Friday, September 14, 2007


I was thinking about the political labels we all seem to end up with, and was trying to decide what makes a liberal different from a conservative. One way is in the opinion department. Conservatives have opinions - some of them pretty half-baked, and liberals have opinions - some of them even based on a kind of critical thought, but the difference is that conservatives realize they may be wrong so are at least a little careful with their opinions, while liberals have no such restraint and will use government power to make you believe what they believe.


ibex said...

I have to disagree. Conservatives like to use government power to tell people what to do and what not to do just as much as liberals.

Examples: Abortion rights, War On Drugs and stem-cell research.

Mike said...

Ah yes, but you will note I was speaking about beliefs not actions. The things you mention all fall within the realm of law which can be defined roughly as the government telling what you may or may not do.
There is however, a difference between saying robbery is wrong and passing a law against it and, for example having the opinion that race/gender disparities in police force hiring are the result of prejudice, and using the government to enforce affirmative action hiring quotas. The former seems a pretty straightforward case of the law following society's standards while the latter seems an atempt to use the law to force society to follow one person's opinion.

ibex said...

I see your point, but you cannot legislate opinions, only behavior.

Both sides know this and are quite happy to "only" use government power to enforce behavior that reflects their opinions.

Following your example, liberals don't care whether you believe that race/gender disparity in law enforcement is a problem. The enforced hiring quotas make sure you behave like you believe it, and that's good enough for them.

Neither side really cares about whether you actually agree with them or just don't want to break any laws, as long as you dance to their tune.

Mike said...

The problem is when do they stop. It is pretty easy to know when you have enough law against bank robbery: you put convicted robbers in prision, but when can you ever have enough law in favor of equality?

Look at it this way - if someone wants me to act as though I believe what they believe and makes me post a sign saying so, but leaves it at that - okay, I can live with it, but it never stops there.

Here then is the difficulty with laws which sanction you for not doing somthing, ie: not practicing enough workplace diversity, as opposed to those which sanction you for doing something, ie: robbing a bank. With the former there is always a greater tendency to increase the scope and enforcement all out of proportion with the original intent of the law.

Rob said...

Close to what Mike stated, I believe liberals/progressives think they have it all figured out, so they seek to force change on societies and institutions.

Conservatives doubt that a single person or group of people can have it "all figured out". They see the wisdom accumulated over time, so they prefer to allow things to evolve more naturally.