Liberalism Versus Conservatism

It seems I'm not the only one that understands one basic truth about the difference between liberals and conservatives when it comes to the human condition.

Dinesh D'Souza writes about political speech and how it differs between liberalism and conservatism. One of the more common differences is the outlook on equality. For liberals it's all about equality of outcome. For conservatives it's about equality of opportunity. The former is almost impossible to achieve unless the desired outcome is to make sure everyone is equally miserable, destitute, and terrorized by the powers-that-be. The latter is difficult as it requires constant vigilance, but it is possible to achieve as we've seen more than once in our own history.

Equality of outcome usually entails embracing the lowest common denominator, something that has always failed. Despite claims that they want to 'pull everyone up to a higher level', in practice liberals tend to pull everyone down to a level no one wants to inhabit. Competition is eliminated because it might hurt someone's feelings or self-esteem. (Self-esteem is vastly overrated. There are plenty of people on death row that have great self-esteem, so it's no measure of success.) It's a great system for discouraging anyone from trying to better themselves because there is no reward for doing so. Instead such ambition is punished and diminished. The results are predictable (at least to non-liberals), disappointing, and baffling to the very people who implemented the system.

Equality of opportunity almost always results in a better outcome. Even failure can have positive results as it can often spur people on to greater efforts. (Ask any successful entrepreneur or business owner and you'll find that almost all of them failed at some point, in some cases more than once.) In the long run everyone benefits, both socially and financially, even the failures.

But one of the biggest differences between the two political camps is their understanding of human nature. To put it simply, liberals don't understand it and conservatives do.

At root, conservatives and liberals have two different conceptions of human nature that cause them to see the world so differently. Liberals tend to believe in Rousseau’s proposition that human nature is intrinsically good. Therefore they believe that people who fail or do bad things are not acting out of laziness or wickedness; rather, society put them in this unfortunate position. Since people are innately good, liberals hold that the great conflicts in the world are not the result of good versus evil; rather they arise out of terrible misunderstandings that can be corrected through ongoing conversation and through the mediation of groups like the United Nations. Finally the liberal’s high opinion of human nature leads to the view that if you give people autonomy they will use their freedom well.

Conservatives know better. Conservatives recognize that there are two principles in human nature—good and evil—and these are in constant conflict. Given the warped timber of humanity, conservatives seek a social structure that helps to bring out the best in human nature and suppress man’s lower or base impulses. Conservatives support capitalism because it is a way of steering our natural pursuit of self-interest toward the material betterment of society at large. Conservatives insist that there are evil regimes and destructive forces in the world that cannot be talked out of their nefarious objectives; force is an indispensable element of international relations. Finally conservatives support autonomy when it is attached to personal responsibility—when people are held accountable for their actions—but they also believe in the indispensability of moral incubators (the family, civic institutions) that are aimed at instructing people to choose virtue over vice.

Unfortunately the liberal trust that deep down inside everyone is good has been disproven time and again throughout history. There are too many examples of people who were so effin' evil that no amount of feel good platitudes and singing “Kumbaya” can fix them. You can't explain away those like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, and many others by blaming it on society. Even 'innocent' children show their savage side when left to their own devices. How do you explain the bullying committed by kids from otherwise good homes, bullying that is cruel to an extreme? If people were innately good such a thing would be rare. But given the opportunity kids will hoist the Jolly Roger and 'pillage and plunder' their way through their peers without giving a damn about the consequences. And with no restraints and no real consequences it can become something right out of The Lord Of The Flies. Conservatives understand this. Liberals do not, and it seems all of their policies are based upon that lack of understanding. It also explains why so many of their policies fail to meet expectations, and in too many cases, make things worse than if they did nothing.