5 votes

What an economic liberal and conservative learned from their friendship

13 comments

  1. [8]
    Atvelonis
    Link
    As heartwarming as stories like this are intended to be, social and fiscal policy don't exist on separate planes; they are intimately connected and should not be construed as completely distinct...

    As heartwarming as stories like this are intended to be, social and fiscal policy don't exist on separate planes; they are intimately connected and should not be construed as completely distinct parts of the political discussion. I don't think that it's actually possible to be "economically conservative" and also "socially liberal," as many people like to claim that they are. This just means "selectively socially liberal such that your socioeconomic position is not negatively affected."

    This article talks a bit about feminist movements, nominally a social process, but I struggle to understand how that can be reconciled with anything viewed through an economically conservative lens. A proper feminist movement is not simply "about women." It is instead about how issues affecting women are complicated when considered through a lens of intersectionality; the life experiences of a wealthy, white, Protestant woman are not the same as that of a poor, black, Muslim one. And what about someone whose identity is more complex, with some backgrounds providing privilege and others withholding it? A poor, white woman of immigrant parents? An educated, Asian-American, lesbian woman from a line of old money? There are many more examples of identity becoming tangled with social and economic qualities. Feminism is valuable because it provides insight into the gender aspect of these intersectional identities, but it shouldn't ignore the others. An economically conservative feminist is one whose political opinions can very much negatively affect women, and by extension the very platform that they are fighting for; such a position is self-contradicting. Consider a single mother of two living off welfare; her position as a woman and as a mother cannot be extricated from her economic status, reliant on the financial goodwill of the government to survive. Many of her problems are ones that are unique to women, and so one cannot simply vote in favor of a politician who opposes welfare and expect that her life will somehow not be made worse by doing so.

    I believe quite strongly that economic conservatism, as it manifests today, represents very little beyond self-interest (and has for virtually all of history). Some specific economic policies commonly construed as "conservative" are indeed beneficial in particular situations, but the ideology as a whole is, by nature, one that does not address the systemic inequality that exists within our society. Shielding oneself from the reality that economics affect social aspects of our lives, as "socially liberal, economically conservative" people are wont to do, is possible only from a position of privilege. Such beliefs maintain one's socioeconomic status by ignoring solutions that would fix the broader issues, but potentially harm said position. Of course a wealthy person will argue that taxing the 1% to provide funding for social programs affecting the 99% is unfair, because it is from them that money is being taken to re-proportionalize a significant disproportionate socioeconomic balance. They can theoretically agree with analysis of the "social issues" affecting that 99%, but it means very little if they contribute nothing to fix them.

    I dislike political scientists, their axes, and their boxes. It's very hard to argue that someone who believes in true social equality can also believe that economics don't have an immediate impact on it. People who genuinely identify as socially liberal and economically conservative are either deluding themselves, or have accepted that they're actually okay with some level of inequality and just won't admit it.

    17 votes
    1. [2]
      ohyran
      Link Parent
      (Preamble: I am a tad drunk, really really tired and its late here (and other things) so I worry most of this will basically be random words typed in - hope it isn't <3) Isn't that based on your...

      (Preamble: I am a tad drunk, really really tired and its late here (and other things) so I worry most of this will basically be random words typed in - hope it isn't <3)

      Isn't that based on your (and as is the case, my) ideological opinion though?
      You mention "a proper" movement but there are plenty of feminist movements with people who would not really work very well in modern, left leaning, feminist movements. People like for example the Suffragette Victoria Woodhull who was enormously pro eugenics.
      Defining the proper movement, by using our shared political opinion as a divider feels too much as an entry to "no true scotsman" instead of focusing on WHY they don't work.

      You say that they are deluded or lying, and I kinda guess for example Laissez-faire classic liberals would say the same about you and me and that (me taking a wild swing at channeling my inner liberal) any state run scheme for tilting the axes away from inequality is just another misguided attempt at correct a flaw by trying to fix the symptoms instead of going at the root of the issue of economic control breaking [errr I'm flailing here] the... "invisible hand of the market..."[?] Something like that. (sry classic liberals, I sort of zone out when you get going)

      I mean even though I agree, any feminist movement (for example) who is willing to sacrifice poor people or working class people for a few gains is doomed tactically. Any LGBTQ movement who isn't throwing their lot in with, to name a modern example, the protests against racial inequality is just setting itself up for failure (and thats ignoring the value of actually realizing that "oh people who aren't white tend to be other than straight too or the moral value of it) - that said its really really hard marrying all these movements under one umbrella and the last proper attempt was triple oppression theory in the 90's that just ended in massive mess of strange self-identifiers and complex elaborate structures to describe how class, race and gender merged in to one segment.

      Technically a classic Marxist idea is also sort of vague on anything beyond class and economics (although to be fair, I think not having classic Marxists around is a good thing if you want to get things done but thats my prejudice) - even though Engels really really tried with his family book thing (that I can't remember the name of).

      While I agree that people who are fine with economic inequality often don't give two craps about social inequality (beyond the personalized identity of strength thing) - but they do exist. Its a weird lot from my POV but they are there and they seem more than willing to talk for hours about how its supposed to work - and it all sounds like some kind of pyramid scheme sale

      Oh and all this is of course stuck in the classic issue of different places having different political dividers and I am not from the US so... that too.

      8 votes
      1. Atvelonis
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Nothing to worry about, I appreciate the response! I also don't know if what I'm writing makes any sense. I could probably use a drink too. I'm not sure I'm going to have the energy to continue...

        Nothing to worry about, I appreciate the response! I also don't know if what I'm writing makes any sense. I could probably use a drink too. I'm not sure I'm going to have the energy to continue talking after this.

        Isn't that based on your (and as is the case, my) ideological opinion though?

        Sure, but I would clarify that everything I say is based on my ideological opinion. There's no interpretation of "the facts" that I (or anyone else) can make that isn't. And you definitely could use my final argument against me; I'm not fundamentally any different from the people I'm criticizing. Either 1) I'm correct about what I'm saying, 2) I'm a hopeless idealist (!), or 3) I'm lying to myself about how much I care about oppression. It's actually sort of a truism framed in my comment as a reasonable binary (leaving out the first option). Abstracted: if I'm not right, I'm wrong, and if I'm wrong, either I know it or I don't. But I'm pretty sure I'm right, just as every "socially liberal, economically conservative" friend I have thinks that they're right. (But I'm the one writing here!) The implication of my comment, because "deluded" is a crude and unhelpful characterization, is the only option left: that people who identify in this way are acting with selfish intent.

        As far as I'm concerned, you can place any action by any person onto a single spectrum: "for the self" on one end, and "not for the self" on the other end. In my vagueries about "social liberalism" I make the assumption that a person who genuinely believes in such things is interested in some form of equality (i.e. at or approaching the "not for the self" end). If they know in their heart that they believe in this principle, I would consider it a contradiction for them not to actively pursue it through at least some manner. My framing might have implied that the only solution I'm proposing is government intervention, although I actually think that charity is a perfectly active pursuit of this goal, something that's compatible with libertarianism (or whatever). I agree with the general idea of Peter Singer's essay on "Famine, Affluence, and Morality," at least in a very high-minded way. But for the same reason that almost no "progressive liberal" or "effective altruist" (or whatever they call themselves) is actually going to donate all of their discretionary income to charity, not even Peter Singer, almost no "libertarian-esque" person would. They have accepted that they value their position in society more than they actually value equality. The sole difference is that one of these groups, seeing a dead end (for selfish reasons), tries then to utilize another outlet (e.g. higher taxation of the ultra-wealthy) in the hopes that it will have a greater effect, and the other group does not. If that other outlet was blocked to the second group to begin with for ideological reasons (because they want no government), and this one is also blocked to them for selfish reasons (because, defensibly, they are not ascetics), then they are no longer actively pursuing equality; they have accepted that they benefit from and in fact prefer inequality. Their inaction, hoping that everything will somehow just work itself out, is negative action.

        My comment touches on political morality, but is really focused on critical thinking; I'm not very interested in case studies. I agree that triple oppression and intersectionality are confusing and flawed theories, but I haven't come across anything that works better. Maybe this is my liberal arts education getting the better of me, but I feel that the worst way to analyze any specific policy is to consider it as existing in a vacuum, and by extension that the least worst way is to consider it in the broader context within which it definitely exists. I use labels like "feminism" as a medium for unspecific ethical thought simply because it's confusing and usually pointless to speak in the irritating generality of political theory all the time. Whether a historical feminist movement happens to fit a convenient definition of feminism in the modern day—not really the point. I see your comment about "No True Scotsman," and it certainly applies, but I don't actually have a stake in any particular historical Marxist-derivative movement or the like.

        If you'll allow me to untether myself from the ground just a little bit, I suppose that the value of my perspective here is not so much in analyzing anything specific directly, but more in becoming aware of the relationship between "what I want for myself" and "what's good for the world" in the context of said tangible subjects. Without that self-awareness, more specific discussion—while still possible—is unintelligible. I should be able to recognize in myself and in others what is fundamentally being done for the self, and what isn't. At a certain level, a policy that happens to benefit everyone is accepted by any given person primarily because it benefits them. That it benefits everyone else is a nice bonus in line with their moral compass. e.g. John Rawls' idea of the original position is a reasonable synthesis between the evident selfishness of humanity and the possibility for emergent (if somewhat accidental) equality that can still very much exist within that framework. So I actually would not decry selfish action as inherently or universally bad. However, as creatures capable of empathy, I would remain highly skeptical of its application to systems that do not promote such equality. This is ego with no telos but itself, which is unacceptable to me. What I can accept is ego whose telos is everyone, or its absence altogether.

        6 votes
    2. [4]
      skybrian
      Link Parent
      You can't get to "self-contradictory" without logical reasoning with crisp definitions, and I don't think that's what's going on here. "Socially liberal" and "economically conservative" are vague...

      You can't get to "self-contradictory" without logical reasoning with crisp definitions, and I don't think that's what's going on here. "Socially liberal" and "economically conservative" are vague umbrella definitions, not suitable for logic.

      11 votes
      1. mrbig
        Link Parent
        You made me read about vagueness. Interesting subject. There seems to be valid logical approaches, but nothing that can be easily applied. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vagueness

        You made me read about vagueness. Interesting subject. There seems to be valid logical approaches, but nothing that can be easily applied.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vagueness

        2 votes
      2. [2]
        Kuromantis
        Link Parent
        Yeah, and their explanations for why they picked their political leanings are 'my parents were Democrats' and 'my parents met in the RNC' (?¿?¿?¿?¿?¿?¿) so arguably they could be the fabled 'low...

        Yeah, and their explanations for why they picked their political leanings are 'my parents were Democrats' and 'my parents met in the RNC' (?¿?¿?¿?¿?¿?¿) so arguably they could be the fabled 'low info voters' but it's not guaranteed and the term is derogatory by design.

        1. skybrian
          Link Parent
          I think of "low-information" as people who don't care about politics, but it sounds like both families cared a lot about politics and it's important to them? They talked about politics, they went...

          I think of "low-information" as people who don't care about politics, but it sounds like both families cared a lot about politics and it's important to them? They talked about politics, they went to marches in D.C., and so on. Lindsey had been thinking about making a career of it.

          Being partisan doesn't mean low-information. That's sort of like saying deeply religious people don't care about religion.

          But, just because you discuss politics and keep up with the news doesn't mean you're deeply knowledgeable about every issue, which Annie admits to: "Before Donald Trump, we would argue over health care, social security—stuff that we really didn’t know much about. The big one was Obamacare."

          I wouldn't assume that they know less than us, though.

          3 votes
    3. mrbig
      Link Parent
      We had a president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, that was a classic neoliberal. He’s a respected sociologist and advanced the dependency theory, the notion that resources flow from a "periphery" of...

      I don't think that it's actually possible to be "economically conservative" and also "socially liberal," as many people like to claim that they are

      We had a president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, that was a classic neoliberal. He’s a respected sociologist and advanced the dependency theory, the notion that resources flow from a "periphery" of poor and underdeveloped states to a "core" of wealthy states, enriching the latter at the expense of the former (Wikipedia).

      He opposed the military right wing dictatorship and had to exile to Chile. He’s agnostic (some say he’s actually an atheist that said he was agnostic to avoid backlash) and defends the legalization of marijuana.

      Sounds pretty liberal to me.

      3 votes
  2. [5]
    Kuromantis
    Link
    Admittedly them both being socially liberal and only disagreeing on economics definitely makes this much easier for the 2.

    She talks with two friends who didn’t like each other when they first met as kids, and who grew up to hold very different political values. One is a Democrat, the other is a conservative (who no longer considers herself part of the Republican Party since the election of Donald Trump), and both consider themselves feminists, though that wasn’t always the case. They talk about overcoming first impressions, going into business together, how they’ve shaped each other’s worldviews, and their advice for navigating friendships across the political aisle.

    Beck: You’ve now grown up to be a Democrat, Annie, and a Republican, Lindsey, and you both consider yourselves to be feminists. How did your friendship evolve along with your values, and what role did the other person play in shaping or challenging your worldview?

    Annie: I was always interested in politics. My parents are Democrats, so I was always a Democrat. I wouldn’t say it was a part of my identity, but it was a given. I was a Democrat; that’s who I was. And when I was a junior in high school, I remember reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg—which is problematic, but whatever—and having my first taste of Oh, this is feminism!

    I don’t want to put words in her mouth, but I think for Lindsey, being a Republican was a family thing. Lindsey’s father was a Republican. Her parents met working at the RNC. It’s a really sentimental thing.

    Lindsey: I was always also super interested in politics. Real talk: I went to University of Oklahoma. I was very pragmatically a Republican at times, just because [if you want to] enter politics in the South, it’s much easier on the Republican side. My parents were always very socially liberal, and fiscally conservative. They were Reagan Republicans. (Full disclosure: I am no longer a registered Republican, but that doesn’t mean my views have shifted. I just think the party has shifted away from something I am comfortable supporting.)

    Admittedly them both being socially liberal and only disagreeing on economics definitely makes this much easier for the 2.

    3 votes
    1. [4]
      NaraVara
      Link Parent
      Them both being White probably doesn't hurt either.

      Admittedly them both being socially liberal and only disagreeing on economics definitely makes this much easier for the 2.

      Them both being White probably doesn't hurt either.

      5 votes
      1. [2]
        ohyran
        Link Parent
        I think that’s unfair, I mean there are plenty of fiscally conservative or “classically liberal” etc depending on where you live who aren’t racists

        I think that’s unfair, I mean there are plenty of fiscally conservative or “classically liberal” etc depending on where you live who aren’t racists

        4 votes
        1. NaraVara
          Link Parent
          It certainly makes it easier to look the other way at someone holding beliefs that are racially exclusionary.

          It certainly makes it easier to look the other way at someone holding beliefs that are racially exclusionary.

          3 votes
      2. Kuromantis
        Link Parent
        I'd imagine so, although I'd hope being socially left makes this less important.

        I'd imagine so, although I'd hope being socially left makes this less important.