A few weeks ago I heard yet another way to classify people as either liberal or conservative. The person I was listening to said that liberals are those who worry too much what others think about their actions, whereas conservatives are those that do what needs to be done no matter how upset people get.
This system fails on two counts.
First, since conservatives seem to favor conservatives and despise liberals, it is possible then that conservatives only act as if they don’t care because they worry about what conservatives think of them, and it is possible that liberals act as if they care because it needs to be done and they don’t worry what conservatives think about them for doing so. In pursuing liberal policies, it may appear that one does not care what moderates and conservatives think – but does this necessarily make one a conservative for not caring? In pursuing conservative policies, it may appear that one is pandering to their base – but does this necessarily make one a liberal for pandering?
Second, often the “right thing to do” is contingent on what people think about it. The two concepts are not easily separated. Raising taxes too high is sometimes described as wrong, but what makes it wrong? It hurts people and forces them to work harder to maintain the same standard of living, but what makes that wrong? It is the value people place on work and their living standards – in other words, what they think about it. There are certain activities often described as “victimless crimes” (sodomy, prostitution, drug use). Some argue that these are wrong despite what the actors in these activities think, but others argue that they cannot be wrong because of what the actors think – they engage in the activities because they perceive greater benefits than costs. For this second group of people, what is right and wrong is contingent on what people think.
Describing where people fall on the political spectrum and why it is tricky to do so are common themes on this blog. See this post for two classification schemes that involve two dimensions.
See this post for a scheme that puts politics in terms of family roles.
This post explains why selective attention to only certain facets of the issues can be misleading.
This post highlihgts how conservatives and liberals differ in making comparisons of each other.
This post is also interesting.
Hi, I'm Dan. I like chocolate, hiking, and politics.