post is my responding comment to a post someone else wrote (Is today’s “American Political Ideology” about USA Inc. or how it effects the REST OF US?) in which the author referenced a previous post of mine (Conservative Ideology & Economics).
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I noticed that you linked my blog post about conservative ideology and economics. I like all the other articles you linked. You’ve brought a lot together in this post. Some of your related articles remind me of various issues I’ve been thinking about.
First, Ron Paul said something the other day which was important. Despite disagreeing with domestic social spending (i.e., ‘entitlement’ spending), Ron Paul said it was a bad idea to start cutting with programs that are popular and that are designed to help people (their effectiveness and value being a separate issue). He sees there are bigger issues to worry about and that we should begin with military spending.
Every so often, Ron Paul says something that massively impresses me. This is such a moment. It’s a fact that a majority of Americans support domestic social spending and don’t want it cut. Ron Paul is demonstrating that he isn’t out of touch with the average American, that he puts people above merely seeking his own preferred ideology. He sees that military spending is the more central and much larger problem, a problem which most Americans agree about. Ron Paul is seeking to focus on an area of bipartisan agreement. That is an attitude I respect.
This is how I see it. Let’s do massive cuts on military. Let’s end our military empire. Let’s close down or otherwise lessen the funding for military bases in countries all around the world. Let’s end pointless wars that destroy lives and bring our troops home. Let’s end the profiteering of the military-industrial complex. After we do all that, then we can discuss issues of whether to cut domestic social spending or not, whether to give the rich tax cuts or tax hikes.
The second point was about Krugman’s article (Everyone Has An Ideology). He wrote:
“I always find it funny that rightwingers think CNN is liberal. This guy is espousing social conservatism. I have no problem with that. His opinion seems reasonable, even if I don’t entirely agree. But please please don’t tell me this is liberal media.”
I understand the point he is making, but I think he is missing a distinction. In my post, I reference psychological research showing dogmatism is one trait which predicts conservatism. There is a major difference between dogmatic ideology and non-dogmatic ideology. The latter tends to be more open-ended and broadly inclusive, more open-minded and willing to compromise, more intellectually humble and open to change with new data. I’m not saying there is no value to dogmatic ideology. Conservatives would describe it as sticking to their principles and sometimes that is a good thing, but sometimes not.
Some commenters at the Krugman link brought up similar thoughts:
“I do think, however, there is a difference between having core values and being rooted in pragmatic approaches to realizing those values in the world of politics and believing in a “one-size-fits-all” doctrine that reduces complex problems to a single solution”
“Well, yes, but there is a way to tell the difference between the two. The ideologue will go on and on about there received truth without any reference to facts even when those facts clearly contradict what they’re saying.”
One other commenter brought up something which is relevant to what bothers me about ideology, especially in politics:
“In economics, what is referred to by the media as “ideology” is often just self- or class interest. In politics, reference to ideology is often an attempt to identify opponents with an enemy country or bloc – “socialism” still means identification with the Soviet Union/Russia or China to many people.
“Everyone may have an “ideology” at any given moment, but for many politicians the professed ideology can be changed according to partisan needs. Republicans pretend to be concerned now with the deficit, but this will change if a Republican is elected President. The current political debate is not ideological, it is a class conflict. One reason the plutocrats are winning is that those in the opposing class(es) think that they stand to benefit from the “ideology” supposedly adhered to by those who actually dominate government policy.
“The use of the term ideology should be restricted to principles that are consistently applied and not just based on material or political advantage. The media are not qualified to evaluate the validity or sincerity of “ideological” claims, but they can and should evaluate who stands to benefit from particular policies or actions.”
I’m less bothered by ideology, even dogmatic, as principles someone genuinely believes in (depending, of course, on the specific principles). The main problem is that principled/dogmatic ideology is easily used as rhetoric by politicians, pundits, and preachers who seek to manipulate people in order to achieve their ulterior motive. As a liberal, I prefer ideology loosely held because it counters and lessens this danger of rhetoric.
Another aspect of this problem is that rhetoric tends to win over facts which means principled/dogmatic ideology tends to win over ideology loosely held. Liberals, on the political battlefield, are at a disadvantage. This is how the far right has dominated the political narrative for decades. This is why fiscal conservatism has been the dominant ideology, even among Democratic politicians: neoliberalism, supply side economics, tax loopholes & tax havens for corporations, tax breaks & cuts especially for the rich, Two Santa Claus Theory, Starve the Beast, ‘free’ trade agreements, NAFTA, repeal of Glass-Steagall, deregulation, putting business friendly people at the head of regulatory agencies, cuts on domestic spending such as public services & infrastructure, attacks on entitlement spending & public education, union-busting justified by cost savings, and on and on and on.
Too often, fiscal conservatism is just a superficial facade for social conservatism. I wish politicians would just be upfront and honest, but I realize that is probably asking too much. Politics would be more interesting, maybe even inspiring, if we had real public debate about real issues… instead of endless ideology and manipulative rhetoric, cynical political spin and empty campaign promises… while the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, while the debt grows and the problems are compounded.
Until recently, there hasn’t been as much public debate about many of these issues. Even now, Obama seems to be, according to his actions and not his rhetoric, more in agreement with conservatives than with liberals. This is an odd situation considering that Obama won the popular vote because he preached a progressive liberalism most Americans support. Polls show most Americans are more progressively liberal than apparently even most Democratic politicians. How can fair debate of real issues happen under these conditions? Why does the mainstream media often pay more attention to a liberal issue when a right-libertarian brings it up?