48 thoughts on “The Asymmetry Of Ideology”

  1. Your piece assumed one dimensional politics: liberal-moderate-conservative. How would your piece have changed if libertarians weren’t lumped in with conservatives?

    (I don’t agree with your piece, but I would have enjoyed disagreeing with a more nuanced version of your views.)

    Also: You often point out that you aren’t a conservative – do you think you understand conservatives better than, um, liberal/progressive/leftists understand conservatives?

        1. I think that I would do an excellent job of aping a leftist. As people in comments over there note, we are surrounded by them, and have to swim in a sea of their thoughts. I wonder why you would fantasize that I wouldn’t? And I’ve never been known to be timid in my opinions.

          1. Would you do a better job of aping a social conservative who wants laws against, pornography than a communist would?

          2. Of course you could — aping Leftism simply requires regurgitating the catechisms of media, academia and government. One does not even need to think about it because thinking is actually discouraged — questioning the orthodoxy can lead to being branded as a heretic (i.e.: a right-winger.)

    1. Your piece assumed one dimensional politics: liberalleftist-moderate-conservative.

      It doesn’t look like you even read it.

      1. Sure I did. The article addresses “self-described conservatives”, but a possible problem with the article is that a social conservative might not have much in common with a libertarian, or with a fiscal conservative, and someone who describes themselves one or more of those of things might not agree with the foreign policy aims of, say, Robert Kagen. But the distinction I was interested in was one that Rand often trumpets: the difference between libertarians and conservatives.

          1. Ok, but I’m asking here because I’m interested in what you think. If you’re not interested, I’ll drop it.

        1. Let “Robert Kagen” stand for “Neo-Conservatives”, a useful category of conservative that unfortunately needs a new name.

        2. Bob, you could think of a neo-conservative as a conservative that puts more emphasis on the importance of America’s role in policing failed states and trouble spots to reduce low-level threats to US interests. They are largely Jacksonian conservatives who prefer not to fight but aren’t afraid to bring it if challenged.

          As far as the article’s arguments are concerned, neo-conservatives and non neo-conservatives would share mutual understanding of each other’s positions, which are the result of a different weighting of preferences and estimates of drawbacks.

          To put it simply, they would be like automotive hobbyists who differ on their preferences between diesel and gasoline engines, between a straight 6 and a V-8, normally aspirated versus turbocharged, etc. A liberal would be someone who just knows that you put oil in it and it goes, and the farther it goes per gallon the better.

          Not to sound too sexist, but it’s like the average car buff talking about engines with his teenage daughter. She will always be convinced she’s right about the car, and he just hopes she doesn’t blow it up.

          1. Oh, I don’t think so. I think many neo-conservatives are socially liberal, and if I thought the articles arguments were correct, I’d expect many such people to be no better than progressives at understanding social conservatives.

            I have a longer comment in mind, but don’t have time. In short,I think Bill Kristol or Robert Kagen or Francis Fukuyama (pre-2005 edition) would be only as adept as liberals at predicting what Rick Perry would say on a given issue. Also: During the recent Republican debates, I amused my wife by predicting what how Rick Santorum and Michele Bachman would differ from Rick Perry(my model was that they will always go to the left of Perry on national security, but will try to compensate by going to his right on social issues.)

          2. Left out: the reason they’ll go to his left is because they’ve had intelligence briefings during their service in Congress. Example: their moderation on Pakistan (Santorum made me cheer when he said Pakistan was “too nuclear to fail”)

          3. Bob, a socially liberal neo-conservative is a social conservative who blows off church and hops in his SUV to drink beer at Hooters, because he likes SUVs, beerk, and Hooter’s girls. A liberal Hooter’s waitress thinks the neo-con is an ignorant beer swilling warmonger who tips well, but only because he’s flush with cash from all that illegal Iraqi crude from BushCheneyHaliburton.

          4. Can’t really imagine Kagen, Kristol, or Fukuyama drinking beer at Hooters. And I’m not sure why you think the waitress will be a liberal. She almost certainly won’t be a leftist. But it is refreshing to hear someone imagining that neo-conservatives tipping well.

            (Seriously: I’m not sure we’re even talking about the same people when we say “neo-conservative”, which is why I specified three of them.)

  2. For some reason this reminded me of a scene from TOS Mirror, Mirror. From wikiquote: Spock: (Explaining to Kirk how the mirror versions were so quickly spotted) It was far easier for you as civilized men to behave like barbarians than it was for them as barbarians to behave like civilized men.

  3. A liberal Hooter’s waitress thinks the neo-con is an ignorant beer swilling warmonger who tips well, but only because he’s flush with cash from all that illegal Iraqi crude from BushCheneyHaliburton.

    This is your example of a conservative’s sophisticated understanding of liberals? You guys crack me up. All I see here are the most two-dimensional caricatures of “liberals”, none of whom reflect the largely entrepreneurial technologists I work with in Silicon Valley who are quite happy to vote for Obama.

    1. Dave, I used that as an example because countless times I’ve been accused of being a neocon warmonger profiting from Iraqi oil by liberals. Certainly not all liberals are that stupid, but just who near Silicon Valley manned all those anti-war protests in San Francisco, waving all the BUSH=HITLER! and NO-BLOOD-FOR-OIL signs.

      1. Okay, fair enough, not every supporter of the war was a neocon warmonger. But since we’re talking about asymmetrical ideologies, not every critic of the war was carrying a BUSH=HITLER sign either. I marched in the protests because I smelled a lie around WMD and a waste of blood and treasure. I didn’t carry any sign. I have a comfortable middle class life in Silicon Valley, and I’m certainly not a Hooters waitron.

        But a lot of the comments on this site want to broad-brush every liberal with the hippy weirdo label. So to see an article about how much more realistic conservatives are on this front strikes me as ironic in the extreme.

  4. I have long suspected that a leftist is less able to think more than 1 step into the future. For example ask the question: What would happen if you took food stamps away from poor people?

    Leftist: Poor people would go hungry
    Conservative: Some poor people may have less food for a time but the loss of the subsidy may encourage the recipient to find a productive job and in the long term be better off. In addition reduced taxation to support the subsidy allocates resources more efficiently thus improving society for everyone.

    Can’t prove but would like to see the study.

    1. Childhood is short. The first five years are the most critical. Take away a parent’s food stamps, and even if you’ve given the parent an incentive to “find a productive job” (despite whatever problems they might be facing in the first place), you’ll screw up their children’s development for life. Furthermore, since you’re interested in looking multiple steps into the future:

      There is evidence that starvation for is a multi-generational effect – a grandchild of someone who once starved is likely to be worse off. This rather surprising result is described below, but you can also google for it, by typing in starvation and grandchildren and DNA.

      This article reports fascinating results from an “experiment of nature.”
      In this report we get a glimpse into one of the best-documented analyses of the impact of severe malnutrition on later development. Pregnant
      women facing the brunt of the Nazi siege of the Netherlands during the
      final seven months of World War II were reduced to near starvation.
      Some of these pregnant women miscarried. But if they successfully gave
      birth, their offspring appeared unremarkable after a period of catch-up
      growth. At age 18 when tested for military service, those males who
      were gestated by starving mothers seemed no different than their betternourished peers on a battery of mental tests. Thus, if they survived, they
      were unscathed.
      However, the children of the Nazi siege are now over 50 years old,
      and many have children of their own – the grandchildren of the pregnant women of 1944. It turns out that even girls who had themselves
      been normal weight at birth nevertheless went on to have babies of their
      own (i.e., grandchildren of the starved women) who were either underweight or grew into small adults. In other words, the grandmothers of
      these small women gave birth to babies who were normal size, but who
      nevertheless passed on the effects of starvation to the next generation’s
      offspring, a sort of “sleeper effect.”

      From http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/content/BPL_Images/Content_store/Sample_chapter/0631217398/Ceci%20Nature%20N.pdf

      I’ll refrain from making conclusions about conservatives.

      1. Maybe that wasn’t the best link – if you google you’ll see that the grandchildren of those who starved faced increased diabetes and cancer — costs on society in a variety of ways such that it might be cost-effective to make sure kids and pregnant women get fed.

        1. Pregnant women facing the brunt of the Nazi siege
          Maybe that wasn’t the best link

          Well I’m inclined to agree with you.

          So Bob, I’m curious. Would you say our more acute problem in this country is obesity or “starvation”?

          1. Obesity, and our spending on food stamps is a drop in the bucket if you’re trying to cut government spending. But:

            a) Dr. D brought up food stamps, not me.
            b) He brought it up as a supposed example of short term thinking by liberals
            c) I, as a liberal, tried to show some long-term thinking regarding food stamps.
            Food stamps aren’t the issue, neither is obesity, so your question regarding obesity seems irrelevant.
            d) You seem to be criticizing the reference to Nazis, but I don’t know why – the same effects have been shown among the Irish, and the point is that you want to find a population that encounters a short-term but wide-spread starvation and then undergoes the kind of testing that wealthy societies administer. A more typical starvation event in a third world country wouldn’t suffice. So, I don’t understand the basis for your criticism.

          2. I, as a liberal, tried to show some long-term thinking regarding food stamps.

            But what, exactly, were you trying to prove? Dr. D clearly said, “less able.” That is a generality. One does not argue against a generality by citing a specific instance (and you, a Democratic Party operative, are hardly the mean!) but by offering a competing generality is that generally more true.

      2. Bob, if you understood how conservative thought you’d know that our obvious response to your contention linking food to intelligence would explain why the world is divided into the two parts, the West – and stupid people. 😀

        1. Conservatives tend to fall for deceptive books like The Bell Curve, and cite it fondly. The Bell Curve itself address the US population, but I bring it up because the book’s popularity is a nice example of conservatives comical faith in a meaningful relationship between intelligence and IQ scores. This faith is at odds with your theory, George. After all, non-Western countries have the highest average IQ scores.

          As for the US population, the Bell Curve points out that Ashkenazi Jews get the highest IQ scores in the US, and of course, that’s a group which is overwhelmingly liberal.

          1. I forgot to add a smiley face in return. I thought your comment did make me laugh – it almost made me spit out my sushi.

          2. Bob, Google “World IQ map” and click images. Then never tell people what it looked like. Mums the word.

          3. @Bob-1

            Which “Non-Western” country? Surely you’re not talking about Subsaharan African countries are you?

        2. Rand asks “And your point be…”

          That it would be funny for conservatives to believe, on the one hand, as George humorously suggested, that the world is divided into the West and Stupid People, and on the other hand, to also believe that IQ scores have a useful relationship with intelligence (as evidenced by conservatives citing The Bell Curve).

          Of course George was making a joke about liberal caricatures of conservatives. (Right?)

          Something I’d like to know: are conservatives more likely than liberals to believe that IQ tests measure intelligence. I obviously suspect so, but I don’t really know.

          1. Of course George was making a joke about liberal caricatures of conservatives. (Right?)


            are conservatives more likely than liberals to believe that IQ tests measure intelligence. I obviously suspect so, but I don’t really know.

            That depends on what one thinks “intelligence” is. I’m sure that they believe that they measure ability to pass IQ tests. I also suspect they believe (as do I) that they have non-zero utility in predicting ability to learn and think. But the main thing that conservatives believe, unlike “liberals,” is that people should be treated as individuals and not members of groups, regardless of their IQ scores.

          2. If you think people should be treated like individuals, and not like members of groups, then what was the point of the PJ Media piece you wrote? What is the purpose of categorizing people as liberals or conservatives if you’re going to get to know them and judge them only by what they really think?

      3. If you cannot afford to feed your prospective child, don’t reproduce, period.

        Besides, there aren’t really any “starving” people in the fattest country on Earth.

        1. I think the fattest country in the world is now Mexico, the US has slipped to number two. I’m pretty sure that there are starving people in Mexico.

  5. I believe that maintaining a food stamp program in the fattest country on Earth is the height of absurdity.

  6. Dr D’s premise was that taking away food stamps would mean “Some poor people may have less food for a time but [various good long-term benefits]”.
    I accepted his premise and tried to show that how a short-term negative might really be a long-term negative. I wanted to show that liberals can worry about long-term effects too. You can reject Dr. D’s premise, but then you’re just talking about food stamps instead of responding to Dr. D’s point about the tradeoffs between short-term negatives and long-term positives.

    1. Well how about a very similar but reversed situation with failing schools, where conservatives want to go in and clean house and liberals want a five or six year action plan to turn things around? If your child is one of the unfortunate ones who just started there, what does that mean for him? He’ll be left semi-literate, perhaps not get into college, and face a lifetime of difficulties, but the kids who come after him wil, well, hire him to do their janitorial work.

      Of course the politics on that issue is driven almost solely towards protecting union NEA jobs. If the administration and teachers were conservatives looking to protect their perks, liberals would storm the school doors with pitchforks screaming “FOR THE CHILDREN!” But since it’s their allies running the schools, the most important thing is to retain their hold over the classroom.

      1. Oh, no, don’t get me started. Look, first of all, I agree with you completely on the notion that it must not take five or six years for a problem in a school to get fixed. Nearly everyone in my very liberal family is (or was) a public school teacher. All of us are passionate about educational reform. All of us believe that if a teacher isn’t effective, they need to be removed from the classroom, immediately, and if tenure needs to be reformed to make this possible, fine. Imagine us screaming “FOR THE CHILDREN” while we call for a lousy teacher’s immediate termination. But firing people (“cleaning house”) isn’t going to fix the schools. And typical conservative solutions, which usually involve two parts reliance on standardized testing and one part channeling Allan Bloom, aren’t going to fix the schools either. Don’t waste your time focusing on unions – they do plenty of good as well as harm, but go ahead and eliminate them completely and that won’t fix the schools either.

        School reform is a big issue, and this is the wrong place to discuss it.

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