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Out of My Mind: Conservatives Aren’t Always Wrong (Nor Liberals Always Right)

We politicize everything: sex, gender, wars, viruses, masks, race and religion. However, as Obama said, “We are not a red nation or a blue nation. We are purple.” We are a blend of ideas. Instead of being purple with rage, can we calm down and talk to each other?

Many of my readers believe that I’m a party-line Liberal who derides conservatism. Not true. Yes, I’m liberal and want a social safety net; I want people fed, housed, and to have access to medical care as a human right. Does this make me a hater of capitalism? Not at all.

I believe in a “market” capitalism, which cannot exist with our concentration of wealth and monopolies. Great disparities of wealth and power will sew the seeds of our destruction. And I want America to succeed, survive and flourish. America is my home; my criticisms come from love, not hostility.

My favorite verse of our great hymn, America the Beautiful, is:

America America, God mend thine every flaw, Confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.

Being a Liberal patriot is not an oxymoron. Affirming ideas that come from Conservatives is not treason to my core beliefs. Most of our great controversies are not binary, with simple solutions that are right or wrong, good or evil.

I’m often caricatured as wanting open borders or no borders. Not true. Conservatives are right that a nation without borders is not a nation. Yes, I feel for those who want to come here for a better life, as my ancestors did. Yes, I support the welcoming of people fleeing not for a better life but for their very lives.

We cannot take all who want to come. No country can. Mexico tries to control its southern border, and Great Britain wrestles with what to do about the hundreds of thousands seeking refuge. France is beset with immigration woes, as are Greece, Italy, Bangladesh, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.

We have a worldwide problem, and turning human suffering into a partisan political battle doesn’t serve us or humanity. If your solution can fit on a bumper sticker, it’s almost certainly wrong.

We have a problem in our country concerning race and ethnicity. We know that people of African origin have been enslaved, exploited, and ghettoized. We know that our history carries past injustices forward into the present. Systemic racism exists. If you don’t think so, ask why two courts have rejected the race-based gerrymandered redistricting in Florida and Alabama. Try to apply for a loan from the zip code of a minority neighborhood. Try driving while Black or Brown.

But, on the Conservative side, look at the swarming and looting of stores and try tolerating the excuses and pleas not to demonize or incarcerate the perps. “They need programs for their boredom and self-esteem.” No. This isn’t stealing for food or even clothing to wear. It’s for selling, and most is by organized gangs—foreign and domestic. This is more than thievery. It’s a kind of terrorism; people will get killed, businesses will fail, and commerce will go to the Internet. When I hear this excused with a “What can you expect, they’re poor,” I think of George W. Bush’s line about the “Soft bigotry of low expectations.”

We do need to improve schools. We need social programs, but we also need higher expectations and not the passive acceptance of bad misbehavior.

We, along with much of the larger world, are also battling about sex and sexuality.

At this moment, we are obsessed with bathrooms and sports and what to do about Trans people. First, recognize them as people and treat them with the dignity and respect due to all people. But there are legitimate questions that we should be able to discuss. However, we don’t seem able. That takes listening, which is hard to do when screaming.

I lack confidence in my own instincts and judgment. I don’t know at what age a young person can give informed consent for gender-altering treatments—hormonal or surgical. I don’t know if teachers should be mandated reporters if Johnny wants to be called Jenny and wear a dress at school. Should a teacher/school comply with the minor child or report it to the parents? I’m pulled both ways. This is literally not a binary choice.

My instinct is that parents have the right to know. But telling some parents could endanger the child and rob that child of a trusted resource. This isn’t simple, doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker, and damn well shouldn’t be politicized.

All wisdom is not on either the left or the right—nor is it always in the middle. Our great social questions are complex, requiring nuance and generous listening with open hearts and minds. Lack of doubt is hubris, not wisdom.




1 reply »

  1. “I believe in a “market” capitalism, which cannot exist with our concentration of wealth and monopolies”

    The big flaw in the conservative approach to market capitalism is they seem blind to the reality that ALL markets are man-made. We, through government and quasi-governmental bodies create the rules under which they function, or fail to function. In a state of nature, without regulation there would be no functioning markets. For example, markets for commodities rely on weights and measures. Weights and measures and relevant compliance require rules and regulation to function properly. How can a gasoline market function unless a gallon means a gallon, and X octane means X octane. Government steps in and provides the regulatory function.

    Further, markets left to their own devices often fail because of externalities and misaligned / perverse incentives. Our greatest environmental calamity in history is a direct consequence of market failure. Consumers pay for gasoline, which pays for oil, which pays for extraction. But who pays for the costs inherent in burning gasoline? We pay the cost of extraction, refining and delivery of gasoline at the pump. But we as consumers don’t directly pay the price of burning gasoline. You can just dump CO2 and pollutants with abandon and no one charges you. So to you and the oil extractors and refiners it is an externality. And if you don’t have to pay for dumping CO2 you don’t pay the true cost of your consumption. Instead we shift it to society in general to pay the cost in the fiscal impact of climate change which is felt in energy costs, property damage, health impacts, etc.

    If we actually paid the full price for a gallon of gasoline it would be significantly more expensive and as rational actors we would value alternatives to dumping carbon more highly. We would commute less, walk and bike more, value electrification more. That’s fabulous. It’s market capitalism doing its job. But it can only do its job if you have functioning markets which requires an active regulator staying on top of things.

    So you can be a liberal and still be a market capitalist. But I’m not sure if you can be ideologically conservative and be a market capitalist, since it requires playing pretend about how markets truly function regarding how critical a role government plays.

    Same thing goes for corporations. Corporations aren’t people. They are legal fictions authorized by government to operate in the world and avoid direct personal financial responsibility for the actions of these legal fictions. You can’t put a corporation in jail, and you cannot imprison or fine a shareholder for the actions of the corporation. So these creates perverse incentives.

    We need corporations, but they are naturally subject to regulation and strong regulation is absolutely required to get positive outcomes.