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October 08, 2006

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Tim Lee

You note that libertarians agree with point #4, but it seems to me that we libertarians can sign onto all of these propositions, with the exception of #6. Libertarians are as strong believers as anybody in an independent judiciary, the separation of church and state, tolerance, etc.

I think the problem is that an enormous amount of liberal thought rests on principle #6. And when you examine it in detail, you find that there's far less than meets the eye. The disagreement on most economic issues isn't whether to help the poor, but how to do so. There are liberals who passionately believe that free trade is lifting the poor out of poverty, and others who think just the opposite. The same is true of immigration. Moreover, we libertarians believe that school choice and welfare reform are policies that help lift the poor out of poverty. Likewise, conservatives believe that government promotion of marriage helps the poor. Obviously, many liberals disagree. But nothing in principles #6 tells us which side liberals ought to come down on any of those issues.

Hence, if you want the liberalism to be a distinctive political program rather than merely a vague aspiration to help people, I think you really need to expand on point #6. You have to say not simply that the government should help the poor, but give some principles explaining how the liberal approach to helping people differs from the conservative, libertarian, socialist, or other approaches.

Erasmussimo

This strikes me as a pretty good summary of the priorities of liberalism. I agree with Mr. Lee that it probably would be good to sharpen it up a bit with a reference to the idea of wealth transfer in point #6; this is one of the fundamental points of disagreement between liberals and others. Points 2 through 5 blur together, and points 9 and 10 also blur together; I think with some brutal editing these six points could be reduced to two or three.

I'll note that your points do not mention environmentalism, which is definitely a liberal point; also, you fail to mention a general antipathy to business interests, which is another aspect of liberalism. I realize that this might be considered a criticism of liberalism, but I think it necessary to include it because it is so strongly associated with liberalism. The passing reference to education seems a mistake to me; liberals are big believers in education. Lastly, and most controversially, I think that liberalism has more confidence in rationalism, intellectualism and science. Perhaps this is only true on a comparative basis, and perhaps it would be fairer to single out some segments of the conservative movement for criticism for their antipathy to rationalism, intellectualism, and science.

Roach

Of course, there are many types of liberals and a pretty broad smattering of conservatives, so all of these debates must be about general trends and core differences.

That said, I'll take your list as a starting point and put the conservative counter-principle and criticism as best I can below . . . and with minimal rancor.

1. Moral relativism vs. moral confidence.

Conservatives believe that while there are areas of uncertainty, that Americans today benefit from the fruits of western civilization, which include a rigorous philosophical and religious tradition that has arrived at fairly certain knowledge in various moral areas. Further, even if other societies' conditions are so different that our principles (such as the self-government principle) does not apply, our Western and Christian heritage once gave Americans sufficient symbolic commonality that we could actually have a debate without it devolving into a shouting match. Since the so-called counter-culture (which coincided with the introduction of various foreigners with foreign values under the '65 Immigration Act reforms), there are fewer common values with which to even begin a discusssion.

We need to return to the teachings of that tradition to recover lost moral knowledge, and we need to subordinate the methodology of western criticism to the needs of social life, at least insofar as general public teaching is concerned. Kids don't need to be little Nietzsches . .. they break too many things that way.

The very notion of "truths" is anathema to transmission of shared moral values, and is inimical to moral progress. It is emblematic of the shaky foundations of liberal moral teaching, even when that teaching is as uncompromising as liberal teaching on things like equality and race. Liberals resort to name-calling rather than debate in these areas, because so many of their moral teachings are not rigorously based on shared (and known) first principles, but glorified assertions. "I like this thing, therefore it's right and you're an ignorant moran for disagreeing with me." Conservatives are skeptical of liberal moral relativism because they believe fundamentally in the value of tradition. For conservatives, tradition represents a kind of inchoate practical wisdom that is modified over time for the social good on the basis of a kind of Darwinian selection principle.

2. Unity v. diversity.

Conservatives respect that societies need to have a combination of respect for individual differences, while also ostracizing certain kinds of deviance. We believe this because individual behavior has social consequences. Individual behavior that aims at the core values of a society or at individual destruction may need to be condemned either with public opinion or the laws. Tolerance of difference has little to do with civil rights or the other examples cited by Stone. It also includes things like being "pro choice" on home schooling or gun ownership. At the same time, certain kinds of deviance--polygamy, promiscuity, or shiftlessness for instance--can be damaging to society and need to be condemned to maintain the kind of core common beliefs needed for law-abidingness, social order, etc. Liberals practice this ostracism too, but they do so in the name of tolerance. Witness the ridiculous and anti-intellectual backlash against Larry Summers and the Bell Curve ten years earlier.

3. Democracy and Meritocracy.

Conservatives don't believe very many people want to or are capable of contributing intelligently to the "public debate." We believe all societies have natural groupings of elites and their followers. Most people are neither intelligent enough nor energetic enough to come up with interesting or useful opinions of their own, at least as they relate to public policy. Today the elites consist largely the opinion-makers in the academy and the media. There sometimes emerges a populist reaction to their often heterodox views among common people. While such reactions are natural and healthy, in the end elites run the show (think Gaetano Mosca), and conservatives recognize the need for a counter-media and a counter-academy to refute the various heretical ideas that come from the elite media and opinion-making institutions in our society that have been taken over by hostile revolutionaries who have self-consciously labeled their project "the counter-culture." Conservatives have done so in the form of things like blogs, talk radio, and the various think tanks in DC where conservative PhDs can find jobs after being excluded by liberal elites from universities under the rubric of tolerance, diversity, and excluding their toxic illiberal views on history, religion, race, government, monarchy(!), etc.

4. A self-governing people.

The issue of the relation of the people to the government is a mixed bag. American conservatives, in contrast to continental conservatives, share much of the civil liberties tradition of American liberals. Like liberals, they tend to recover this tradition and express it most articulately when the other party is in power or when they appear to be within the scope of the government's law enforcement and snooping apparatus. This was most prominent in the 1990s reaction of gun owners to the misguided gun-control movement.

That said, conservatives recognize that wars and major national security threats, and even the threat of violent crime, may require a certain amount of collective sacrifice in order to secure other important foundational ends, like keeping America from having a terrorist nuclear weapon attack. Liberals seem to simply dismiss the reality and significance of these threats and appear more committed to ideological purity.

Liberals also engage in various wealth redistributing actions and paternalistic regulation that directly contradict their supposed faith in the people's voluntary actions. This stems from their view of business as being somehow separate from the body of the people, even though businesses are for the most part just voluntary organizations of people, little different from churches, clubs, or families in the sense of being "not government" and threatened by government.

In truth, both parties are paternalistic or willing to sacrifice individual decision-making, but for different ends. And liberals appear more willing to do this to bring about social change that they deem to be beneficial to everyone (and especially for minorities), even though the people's collective, private, and uncoerced acts lead to other results, e.g., civil rights interference with decisions of private businesses and clubs like the Boy Scouts. In these cases, liberals show that their faith in liberty always takes a back seat to equality.

5. Government as Protector.

Liberals fail to notice the fundamental conflict of the self-government principles of our Constitution and their meddling in local and state affairs. So, Stone says they believe in the people, for instance, but then liberals like Stone countermand this commitment in the name of various abstract and open-ended principles.

As I said above, liberals also fail to recognize the fundamental tension of equality and liberty and the ways that their equality-enforcing legislation interfere with what were once thought of as important liberties: freedom of contract, freedom of association, and the right to prosper high above his fellows, so long as he does not use force or fraud. There is something oddly juvenile and saccharine about Stone's description of liberalism. Why not just say: I don't believe in liberty if it means inequality. I'll gladly say the opposite: I don't much believe in equality, other than equality before the law, and even that should give way to important differences, such as the differences between males and females in a matter like the military draft. This principle of government protection of the individual is just a blank check to countermand Stone's principles laid out in #s 1, 2, and 4.

Conservatives believe government should have limited power based on the Constitution, and that state governments have broader power to secure the common welfare. The federal/state distinction is absent in Stone's precis. It's clear that states and localities are conceived of by liberals (including Stone) as potentially meddlesome cabals that the good coastal folks need to police lest they do something offensively oppressive, like say a prayer at a HS graduation. Of course, if those states pass a law promoting a liberal view opposed by some federal statute, then Stone will sound like the second coming of John C Calhoun.

Conservatives believe the pursuits of government should be various public goods like security and even education, but that deliberate wealth distribution aimed at material equality in the long run is unjust, ultra vires, and unwise.

6. Helping the Poor.

This is addressed above under five, but conservatives believe inequality is natural, that inequality in a free market system inures to the benefit of the whole society, and that therefore government attempts to end this inequality with legislation to redistribute wealth will shrink the total pie, while creating a new class of unproductive wealth re-distributors in the government, e.g., the legions of employees of the Dep't of Labor/Agriculture/Social Security.

That said, unlike libertarians, conservatives recognize that a small number of people may not succeed in this system and should be protected by a social safety net. The aim of that net is to help people get back on their feet and in the case of the truly incompetent to keep them from troubling the rest of the society. Conservatives believe that such a net should be a network of private, local, public, and federal efforts, but that local and private efforts should be exhausted before federal interference comes into play. Conservative respect for federalism is absent once again in the liberal approach. In addition, even within charities and local welfare regimes, conservatives believe that those receiving such aid should receive their aid in a way that (a) discourages dependency and (b) does not create a class of voters who have a conflict of interest with the broader public good on account of their dependency. Some kind of supervision should be proportional to public aid, and it should be deliberately restrictive so as to encourage those who can and want to live as a free responsible adult to feel the pain of supervision and run back to productive life if they're able, while preventing the truly incompetent cases from hurting themselves any further. Bring back the Poor House, in other words.

7. Religion and Secularism

Conservatives believe that our heritage as a product of western civilization is to be a majority Christian nation informed by Christian values. Schools and the laws should be dedicated to these values and recognize this history. A Christian nation will promote the general welfare and social peace of a society, including the welfare of non-Christians. America has historically lived up to this heritage better than our European forebears, and the anti-school-prayer and anti-Christian agenda of many liberals is a terribly offensive solution in search of a problem.

Conservatives--before being hijacked by hawkish liberals, neoconservatives, and lukewarm nonparticipants in the culture wars--believe that religious and other cultural minorities should respect and tolerate the rights of the Christian majority to exercise their faith unashamedly in the public and private spheres. Christian values are inseparable from various public policy questions, including the death penalty, war, abortion, gay marriage, etc. Christian values are also inseparable from our cultural expressions, including such innocuous and harmless ones as Christmas trees and exchanging gifts at Christmas.

While the American tradition is one of broad religious tolerance, there is no constitutional mandate for a "wall of separation" between Church and State, and this idea is the product of confusion about the tone and tenor of the Founding Fathers. Our immigration policy in particular should take care not to introduce alien and illiberal religious and cultural traditions from the Third World, and it should do so on the basis of a self-conscious goal to maintain a Christian majority in the United States. Other religious and cultural traditions have shown far less success with self-government and limited government, and I would include the supposedly successful corruption-ridden democracies of East Asia and socialist Israel in this category of unsuccessful alien ways of life too.

8. The Power of Courts

Liberals do love courts. They love courts because they can piggyback on their inherited respect, combined with the ignorance of the public about how they operate, in order to foment liberal social change that goes against the majority values. This shows that liberal respect for the people as superior to the government is thin, at best.

Conservatives respect the importance of the independent judiciary for all of the usual reasons. But conservatives believe judicial unaccountability in crafting rules of criminal procedure and striking down state laws regarding moral matters has led to a crisis of crime in the 1960s and 1970s, for example, while also creating a parallel moral crisis by destroying cities through fomenting white flight on the basis of hair-brained bussing schemes and by assisting the destruction of sexual morality in its interference with public health laws, restrictions on unhealthy gay relationships, overturning laws against cohabitation, etc.

Conservatives also think that liberal regard for the judiciary is absent when it's most important: to keep the federal government within its boundaries as a government of enumerated powers. Liberals, who supposedly respect the courts, suddenly sound like William Jennings Bryan when a case like Lopez comes up. This reflects again their contempt for business and elites and their schemes to replace those elites with people like themselves, who will be the social engineers in chief. Liberals seem rarely willing to give up a victory on their values preference in the name to a commitment to a higher procedural value, like judicial supremacy, democracy, majority rule, equality, liberty, etc. It's majority rule today and the tyranny of the majority to be remedied by the courts tomorrow.

9. Foreign Policy

Conservatives believe in a strong national defense and are skeptical of Utopian institutions like the UN in fostering world peace. We believe the sphere of international relations is basically an anarchy and that we therefore need to be proactive in our defense, including engaging in preemptive strikes against gathering and impending threats that have not yet materialized. For these reasons, we are also skeptical about the employment of the military at the direction of the UN or in other areas where there is no direct US interest. Our natural allies in this fight are other western nations--in particular English-speaking nations--though sometimes we must dance with the devil and make alliances with unsavory regimes in order to pursue practical ends. The enemy of my enemy is my friend . . . at least for now.

Stone's post is notable in that it does not articulate even at a very broad level a theory of international relations and military power. It's just a pro forma recognition of an important task of government that liberals repeatedly undermine. They do so by cutting military budgets (which they fought for throughout the 1980s and 1990s), reduce US offensive capability (remember the stupid nuclear-freeze movement!), and hamstring military commanders and the president with oversight by their beloved judges (Hamdan, Rasul, Padilla, Hamdi).

10. Pragmatism and the Appearance of Pragmatism

Stone words number ten so it can't be refuted, i.e., "without unnecessarily." Conservatives believe civil liberties in wartime are like a rheostat and that some must be sacrificed in order to win. They can be returned when the danger has passed, and this has been our historical practice since the Alien and Sedition Acts. If you haven't noticed, FBI raids on Reds or the Black Panthers haven't happened any time recently.

It's entirely unclear when liberals would permit a wartime sacrifice, whether it's in the form of a draft, interment camps, blackout orders, rationing, restrictions on subversive speech and organizations, punishment of foreign saboteurs, etc. Thank God the earlier generation of WWII liberals were at least aware that war has a different set of rules. This is the biggest albatross facing liberals today.

Bush and his sometimes conservative allies may often be incompetent, arrogant, ignorant, and not producing results. But at leas their theory of action has internal coherence, and at least it recognizes the fact that we're at war with some nasty people and that it's important we win.

In any case, I don't expect liberals to agree with what I wrote above, and I realize both liberals and conservatives have apparently shifting views based on their prioritiztion of one or another principle in conflict in a particular case. That said, I think my summary above is pretty accurate and also shows the results-orientation, foreign policy ignorance, and equality/social-engineering obsession of liberalism.

YLlama

One common theme within Roach's comment seemed to be that tradition is important. The underlying assumption being, I suppose, that old ideas and ways of doing things presumably survived the vetting process of competition over time. I think the liberal position on tradition is its lack of importance. Which is not to say traditional ideas and means are not important. But the age says nothing about its value. Sometimes things are done a certain way for a long time for no good reason at all, and accident and randomness prevented the typically valuable "marketplace of ideas" vetting from replacing it.

Prof. Stone's first bullet captures something along these lines, I think.

Jepetto

This is an excellent expression of the values of liberalism, and a comprehensive and promising document for liberals to work from. I have a very small quibble with part of #3: "Liberals believe individuals have both a right and a responsibility to participate in public debate." I see a contradiction between declaring public participation a responsibility and the value expressed in #2: "Liberals believe individuals should be tolerant and respectful of difference." In tolerating difference, we should be tolerant of those who choose not to participate in public debate. There are valid philosophical reasons to suppose that public debate will always ultimately reinforce the power structure and serve its insterests (Foucault on knowledge and power, for example). I am sometimes tempted to think, for example, that anti-war protests have become a strucutral part of the process by which America goes to war, rather than, as they first seem, an obstacle to war. Under such circumstances, individuals ought to be able to opt out of public debate. In fact, one could argue they have a responsibility to do so. There are also spiritual reasons that one may choose to abstain from public debate, and we should respect those choices as well. I think the very first of these values, "Liberals believe individuals should doubt their own truths and consider fairly and open-mindedly the truths of others" requires us to be very careful about declaring the responsiblities of others. That said, I wish to thank Prof. Stone for this work.


ctw

while I appreciate prof stone's good intentions, I fear that he does a potential disservice with his definitional list. in my view, it is important to distinguish the epistemological bias of "liberalism" from the policy aspects. I think the former is adequately captured in his item no 1 by the phrase "open-minded", which I interpret as basically meaning that liberals adopt positions based on objective assessment of available evidence" as opposed to revealed "truth" or institutional dogma. one might add that liberals are somewhat skeptical of the probative value of tradition.

IMO, most of the rest of the list items are:

i) subsumed under the general statement that one accepts the fundamental assumptions underlying our system of government (the "right" part of 3, 4-5, and 7)

ii) policy positions that are highly debatable even within "liberal" circles (2, the "responsibility" part of 3, 6 beyond providing equal opportunity, and 8)

or iii) blatant political posturing (9, 10).

I wonder if the utility of "liberal" and "conservative", other than for partisan name-calling, may have declined to the point where they should simply be avoided in serious discussion. "conservative" hardly describes policies of the current R party; and in any event, libertarians claim many traditional "conservative" values for their own. and the positions I hear ascribed to "liberals" are more often than not inapplicable to anyone I know who would entertain the label.

in fact, one might even say that it is "illiberal" to make a list of "liberal" policy positions, suggesting as it does criteria for membership in a virtual "institution" with a prescribed dogma.

-charles

curtisstrong

CTW brings up a nice point that liberalism is itself a highly evolving thing, that cannot be easily reduced to a nice and easy list that "conservatives" might make (Christians are better than everyone else, we need to kill others before they kill us...etc.)

However, I think it´s important that "liberals" come together on more things than they do, as it seems the voice that we speak with is often not cohesive enough. Hence, I applaud Stone´s efforts.

I´ll have to get to Roach´s reactionary message later...

AlanDownunder

>

Bit of an unnecessary red rag to a moderate religionist. Try:

All liberals see allowing the free expression of faith and forbidding the official imposition of faith as 2 sides of the same coin - a necessary corollary of the fact that faiths and non-faiths will (and therefore must) coexist among equally entitled citizenry in democratic communion.

Christian liberals abhor the corruption of their religion and the co-option of their brethren by partisan political alliance, fund raising, horse trading and reverse infiltration.

Gary

As a liberal - I think this looks an awful lot like a campaign platform. I usually boil it down to a flavor of #1 - liberals and conservatives share a belief that humans are fallible; it's just that liberals are willing to entertain the notion that they, themselves, are fallible as well. Conservatives believe that _other_ people are fallible, hence their simultaneous infatuation and abhorrence with punitive and coercive state power.

Or, more briefly: the rhetorical mode of liberals is satire. The rhetorical mode of conservatives is jeremiad.

Jerms

IF we are to "celebrate free and open debate" let's start with a sets of data where there is agreement amongst the citizens and sketches of what liberal, centrist, conservative, libertarian and statist views are on a subject-by-subject basis where we disagree.

josh

I found Roach's post intriguing. If we were to start at thread about "Conservatives'" values, it would probably include a bullet point along the lines of "Projecting Own Animosity into Those with Whom You Disagree."

Had Stone's post been about "Conservatives'" values, Roach's comment would have been relevant. But for some reason, Roach instead chooses to display the sincere animous one regularly sees in blogs on this topic. I recently saw it on the Volokh Conspiracy, but it's quite common these days.

The typical thread begins by noting that liberals may have lost their way, or false asserting they don't believe in anything. The following echos not only focus on liberals' shortcomings, but set forth a full explanation of conservatives' ideals.

Only problem: (1) as Stone explained, liberals do have a wide variety of very cogent operating principles; (2) the fact that conservatives don't like those principles doesn't make them any less operational; (3) for some strange reason, conservatives like Roach become so threatened by these cogent principles that they need to inject their animous into the discussion.

A shorter version of Stone's post (and those like it I've seen elsewhere is "Here is what I (liberals like me) believe."

Why is it conservatives like Roach find the need to start an argument over a comment like that? It's about as useful as starting a conversation with a priest with "God is dead."

Roach

Josh, speaking of animous (i.e., animus), you don't say what I said that shows any animus. Also, you seem to have missed Professor Stone's invitation at the end, "Are these propositions meaningful? Are they helpful? Are they simply wrong? As a liberal, how would you change them or modify the list? As a conservative, how would you draft a similar list for conservatives?"

Sorry if I didn't swoon over Stone's glittering generalities and the inherent contradictions of liberalism that for some reason its proponents won't even acknowledge.

Kesh

Simply put, Roach, if you had just outlined the Conservative version of this list, I don't think there would have been a problem. Instead, you decided to verbally attack Stone's points in an attempt to shore up your own beliefs as superior.

No one expected you to swoon, they just expect civility.

 Roach

Give me a break. He stated his position. I stated mine; in stating mine, I pointed to weaknesses in his. Stone invited this kind of response in saying, "Are they simply wrong?" I didn't call Stone a liar; I simply said that there were important lacunae and internal contradictions in his statement of liberalism, and they flowed from deficiencies in liberalism itself.

Your labeling of honest and clearly stated disagreement as incivility kind of defeats the point of having a comment section and inviting comments. It's true I'm somewhat didactic and polemical, but this is only seen as uncivil if you're afraid of honest criticism and the testing of ideas.

curtisstrong

Roach,

Wow. You again show your true colors, as usual, they are insulting and reactionary. Let´s begin with #1. Stone states that Liberals are inclined to doubt "absolute truths," given that many of those truths have been debunked, either by science, or philosophy. Evolution, for example, is a legitimate scientific theory, that conservatives don´t want to see taught. I myself am religious, but see no reason why schools need to be charged with the teaching of "intelligent design," or "creationism" given its dubious status in the scientific community. The fact that science is taught in schools is not a reason for lamentation. Yet, conservatives freak out, thinking that their children might be led away down to hell, even though religion can be taught in the home, at church, in public by missionaries...etc (and admittedly, many conservatives simply like to think their religious, when in fact they haven´t been to church for ages...but that´s another story, I suppose). This is only one example. There are many others. Conservatives can learn a lot from liberals on this point. An open mind is a wonderful thing.

Roach also writes, "It [the notion of "truths"] is emblematic of the shaky foundations of liberal moral teaching, even when that teaching is as uncompromising as liberal teaching on things like equality and race." These are the very issues where conservatives fall. "Tradition," as Roach puts it, at least in our country, has included discrimination, self-righteousness, racism, sexism...on and on and on. Conservatives have never been the ones to try and change these problems...it has always been liberals who approach these issues with the most force. This is ostensibly because "tradition" is so important, but it is really because conservatives often have a deeply-rooted sense of self-importance, and want to retain the privileges of keeping power and money in the hands of the majority.

curtisstrong

#2: Roach acts as if the liberal community were in favor of things such as polygamy. This of course is false. What a liberal might say is that in some cultures, polygamy is socially acceptable, and a liberal might want to find out why. However, no liberal that I know is willing to allow polygamy in the United States.

This is an example what Stone is trying to illustrate. One should be tolerant, and try to understand differences in culture/belief...etc. This is something that conservatives do not do as well as liberals do, and it often leads (again) to discrimination and intolerance of other cultures. This is unacceptable in a society where multi-culturalism has been an important aspect of our history. No doubt, Roach´s family immigrated from somewhere, at some point. Nearly everyone´s family did. So respect and tolerance is absolutely in order, and liberals carry the day on this point as well.

As far as Roach´s argument for "tolerance" of issues like gun control, i.e. political differences, he seems to assume that because liberals oppose something politically that they are "intolerant." In fact, the opposite is true. Liberals will not discriminate on the basis of political affiliation. Rather, they argue the point on the merits, encouraging political input rather than trying to oppress the proponents of the viewpoint.

Diversity, then, has been an excellent learning experience for many people, and it has been fairly enlightening in U.S. history. Minorities have, and continue to contribute greatly to the success of our country, and they will continue to do just that, without a doubt. Hence, diversity has made our country stronger, and liberalism will help this process to continue, hopefully alleviating the dificulties that have been placed in those minorities´ ways.

curtisstrong

#3: People have a duty and a right to participate in public debate

Roach´s answer that only the "elites" run the show is exactly what liberals want to try to avoid, if they can. The fact that many people feel too small, too disciminated against, too inferior, or too powerless is something that liberalism wants to fight against. Liberals would like to see the small people (honestly, whether liberal, conservative, or otherwise) engaged in public debate so that they feel empowered and part of the politicl process. This way the laws have legitimacy and reflect, at least in part, the input of all of the "people" (a term the conservatives have liked to use as of late), NOT just the termed "elites." This is an important goal, and one that should be encouraged.

That Roach believes there should be a counter-media to reflect current conservative viewpoints is fine. No liberal wants to exclude viewpoints from the public. In fact, Fox news has served to get conservatives on board quite well. What is not good, however, is the close-minded approach with which conservatives view these news programs/talk shows. If one approaches a subject with an end already in mind, then you have shut yourself off to a good body of information and insight. This goes back to numbers 1 and 2, where clearly, conservatives take a back seat to liberals.

Roach

Curtisstrong, I didn't mean to say liberals support polygamy. I pointed to the widespread American social condemnation of polygamy as an example of ostracism and condemnation of individual behavior, even between consenting adults, that has social consequences and therefore is rightly subject to regulation and condemnation.

I guess what I was saying there was that liberals claim to believe in diversity, and a kind of "celebration" of alternative lifestyles, but even they recognize the need to enforce some common practices and common values. Conservatives do so openly and unapologetically and have a provision for this in our philosophical view of society as a balance of individual and social needs, not as one where the individual is always paramount.

There are numerous ways--drug laws, laws against polygamy, censorship of obscenity--that societies have historically regulated individual behaviors for the social good. A philosophy based on "liberating" the individual from social pressures and restraints is unsustainable and leads to direct social harm. Conservatives are as way of interfering with this moral ecosystem as liberals are with the natural ecosystem. Stone's formulation of tolerance and respect for difference makes no provision for this problem.

curtisstrong

#4: People should govern themselves.

It is true that government is necessary. People should govern themselves, but as this country has been committed to protecting minorities from the tyrrany of the majority, it is imperative that the government of individuals include this aspect in the application/administration of laws.

Equality under the law, and equality of opportunity (so far as it is possible) are important, so as to keep the country from having effectively, a ruling class. Equality for equality´s sake has long been an impossibility, and liberals are prepared to accept that. What they are not prepared to accept is the fact that minorities and the poor have historically been disadvantaged, and that as a result, they must necessarily remain that way forever. Conservatives disagree and think that anyone can do whatever they want to do, which dismisses the reality that many are forced to drop out of school or university (or forego other opportunities) because of practical concerns, with conservatives often turning a blind eye.

Liberals, on the other hand, would try to help wherever plausible to help give opportunities to the disadvantaged in an attempt to level the playing field a bit. This will allow for a society where a people could govern itself better and more effectively.

The problem is that on this issue, both sides seem to think that there must be and EITHER/OR dichotomy with trickle-up or trickle down theory dominating. However, there is plenty of scholarship out there suggesting that this is not the case, and that both of these theories can be used together to promote a stable, free society. However, it seems that liberals are more open to debate on this subject than conservatives.

Hence, Roach´s contention that liberty always takes a back seat to equality is not true. Liberals do pick their battles, and have made significant progress in this area. But liberty is an extremely important tenant of liberalism, and the freedom to excel does make up a part of that. However, that freedom should be answerable to (interestingly) Christian values of helping the poor and the needy.

curtisstrong

#5: Refer to post above. I think it is equally applicable to this statement.

As per Roach´s response above, I think that this is an area where there is little disagreement. Areas where there are more disagreement would be the extension of marriage to homosexuals and the like. However, as posited above, that laws are necessary to protect society from illicit drug trafficking, murder, polygamy...etc. I think we are in agreement. No liberal (unless anarchists count as liberals), as far as I know would disagree that this is true.

curtisstrong

#6: Again, I think this is addressed in #4´s analysis.

What I disagree with is Roach´s approach to the solution of the problem of poor. Roach, and the conservative wing, seem to rely on a system of voluntary assistance to the poor. Not only is this historically inaccurate, it gives no one a responsibility to do anything at all. It leaves people with the option of whether or not to help, which in many circumstances removes personal accountabiity. If conservatives in government encouraged the citizenry to engage in these types of activities (not just through tax breaks, but through a cohesive voice encouraging this type of behavior), then perhaps the right might have a moral basis to go on. But that doesn´t happen. The left does a much better job of bringing these issues to the fore. In addition, this fails to take into account that, absent an unequivoval opportunity (Tsunamis, Hurricanes...etc), people fail to go out of their way to help others. Not because people are bad, but because they are self-interested most of the time. That´s okay. What liberals want to promote is an opportunity and a responsibility to help others in society, bringing underprivileged people to a situation in which they can get the education and drive that they need to succeed. In sum, the responsibility is actively sought out by the government, rather than abdigated to members of society who have neither an incentive nor motivation to take care of the problem. Again, liberals carry the banner on this issue.

I do agree with the posts above that there is considerable disagreement on how this is to be accomplished. I would like to hear some different views on this point.

curtisstrong

#7: I personally think that "never" is a bit of a strong word. If sectarian faith is used as a basis for a law that is also upheld through rational analysis (tipping the scale in favor of a particular issue, other things being fairly equal), then I see little problem with that.

Now, I think Roach´s analysis on this point suffers from an inability (conceded that it is a difficult thing to do) to extract culture from religion. But the fact that European countries (and our nation inherited much of that culture) have prospered is not necessarily due to Christianity per se. Much of Christianity may have influenced that success, but also the fact that Europeans were violent, as well as inventive and ambitious (none of which are necessarily directly attributable to Christianity) makes up a large portion of that success. Roach´s reasoning is severely flawed here, so until more explanation is given, Stone´s position stands.

curtisstrong

#7: I personally think that "never" is a bit of a strong word. If sectarian faith is used as a basis for a law that is also upheld through rational analysis (tipping the scale in favor of a particular issue, other things being fairly equal), then I see little problem with that.

Now, I think Roach´s analysis on this point suffers from an inability (conceded that it is a difficult thing to do) to extract culture from religion. But the fact that European countries (and our nation inherited much of that culture) have prospered is not necessarily due to Christianity per se. Much of Christianity may have influenced that success, but also the fact that Europeans were violent, as well as inventive and ambitious (none of which are necessarily directly attributable to Christianity) makes up a large portion of that success. Roach´s reasoning is severely flawed here, so until more explanation is given, Stone´s position stands.

curtisstrong

My time is up. 8-10 will have to be done another time. I apologize for not finishing, but will look forward to continuing on the rest of these points later.

curtisstrong

Also,

sorry for the accidental double post above.

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