Thursday, April 3, 2014
Can Liberals and Conservatives Ever Agree?
Liberals and Conservatives will probably never agree.  They might as well stop trying to convince one another.  Logic doesn’t work.  Facts don’t work. 
Egged on by the media in a constant chase for ratings, the two sides engage in a never-ending cycle of “gotcha.”  But no amount of arguments by either side will ever convince the other that their position on the issues that separate them is not the right one. 
Each is irrevocably convinced of the merit of its beliefs about values, ethics, morality, government, religion, that is, G-d or no G-d, education, national defense, energy, protecting the environment, economics, taxation and so on, ad infinitum. 
Both claim that the other side distorts the facts or just plain lies to support its arguments.  Who is to be believed in what has become the continuous propaganda war that is waged daily in the media, on the Internet, with email messages, the endless stream of communications that has become the hallmark of modern societies?
So, why do they bother to keep trying?  Neither side will ever convince the other, but they persist. What is it that they really want?  Is it just about political power and control of government?
Both sides assert that they target those who occupy the center of the political spectrum, reported to represent about one-third of the voters, but everyone knows that when the Left and the Right argue their respective positions they are primarily
“preaching to the choir,” who occupy the more extreme philosophical positions of their groups.
People tend to be more liberal when they are young, usually because they generally don't have a realistic appreciation of the costs and motivations associated with correcting the inequities and injustices they perceive. They are often more sensitive, perhaps less cynical than their elders, and want to improve conditions. But they are also less experienced, have not seen as many ideas tried and fail, and they have less understanding of human nature. They also usually have more faith in the "system,” as in government, and in the ability of those in power to make decisions for the many and to enforce them fairly.
As they gain experience and added years, people tend to become more conservative. It is only in their more mature years that they may have supplemented their education with sufficient experience to begin understanding the benefits of our nation’s capitalistic philosophy, and I suppose some of its limitations. Young people generally take too much for granted, but ultimately most of us eventually learn that nothing in this life is really either completely "black or white," or free.  Columnist Thomas Sowell, who started out as a Marxist, supported this when he said, “There was no book that changed my mind about being on the political left.  Life experience did that – especially the experience of seeing government at work from the inside.”
Most political beliefs are actually shades of gray, with questions and arguments on all sides of the issues.  All systems of government are predicated on economic philosophy. In the final analysis, it is the means by which a society organizes its productive capabilities and distributes that productivity that is really the underpinning of its political system. People somehow seem to separate politics from production (business, economics and property rights) in their minds. They aren't separable.
Perhaps the primary difference between the political beliefs of the Left and the Right is their respective philosophies about human nature - about how people’s behavior is influenced or motivated. The Left generally believes it is wrong for individuals to accumulate what they consider to be “excess” wealth or to have income in “excess of their needs.”  In the extreme, their concept is that each individual should be able to take those things from the system that s/he "needs", while contributing "according to his (her) ability".
This is usually interpreted to mean that everyone should receive the same material benefits from the available resources and that those resources are finite, that there is only “so much” to go around, and that people can be convinced to put personal gain or advantage aside and act altruistically.
Those on the Left also believe the economy is a zero sum game.  If someone wins (earns or profits more than others), someone else loses.  On the other hand, those on the Right believe that additional “capital” is created by increasing or improving productivity and providing incentives.  Their concept is that when someone wins, usually by providing a product or service that others need or want - the income or capital of others is not diminished, but that more is created.
On the Right, they also believe that it is simply human nature for people to act in their own self-interest.  That self-interest is what motivates their behavior and that the economic system works best when it is structured around that reality.
“The success of the Plymouth colony can be attributed to the wisdom of the colonial leadership to recognize a failed experiment when they saw one. That experiment was socialism.  And, the rapidly approaching outcome was starvation, economic regression and total failure of the colony. “From each according to their ability and to each according to their need” simply did not work and could not work without government coercion.”
(From The Rant.us by Tony Ruboletta, Failed Experiment and Failing To Learn, 7/22/04).
The short answer to the question, “Can Liberals and Conservatives Ever Agree?” is no, not on their core beliefs.  Not only do they occupy opposite ends of the political spectrum, their core beliefs and worldviews are 180 degrees apart. 
However, what they often manage to do is compromise to achieve certain of their respective goals.   The saying, “Politics is the art of compromise,” is correct.   Just remember, you rarely convince the other side of the correctness of your beliefs about economics or human nature.  Only experience does that.
© 2014 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved
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