What Befuddles Me About Liberals and Conservatives

Reading this article by Glenn Greenwald, I note that he has the same kind of skepticism about government motives and actions and fear of government power that I would bring to the same story.  But I know that he is a passionate advocate for large increases in government power in other spheres.  Ditto for Conservatives, just with the particular subjects reversed.

How is it possible to have almost infantile trust in the goodwill of the Obama Administration to, for example, determine if you can have your next surgery, but simultaneously fear its motives and actions when it comes to, say, torturing foreign nationals?  Blows my mind.


  1. me:

    :) I am pretty sure that when it comes to trusting the Obama administration with anything, Greenwald is pretty much the last guy on earth to volunteer. He's pretty amazing in that he was one of the big supporters of Obama who clued in way earlier than anyone else that the guy was full of big words but in essence Bush II and sounded the alarm bells against the proclaimed faith of his own faction loud and clear.

    I think it's the same phenomenon that you get with Republicans and war - never mind if it's the single most idiotic thing to do, there'll be ra-ra-ing and uniting behind the leader regardless: the idea or the concept trumps rational thought.

    And the US needs health care re-regulation badly (just look at projected future healthcare outlays). It's just that Obamacare happens to not touch any of the real issues and manages to make pretty much anything else more complicated, costly and inefficient. It does clearly indicate that someone on the inside understands healthcare, because any random or uninformed attempt would have at least gotten *some* things right; a 100% miss rate is an indicator of alignment with the problem... unfortunately not the one I am looking for ;)

  2. a libertarian:

    "he is a passionate advocate for large increases in government power in other spheres. Ditto for Conservatives, just with the particular subjects reversed."

    This is, perhaps, the most concise description I have seen of the current state of political affairs in the U.S. at the moment. In the Red Team/Blue Team debate, both sides think big, intrusive, coercive government is a good thing... but only where the government coercion is being used to control the populace in the manner they prefer.

  3. Rick Caird:

    I am still astonished that all those people who hated Bush and his administration feel comfortable giving power to Obama they would never have given to Bush. It must not occur to them Obama is likely to be followed by a President who is much more like Bush than Obama and they will have to complain how that is then being used.

  4. CTD:

    a President who is much more like Bush than Obama

    Is that even possible?

  5. Will:

    I think you can pick better examples than that. Most liberals would say that torturing people is always wrong, regardless of how well you select who to torture.

    and, who's suggesting giving the government the power to stop you from having surgeries? Not funding your surgery, sure. Taking your money and using it to fund other people's surgeries? Sure. But that's a very different thing from forcible surgery prevention.

    There ARE actually better examples though.

  6. Dr. T:

    "How is it possible to have almost infantile trust in the goodwill of..."

    It's analogous to religion. How is it possible to believe in a loving, forgiving God after reading biblical accounts of the leveling of entire cities? People with faith (in God, government, benevolent aliens, etc.) use illogical rationalizations continually.

  7. astonerii:

    how is it possible to trust a significantly limited government that has the single goal of allowing each individual to have maximum possible freedom to determine his actions to actually keep you safe while simultaneously working towards the goal of maximum diversity. It boggles the mind. Particularly when the same person promoting it does not believe in national borders!

    I dunno. I think I would rather live with what the conservatives advocate thank you.

    I for one agree that the government has too much power. On the other hand, since communities are no longer allowed to police the filth through intimidation and if that fails violence out of their community, I would much rather have the power be on the side of rules and regulations that have helped societies prosper most over the last 5000 years rather than on the side of rules and regulations which have been shown to promote significant violence, wars and genocide.

  8. John Moore:

    The idea that Republicans have a mindless trust in certain government functions is spurious. Many of use recognize that, for certain things, you need government even though we recognize it is dangerous, hard to control, and terribly inefficient.

    War is one example. You may want to go out and hire an army when someone attacks you.

    I'll stick with our excellent government-run military, even with all its inefficiencies and foibles.

    To turn the argument around, I find it amazing that Libertarians have such faith in their fellow man that they don't believe that organized coercion (police and military powers) is often necessary. It's why I class hard libertarianism with Marxism - both are based on a naive view of human nature.

  9. Ian Random:

    I was thinking of trying to argue something, but then I realized you never read the comments and those precious electrons would go to waste. You can't even comprehend the difference between legal and illegal immigration like any good liberal democrat. So how can you understand the difference between left and right. You take a pure libertarian standpoint which is great in theory, but everything is great in theory. If you spent half an ounce of effort looking at what goes unreported about real conservatives, you might actually come around. The last Bush tried to cut 140 programs, but got reamed by journalists (really propagandists) for being uncaring. There is even of list that mentions how many times he tried to get interest in reforming Fannie Mae(?) before they sucked up 80% of the secondary CRA mortgages. He actually tried to reform overtime and salary rules, but got reamed by lawyers who profit by clarifying that part of the law. He even talked about Socialized Security, the third rail and got burned. I remember watching this guy seemed to be in every single panel on SS reform and his only purpose was to say giving people three choices confuses them.

  10. Will:

    @John Moore
    > War is one example. You may want to go out and hire an army when someone attacks you.

    When is the last time the US has been attacked by any kind of seriously threatening opponent? Why do we still have a gigantic army?

    Honestly, I find liberal and conservative thinking to be both pretty simple. There are complex arguments back and forth, but they both consist of obvious solutions to obvious problems.


    People are poor?: Give them money/food stamps/health insurance/something else useful!
    People are polluting the environment?: Pass laws making it illegal!
    People are getting killed in wars?: Stop starting wars!
    People are getting tortured?: Stop torturing people!


    People are getting taxed?: Cut taxes!
    Government is now running out of money?: Cut spending!
    The US might be attacked?: Attack preemptively!
    Gay people are getting married?: Pass a law against it!

    Different ideologies come from A) Different beliefs about what is good and bad and B) Different beliefs about what methods are effective or ineffective.

  11. John Moore:

    Defending against a direct attack on the US is hardly the only reason to have a significant military. The US has important interests all around the world. The last time we were attacked by a dangerous opponent was last year, unless you really think that Islamist terrorism presents no danger and should just be ignored. The real dangers from Islamist terrorism are:
    - Major economic damage as a result of relatively low damage attacks (like 9-11, or a Mumbai style attack, or even worse, a Breslan style).
    - Disastrous damage (economic and human toll) from a terrorist WMD attack. As technology advances, it becomes easier and easier for smaller, even stateless groups, to obtain WMD's. After all, there's now a hobby in the US of genetic engineering in peoples' garages. My daughter worked in genetic engineering and with some nasty (BL-3) pathogens, and the combination is both very real and very frightening to her.

    We are heavily dependent for oil on the middle east, and our military defends that oil from Iran and (previously) Iraq (which was also a terrorist+wmd threat).

    China is unstable, has a large military, and has dangerous expansionist trends - which is why the US Navy is this week in military exercises with, of all nations, Vietnam. Iran will soon have nuclear weapons and the capability to deliver them all over the world. If it takes a pre-emptive attack to stop that, then we need to have that capability.

    The world is full of threats. I'm afraid a lot of libertarians cover their eyes and just feel good instead of looking at them.

    The 5% of GDP we spend on defense (only that high because we are in two wars at the moment) is not a bad deal, given what it has delivered. There are plenty of things far less defensible in the budget.

    I argue that the single most important function of government, the one that most justifies granting coercive power to such an organization, is defense of the population. The only valid question is: how much do we need and how do we do it.

    You are right about different ideologies (libertarianism fits in there too) - people have different beliefs about goals and means. There are huge differences in that regard between libertarians and conservatives.

  12. astonerii:

    Different ideologies come from A) Different beliefs about what is good and bad and B) Different beliefs about what methods are effective or ineffective."

    Unfortunately for liberals and libertarians is the fact that history already has proven which ideas are good and which ideas are bad. History has already shown which methods are effective and which methods are defective.

    Republican does not equate to conservative. So you can blow all the smoke you want, but it is not going to change the fact that what rock solid three leg conservatives advocate and push for are both good and effective. The United States of America did not become great because it was filled with people of many cultures, the United States of America became great because it was a melting pot that absorbed all the best ideas from many cultures in creating a single near monolithic culture (differences between groups ended up being minor, and still they were extremely volatile in nature). In fact, where people never assimilated into the American Culture (Chinatowns for instance) anyone ever notice how less fortunate they are compared to the rest of the city around them?

    Libertarianism is simplified down to not much more than the near anarchy of forced balkinization. (You are not allowed to coerce the individual into respecting the culture at large)

    Liberalism is simplified down to not much more than the overbearing slavery of forced balkinization. (The best way to control the population is by making them hate each other, which takes the heat off those in charge.)

  13. Doug:

    "and, who’s suggesting giving the government the power to stop you from having surgeries?"

    I believe that would be the Obama plan, sir. I'm pretty sure that is has outlawed doctors from receiving private payments as a means of preventing doctors from setting up cash-only shop and circumventing government control. If that won't prevent you from buying your surgeries, I don't know what will.

    "We have to pass the bill before we can find out what is in it." --- San Fran Nan

  14. TGGP:

    "But I know that he is a passionate advocate for large increases in government power in other spheres"
    Doesn't focus as much on those areas though. Maybe it's a variant on Conquest's law: everyone is a cynic about the areas in which they have expertise.