A Plea To Conservatives Everywhere

I wish, I really wish, there was one tenet espoused by modern conservatism, one article of their faith that I could glom onto and accept as true or factually sound or anything even approximating that ideal. I really do. Otherwise, I may have to accept the possibility that I’m nothing more than a partisan stick in the mud, addled by “motivated reasoning” and hopelessly and immovably entrenched in my views.

Anybody? Anybody? Come on. Throw me a bone.

Linking through the overload that is this information age, I went from here to here to here, Joe Keohane’s article from last July in the Boston Globe, How facts backfire. In a nutshell, we’ve gone from the utopian, Enlightenment bathed conviction of Thomas Jefferson who opined (between sackings of his slave, Sally Hemings, no doubt) Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government to the very likely possibility that we may be physiologically incapable of becoming fully informed. Is that what Mr. Keohane suggested? I’m not sure but that’s what I believe he wrote, so I’m going with it.

We hold beliefs, believing that we’ve come to them rationally, objectively and open-mindedly. But when presented with facts that run contrary to our beliefs, it seems we have a tendency to dig in our heels and believe our beliefs even more. And worse still, there is some suggestion that the better informed you are, the more “politically sophisticated”, the less open you are to new, opposing information and thus less likely to alter what you believe.

So, if I’m following my line of reasoning correctly, the more informed we endeavour to become, the less informed we end up being. Something so-called experts in the field (although I’m beginning to suspect such entities cannot actually exist since more information only leads to further misinformation we’re told… or, so I hear) “confirmation bias”. Our inclination to latch onto information that confirms what we already believe regardless of its veracity, and to disregard information, valid or not, that disputes what we believe to be true.

The makings of the political logjam we currently find ourselves in. (If true that is, and since I’m not sure it is, that renders it questionable.) I believe what I believe. You believe what you believe. And never shall the twain meet. How is a society supposed to function under such factional pressure?

Badly, it would seem, looking around us. The Democrat-Republican divide in the U.S. The Conservatives against everybody else here, federally. In Toronto, an unyielding right-left split on council built upon a firm structure of urban-suburban antagonism.

So, in a spirit of co-operation and bipartisanship, I attempt to set aside my beliefs and preconceived notions of modern conservatives as masters of malevolent delusion, and ask once more for someone of that ilk to step forth and sway me to your side on the strength of a well-reasoned argument. Show me how further corporate tax cuts will kick start our economy. Persuade me that de-regulation and less oversight wasn’t at the source of the financial meltdown. Go bigger! Prove this whole trickle-down theory to me. How rising tides raise all boats. We’ve been at for 30 years or so now. There should be some model to point to. If not, how much more time do you need?

Give me the facts and figures showing that the War on Drugs has accomplished the goal of decreasing drug use and not simply criminalized a large segment of our population and made prison building a growth industry. We’ve been at this for awhile, too. There should be a solid school of evidence telling us that we’re on the right path. Harm reduction, schmarm schmeduction. Give me the straight goods on why punishment is the better way to go.

Maybe how about you provide even the teensiest bit of proof that this whole climate change thing is a sham and humans aren’t responsible for it even if it did exist. Which it doesn’t. So show me.

One thing. Just give me one conservative thing I can latch onto and say ‘yes’, ‘yes’, you’re right. That is a good idea. We would be better off if we implemented or passed or introduced that. Just one. I’m begging you.

Otherwise I’m going to have to start believing that I’m stuck in my little mindset, blind and deaf to all protestations and opinions that don’t match my own. That this impasse we’ve reached is as much my fault as it is those I don’t agree with. I want to break that deadlock. I want to be the bigger man. So please, conservatives. Prove me wrong and prove me open-minded.

in the spirit of cooperationally submitted by Cityslikr

9 Responses to A Plea To Conservatives Everywhere

  1. Katie Yeoman says:

    You said everything I’ve been thinking. Only you left out, “Conservatives, do you have to be SO mean spirited??

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Scott Dagostino, City Slikr. City Slikr said: With a rare evening post, we get all philosophical on your asses. Which is why it took us all day to write. http://wp.me/pHJxs-VU […]

  3. mettle says:

    your frustrations seem somewhat borne out of a characterization of conservatism. however, the term isn’t easy to define, nor does every conservative believes in the things you think they do. for example, david frum, as far i know, hates tea partiers. i’m “conservative” (at least in more ways than i’m liberal) and i believe in global warming (and i didn’t vote for ford).

    i’m also wondering if the chasm between conservatives and liberals is as intraversable as you depict it to be. my current thinking is that it’s a continuum and where one sits on that continuum depends on the situation. i’d wager that in certain circumstances, you’d be “conservative”.

    i think we saw this with the voters of toronto. i don’t think torontonians are necessary conservative or liberal, and yet we saw a huge swing from “left” to “right” in the last two municipal elections. imo, that was situational dependant. if political affiliations were as immutable as you claimed, they wouldn’t change that fast.

    maybe a better way to address the issue would be if you defined what’s basic to conservatism and held by almost every conservative, and then trash that. i wonder if you could, without exception, say, “no, no, you’re wrong. that’s a bad idea.” if you can’t, then at least you’ve found some glimmer of good within it.

  4. Steven says:

    Fine, I’ll take your challenge, but it would be much appreciated in the future if you didn’t assume everyone with right-wing views was a climate change denier or a drug warrior. I know it might be hard to except with your clearly biased left wing views, but I’ll try and demonstarte the many areas where you have modern conservative thought wrong.

    First, the left-right battle was being going on since the French Revolution when Burke wrote about the problems. You cite Thomas Jefferson, who was a left wing writer and assume that his view “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government” as an accepted standard when it has ever been by conservative thinkers. Conservative writers have often worried about government power, the tryanny of the majority, and the false belief that government can create a utopia. Let us not forgot that Hitlar came to power through democracy and Americans voted for their government for years while still enslaving awhole race of people before the civil war.

    “Show me how further corporate tax cuts will kick start our economy” – basic economics. Lets say due to a tax cut a firm has $50 dollars more then last week. The firm has many different ways it can respond. It can decrease prices by $50, pay its employees $50 more, it can pay shareholders $50 more or it could hire more employees with the $50. I’m not saying that every firm with a tax cute will increase hiring, but every firm will have the freedom to make a choice and some will choose to increase its staffing lvls.

    “Persuade me that de-regulation and less oversight wasn’t at the source of the financial meltdown.” – Nobody is saying that it wasn’t, point me to some evidence before you make a statment like that. But what would you prefer? a return to glass-steagall act which limited credit growth and therefore slowed down economic growth or finding someway to allow credit growth without the cowboy capitalism that caused the crisis. BTW do you notice how not a single canadian bank failed because we have smart regulations and have removed the bad ones.

    How rising tides raise all boats – have you noticed how there are millions of chinese and indians no longer in dire poverty? I’m not saying there isn’t still very poor people in this country, but the last 30 years of economic boom in china haven risen 300 million out of poverty. That’s a number almost as large as the US population and represents one in every four Chinese citizens out of 1.4 billion people. http://globalneighbourhoods.net/2008/04/china-lifts-300.html

    War on Drugs – here is where your ideological blinders are at the worst. You assume every conservative supports the war on drugs, even though the same war has been supported by democrats in both the white house and congress. On top of that, there are very influential conservatives such as Andrew Sullivan and Ron Paul who have opposed the war on drugs. But instead of seeking information, you just paint every conservative with a brush stroke of pro war on drugs.

    One thing. Just give me one conservative thing I can latch onto and say ‘yes’, ‘yes’, you’re right. – How about means testing social security or, something I would like to see, selling the CBC. I don’t understand why the canadian government owns a tv station that airs the Simpsons, Wheel of Fortune and Jepordity.

    The makings of the political logjam we currently find ourselves in – what logjam? Please remember we have faced greater challeneges to our democracy then mayor Ford and subways. America had civil war, Canada has had Quebec fight for indepedence, and the French had Napoleon and the west world had the Great Depression of the 1930. But we survived, we still have the rule of law and the right to elect our leaders. Although things seem heavy now, as Abraham Lincoln once said, “This too shall pass”

    So before you go blocking your mind out, trying reading andrew sullivans blog, he’s a gay catholic conservative. Also stop assuming homogeneity among conservative views. Moden conservatism is filled with many different voices, some stronger and some weaker, some crazy and some rational. But it is no different from the left wing, which ranges in Canada from the Liberal party to the NDP. If you can do these simple things, I think you will find that modern politics isn’t so bad.

    • Sonny Yeung says:

      Okay I was tempted to respond to you given the 9 degrees today because of the changes of Global Warming?! The People’s Republic of China is a planned economy, controlled by the CCP & that is where the poverty reduction took place? New York & London brought the World the financial meltdown.

      The corporate tax cuts are funded through all citizens just like the GST cut in 2008. That is why there was a $5.8 billion deficit in 08/09, $56 billion deficit in 09/10 & a projected $40 billion something 10/11! I suspect the plea was to “Conservatives” in CANADA

  5. Mathew says:

    You wanted to know how corporate tax cuts will help the economy? I think the general idea is that businesses, Canadian and internation are more attracted to places in the world that charge less tax than other places; so enticing those companies to come and opperate here, and convincing pre existing companies to stay, can be achieved by offering low taxes.

    Therefore you can make more money by charging many companies low taxes verses charging only a few companies, high taxes. When you attract business to the province, you also creat jobs for its citizens which translates to sales tax, property tax, liquor tax, gas tax, income tax, lowers the EI and welfare rates, etc.

    However, I agree this should be coupled with personal tax cuts because it agrivates me to no end to have to practically devide my gross income by 2 in order to calculate the net 😦 To live in a country with sub par social services when compared to other high-taxed “democratic” countries.

    100% with you on the ‘war on drugs’… there’s good data to show drug use is lower in places where its legal or decriminalized ex. Holland.

    Cheers

  6. Sonny Yeung says:

    Let’s not get bogged down on definitions! We know that neo-Cons want to spend citizen’s money on Jet Fighters to fund the Military Industrial Complex…
    and bomb developing countries…

    Last year when Rossi was the right wing candidate to begin, I was writing about neoliberalism. That is privatizing public assets. So garbage picking jobs may be privatized & there is talk of selling assets to fill the budgetary hole next year!

  7. Thomas owain says:

    a) Conservative teachers said it would weaken students’ minds if we stopped making them learn old canonical poems by heart. I wish they’d won that argument – I’m pretty sure it would have improved my memory and it’d be handy to be able to quote it.

    b) The right didn’t fall for Stalinism when a bunch of smart lefties did, and then had to back-pedal frantically.

    c) Other than that… um… no, that’s about it.

  8. Dmitri says:

    You are following your line of reasoning correctly. Unfortunately, its the wrong line of reasoning to follow.

    “Show me how further corporate tax cuts will kick start our economy.”
    Basic economics, read an introductory text. The basic strategy is quite sound, but I will grant you that it is not a silver bullet. There are times when corporate tax cuts are not appropriate, or an least not sufficient, in providing stimulus for the economy. But, as I hope you can appreciate, this is a different issue from your implied absolute skepticism about the practice in general.

    “Persuade me that de-regulation and less oversight wasn’t at the source of the financial meltdown.”
    The source of financial meltdown was the fraud perpetrated by the guilty parties involved. The burden of proof is actually on the Left to show how a righter iron grip can (a) effectively prevent such fraud, without (b) crippling the free market system with overbearing State control. So it is you who has to convince others that more regulation, as opposed to better regulation (not necessarily the same thing), is the answer.

    To be sure, the State has a share of the blame in the meltdown. However, it is yet to be shown that the problem was with insufficient regulation rather than with ineffective regulation. Even libertarians will allow the State to intervene in the economy if the reason for intervention is to enforcement of legitimate contracts. Policing the economy against misconduct and fraud, which is likely a sufficient protection against future meltdowns of this kind, is a far cry from third-party, bureaucratic management of the economy, ie telling companies whether they can or cannot, nay must or may not, take government money, setting limits on profits or imposing redistribution schemes.

    “How rising tides raise all boats.”
    Look around, the evidence is so ubiquitous that it blends into the background. The majority of today’s poor in the US and Canada own more and have greater wealth than those in the middle or even upper classes not a century ago. If your concern is with disparities in income, or inequality as I suspect it is in raising this point, the rising ships metaphor is not the one you’re looking for. The point of fact is that virtually everyone has been made better by free market capitalism. Absolute improvement is beyond debate, while relative improvement is an entire different point. China, with millions of leaving poverty every year, and India, with the middle class to rival the population of the US, are perfect examples of the rising tide analogy.

    The War on Drugs is simply a non sequitor since it is not, at bottom a right vs left issue. Both the right and the left are equally prone to over-zelousness in this regard. In fact, the left is more likely to be much more invasive with its tendency to give preference to third-party decision making over individual choice (under the guise of correcting “false consciousness” as feminists were so prone to do some time ago with denying women’s choice to accept traditional roles of their own accord.)
    I fundamentally agree that the current state of the War on Drugs is a colossal failure, but you have provided nothing in form of argument or evidence to lay this failure at the feet of conservatism, rather than a consequence of racism (in the origins) and fundamental misconceptions about evidence.

    Lastly, you have jumbled together so many notion that its a task just to keep track of them all. What kind of conservatism are you talking about? And whats binary notion of liberalism are you implying in doing so?

    There are several categories that admit of the right/left divide and most are independent of each other, each admitting of a wide range of intensity. One can be a social liberal and an economic conservative, as well as social conservatives and economic liberals. One can be a communist or even a fascist (extreme left) or a staunch libertarian or anarchist (extreme right). It would do well for you to do some conceptual brush clearing before coming in any sort of definitive conclusions.

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