Distinguish friend from foe.
†For more information, contact:
†† Gary Schouborg, PhD
†† (925) 932-1982
Schouborg, Gary (2006).
"Liberal v. Conservative, in a Nutshell".
Liberal v. Conservative, in a Nutshell
Below are some email exchanges giving brief characterizations of the differences between liberals and conservatives.
email exchange 3/11/14
Sandy: Why do progressives persist in spite of repeated failure of their policies?
Gary: Because they are moralists. Worse, they are American moralists, who believe that what is moral will eventually happen. For the same reason, conservatives are American moralists who believe that any violation of the status quo is ultimately bound to fail. For both sides, empirical reality is of little interest except as a measure of how close to or far from their moral ideal we are.
Sandy: The terms mean a lot of things. My gross generalization covers only the progressives that you complain about and only the conservatives that a lot of progressives complain about.
Gary: Iím sure that Obama sees himself as agreeing with you for more freedom and increasing what is actually working, but as differing from you in taking the longer view. For example, he sees Benghazi and Obamacare as mere blips on a long path where his policies will eventually work out. The problem, of course, is that if you take too long a view, you can never convict yourself of making a mistake.
email exchange 8/26/08
Sometimes I think Dick Morris is streetsmart politically and sometimes he seems a naÔf. Whether Michelle was sincere last night, I have no idea. The magic words [I love America] were so obviously what were required that she was destined to say them no matter what her thinking. As for her and Obie's humble background, Hitler had a humble background, so did Joe Stalin, so did many of the destructive revolutionaries throughout history. There's no end of people with humble backgrounds who grew up to forget their roots so they could rub shoulders with elites, whether intellectual, social, or political. Michelle said not one word to effectively address concerns that she and Obie don't understand what made this country thrive. All she did was talk about how she and Obie disdained working for money-making law firms and corporations in order to help the vulnerable. Helping the vulnerable is a treasured part of our heritage, but it's not the engine that carried us to where we are today. She and Obie have yet to show that they have any understanding of what that is and that they won't dismantle it with their socialist ideals.
One part of our driving force is the military. Spare me Michelle's token tribute to the military and the convention's conventionally enthusiastic applause. When the Dems honor the military these days, they honor them as victims of warmongers, not as heroes who necessarily use force for protection against real threats.
The other part of our driving force are the creators who provide the wealth on which people like Michelle feed their moral sensitivity while disdaining to shake hands with the hand that feeds them.
The Reps have too narrow a vision, but in their narrowness they know and appreciate where their benefits come from.
email exchange 11/2/06
"What is it about Communism and Socialism – with all of its ugly destruction -† that continues to seduce 'the creative classes'?" S
Very briefly, it's adolescent acting out against the establishment (in this case capitalism), an acting out also fueled by two positive but limited adolescent fantasies: romantic notions of nature and of equality.
At their best, the creative classes are right-brained people aware of the limits of left-brained, orderly thinking. Creativity is inherently anti-establishment, since it's creating new, rather than established or widely accepted, forms. By the same token, creativity is linked to spirituality in responding to resources within us that cannot be clearly identified and articulated. In contrast, the technological explosion that began with the industrial revolution is fueled by precise concepts. Furthermore, those concepts make distinctions among us and enable the development of processes that separate us from nature and from one another. In contrast, spirituality opens us to feelings of communion rather than separation.
At their worst, the creative classes are superficial people who are unable or unwilling to integrate their right-brain processes with their left-brain. They can therefore only react to the limitations of a left-brain, orderly world much the same way adolescents react to parental constraints while unable to see their useful purpose. They understand their creative impulses superficially, as NOT established ideas. They understand nature superficially, as pretty somethings out there rather than their innermost processes, to which they must listen with humility and give useful form by using left-brain processes. Consequently, they see capitalism as the enemy of their romanticized notion of a pre-industrial state of nature. And they see the inevitable inequalities of capitalism as the enemy of their romanticized notion of equality, to be found in vaguely conceived and untested notions of communism/socialism.
The best and the worst of the creative classes form the two groups that Cato identifies. Obviously, there's a continuum, not two hermetically sealed groups. But speaking broadly, the best nourish us spiritually and constructively contribute to true progress, whereas the worst are airheads who conceitedly arrogate to themselves the attribute of creativity that's owed only to the best.
A similar classification could be made of conservatives, contrasting the best as those open to new, constructive forms and the worst as those who confuse the true and valuable with the merely familiar.
email exchange 9/3/06
ďI think the Jihadists of 9/11 were not only sane, but quite rational within the framework of their beliefs about what they did.† And the implications of that reality are just too frightening for the typical western mind to accept.Ē Cato
I agree jihadists arenít insane, but peopleís tendency to label them that doesnít come primarily from fear. It comes from the common human inability to model a thought different from oneís own, to understand a different point of view. Itís a rare talent to understand a different point of view, because it involves modeling both your own thinking and that of another and comparing the two. Although the political right and left donít usually label each other insane, they do ascribe evil or conspiratorial or narrow political motives to each other because thatís something they understand, having all those motives themselves to one degree or another.
email exchange 9/2/06
ďWhen I look at conservative websites, they are questioning and lampooning.† When I check out liberal websites, they seem ugly.† Am I imagining?Ē† SS
I see at least five factors at play.
1) When oneís ox is gored, it looks uglier than when anotherís is.
2) Conservativesí ugliness is usually in the name of self-interest, which makes a certain amount of sense, since self-preservation is our first instinct as well as necessary to pursue altruistic goals. Liberalsí ugliness is in the name of utopian ideals, which is particularly perverse — corruptio optimi pessima est: corruption of [those who present themselves as] the best is the worst evil.
3) Conservatives are more immediately practical, liberals focus more on possibilities (progress). Since possibilities are virtually unlimited and only a few of them are feasible, there is much more potential for confusion and self-deception in the more complex liberal perspective.
4) Add to # 3 the temptation to think of practicality as mean-spirited and idealism as magnanimous and creative, and you have a bias against checking your utopian vision against mere reality.
5) Liberals assume theyíre much smarter, whereas conservatives merely assume their own feet are more firmly planted on the ground. I'm unaware of any study that actually goes into that issue. However, if liberals are actually no smarter than conservatives, then having the more complex perspective means that many liberals are in way over their heads.
email exchange 8/11/06
TS Eliot — Humankind cannot bear very much reality.
Western liberals are sufficiently cushioned from harsh reality that denial comes especially easy to them. My neighborhood leftists darkly commented that Bush knew for at least four weeks about this upcoming plot of downing commercial planes from London to the US, the implication being that he held back till now for dramatic effect.
I wonít bore you with all the holes in this theory except to point out two things: denial isnít just a matter of not paying attention, but often feeds on aggressively constructed paranoia; and an overlooked problem with paranoiacs is that they're distracted from focusing on their real enemies.
John Derbyshire quote: "Reality", said Philip K. Dick, "is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away". Some years earlier T.S. Eliot had noted that "humankind cannot stand very much reality." The older I get, the more I think that the main driving force in human affairs is not greed or lust, still less anything positive like charity or piety: It is wishful thinking. I want it to be so; therefore it must surely be so! A survey of history suggests that all great civilizations were strongly averse to some aspect of reality; and that the aversion was, in each case, a contributing factor in civilizational downfall.
Not sure paranoia is the right description, or that denial leads to or transposes into paranoia.† Your first sentence referencing denial is correct.† The Left seems to me more inclined to deny the existence of enemies than to create them out of whole cloth.† I would describe the pathology of The Left as a deep existential despair at that point where dreams of the perfectibility of man collide with the reality of human action and motivation.† They either cling to their dreams or they disintegrate ideologically; the former is irrational but the latter is unthinkable, so they evidence the former.† And since recognizing Islamists as irredeemable enemies would destroy them ideologically, but seeing conservatives as enemies would sustain them ideologically...no matter how irrational that is...that is what The Left must do.† Ergo they seek to embrace Islamists (called appeasement and multicultural weakness by the right) in order to redeem them and attack conservatives for their confrontational attitudes.† That make any sense?
Paranoia is not necessarily about enemies, though that is whatís popularly associated with it. Clinically, itís also associated with grandiosity. And Freud highlighted another aspect when he characterized religion as a form of paranoia in developing theories that are not subject to refutation. In that sense, wishful thinking is the most common and mildest form of paranoia.
The comment — "I would describe the pathology of The Left as a deep existential despair at that point where dreams of the perfectibility of man collide with the reality of human action and motivation" — cuts right to the heart of the left. However, I see the implications differently — in the light of Tip OíNeillís profound observation that all politics (he could as well have said psychology and morality) is local. In principle, itís theoretically possible for either Islamofascists or conservatives eventually to come around to reason. However, since conservatives are geographically (and therefore emotionally) closer than Islamofascists to the left, the left feels the conflict with them more intensely. Consequently, itís harder for the left to acknowledge good (in this case, the ability to listen to reason) in conservatives than in Islamofascists.
In any case, I like Derbyshireís point that everyone has biases. One variation of this obvious point is the psychological saying that only the paranoiac is 100% attentive. The rest of us have enough trouble carving out just a small portion of reality to focus on. The left canít accept that sometimes weíre in a kill or be killed situation. The right, on the other hand, doesnít dwell on the fact that those disadvantaged by its policies are usually the powerless and unloved.