Just Punish; Don’t Try to Help or Understand

Here are two videos that show the problem with extreme rightwing thinking. When the world is seen through absolutist morality, everything becomes black and white and every person becomes either good or evil. Taken to the furthest extreme of fundamentalism, this attitude becomes a Manichaean vision of Cosmic War.

It’s what led someone like Bush to think he was on a mission from God and that fighting the terrorists was a crusade. It’s an attitude that doesn’t allow for compromise and makes bipartisanship impossible. If you think Obama is a Commie, a Nazi and/or the Anti-Christ, you don’t seek agreement with the person who you believe is destroying all that is good in America and in the world. This attitude goes back to the beginning of modern movement conservatism. Barry Goldwater, who believed in an unchanging Law of God, said:

“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”
(source: “Goldwater and Pseudo-Conservative Politics”, Richard Hofstadter)

What is interesting about this kind of statement is that it resonates with what Muslim terrorists preach.

I was impressed that the guy at the 5:00 mark made a very intelligent and insightful point while everyone else was just trying to turn it into yet another partisan story. I’m always shocked when someone who is actually fair and balanced gets on Fox News.

Is O’Reilly clueless? If addicts are successfully treated, drug demand decreases. If drug demand decreases, the drug black market decreases. If the drug black market decreases, drug trafficking across the border decreases. If drug trafficking decreases, violence against Americans decreases. Conservatives need to look at real data. Dealing with drug addicts directly is more successful & cheaper than dealing with the results afterwards. Like abstinence only education, the Drug war is a failure.

Conservatives need to think of this the way they think about guns. Not all countries with high gun ownership rates have high gun violence rates. A large percentage of gun violence is from illegal guns and so illegalizing or more tightly controlling gun ownership doesn’t by itself solve the problem of gun violence. Similarly, in countries where drugs are legal and where there are easily available drug addiction programs, drug use and addiction are lower than in the US.

Conservative Mistrust & Ideological Certainty (part 2)

I have some further thoughts about the topic I wrote about in my last post:

Conservative Mistrust & Ideological Certainty (part 1)

I started reading the introduction of Richard Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. I immediately could tell that Hofstadter was a man who truly understood what intellectualism is about, but his book isn’t a paean to the glories of intellectualism. I sense that Hofstadter was trying to be fairminded even to those he is criticizing (a respectable trait that any intellectual should aspire towards). In this book, he is analyzing the specific history of intellectuality within the United States, the intellectuals themselves and those who opposed them. He doesn’t shy away from tough issues such as communism.

He clarifies a number of points. I’ll discuss two of them.

First, there generally isn’t a group of people who are entirely anti-intellectual. Those who use anti-intellectual arguments/rhetoric usually do so in response to some particular situation. The main opposition towards intellectuals is when they act as experts which goes against the populist grain of American culture (populist sentiments being particularly appealing to American conservatives). On the other hand, American intellectuals have at times been in alignment with this populism (e.g., the Progressive Era). Intellectualism isn’t inherently anti-populist and populism isn’t inherently anti-intellectual, but it’s obvious that in the US intellectualism and populism haven’t always gotten along.

Second, he distinguishes intelligence from intellectuality. Intelligence is universally valued, but intellectuality is not. Someone can be one while not being the other. The central distinction is that intelligence has practical ends and so can be known by its results (can be observed or even measured) whereas intellectuality doesn’t seek external justification. Intellectuality has two attributes that balance eachother: piety and playfulness. There is an almost religious sense that the intellectual has towards the moral values underpinning intellectual endeavors: truth and honesty, justice and fairness, etc. The intellectual endeavor is extremely serious and many intellectuals will dedicate their lives to it for very little reward (unlike businessmen or media personalities, few intellectuals become wealthy). Intellectualism is a calling. However, it’s playfulness (creativity, imagination, experimentation, openness, etc) that keeps the intellectual from turning into a zealot or ideologue. Also, I’d say this playfulness relates to the ability at role-playing, the ability to see different perspectives, the ability to empathize and understand.

The second point relates to psychological research which shows a correlation between liberalism and psychological factors such as the MBTI function Intuition, the FFM trait Openness to Experience, and Hartmann’s thin boundary type. I couldn’t help but think of MBTI Intution when reading Hofstadter’s description of intellectuality. Intuition is all about both the ability to think in terms of abstractions and imaginatively conceive of diverse possibilities. Intuitives tend to have a very playful sense of humor. Hofstadter’s seemed to be describing, in particular, the MBTI types INFP and INTP. There is other psychological research that I’m reminded of. There was a study that demonstrated a correlation between (as I recall) imagination, empathy (or emotional intelligence), and paranormal/spiritual experience… which makes sense according to Hartmann’s model of boundary types.

Conservatives like to call liberals bleeding hearts and it’s true that liberals on average have a stronger empathetic response (which would imply a higher emotional intelligence in that people tend to personally care about others to the extent that they understand the felt experience of others… not to imply, though, that conservatives entirely lack this because to entirely lack it would mean you’re a sociopath). What is interesting is that intellectualism is strongly correlated, especially in the US, with liberalism. For example, most scientists self-identify as liberals. So, what is the connection between empathy and intellectualism? This connection would be most clearly represented by the MBTI NF types (INFP, INFJ, ENFP, ENFJ), but even NT types would have an above average ability to understand the perspectives of others even if they didn’t experience this on an emotional level. My guess, however, is that most objectivists and anarcho-capitalists are NT types which would explain why they don’t identify with the average conservative who is probably an ST type.

I’ve noticed that some people speculate Ayn Rand was an INTJ. My dad, who has tested as an ENTJ, is fairly interested in Rand’s worldview. There is nothing comparable to the systematic logic of an INTJ or ENTJ… because these two types have Introverted Intuition which is a type of abstract thinking when taken to the extreme is utterly detached from outward reality and in some cases can lead to an idealization of outward reality. Let me use Rand as an example. Here are some quotes from the Wikipedia article titled “Objectivism (Ayn Rand)”:

Rand’s philosophy begins with three axioms: existence, identity, and consciousness.[6] Rand defined an axiom as “a statement that identifies the base of knowledge and of any further statement pertaining to that knowledge, a statement necessarily contained in all others whether any particular speaker chooses to identify it or not. An axiom is a proposition that defeats its opponents by the fact that they have to accept it and use it in the process of any attempt to deny it.”[7] As Leonard Peikoff noted, Rand’s argument “is not a proof that the axioms of existence, consciousness, and identity are true. It is proof that they are axioms, that they are at the base of knowledge and thus inescapable.”[8]

Like Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand likes axioms. To me, these are just ideas based on arguments. The problem with calling them axioms is that it gives me the sense that there are unstated assumptions underlying the argument for these axioms. These axioms don’t stand alone. For one, the very statement of these axioms is dependent on language (specifically, the English language in this case) and dependent on a philosophical tradition (specifically, the Western tradition in this case). If you put these axioms to a group of philosophy professors, they could debate them endlessly and never come to a conclusion about them. Rand’s perception that she defeats her opponents before even beginning the debate is just pure intellectual hubris. It’s a very simpleminded mentality.

As Rand wrote, “A leaf … cannot be all red and green at the same time, it cannot freeze and burn at the same time. A is A.”[9]

Essentially, this is binary (black/white) thinking. It’s easy to point out any number of examples that contradict this style of either/or philosophizing. Most issues in life consist of multiple categories and blurring between categories. Even something so simple as gender involves complexities such as hermaphrodites.

Objectivism holds that the mind cannot create reality, but rather, it is a means of discovering reality.[14]

This is such an over-simplification that I hardly know what to say about it. Our minds aren’t separate from the reality being perceived. Speaking about whether reality is created or not is pointless speculation, but what we can say is that the mind does create the perception of reality. To anyone who doesn’t understand this, I’d recommend reading the vast literature on the mind-body connection and I’d particularly recommend reading about enactivism.

Objectivist philosophy derives its explanations of action and causation from the axiom of identity, calling causation “the law of identity applied to action.”[15] According to Rand, it is entities that act, and every action is the action of an entity. The way entities act is caused by the specific nature (or “identity”) of those entities; if they were different they would act differently.[16]

This touches upon Rothbard’s own axiom of “Humans act”. This variety of conservative is obsessed with action, with doing and achieving. In Rand’s view, mind and reality are separate to some extent which seems to relate to a more general focus on what separates, what makes “A is A” and what makes “B is B”. It’s why this type is so centrally focused on ownership. You can only own that which is somehow outside of the one who owns. Many of these people even speak of individuality in terms of self-ownership which is a truly bizarre concept. The self, like anything else, is just an object to be owned and to do with as one wishes (manipulated, used, destroyed, sold, etc). The self has no intrinsic value and so it’s only value is what it’s worth on the market.

I’d suggest that this attitude is based in Hartmann’s thick boundary type. Research shows that the person with a thicker boundary has a stronger sense of separation between themselves and others, between themselves and the world, between the present and the past, between fantasy and reality, between body and mind. It’s a fundamentally distinct way of viewing and being in the world. It would seem that Rand had an impressively strong sense of thick boundary.

Objectivist epistemology maintains that all knowledge is ultimately based on perception. “Percepts, not sensations, are the given, the self-evident.”[20] Rand considered the validity of the senses to be axiomatic, and claimed that purported arguments to the contrary all commit the fallacy of the “stolen concept”[21] by presupposing the validity of concepts that, in turn, presuppose the validity of the senses.[22] She thought that perception, being physiologically determined, is incapable of error. So optical illusions, for example, are errors in the conceptual identification of what is seen, not errors in sight itself.[23]

Reality is what reality is (A is A). You see what you get. And there is nothing else

According to Rand, attaining knowledge beyond what is given in perception requires both volition (or the exercise of free will) and adherence to a specific method of validation through observation, concept-formation, and the application of inductive and deductive logic. A belief in, say, dragons, however sincere, does not oblige reality to contain any dragons. For anything that cannot be directly observed, a process of “proof” identifying the basis in reality of the claimed item of knowledge is necessary in order to establish its truth.[25]

Objectivism rejects both faith and “feeling” as sources of knowledge. Rand acknowledged the importance of emotion in human beings, but she maintained that emotions are a consequence of the conscious or subconscious ideas that a person already accepts, not a means of achieving awareness of reality. “Emotions are not tools of cognition.”[26] Peikoff uses “emotionalism”[27] as a synonym for irrationality.

Truth is nothing more than the combination of perceived reality (A is A) and pure rationality. This is a very self-contained attitude. Rand or Rothbard is presenting something that they consider to be self-evident for anyone willing to see the obvious (the axiomatic truth) and able to logically deduce the inevitable conclusion (from those axioms).

Integrating with this is Rand’s view that the primary focus of man’s free will is in the choice: to think or not to think. “Thinking is not an automatic function. In any hour and issue of his life, man is free to think or to evade that effort. Thinking requires a state of full, focused awareness. The act of focusing one’s consciousness is volitional. Man can focus his mind to a full, active, purposefully directed awareness of reality—or he can unfocus it and let himself drift in a semiconscious daze, merely reacting to any chance stimulus of the immediate moment, at the mercy of his undirected sensory-perceptual mechanism and of any random, associational connections it might happen to make.”[43] According to Rand, therefore, possessing free will, human beings must choose their values: one does not automatically hold his own life as his ultimate value. Whether in fact a person’s actions promote and fulfill his own life or not is a question of fact, as it is with all other organisms, but whether a person will act in order to promote his well-being is up to him, not hard-wired into his physiology.

This is an extension of something along the lines of the axiom “humans act”. The idealizing of freedom and choosing seems to be a form of heroic existentialism as expressed with Sartre’s radical freedom (it’s because there is no inherent value that we are absolutely free). By acting, we define who we are and we claim self-ownership. The “undirected sensory-perceptual mechanism” is a passive experience that must be acted upon.

Rand summarizes:

If [man] chooses to live, a rational ethics will tell him what principles of action are required to implement his choice. If he does not choose to live, nature will take its course. Reality confronts a man with a great many ‘must’s’, but all of them are conditional: the formula of realistic necessity is: ‘you must, if -‘ and the if stands for man’s choice: ‘if you want to achieve a certain goal’.[46]

Reality is what reality is, but reality in and of itself is separate from and opposed to rational self-interest. Nature must be tamed by man in order for him to attain his self-imposed goal. Reality is a world of objects and before anything else the object of the self must be taken control of. The method of taking control is rationality and hence actively forcing order upon one’s experience.

What is most important in all of this is that everything from this perspective (whether objectivism or anarcho-capitalism) begins with the claim of self-evident axioms. This must be understood in it’s larger context. The more intelligent defenders of this position don’t claim that everything is limited to this axiomatic approach. Much of the hard sciences necessitate research that can lead to objective conclusions, but the social sciences are dismissed out of some generalized criticism of positivism. What this comes down to is that social scientists can’t come to absolute conclusions and therefore all social science is complete bunk. So, all psychology, all sociology, all anthropology, all Keynesian economics based on data about humans, all of it is meaningless. Humans can objectively study the physical world but humans can’t objectively study humans.

Mises Non-Trivial Insight
By Robert P. Murphy

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the economics of Ludwig von Mises is his insistence on the a priori approach. For Mises, economic “laws” must be logically deduced from antecedent axioms, so that—assuming the initial assumptions are true—the conclusions reached are just as valid as any result in Euclidean geometry.This stands in sharp contrast to the method of the positivists, a camp that includes most of today’s practicing economists. In their opinion, economics can only be “scientific” if it adopts the procedures used by the natural scientists. Roughly, the positivists feel that economists should form hypotheses with testable implications, and then collect data to measure the accuracy of their predictions. Those tendencies that enjoy the most success in this sense are then deemed to be better “laws” than conjectures that do not fit the data so well.

Against the mainstream’s impressive mathematical tools and vast budgets spent on data collection, the Misesians meekly insist that economics must start from the premise that humans act. This action axiom lies at the core of “praxeology,” Mises’ term for the science of human action. The Misesians argue that all of the true economic laws can be derived from this simple axiom (sometimes with additional assumptions about the world, such as the fact that labor is onerous).

I think the motivation in this is the desire to see humans as free agents that can’t be predicted and the fear that anyone who would want to predict humans would also want to control humans. That is the real issue and all of the rationalized argumentation is just window dressing. There is a comforting simplicity in this plea for axiomatic truths and logical conclusions. It’s not unlike the theologians desire to understand the perfection of God through the perfection of rationality bestowed upon man by that very same God. It’s a desire for the world to just make sense. The social scientists gather immense data and portray a complex world. The social scientists are experts who debate issues the common man can’t understand. It’s understandable that anti-intellectualism can be an attractive alternative in response to these experts in control of our fates. When politicians call upon experts, how can we know what they discuss behind closed doors? Why should we trust these experts who live their comfortable lives in their ivory towers?

There really is no way to argue against this mistrust. It’s not unusual for this mistrust to be, especially during social turmoil and economic hard times, to turn into paranoid suspicion. It’s ultimate a sense of fear about what is beyond the individual. We do face many complex issues that have resulted from industrialization and globalization. It’s just a fact that we no longer live in a time when a single person can understand everything and can do everything for himself. It’s tempting to idealize the Jeffersonian libertarianism of a pre-industrial age or to idealize the simple unregulated capitalism when industrialization was barely taking hold. Once upon a time, Americans were innocently naive about environmental destruction, about pollution-related diseases, about the degradation of urbanization. The first century or so of American history seems almost utopian in hindsight. Why couldn’t that have continued? It would be nice to believe that capitalism, if left to its own devices, would’ve brought nothing but good. Why did the government have to ruin everything?

These people may profess rationality, but human motivation ultimately is non-rational. George Lakoff makes a good argument for this in his book Moral Politics. All logic about political views comes down to rationalization. Lakoff argues that we begin with metaphors by which we frame our experiences and try to understand them, but in doing so we filter all of reality through this frame (or, as Robert Anton Wilson say it, through our “reality tunnel”). This framing is prior to our verbalization of it. This is further supported by the psychological research (yes, the social science that is dismissed by Mises and Rothbard). Studies show that humans are born with or else develop early on certain psychological traits, but you don’t have to trust the experts. Go to a hospital nursery or a playground where children are playing and you will observe for yourself the distinctive personalities.

The only reason that the anarcho-capitalists and similar types can dismiss this science is because they’re ignorant of the scientific process. It really can’t be called anything other than anti-intellectualism. I don’t even know what they mean by positivism. They dismiss all social science based on the claim that it is positivist which is odd considering that there are anti-positivist social scientists such as Max Weber. Anyways, I don’t see how the world would be improved if we were able to somehow get rid of all social science and get rid of all the experts. So much of our society is built on social science. There is no aspect of capitalism or politics that isn’t informed by social science. Social science is the basis of all advertising and PR. Social science is used for product design and architecture. Social science is used in military training and military strategy. Social science helps city planners design efficient roadways and helps utility companies determine the patterns of customer behavior.

There is this strange notion that social science is about abstract data disconnected from the practical world. If social science can be used to control people as some fear, that only proves how effective it is in a practical sense. The arguments against social science are distractions from the real moral issues. Those who don’t see themselves as experts fear those who sometimes act as experts. These people want self-control and self-ownership which is how they define freedom, but this ideal of freedom is itself an abstraction. These people can offer no real world examples of a society that operated according to their ideals.

There is a serious disconnection here between American populism and intellectualism, but there is no reason it has to be this way. The average person can only have a negative view of intellectuality if he wasn’t ever taught intellectuality in his own schooling. If every American was taught how to think intellectually and taught to value intellectuality, then intellectualism would become a populist value. Most people have the capacity for intellectual thought. Even if the average person doesn’t desire to dedicate their life to intellectuality, it would still be of value for all citizens to get an intellectual education. The only way to counter fear and suspicion is through knowledge.

Conservative Mistrust & Ideological Certainty (part 1)

I’ve noticed a connection of attitudes in a certain type of person, but I’m not sure what it means. This post is largely speculation. I have a book by Richard Hofstadter on anti-intellectualism in the US and so I’ll write in more detail about this in the future. For now, I just want to point out some thoughts and observations.

Many have noted for the past half century or so that America has a strain of anti-intellectualism that comes to the forefront every so often. I don’t know if this anti-intellectual attitude always correlates with conservatism, but it has in recent history going back to at least the beginnings of movement conservatism. Of course, movement conservatism laid the groundwork for the religious right to gain political power and obviously the religious right has had issues with science ever since science began. It’s true that many popular conservatives were religiously proud/righteous with an element of folksy anti-intellectualism (George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, etc), but it goes beyond just religion versus science.

This critical attitude towards science, whether motivated by religious belief or not, expresses a basic sense of distrust about experts who claim to know more than the average person (implying they are somehow more worthy). This is the dreaded intellectual elite and scientists are just one variety. Other varieties of intellectual elitists are academics and even politicians. The conservative idealizes the businessman who has knowledge and experience of the real world. The intellectual elite (in academic ivory towers or far away in Washington) are disconnected from the real world and so they aren’t to be trusted. It’s why conservatives claim that government is the problem… not that it ever stops them from trying to elect their own to government or stop them from lobbying politicians.

Beyond this point, it becomes a bit murky. It’s not limited to anti-intellectualism per se. There are even intellectual conservatives that express this attitude of mistrust. For the more intelligent conservative, they’ll express this mistrust epistemologically. They might not entirely dismiss science, but they think scientists overreach. What they do trust is cold hard facts. They even mistrust scientific research. There are various reasons for this which I don’t entirely understand, but one of them is a fear that scientists have agendas (projection?). A person can only mistrust the agendas of scientists if they mistrust the scientific process which is designed to filter out personal agendas (and other subjective biases) over time. This would seem to based on a fear that the entire scientific paradigm is an agenda not to be trusted or to be trusted with great wariness. Maybe science has a role, but it shouldn’t be as primary as we make it. Maybe it’s a belief that scientists should focus on more practical matters like doing research that can lead to technology rather than studying social issues or measuring atmospheric pollution. There might even be a religious element (or a religious holdover for non-religious conservatives) in that scientists are treading on the divine when they investigate beyond mundane subjects.

This mistrust extends also to economics which is something I just realized today. I watched some videos and was involved with some discussions where this mistrust of science was put into the context of politics and economics. The issue with science was connected to economics by way of mathematics. It seems to be a mistrust about how (or if) mathematical models correlate to the sensate world. Even if there is scientific research that corroborates a correlation, doubt remains in terms of causation and explanation. A mathematical model remains an abstract theory and there potentially could be many abstract theories that correlate to the same real world phenomena. This same argument was being used against Keynesian economics because Keynesian theorists like to use mathematical models and to make predictions based on those models.

Even though different reasons are given, I sense that all these varieties of mistrust originate from the same general attitude of mistrust. I’d assume that it relates to the fear traditioal conservatives have about radical change. Psychological research shows that conservatives have a stronger disgust response (for example, toward rotten fruit)… not that many conservatives would trust this particular psychological research. I’ve noted that conservatives tend not to have as much interest in psychology. Also, surveys have shown that most scientists self-identify as liberal. Is there something inherently “liberal” about science? Or is there something about a scientific education that encourages a liberal mindset? Furthermore, why do liberals seem more trusting of the governmnet, science, and of radical change? Does it come down to the simple fact that research has shown liberalism to correlate to the psychological trait “openness to experience”?

Since research shows liberals are more open to experience, then what do conservatives mean by having more trust in the “real world”? It seems that conservatives define reality as being logical in that any fundamental truth should stand on it’s own. Any real truth would be obviously true.

Many who make these arguments are minarchists or anarcho-capitalists, objectivists or libertarians… or something else along these lines (even mainstream Republicans will at times make these arguments). Two of the major influences for many of these people (either directly or indirectly) are Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard. A popular website is the Ludwig von Mises Institute. The following is a section from an article on that website which demonstrates the style of argument:

Psychology versus Praxeology
By Robert P. Murphy

Of course, even this experimental confirmation does not prove the universal truth of the bystander effect.  It could be that, despite their best efforts, the psychologists did not really pick a representative sample of test subjects.  Moreover, even if the bystander effect is indeed a fact for the current population of humans, there is nothing to prevent the emergence in one hundred years of a new breed of humans who, whether through culture or genetics, do not obey the bystander effect.  Just like any “law” from the natural sciences, the “laws” of psychology (insofar as they are validated by the experimental method) are only tentative.

In contrast, let us analyze a typical economic law:  If the government runs a deficit, then interest rates will be higher than they otherwise would have been.  Now this law too seems commonsensical (just as the bystander effect), but it is more than that:  Once the economist takes care to precisely specify the definitions of the terms, he or she can actually prove the proposition as an exercise in pure logic.  There is no reason to go out and “test” whether it is true, because this would miss the point.  It would be as nonsensical as “testing” whether the interior angles of a triangle (in Euclidean geometry) add up to 180 degrees.

From this perspective, science can only at best deal with relative truths. Logic, however, deals with absolute truths (i.e., axioms):

Statistics, he pointed out, cannot trump logic.

And:

Contrary to the mainstream positivist position, in which all economic theories must lead to falsifiable predictions that can be tested, Ludwig von Mises believed that valid economic theorems must be deducible from the axiom, “Humans act.”

Mathematical data and the scientific research it’s based upon can only ever at best be of secondary importance. These people demand their worldview be absolutely logically consisten, facts be damned. The problem is that the world is infinitely complex. The human ability to use logic is limited. A theory can be logically consistent and yet still be wrong. Also, this idea of axioms is strange. In what way is “Humans act” an axiom that is beyond questioning. There are tons of assumptions this so-called “axiom” is based upon.

This way of argument reminds me of Christian apologists who sometimes are very intelligent and knowledgeable within their narrow frame of interest. Christian apologists often are great debaters and are capable of twisting around words. Their thinking is usually circular and self-contained… meaning it’s logically self-consistent. However, an apologist isn’t interested in new data. The apologists already knows everything that matters. The apologists “axioms” came from God himself.

The axiom in both cases is seen as being unquestionable, a tenet of faith.

I still feel confused about all of this. I don’t understand what motivates it. It’s an attitude about the world and not a specific worldview. People with the same attitude might entirely disagree about the worldview and yet still use the same style of argument to defend their own worldview. It’s very strange. Personally, I find it frustrating. No matter what data I bring up (about poverty or global warming or whatever) will usually be dismissed out of hand or else turned into a philosophical debate about postmodern epistemology. It’s like these people want to avoid the fundamental issues themselves. They feel safest within their system of thought and do everything to defend their system of thought from all that is external to it.

The worst of these people are intellectually dishonest. They use logic as rhetoric, as apologetics, as sophistry. Some of them are quite clever at this game. However, not all of them seem intellectually dishonest. Some will accept scientific research when it accords with their own worldview. For example, Stefan Molyneux uses the psychological research on trauma and I agree with his understanding of this issue, but he uses it to defend a particular ideology which isn’t based on any real world examples.

This attitude of mistrust towards institutions beyond the individual is coupled with a self-certainty held within the individual or within the group that the individual belongs to.

The liberal attitude is different, but I’m not sure how to pinpoint this difference. Liberals can be extremely questioning of the same things conservatives question. So, why does liberal questioning begin and end in a sense of openness? Most liberal who are scientists or interested in science would openly state that science is imperfect. Still, there is a basic trust in the scientific process like there is a basic trust in the political process. I’ve pointed out in another blog how this plays out on the political level (the beginning of the blog post is posted below):

Liberal Trust vs Conservative Mistrust

The other day, I came across data that showed a difference between Republicans and Democrats (Republicans Support Big Government… just as long as Republicans are in power). Republicans support big government when there is a Republican president, but they fight, fear-monger, criticize and obstruct what they label as big government when a Democrat is president. Democrats, however, show more even support for big government no matter which party is in power. For example, almost the same number of Democrats support Obama as supported Reagan. This explains the point (which I think Cenk Uygur made) that bipartisanship is usually Democrats agreeing with Republicans but rarely the other way around.

There is a fundamental difference in worldview. This probably relates as well to my argument that liberals are less dogmatic in their ideology (Liberal Pragmatism, Conservative Dogmatism). Conservatives seem more likely to see themselves as principled and so more willing to stand by their principles no matter what. It’s not that liberals aren’t principled, but a major liberal value is trying to understand the views of others and working towards a middle ground of agreement or at least acceptance. Liberals aren’t against big business in the same way or to the same degree as conservatives are against big government. Instead, liberals think capitalism and democracy need to work together without either being subsumed to the other.

Obviously, there is a very fundamental difference in the conservative and liberal worldviews. Anarcho-capitalists, objectivists & (righwing) libertarians often criticize Republicans and mainstream conservatives, but nonetheless they are clearly conservatives themselves… even if they don’t like to label themselves as conservatives. Ignoring all the differences of ideology, what specifically makes a conservative a conservative and a liberal a liberal? Is it just a difference of psychological traits?

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Continued in part 2:

 

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Failure of Conservative Morality in Politics

I’ve been reading about American society from a few different directions. I have just read some books about political history (such as the writings of Richard Hofstadter), but most recently I’ve focused on the the generational theory of Strauss and Howe (I’ve perused several of their books) and the moral frames model written about by George Lakoff in his book Moral Politics.

Last night at work, I was reading Lakoff’s book and found it quite fascinating. His main premise is that conservatives use the Strict Father family model to frame their political views and liberals use the Nurturant Parent family model to frame their political views. It makes a lot of sense to me, but that isn’t what got me thinking.

Lakoff was using Reagan and Bush sr as an example of how conservative morality plays out in politics. Conservatives use the rhetoric of small government, but obviously there are many exceptions to this rule and many moral principles they hold higher than the ideal of small government. Basically, when a conservative speaks of big government they’re referring to social programs that benefit the people who conservatives don’t believe are deserving. It’s not about saving taxpayers’ money but about doing the right thing. Those who do right should be rewarded and those who do wrong should be punished.

So, in terms of Reagan and Bush sr, who was rewarded and who was punished? By giving tax cuts to the rich and increasing the size of the military, what was the moral purpose that conservatives were trying to achieve? Increasing the military seems more obvious on the surface. The evil, Godless commies needed to be punished and it was the righteous duty of God-fearing Americans to punish them. So, what did the rich do to deserve tax cuts? Well, the basic idea is that we live in a meritocracy and so the rich have earned their wealth through hard work and ingenuity. It’s wrong to take away from the rich what they’ve earned fair and square. The corollary of this is that the poor deserve to be poor and so it’s perfectly fine that the tax cuts don’t benefit the poor (including the working class poor). As the Bible says (Matthew 25:29), “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.”

Still, Lakoff takes this one step further and it’s the best explanation that I’ve ever come across. He argues that Reagan and Bush sr (along with their advisors) weren’t stupid. They fully realized they were increasing the size of government and creating a massive deficit as had never been seen in all of US history. This wasn’t an accident. It was quite intentional. If social programs benefit the undeserving, this becomes a moral problem that must be solved no matter what the cost. If the country becomes immoral at the core, then all is lost and nothing else matters. By creating an enormous deficit, this forced Congress to tighten its belt and cut funding to all social programs. And that is exactly what happened. It’s so clever it’s evil.

This brings me to something else I read in of the books written by Strauss and Howe (I don’t remember which one). They pointed out that the GI generation was the most politically powerful generation in all of US history. The GI generation had more than three decades of GI presidents and two of those were Reagan and Bush sr.

The GI generation came to see itself as the Greatest Generation. They fought hard and worked hard. For most of their life, they saw American wealth and power ever increasing. They believed two things about this situation. First, they took personal credit for all of it and so they thought they were deserving of being rewarded for that they had done. Second, they assumed that this trajectory of increase would continue for a very long time. They were wrong on both accounts. There were complex reasons for America’s rise to wealth and power, but the main reason was that Europe was decimated by WWII. Without much competition, America’s exports dominated the global economy. This situation wouldn’t last for very long since the European countries were able to rebuild.

When Reagan and Bush sr were presidents, the GI generation was at the height of its power. They were golden and they were mostly free to use their power as they so desired. Since they thought they had earned it, they redicrected America’s wealth towards their own generation. The tax cuts to the rich were disproportionately directed to the GI generation since their generation was (and is) the wealthiest generation in US history. They also redirected money to their generation by funding expensive social programs for the elderly. So, where did this money come from? As I pointed out, social programs for the undeserving (i.e., the poor) were cut. A related example was Reagan’s kicking the mentally ill out of the psychiatric hospitals (and created a large population of mentally disturbed homeless people who then needed to be rounded up and put in prison).

Even more interesting is the fact that social programs directed at youth (from welfare to school funding) were all cut. This had two impacts. First, starting with young Boomers and ending with Generation X, the quality of public education decreased and SAT scores decreased. Second, Generation X became the most poverty prone generation in a century. While the GI generation remained wealthy, GenXers grew up to discover that their employment opportunities were as bad as was experienced by the whole country during the Bust Years of the Great Depression.

What must be understood is that GIs such as Reagan and Bush sr did all of this out of their sense of morality. They were simply doing what they thought was right. They were rewarding those who they thought deserved it and they were punishing those they thought deserved it. In doing so, the made America into a deficit-driven militarized empire which they saw as forcing America into its role of being the greatest nation in the world. The heavy costs of this were worth it in their minds.

The problem is that they couldn’t see the long term consequences. I don’t think they realized that creating such a deficit would increase out of control and end up crippling our entire country. They didn’t foresee how deregulation of markets would eventually lessen the power of the American economy. They saw the world through the lense of their own generation and didn’t realize how differently it would look to later generations.

They thought that benefitting the rich was the right thing to do since they believed the rich deserved the wealth they earned. It’s easy to argue against this in pointing out that it takes everyone in a society and not just those at the top to make an economy successful, but there is an even more important factor they didn’t understand. Many GIs became wealthy during a time when there were high taxes on the rich. How is that possible? How did the GIs become so wealthy despite being heavily taxed? This cuts to the heart of the misunderstanding that motivated Reagan and Bush sr.

There are many arguments about who deserves what, but there is a more essential issue about who can use wealth to the greatest benefit of society as a whole. To conservatives, those who become rich deserve their wealth because they theoretically will put their extra wealth towards wise investment in the economy. Sadly, it doesn’t work out this way. Innovation happens from the bottom up. Reagan and Bush sr implemented policies that increased the wealth gap which concentrated the wealth at the top. I forget the source, but I was watching an interview recently where the person was referring to data about wealth. That person pointed out that wealthy people don’t invest their wealth wisely. Beyond a certain level of wealth, extra money loses any practical worth. What the super rich tend to do with their extra money is gamble it in risky investments because it doesn’t really matter to them if they lose it. What they generally don’t do with it is invest it in further innovation. That is what happened recently with our economy. There were too many people making risky gambles and not enough people investing in industries that produce concrete products. Our economy has become dependent on the banking business and America has lost its innovative edge.

The conservative moral vision of Reagan and Bush sr has backfired.

Lakoff puts all of this into a larger context of the metaphorical frames used by conservatives and liberals. Reagan and Bush sr as GIs were seeing the world according to the experience of their generational cohort. And as conservatives they were seeing the world according to the Strict Father moral frame. It was because of their being GI conservatives that they implemented those particular policies. Like most of us, they couldn’t see outside of their reality tunnel. But the consequences of their narrow vision have been immense. Bush jr, although of the Boomer generation, was simply the ultimate endpoint of this particular worldview. Under Bush jr (aka The Decider), the military was strengthened and regulation was paralyzed (with eventual consequences as we now see with the BP oil spill), the deserving were rewarded and the undeserving were punished. Bush jr certainly was trying to return America to the conservative moral vision of a righteous country, but it’s become obvious that this vision has failed. The costs are just too high: undermined Constitutional rights, massive deficit, crippled economy, struggling small businesses, ever increasing wealth gap, shrinking middle class, environmental disasters, etc.

An opening has developed in the status quo of recent decades. People are hungering for a new vision. Many hoped that Obama could bring that new vision, but many have been or become doubtful. Lakoff sees the liberal vision as being in a difficult position. For various reasons, conservatives have been very successful in framing most of the political discourse in recent history. Liberals have an opportunity right now. It’s just not clear if liberals are presently capable of organizing their own moral vision and communicating it well. Even though conservatives have indisputably failed in their attempt, it isn’t yet determined if liberals will likewise fail during this time of change. What is for certain is that many cultural narratives are being formulated right now. The narrative that gains the most traction will most likely be dominant in politics for the next several decades… or so that is the prediction of Strauss and Howe. I guess we’ll find out.

Middle Class vs Working Class

I’ve noticed something strange about how politicians and pundits use ‘working class’ and ‘middle class’. I don’t hear the working class referred to much in the media, especially not by conservatives. Being working class has become considered a bad thing. Everyone wants to be middle class.

What bothers me about this is that the middle class is shrinking even as the poor increasingly become the target of those on the right. For instance, the Tea Party protesters are mostly older whites of the upper middle class and above (i.e., not the average American). These old white conservatives grew up during a time when there was much more opportunity of upward mobility. But since the beginning of Reaganomics, the wealth disparity has been increasing and so the numbers of the poor have been increasing.

One recent survey showed that most white Tea Party supporters don’t believe minorities are intelligent, hardworking or trustworthy. This is a new class war. As the middle class shrinks, the upper middle class sides with the rich and sees the poor as the enemy.

I don’t know if this will start to reverse again, but I don’t think these affluent conservatives want it to reverse because it was conservative policies that were a major contributing factor towards this concentration of power and wealth. Of course, they’d love to blame it on the liberals (such as how Hannity tried to interpret the documentary Generation Zero). The problem isn’t the evil government and even the Tea Party supporters don’t actually blame the government. Most of them are on Medicare and of course they support Medicare even though it’s one of the biggest government expenditures. Studies show that conservatives love big government when Republicans are in power. Even Tea Party protesters fondly remember George W. Bush and yet offer little support to Ron Paul who is a real small government fiscal conservative.

What the Tea Party protesters don’t want is a government headed by a Democrat president. The reason they give is ‘socialism’ which is simply a codeword for helping the poor and needy. It’s class war, pure and simple. It was funny when Glenn Beck came to realize the working class was the socialist enemy while listening carefully for the first time Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”. Interestingly, the only voice the working class has in the mainstream right now is Michael Moore who is a radical leftwing social justice Christian (or ‘commie’ for short).

It’s very odd because the Republican party used to side with the working class (the Reagan campaign even tried to usurp Bruce Springsteen’s message despite Springsteen himself being an ardent liberal). However, now that the working class has become a part of the growing poor, the affluent conservatives are trying to distance themselves from the working class even as they try to portray the Tea Party as working class populism. This means the real working class doesn’t have any direct political voice… which might be why, despite the conservative propaganda, the poorest of the working class tends to vote Democrat. So, the Tea Party is pretending to be working class which it isn’t while simultaneously pretending not to be Republican which it is.

I wish there was a real working class populist movement that would shake up politics. Even real libertarians can’t get a movement started without it being taken over by Republican operatives.

The worst part is that the mainstream media (especially Fox News) creates such a distorted picture of reality that the average person has a hard time telling which way is up. The poorest of the poor who lean towards Democrat are also the demographic that feels the most disenfranchised from the whole process and so rarely votes. For this reason, it’s in the interest of affluent conservatives to keep the poor disenfranchised. I saw a news report recently which was about a corporate memo stating in blatant terms that democracy of civic participation wasn’t beneficial to their profits. When Wall Street gives billions of dollars to all politicians on both sides, how can there be even the slightest hope for a real democracy that represents the average person much less those below the average.

The Tea Party protests the loudest, but it’s not the Tea Party supporters who have been hit the worse by the economic downturn. The hardest hit are the minorities, the poor, and the blue collar workers. Once upon a time, the working class fought hard to have a collective say in our society. It was from the battles with the wealthy elite that workers unions formed, but the conservative movement fought back and destroyed the power unions used to hold. Conservatives have the audacity to blame unions for helping to destroy the economy when it’s blue collar workers who are the ones who have lost their jobs more than anyone. Their jobs got sent overseas. but somehow the poor working class trying to feed their families is seen as the enemy of the affluent rightwingers.

I just don’t get it. The world would be a better place if the upper middle class whites combined their forces with the poor instead of sucking up to the wealthy elite hoping to get some scraps from the table. Since the middle class is shrinking and the economy is so uncertain, wouldn’t it make sense to make nice with the poor. Many poor working class people once thought of themselves as middle class as well, but times have changed. I remember hearing an interview of a woman who recently became unemployed. She said that she always thought the unemployed were just lazy, but she admitted that she had failed to understand how hard it can be when your job is taken away.

It’s a sad state of affairs. The poor are blamed for being poor. The unemployed are blamed for being unemployed. But oddly the conservatives blame all of the problems of Wall Street on the government which means blaming it on Obama and the Democrats. Why is it in the conservative mind everyone is to blame for their own misfortune accept wealthy capitalists? Why does the Tea Party criticize everyone from ‘socialists’ to immigrants and yet they’ve never protested Wall Street? Why?

 – – –

Note (5/27/10) – I just wanted to add one further observation that fits in with the concluding paragraph.

Why does a so-called “Libertarian” such as Rand Paul immediately defend BP even thought the irresponsible actions of BP will destroy many small businesses? I understand that Rand Paul is a rich white doctor and so doesn’t necessarily have much in common with the working class that comprise many family-owned fishing businesses, but I don’t understand why he would jump so quickly to defend BP when the average American has a very negative view of such mega-corporations.

Even though Libertarians like to portray themselves as representing the average American, it is obvious that many (most?) Libertarians and Libertarian think tanks don’t represent the average American. Certainly, Rupert Murdoch who is a self-identified Libertarian doesn’t represent the average American or average anything else for that matter. When push comes to shove, the Libertarians will side with big business… because often they own or work for big business.

Affluent Working Class Votes for Wall Street (in Massachusetts)

In Massachusets, people who voted for Brown were primarily affluent working class (slightly more white than black) who had been hit the economic downturn. The poor, however, were more likely to continue to vote Democrat or else not vote at all. The poor are used to being unemplyed and underemployed. The poor understand that the economic downturn started well before Obama, but it took longer for the economic downturn to have a major impact on the affluent working class.

The results of this are interesting. The affluent working class blamed Obama for the economic downturn that began years before with Bush. They apparently thought Democrat politicians in Washington were to blame. Even more interesting is that they didn’t understand the connection to Wall Street. Brown received massive money from Wall Street in the last weeks of campaigning and this money was used to convince the affluent working class to vote for Brown.

That is democracy for ya!

Cantor Lying with a Straight Face

Here is a boring and stupid video. There isn’t much point in watching except it’s a representative example of Republican behavior (see commentary below).

Cantor, with a straight face, does nothing but lie and mislead. This is common behavior for Republicans because they know the facts don’t support their ideology and their own self-interest.

There are two other things about this video.

First, it sounds like he is talking down to a child. I’ve noticed that some Republicans talk this way when they’re trying to get a message to the voters. It sounds mean, but it seems like Republicans such as Cantor think their constituents are lacking in intelligence and have a child-like mentality.

Second, this video sounds like a campaign ad. I’m wondering why the mainstream media airs campaign ads for free. Why is it rare for the media to confront politicians about their lies and misinformation?

Basically, no useful facts are being shared in this video, no rational argument is being made, no insightful criticism is being offereed. It’s just typical GOP talking points.

Response to Rightwing Misinformation

I’m involved in a discussion right now. I noticed the discussion because someone had linked to one of my blog posts here.

http://topix.net/forum/source/kdvr/TA3MUPB6NGSBEJ7QK/p4

One commenter responded to the commenter who linked to me. She was challenging his viewpoint, but all of her claims were either wrong or based on old data.

Becky wrote:
The only sheep here are the ones like you who actually believe the crap the liberal media and your precious president are shoving down your throat. […] I am curious you really think that dumb people are republicans. Our military is 75% republican so by your reasoning you think that 75% of our military is un-educated and from rural low income families?

Studies show the media isn’t dominated by liberals.

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/04/04/black-and-white-and-read-all-over/

By the way, could you rightwingers please quit repeating your talking points that you learn by watching too much Fox News?
“shove it down our throats” “ram it through”
I think it was Jon Stewart that did a great humorous analysis of that particular talking point, but I found another video of Bill Maher which is hilarious.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EadOO7mzkfc

Are Republicans dumb?

To be honest, studies show that conservativess on average have lower IQs than liberals.

http://spq.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/73/1/33

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100224132655.htm

“Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) support Kanazawa’s hypothesis. Young adults who subjectively identify themselves as “very liberal” have an average IQ of 106 during adolescence while those who identify themselves as “very conservative” have an average IQ of 95 during adolescence.”

http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/02/26/liberals.atheists.sex.intelligence/index.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIavgRlX8Tc

http://www.vidoemo.com/yvideo.php?i=Z29RYWpOcWuRpY0czOXM&intelligence-iq-religious-atheist-democrat-republican=

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=368_1187885839

 

http://www.halfsigma.com/2006/06/democrats_may_n.html

“I previously wrote that Republicans are more intelligent than Democrats. It seems that may have been a hasty conclusion based on looking at the entire General Social Survey (GSS) dataset, and ignoring the trend. It seems that the Republicans used to be the more intelligent party, but that may no longer be true.”

According to Pew, liberals are the most well educated.

http://people-press.org/report/?pageid=949

The most well educated demographic are liberals (19% of registered voters, 59% Democratic, 40% Independent, socially liberal). Liberals are the fastest growing demographic, but they already represent the largest sector of the Democratic party and the largest sector of the entire population.

And liberals tend to be attracted to intellectual fields such as science.

http://people-press.org/report/?pageid=1549

56% of scientists perceive scientists as liberal.
52% identify as liberal including 14% as very liberal.
55% identify as Democrat, 6% identify as Republican, 32% idenitfy as Independent (w/ 81% of Independent scientists leaning towards Democrat).

“Majorities of scientists working in academia (60%), for non-profits (55%) and in government (52%) call themselves Democrats, as do nearly half of those working in private industry (47%).”

“A far smaller share of scientists (40%) than the public (57%) agrees with the statement when something is run by the government, it is usually inefficient and wasteful.”

“Scientists also are less likely… to say that business strikes a fair balance between profits and the public interest: Just 20% of scientists… compared with 37% of the public. And while 78% of scientists say that the government has a responsibility to care for those unable to care for themselves…”

Just 14% of scientists agree that we have gone too far in pushing equal rights in this country. That compares with 41% of the public. Just a third of scientists but a majority of the public (53%) agrees that the best way to ensure peace is through military strength.”

83% of Americans believe in God.
33% of scientists believe in God.
82% of Americans have a religious affiliation.
48% of scientists have a religious affiliation

There is one last point in your comment. You claim the military is 75% Republican. What is your source for that data? Is it new or old data? I came across a report on studies that supposedly debunk this myth.

http://www2.tbo.com/content/2009/jul/26/na-studies-debunk-military-myths/news-politics/

“New research on political opinions of U.S. service members suggests the stereotype of the military as uniformly conservative and Republican doesn’t hold true.

“Instead, the research portrays America’s troops as more moderate and less party-oriented than the population as a whole, and they are more likely to avoid the extreme ends of the conservative-to-liberal political spectrum.

“Younger enlisted personnel, the least-studied service members, mostly reflect their civilian peers. But at least one researcher says they also are much more likely to vote.”

[ . . . ]

“The perception of service members as heavily Republican and conservative is long-standing.

“A 1998 survey by political scientist Peter Feaver of Duke University and Richard Kohn of the University of North Carolina that focused only on officers augmented that stereotype, finding that officers called themselves “conservative” versus “liberal” by an 8-to-1 ratio and Republican instead of Democrat by roughly a 6-to-1 ratio. But Feaver said it was wrong to extend his findings to enlisted personnel. “It’s a lot more likely to be more true of a colonel than a private,” he said.

“Feaver said the military is somewhat more conservative and Republican-oriented than the general public, but also tends to shift along with broad trends in society and likely has become somewhat less conservative since he did his research. “There may be a return to the historical position of the military as more politically independent,” he said.”

Becky wrote:
Half of your statistics mean nothing unless you are stating that unmarried people with no belief in anything beyond life are smarter people. If that is your definition of smarter people then hell yeah I’d rather be stupid.[…] I work in a green company in a green industry started by (guess what) republicans not democrats. I run into more Republicans in our industry than democrats. And it is the leaders in this industry (that’s right all republicans) at the capital trying to pass legislation to help our environment and our economy (not using government funds for solar panels on gyms).[…] The highest age group that is democratic falls with 18-29 year olds. SO not a whole lot of life experience there-a lot of them believe anything the media tells them.

Liberals tend to be younger, but that isn’t simply that younger people are Liberal. Other research shows that Millennials are more Liberal than past generations at the same age. Liberals are the largest demographic in the Pew study and they’re the fastest growing which makes sense when you consider Millennials are the largest generation in US history. In general, the US population is becoming more liberal.

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010…

Also, higher educated people tend to get married later and so there is a higher percentage of unmarried Liberals. On the positive side, Liberals (who tend to be atheists) have the lowest divorce rate and have the highest monogamous rate of any demographic.

I’m not surprised that most people in your industry are Republicans. First, your field is technological and Republicans are attracted to engineering. Second, Pew Enterprisers (equivalent to Neocons) have the highest percentage of business owners (but Liberals have the next highest percentage of business owners).

Yes, Liberals are young and all young people by definition have less life experience. Even so, they’re going to be Liberal as they age and gain experience. Once generations come of age, they don’t tend to change their ideologies for the rest of their lives. According to Strauss and Howe, the next generation will dominate the political landscape with their Liberalism.

Anyways, don’t mistake their youth for ignorance. They’re the more well educated than those older than them. Also, they follow the news closely and they tend to seek out multiple sources.

Shove it down! Ram it through!

Have you noticed how effectively conservatives use talking points? There has been plenty of videos analyzing the use of talking points by Fox News including management memos telling the hosts which talking points to use on any given day. It’s enough to make a person cynical, but it’s hard to become much more cynical at this point.

I was noting recently how some talking points are code words. Palin’s use of “real Americans” and “hockey mom” are code words for white Americans. The hockey mom was particularly interesting. First, it’s  sport that was originally popularized in Northern states which are predominantly white. Second, because of all the gear, it’s an expensive sport and so poor minority families couldn’t afford to pay for the gear.

There are tons of these talking points and code words. I’m sure people have written books analyzing them. I had one particular example in mind. I came across a discussion about health reform and a righwing commenter used the talking point about having the bill “shoved down our throat”. There are variations on it such as “rammed through”, but the phrasing doesn’t diverge much. It gets repeated by Republicans in Washington and it gets repeated on Fox News.

I was trying to find a specific video I had seen about it. Someone had put together a bunch of clips of this talking point. I can’t remember if the whole video was about Fox News, but at least part of it was. The video showed the Fox News reporters and hosts repeating the talking point over and over. Then the video showed a clip of Fox News version of a debate about health reform, but of course the debate only included conservatives. They invited some old people on to express their views and one old person repeated tha same talking point. Obviously, this old person had been watching a lot of Fox News and had picked up the phrase. That is how it works. Repeating a simple phrase enough times causes people to unconsciously take it in and start using it themselves. I’m sure that old person didn’t even know he was repeating a talking point. It’s the same principle as advertising. Repeat, repeat, repeat, and keep on repeating.

I think that particular video might have been from Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, but for the life of me I couldn’t find the video. I was surprised that I couldn’t even find much discussion about that particular talking point. I just found some references to it in forum discussions and whatnot. I thought that strange. I felt like I was going mad and was glad to find even slight mentions about the talking point. I’d think it would get more media attention, but the media is in the business of spreading talking points and not in the business of analyzing them.

I did finally find one video that refers to it and it was actually another video I had previously watched. It’s Bill Maher and he is on a roll in this video. Maher can be a very funny guy. In this video, he is in top form. He only briefly talks about it around the halfway point (4:40), but it’s hilarious.

America: Conservative & Progressive

I’ve noticed two pieces of data. Supposedly most Americans identify as conservative. The problem is that self-identified labels are very vague with many meanings. Demographics show that public opinion has become rather progressive.

Looking at US history, political labels are constantly changing meaning. Conservative at one time meant something along the lines of libertarianism or other similar ideologies. With the Southern Strategy, conservative became identified with “white culture” and the culture wars in general. This transitioned into neocon policies of being tough on crime along with being supportive of big military and big business. Now, conservative is regaining some populist connotations, but in America populism has always been connected with working class liberalism/progressivism/socialism.

To focus just on the younger generation, a clear future can be seen. They’re overall very liberal and progressive, but I think they might identify as more conservative/moderate than Boomers. I’m not sure though.

What I’m thinking is that we’re in the middle of an ideological shift in public opinion. In the last half of the 20th century, the entire political spectrum was shifting to the right. What that created was a rightwing corporatist government. Maybe in the first of the 21st century the entire political spectrum will be shifting back to the left again.

The one thing that seems very clear to me is that the culture wars as we knew them are over. Glenn Beck’s ranting against social justice Christians is proof that Christians themselves are becoming more interested in social justice.

People like Beck and Palin have helped to divide the conservative movement which has forced the extreme rightwingers into their own separate Tea Party. Some in the Tea Party would like to take over the GOP and make it even more rightwing, but I don’t think they’ll be successful. Instead, I think that Republican politicians will realize that they have to cater to a new base which isn’t exclusive to the shrinking demographic of white fundamentalists.

The GOP might become more moderate which means Democrats might become more strong in their opinions. This could explain why a nearly century old fight for universal healthcare has finally led to a bill being passed. Progressivism is returning. This fits the vision the younger generation has of government.