‘Puter perused the Sunday New York Times yesterday, including its normally hard left Review section. ‘Puter came across a piece by Katherine Mangu-Ward, When Smug Liberals Met Conservative Trolls. It’s a good piece and you should take the time to read it, if you can get around the NYT’s paywall.
‘Puter wants to pull out one small part of Ms. Mangu-Ward’s piece to take issue with it. ‘Puter believes Ms. Mangu-Ward misses the point in her characterization of liberal politics versus conservative politics.
Liberals and people of the left underpin their politics with moral concerns about harm and fairness; they are driven by the imperative to help the vulnerable and see justice done. Conservatives and people of the right value these things as well but have several additional moral touchstones — loyalty, respect and sanctity. They value in-group solidarity, deference to authority, and the protection of purity in mind and body. To liberals, those sincerely held values can look a lot like, in Dr. Haidt’s words, “xenophobia, authoritarianism and Puritanism.” This asymmetry is the fountainhead of mutual incomprehension and disdain.
There’s some truth here, but ‘Puter thinks the better distinction between liberals and conservatives is this:
Liberals believe in larger, more intrusive government in order to use it to force their policy preferences on unwilling Americans. Conservatives believe in smaller, less-centralized government in order to prevent it from using force to implement policy preferences on unwilling Americans. To liberals, this sincerely held value can look a lot like, in my words “racist, fascist, evil, child-hating, woman-hating, LGBTQLMNOP-phobic Nazism.”
Neither liberals nor conservatives have cornered the market on morality. Both sides do their level best to convince Americans they have, though. Both sides agree government is necessary but disagree on its proper size and scope. For decades, only one side* has insisted it was correct and the other side was evil. Now that conservatives are playing by liberals’ longstanding rules, liberals are losing their minds.
To be fair, Ms. Mangu-Ward made her distinction in the context of explaining the degeneration of civility and discourse between the two sides. ‘Puter took her work and stepped it back one level. But ‘Puter thinks it’s important to do so to show the first truth in each side’s philosophy.
Liberals value what they see as the collective good even if it means trampling individual rights. Conservatives value individual rights even at the expense of the collective good.
And therein lies the seed of all conflict between the two.
* Hint: Not the conservatives.
** ‘Puter didn’t really put another asterisked notation above. He just likes to write asterisked things below, if you know what he means (and he thinks you do).