What’s the Matter with New York?


Rose Woodhouse

Elizabeth Picciuto was born and reared on Long Island, and, as was the custom for the time and place, got a PhD in philosophy. She freelances, mainly about disability, but once in a while about yeti. Mother to three children, one of whom is disabled, two of whom have brown eyes, three of whom are reasonable cute, you do not want to get her started talking about gardening.

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259 Responses

  1. Avatar Trumwill says:

    I used to get annoyed by this condescension, though in retrospect I find it preferable than the contempt in the suggestion that the government benefits accrued obligate them to support certain things or be revealed as worthless hypocrites.

    (I greatly enjoyed the post, Rose.)Report

  2. Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

    Sidenote: I lose my mind whenever people say “Voting is an irrational act!” as they’re clearly assuming their own rationality onto the other person, as if rationality isn’t somehow entirely specific to an individual. Grumble.

    Back to the main topic. Sorry for the brief sojourn Rose.Report

    • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

      No, it’s an interesting sojourn. I actually go back and forth on it. Sometimes I think there are external reasons that should apply to anyone either given a certain goal (i.e., if you want to lose weight, it’s irrational to eat double cheeseburgers all the time). Sometimes, maybe, possibly, there are more general rationality that should apply to everyone (everyone ought to overcome their fear of flying and vaccinate their children given the statistics/science). Then, sometimes, I think rationality can only be understood relative to an individual.

      I’m only somewhat familiar with the philosophical literature on it.Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

        As I’ve made (infuriatingly) clear in my posts on relativism, I think these things are specific to the individual. So when I encounter a person who says, “I’d like to lose weight!” while they’re stuffing themselves with Dairy Queen Blizzards (I’m talking about myself right now), I assume that the important of the weight-loss is outweighed by the importance of the Blizzards (om nom nom).

        So for somebody to say, “They’ve voting against their own interests!” assumes that money outweighs everything else. That’s a dangerous assumption to make and generally, almost certainly wrong.Report

        • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

          Well, your second paragraph I totally agree with.

          Your first paragraph I sometimes agree with and sometimes don’t. We’ve torn it up on relativism in aesthetics – should I assume that applies to ethics for you, too?

          So, on one hand, I can see that saying you want to lose weight and drinking blizzards can mean you have more reason to drink a blizzard. I can also see possibly someone might argue that you have an all-things-considered, more-fully-endorsed weight loss desire, and that that desire is more reason-providing than a momentary urge (like monogamy). Then the blizzard desire may be stronger at that moment, and you’d have a reason to drink it, but you’d still be irrational given your all-things-considered goal.

          What do you think about someone who refuses to look at scientific evidence? So this person wants to lose weight (or meet some other goal), and won’t be persuaded by evidence but only by anecdote?Report

          • Avatar Rose says:

            Or, to put the question in terms of this post, is someone who votes for Romney because he believes Obama is from Kenya just as rational as someone who votes for Romney because he thinks Obamacare will harm small business?

            I took Hume’s view on art judgment, you’re taking his view on reasons!

            I definitely think we are all entitled to find moral and cultural reasons persuasive for our voting. But I do tend overall to think there are better and worse moral and cultural states of affairs and better and worse policy plans to get us to those states of affairs.Report

            • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

              I can’t look into people’s minds to know what they do and don’t believe. What I will say is that I don’t generally like to go down the, “You’re acting irrationally!” line of argumentation, because I can’t know what another person does or doesn’t prioritize by what they say. I can know by what they choose to (not) do.Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      Voting is irrational if you leave out expressive and Kantian concerns. However,

      1)Most people don’t like to think of themselves as merely expressing affiliation. Therefore, they tend to disavow such intentions. They vote because they think that they are contributing to a good outcome.

      2) Most people aren’t Kantians (or rule utilitarians) either. The categorical imperative to act only on maxims one can will as a universal law is obscure to most people.* Most people suppose that concrete constraints, harms and consequences are morally salient.

      So, for most people (at least according to their stated goals), voting is going to be irrational.

      *True, there is some kind of folk kantianism going on when people ask “What if everyone did that?” But I think that people rarely take that idea seriously enough. Their worries are more about slippery slopes and other people trying to follow suit. Worries, which are often easily dismissed. The probability of other people following suit and not voting are very small.Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:


        I would recommend questioning their stated goals. If, after all, their desire isn’t nearly as thought out as you’re alleging – if they, like me, think, “Oh, today’s the day we vote, and I want this guy to win…” – then they’re not irrational for doing so, if for no other reason than they either don’t know or don’t care about those things that you’re talking about.Report

      • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

        Actually, I think people have some serious pretheoretical Kantian intuitions. That’s why the Survival Lottery and Fat Man trolley problem are persuasive. I also think the golden rule is another form of folk kantianism.

        I’m currently teaching a moral theory class. Before getting into the class, I asked the class to tell me what makes it wrong to, say, stone people for homosexuality. There were a few scattered anti-realists, and the rest were pretty evenly split between consequentialism and rights.Report

        • Avatar Murali says:

          People have intuitions about side-constraints (fat man trolley cases) and reciprocity intuitions (which is what the golden rule is), and certainly our moral practices presuppose a certain kind of universalism, but people don’t specifically have very strong intuitions about the universalism found in the first version of the categorical imperative.Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            The empirical evidence on the footbridge dilemma and similar cases suggests that it’s something closer to Rose’s version than yours. The universalism might not be explicit, or at least people don’t (and probably can’t) verbalize it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. The data from the trolley problem suggests that there’s something else going on too. The current explanation is two systems, but I suspect it’s going to turn out to be more complicated than that. In the end, I’d bet our intuitions line up a bit with Kant, a bit with consequentialism, and a bit with a more complex virtue ethic.Report

      • Avatar James B Franks says:

        Voting is never irrational, it is your civic duty.Report

        • Avatar Murali says:

          You don’t have a duty to vote, only a duty to vote well. If you cannot accomplish the latter, you have a duty to refrain from voting.Report

          • Avatar James B Franks says:

            I disagree, there is no such thing as “vote well”. As long as you vote with intention that’s fine by me.Report

            • Avatar Murali says:

              Of course there is such a thing.

              Is there such a thing as justice or the public good?

              Will one of the candidates if elected do a better job with respect to such criteria?

              Who does our evidence say that candidate is?

              Then we have a duty to vote for that guy.

              More modestly, we have a duty to not decide based on mere partisan affiliation, the race/religion of the candidate, when we are high/drunk etc. We hav a duty to get ourselves informed. If we are unable to do any of the above, we behave irresponsibly.

              Take a look at thisReport

              • Avatar James B Franks says:

                You missed my point. “Vote well” is a subjective judgement I am not willing to make for you. Voting with intention implies you are voting for a reason that’s a reasonable standard.Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                “Vote well” is a subjective judgement I am not willing to make for you. Voting with intention implies you are voting for a reason that’s a reasonable standard.

                Oh, when I mean vote well, I mean vote for a reason that is a reasonable standard.Report

              • Avatar James B Franks says:

                But who’s standard? Why should your standard be considered superior to mine or anyone’s? I feel that someone who votes against a candidate because the hate them and feel meh about the rest to be just as reasonable as someone who votes on account of a specific policy proposal.Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                Wait, so you don’t even think that there is a moral duty to (as you put it, vote with intention?

                I feel that someone who votes against a candidate because the hate them and feel meh about the rest to be just as reasonable as someone who votes on account of a specific policy proposal

                If in a jury, one of the jury members votes that a defendant is guilty, just because they hate the way he sounds, he is just as reasonable as the jury member who votes based on the evidence and arguments presented at court? If it is not okay in a murder trial, why is it okay in an election?Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      It depends entirely on what you’re trying to accomplish. Voting because you wan to change who will win the election is irrational, but voting for other reasons might be eminently rational.Report

    • Avatar BobbyC says:

      I’m the kind of person who would say, “voting is irrational” but I’m being imprecise. People who are voting because they think it matters or because they think not voting fails the Kantian imperative which must not occur are actually just being themselves. They are entertaining themselves by voting or by believing that it’s really important or whatever. What is unquestionably true is that voting has de minimus odds of changing the election outcomes. So one shouldn’t call that “irrational” any more than buying the Pet Rock is irrational. Both are irrational from a certain point of view, and there are plenty of people who think, wrongly, that their individual choice to vote is important in some civic sense, which is bunk.

      Does that cause you to lose your mind, or are we sympatico?Report

  3. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Excellent post, Rose.

    I understand your main thrust, I think, and I agree with it. The vast preponderance of things that I vote for are not in my own economic interest. If there is a parks initiative on the ballot, for example, I almost always vote for it – despite the fact that the neighborhood I live in is well off in that area. Any additional tax dollars I agree to are clearly going to someone improve else’s neighborhood.

    I have to say, though, that even though I have never been a What’s the Matter With Kansas head scratcher, I never thought the question had merely to do with dollars-in/dollars-out economic self interest.

    They way the WTMWK question made sense to me was the perceived buy-in to a demonization of a class of people that included yourself, even if you did not think of yourself that way. The question to me, in other words, has never been why do people in Kansas vote for lower taxes for the rich; it’s how does a poorer segment of society buy into the story that poorer segments of society are lazy, shiftless, and deserve whatever horrible fate they fall into.Report

    • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

      Yeah, I guess that makes more sense. Although when you phrase it as, “How could you possibly think you have significant control over the outcome of your life?” it’s a little easier to see how anyone might arrive at that conclusion.

      Another way to read it, I suppose, is: you mistakenly think you are voting in your economic self-interest when you vote Republican.

      But when I hear it a lot of it was that people were getting “distracted” by issues like abortion and gay marriage from what really matters.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      it’s how does a poorer segment of society buy into the story that poorer segments of society are lazy, shiftless, and deserve whatever horrible fate they fall into.

      For what it’s worth, I think it’s less of “they deserve whatever horrible fate they fall into” than “what do you expect? If you treat people like adults, they’ll act like adults. If you allow people to remain perpetual adolescents, they’ll remain perpetual adolescents.”Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      I think it’s sort of a place in between here and there. “Why do you have allegiance to those who are screwing you just because they claim to relate to you on a personal level?” What little I have read of it (so someone who has, like, read the entire book can chime in and tell me I’m wrong) seems to place an emphasis on working class voters being duped by cultural authenticity. Bush’s cowboy hat (and Kerry’s water-suit in contrast) looming large at the time the book was written.Report

      • Avatar trizzlor says:

        I think Will’s got it. Most of the examples in WTMWK were about local politicians promising God & culture but delivering only crony capitalism, often in instances where the didn’t even have any control over the social issues they were campaigning on. Sara Palin running for mayor of tiny Wasilla on a pro-choice/gun-rights platform, for example.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      Also, one thing that Frank makes clear is that he’s not actually talking about extremely poor whites. He’s talking about “the working class” (or “financially struggling whites”). I haven’t read the book (so again, if anyone has, chime in!) but I did read the seminal criticism of his work and his response to it (wherein he says “my critic is talking about really poor whites, I’m talking about a different group, ergo his criticism is not valid.”)Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

        This is basically Bartels breaking down the counter-argument and fact-checking Obama’s “bitter” statement:

        For the sake of concreteness, let’s define the people Mr. Obama had in mind as people whose family incomes are less than $60,000 (an amount that divides the electorate roughly in half), who do not have college degrees and who live in small towns or rural areas. For the sake of convenience, let’s call these people the small-town working class, though that term is inevitably imprecise. In 2004, they were about 18 percent of the population and about 16 percent of voters.

        For purposes of comparison, consider the people who are their demographic opposites: people whose family incomes are $60,000 or more, who are college graduates and who live in cities or suburbs. These (again, conveniently labeled) cosmopolitan voters were about 11 percent of the population in 2004 and about 13 percent of voters. While admittedly crude, these definitions provide a systematic basis for assessing the accuracy of Mr. Obama’s view of contemporary class politics.

        Small-town, working-class people are more likely than their cosmopolitan counterparts, not less, to say they trust the government to do what’s right. In the 2004 National Election Study conducted by the University of Michigan, 54 percent of these people said that the government in Washington can be trusted to do what is right most of the time or just about always. Only 38 percent of cosmopolitan people expressed a similar level of trust in the federal government.

        Do small-town, working-class voters cast ballots on the basis of social issues? Yes, but less than other voters do. Among these voters, those who are anti-abortion were only 6 percentage points more likely than those who favor abortion rights to vote for President Bush in 2004. The corresponding difference for the rest of the electorate was 27 points, and for cosmopolitan voters it was a remarkable 58 points. Similarly, the votes cast by the cosmopolitan crowd in 2004 were much more likely to reflect voters’ positions on gun control and gay marriage.

        Small-town, working-class voters were also less likely to connect religion and politics. Support for President Bush was only 5 percentage points higher among the 39 percent of small-town voters who said they attended religious services every week or almost every week than among those who seldom or never attended religious services. The corresponding difference among cosmopolitan voters (34 percent of whom said they attended religious services regularly) was 29 percentage points.

        It is true that American voters attach significantly more weight to social issues than they did 20 years ago. It is also true that church attendance has become a stronger predictor of voting behavior. But both of those changes are concentrated primarily among people who are affluent and well educated, not among the working class.


      • Avatar Trumwill Mobile says:

        Did Bartels address Franks’s arguments with regard to the white working class that Franks defined or find an alternate definition that wasn’t as off-base as his “bottom third” one? Also, is he talking about working class or white working class (I think the latter was implied in O’s statement). (these are questions, I haven’t read the response to the response.)Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

          Bartels addressed it by expanding his definition from the bottom third of earners to the more precise one he uses above of $60,000 or below and aren’t college educated, and live in small towns. (Which is substantively similar to Frank’s definition which does contortions based on SES signifiers like education)

          And they’re all talking about white working class.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            Bartels contention makes some intuitive sense. We would expect social issues to be more important among the economically comfortable. The problem, for me, is that it doesn’t seem that way looking out the front window. Most of the families in this county make below $60k. This place is the definition of rural. Religion isn’t a huge deal, but guns sure are and the place is culturally conservative broadly speaking. McCain won 2/3 of the vote here. And looking at the county map that shows the GOP having a wide geographical footprint, I doubt that’s on the strength of those making good money.

            Now, how well the GOP does in these areas compared to how they did 20 years ago is part of Bartels contention. On that point, he could be right. On the other hand, Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming have all become more red than they were in Bush-Dukakis (determined by comparing the state results to the national results), as have the Great Plains states (including, of course, Kansas). This *may* have been on the strength of cosmopolitan voters, but it’s not clearly so. I need to find the county-to-county results from 1988* to get a better idea.

            * – I choose 1988 because it’s after the Reagan revolution but before election results get skewed by Perot.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      Part of the answer why some poor people might vote buy into the story that the poor are lazy and shiftless is because some people are lazy and shiftless. If some powerful folks who seem like they would be good to have a beer with tell you why its you being poor is the fault of those “other” kind of bad poor people. Not your poor people, you folks are salt of the earth. Those “other” kind of poor people are sucking off your teat, they aren’t “your” kind of poor people, they don’t live near you or at least not in your neighbourhood. Or if they live in your neighbourhood now, well, its been all downhill since those people moved in.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      The question to me, in other words, has never been why do people in Kansas vote for lower taxes for the rich; it’s how does a poorer segment of society buy into the story that poorer segments of society are lazy, shiftless, and deserve whatever horrible fate they fall into.

      Well, for one, they might not consider themselves poor. Income and price scales are simply lower inland than on the coasts, such that a person whose income is low by coastal standards may actually be reasonably well off in Kansas.

      Moreover, Republicans do not, as a rule, express or even harbor any ill will towards the poor as such. The rhetoric about how the poor have made their own beds is very much a reaction to left-wing rhetoric about how the poor are poor for reasons entirely beyond their control and should be given handouts. Those who aren’t asking for handouts simply aren’t going to identify with the objects of that rhetoric.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        47% wasn’t a gaffe…moochers, takers and layabouts dragging the country down is standard R speech and thought. They attack the poor all the time, they just attack those bad poor people not their good conservative poor folk.Report

        • Avatar Pinky says:

          Greg – It’s more a Tea Party position. But it is equivalent to the assumption of economic determinism that Rose is rightly arguing against.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

          To be fair, not all of the 47% are poor. Some are merely not rich.Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

          They attack the poor all the time, they just attack those bad poor people not their good conservative poor folk.

          Um…that’s what I said. Republicans don’t engage in blanket condemnation of everyone in a certain income bracket, like the OWS crowd did with their “1%.” They distinguish between moochers and lower-income people who pay their own way.Report

    • Avatar Pinky says:

      I don’t recall any Republican saying that the poorer segments of society are lazy, shiftless, et cetera. That’s a caricature of the Republican position. It’s a bit of a straw man argument to express shock that poorer people believe something that they don’t.

      My general approach to the Kansas argument is the distinction that the Democratic Party tends toward economic populism and social elitism, and the Republican Party tends toward economic elitism and social populism. It creates a lot of the tensions that the Kansas-type analysis can identify but not explain.Report

      • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

        All of the “who hates China more?” ads on my teevee indicate to me that no one has a monopoly on economic populism.Report

        • Avatar Pinky says:

          To my thinking, that falls under national populism, the collection of issues such as protectionism, English as a national language, and immigration. Neither party has figured out exactly what to do with those issues. Interestingly, national populism shows itself by supporting a strong military, but also by isolationism. Because populism and elitism are more impulses than clearly-stated philosophies, you find contradictions within them.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        “My general approach to the Kansas argument is the distinction that the Democratic Party tends toward economic populism and social elitism, and the Republican Party tends toward economic elitism and social populism. It creates a lot of the tensions that the Kansas-type analysis can identify but not explain.”

        Huh. I’ll have to think about this to decide how true I think it is, but I have to say I find it a damn interesting observation at first blush.Report

        • Avatar NewDealer says:

          I suppose it is an interesting argument but I have a hard time thinking about what social elitism and social populism mean in this case?

          It is true that there is a certain form of populism in some GOP redmeat politics. Notably Santorum calling Obama a snob and then falsely reporting that Obama wanted everyone to attend college. More recently, the line about how “smart” people will never be with the Republicans. By smart, I think he meant urban, somewhat to very “sophisticated”, roughly members of the so-called Creative Class. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a dig at being Jewish in their as well. Or at least a dog-whistle.

          However, I think that many young liberals and progressives are trying to avoid the old “high culture” criticism that used to plague the left or are possibly simply uninterested in high culture. My cultural tastes can probably be labeled as “snobby*” for the most part and one of my problems with many internet liberal sites is their dearth of good cultural coverage. Basically a failure to talk about anything above pop/geek culture that can be easily accessed by everyone. The only remaining bastions for good cultural reporting are: The New Republic, The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, and more niche journals like N plus One. Here, you will find serious and in-depth essays about avant-garde (or at least “high brow”) culture. On ThinkProgress, it will be a video games or comic con, or YA literature** for the umpteenth time. Basically nothing that requires being older than 12 to appreciate.

          Julian Sanchez talked about this a bit over the summer while giving a half-defense of Joel Stein’s remarks about not reading the Hunger Games. He noted that there was at least somewhat of a sense of obligation at having adult tastes a few decades ago with Leonard Bernstein being American’s ambassador general for classical music. Who is exposing kids to classical music today? I saw an old video clip of John Cage doing a TV appearance in the 1950s or early 60s. It was on some game show but they let him perform one of his pieces (Water Music) and too him seriously as a composer. That would not happen today.

          *A lot of people tell me that they prefer passive entertainment in art, reading, music, TV, and film. Stuff that “does not require them to think”. I don’t understand this desire. I am generally bored by stuff that does not make me think.

          **I don’t get the fad of adult readers going crazy over YA literature. People tell me that this is where the revolutionary stuff is happening but only offer me axiom and tautology as evidence when pressed. Joyce and Beckett are revolutionary, The Hunger Games not so much both in terms of plot and prose.

          Though I probably just proved the point of social elitism with this response.Report

          • Avatar Pinky says:

            Populism in regard to social issues, in this context, means traditional morality. Prayer in schools, opposition to abortion, et cetera. I think of it as populism for both theoretical and practical reasons. The practical first: it’s populism because it’s historically been popular. The theoretical is because populism has always praised hard work and family. Populism at its most negative can hold a great deal of animosity toward deviation from the norm.

            (Note that I’m not making a judgement call on whether it’s good or bad to be populist or elitist, or whether the policies they recommend are beneficial. When I’ve run this theory past people, the sticking points usually come from people being offended at what they perceive as a negative depiction of their side.)

            Social elitism is found in the breaks from the traditional moral code. Divorce, drug use, homosexuality, et cetera. And let me note one more thing that no other paradigm seems to explain: both parties perceive the other as masses of low-income dupes being led by wealthy people who don’t have the nation’s best interests at heart. There’s no good way to explain that with most conventional political analyses.Report

            • Avatar NewDealer says:

              On your parenthesis:

              I would say that every American has some kind of basic imprinting that says it is bad to be elitist. We tend to react very strongly against the word. Plus there are all sorts of loaded images into American imagery.

              Your last paragraph on social elitism seems to fit right into the heart of a GOP cartoon of liberals. I don’t know anything about your politics and take it on face value that you are not making a judgment call. However, the last paragraph makes Democratic Party supporters look like Louis the XVI and the rest of the Bourbons. We are just decadent partiers while the plain folk work honestly.
              Does the Democratic platform encourage drug use? Many liberals might support liberalizing the harsh and wasteful drug laws but that is a far cry from advocating for recreational narcotics as a political idea.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I agree that the last paragraph was on based. At most, liberals are most inclined to *defend* these things as socially acceptable. That’s different from promoting them as things. I don’t think the thrust of Pinky’s comment is wrong, but I’m having trouble formulating it in my mind. I’ll come back if it gels.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                That is a reasonable point. Liberals do not necessarily see divorce and recreational drug use as being immoral. At least in the sense that conservatives tend to use the phrase.

                I wouldn’t say we necessarily think divorce or drug use are good though. Just inevitable products of human history and things that have always been around. People have been trying to get intoxicated for pleasure since the dawn of civilization. There have also been couples who have fallen out of love since the dawn of civilization and split up? What good does it do to be draconian against either?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I wouldn’t say we necessarily think divorce or drug use are good though.

                In case it wasn’t clear, I was agreeing with you on that point. I miht have been not clear because somehow “off-base” became “on based” (?!).Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                Okay. My apologies as well.Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:


                I respectfully disagree, at least about your characterization of Republicans and marriage. You imply that Republicans care about divorce; this is plainly untrue. They only care about ginning up hatred of gays, because that’s proven in the past to be a political winner. If Republicans actually cared about marriage, they’d so something (anything) to shore up the institution against its apparent decline.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                I think almost everyone realizes that divorce is going to be around and we are not going back. Plus plenty of Republicans get divorced.

                I just used it as an example because Pinky used it. Generally my thoughts are the same as yours and that they really don’t care about marriage.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                My views on marriage tend towards the conservative on everything except gay marriage* and a few other things. Take gay marriage out of the equation, and the institution is still a bigger deal with conservatives than liberals, in my experience. Politically, there isn’t much to be done (they tried introducing covenant marriages, but were scoffed at), but social disapproval of divorce, premarital cohabitation, premarital sex, and other such things that weaken the lines (in their view, and mine to an extent) are much more commonly and strongly felt on the right than the left and with libertarians.

                * – Well, I consider my views on gay marriage (strongly in favor of their legalization) to be conservative, but current political classification does not.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Conservative? so you’re in favor of cheating? Or aren’t we going back to Victorian England?
                Seriously, the idea of a marriage as something that people in lust get into just hasn’t been around that long…Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                You imply that Republicans care about divorce; this is plainly untrue. They only care about ginning up hatred of gays, because that’s proven in the past to be a political winner. If Republicans actually cared about marriage, they’d so something (anything) to shore up the institution against its apparent decline.

                Can you play this game when it comes to how Democrats feel about oh, education policy? Or Banking policy? Or The Welfare State? Or Drone attacks? (Just kidding about that last one.)Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:


                I can point to legislative acts by Democrats attempting to address those issues. What evidence is there of Republican belief in marriage other than a very strongly shouted, “No Gays Allowed!” policy? If there is something, I haven’t seen it. I will be happy to add nuance to the critique if something exists.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                There’s little or nothing the government can do other than to make it harder to get divorced. Covenant marriages were a really good idea but the Left opposed on the grounds that they would trap women in abusive marriages.Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

                So make divorces harder to get, thus making couples think more about not getting married in the first place. Other options include extending their own arguments about gays to straights: if marriage is about children then punish straight couples without children, if marriage is about commitment then don’t allow straight citizens more than one marriage during their lifetime, if marriage is about strengthening society than outlaw divorce.

                I know that these ideas are ridiculous; so do Republicans. That’s why they don’t do any of them. They know that they’d be politically unpopular so they don’t mess around with them. But that they’re willing to drop their love of marriage so quickly give us a more accurate picture about what they actually believe. It ain’t that they love marriage. It’s that they love not getting the gays get married.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Did that -really- need to be gendered?
                I doubt it was in the liberal’s mind.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Sam, conservatives (Ronald Reagan excepted, of course) were and are skeptical of No-Fault Divorce largely on the grounds that it makes divorce too easy. They were fighting this battle into the 90’s, but they lost. I’d wager that most conservatives would still prefer that NFD didn’t exist. There just isn’t much they can do about it.

                Then, last decade, they worked on covenant marriages. Covenant marriages set out to make divorce more difficult and to nudge couples into premarital counselling. They’ve succeeded in some places, but not many.

                That conservatives have largely lost this battle and moved on does not mean that they “don’t care.”

                Several years ago I batted around the idea of constraining the ability of divorcees to remarry. I ultimately abandoned it, but when I was voicing it… guess who liked it and guess who didn’t? Not that it matters because, politically, it’s a non-starter and ultimately not worth pursuing. A failure to pursue does not mean “don’t care about divorce.”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I know that these ideas are ridiculous; so do Republicans. That’s why they don’t do any of them.

                I thought that they didn’t do any of them because they just didn’t care about the issue.Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

                They don’t push for them because they recognize these ideas for what they really are: political losers. If they really valued marriage, they’d elevate its defense over the political disaster that it would surely become (because people like the idea of being able to get out of marriages). We know what the Republican Party cares about based upon what it fights for: it fights to exclude gays, it does nothing about the institution itself. We can conclude that its opposition then is to gays, not to things that actually damage marriages (like divorce or adultery or various forms of abuse*).

                *By which I mean that abusive spouses don’t have their rights to (re)marry stripped from them.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Kim, I said “tend toward.” My views are progressive in some ways (I have a very non-traditional marriage, my wife being the breadwinner and my having sacrificed my career for her). But on the whole seem more conservative than the nation as a whole. I oppose premarital cohabitation, am sympathetic to the view that premarital sex weakens marriage (though ultimately I think opposing *all* premarital sex is a fools errand), and am generally skeptical of current attitudes towards marriage (including “marriage for lust”).

                I am limited to the extent to which I want to enshrine these things in law (by and large, I don’t), but I am sympathetic with conservatives on a number of fronts.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                the GOP isn’t lying when it says that gay marriage damages marriages. It just isn’t being specific about which marriages it damages.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                “oppose premarital cohabitation, am sympathetic to the view that premarital sex weakens marriage (though ultimately I think opposing *all* premarital sex is a fools errand), and am generally skeptical of current attitudes towards marriage (including “marriage for lust”).”

                So you oppose the posting of the banns, and common law marriage, but are in favor of arranged marriages?

                In what world does this come out as being conservative? From my perspective it just sounds awfully elitist.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Sam, I am pointing to battles that they fought and loss. That they’ve yielded to political reality is not really indicative of much. A number of conservatives are still trying to fight that battle, but the politicians are focusing on arguments they can win.

                On marriage equality, it’s still up in the air (for now – they’ll lose) so an effort to fight the battle they can win is not indicative of being “okay” with the battles they’ve lost. It’s yielding to political reality.

                (Eve Tushnet actually has an interesting piece in The American Conservative, arguing that the fixation on divorce is counterproductive insofar as it’s discouraging marriage. An interesting thesis. I’m still thinking it over.)Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                They don’t push for them because they recognize these ideas for what they really are: political losers.

                I am reminded of Obama’s evolution on Gay Marriage between 2008 and about the time opinion polls flipped on the issue.

                Sam, I deeply, deeply suspect that the Dems are a lot like the Republicans, deep down.

                When arguing for one’s ideals/principles ceases to be viable, one switches to arguing for a pragmatic (rather than a childish) understanding of how the world actually works… and how the other side not only doesn’t understand how the world works, they don’t really have the principles deep down that they claim to have in public.

                But I say this as a childish idealist.Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:


                You have to understand that for me, what guides is what is done, not what is professed. So if a party says, “We care about marriage! We care about marriage!” and then doesn’t do anything about it politically, then I don’t believe what it has claimed to believe. Thus, if the legislative battles have been abandoned, then I would assume that party never cared as much as it claimed to.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Kim, I have mixed feelings on common law marriage, but CLM is distinct from “let’s try it out” cohabitation. Arranged marriage depends on the parameters. I am in favor of marriages that are practical and consensual, which is what I meant by that last comment.

                You can argue all you like about how my views aren’t actually conservative, but my views tend to find more support on the right than on the left. That’s primarily what I was referring to (which is why I excluded gay marriage, even though I consider my views conservative in nature).Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:


                I think I agree with you. The fact is that Democrats didn’t care about gays getting treated badly. They cared about getting re-elected, and for a long time, simply not engaging gay issues (or worse, engaging gay issues from a hostile stance) was the party’s play. Now though, the Dems seem to have realized that it might not be the political toxin that it once was, and what do you know, they’re now supportive of treating gays like human beings. What’s guiding these folks isn’t the principles so much as the polling.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                At Will,

                What is wrong with it being too easy to divorce? Do conservatives think that some kind moral hazard is going to happen?

                On the other hand, I think that there is much to lose by making it too hard to divorce. New York finally adopted No Fault Divorce in 2010 or 2011. Before then, couples would need to find fault and this was a long and difficult process even when there was fault. It tied up courts and families for years.

                No Fault Divorce allows for speedy-resolutions (hopefully) especially now because there is a modern trend for many couples to use a mediator and psychologist instead of a social worker.

                Sometimes couples just fall out of love and there is no fault. Perhaps this is the most common reason that people end relationship. How does it value society and the culture overall to make people live in loveless marriages and see other people on the side? Why should there be hoops into getting a divorce?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                I think you mis-stating the issue. Many of the people who oppose gay marriage are in committed marriages and would defend them dearly. They just don’t believe that SSM is an institution the government should support for various reasons.

                Up until fairly recently I was in that group. I have been in a committed marriage for 8 years now and my wife and I would have seriously considered a covenant marriage if they were available. But I also opposed gay marriage on the grounds that I wasn’t convinced they would work. I’ve since changed my mind but there are plenty of people where I was a few years ago right now.Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:


                I’m not sure I follow. Are you saying that we can assume that anybody opposed to SSM necessarily cares about the institution of marriage? I certainly don’t believe that, because the exclusion of gays from SSM does nothing to improve the institution’s already battered image. It does though punish gays for being decided un-normal, which is where I tend to think most advocacy against SSM comes from.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                I’m not claiming that ALL people oposed to gay marriage care about marriage in general but I will say that most of them probably do.

                You are suggesting a lack of care because they are doing A, but they also aren’t doing B, C and D. That’s lame IMO. It’s the equivelant to saying that I can recycle but I obviously don’t care about the environment because I also don’t drive a hybrid, buy local and heat my home with solar energy.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                ND, try as I might, I can’t really oppose NFD. Which, by Sam’s reckoning, means I don’t care about divorce (that may be why I am up-in-arms in this thread). There are higher-plane issues involved (domestic violence and suicide most particularly) that outweigh the other side (lower divorce rates, a fairer alimony system).

                As to why I don’t shrug off divorce rates, unlike gay marriage I believe that divorce does have a cascading repercussions on other marriage. The ability to get out more cleanly, and people getting out with more frequency, does have a deleterious effect on the institution itself.

                One thing I want to note is that there is No-Fault as an option and there is No-Fault Ever. New York, as I understand it, had No-Fault provisions prior to 2010, but both parties had to be on board. The difference being is that now it’s Never-Fault, insofar as it is deemed not the court’s position to determine fault in any event. Let me know if this is wrong (According to Wikipedia, NFD has been available in every state and DC since 1985.)

                Never-Fault is ultimately unenforceable as if a couple is working together, they can work something out. No-Fault as a non-requirement is a closer call, though for the aforementioned reasons I can’t really oppose it.Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:


                My claim is that those who claim to care about the institution of marriage but who only oppose SSM don’t actually care about marriage; they care about gays (and specifically, their exclusion from the institution). After all, gays can’t get married now (generally) and the institution is a damaged brand at best.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Sam – you need to clarify: I assume you are talking about politicians. And if so, they don’t really care about marriage unless they are :

                a) Making divorce harder
                b) Remaining married themselves
                c) Punising hetero couples that don’t have kids

                Otherwise they have to allow SSM by default…correct?Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:


                Literally, none of those things. I’m saying that those politicians who don’t engage in those kinds of legislative fixes for marriage’s damaged brand don’t care as much about marriage as they’d like for us to believe. For example, what I mean by that is this:

                -If a politician wants to say, “Marriage is about children!” then I would expect to see legislation precluding straights who refuse or cannot have children from the institution. That we don’t would seem to indicate that maybe that politician doesn’t believe quite as strongly about the marriage=children connection as he might want us to believe.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                “Literally, none of those things. I’m saying that those politicians who don’t engage in those kinds of legislative fixes for marriage’s damaged brand don’t care as much about marriage as they’d like for us to believe. “

                So they care about marriage, just not as much as they would if they did those things. So again, isn’t that kind of like saying A isn’t enough and to get credit people must also do B,C,D?Also ignoring the fact that if someone believes gay marriage is a threat to marriage, it’s much easier to stop it before it’s legal than to get something like covenant marriages past the Left.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                without divorce, people simply cheat. Mostly men, as women tend to get beat up if they get caught. I don’t consider forcing people to live within love/lustless marriages to be particularly good for the institution.
                This is why I can’t be conservative about marriage, I know too much history.Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:


                Again: no. I apologize if I’m struggling to make my point, but again, the idea of excluding gays from marriage does nothing to fix the institution’s problems as described by conservatives themselves. Keeping gays out of the institution won’t fix the divorce rate, won’t fix the marrying later rate, won’t fix the adultery rate. Excluding gays is about punishing gays and winning elections, not about strengthening the institution of marriage. Doing the things I have outlined is about strengthening marriage (because fixes that draconian WILL improve the institution’s rates) but because they’re also political suicide, we can know that Republicans must not value the institution nearly as much as they’d have us believe.Report

              • Avatar Pinky says:

                Bad phrasing on my part. As I said, it’s next to impossible to describe the elitist/populist split in a way that makes everyone comfortable. I think it’s true that neither party wants to be seen as elitist, and it says something about this site that the main objections to my presentation (which admittedly wasn’t great) were about the social elitism of the Democrats. On other sites, the fiscal elitism of the Republicans would be argued against.

                And as I said, I don’t mean elitism or populism in a negative way. A position is populist if it speaks to the gut of the average voter. Indeed, each party portrays its more elitist positions in as populist terms as it can muster. No one’s “for” divorce, to take my most abrasive example. But they’re for greater rights and equality and getting rid of laws that keep women in the kitchen or make children go unfed.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                How about liberals simply prefer social nontraditionalism?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Social nontraditionalism was passé by 2007 and outré by 2011. Retro is what’s currently hot.

                (Do we still say “hot”?)Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                The left-elite live like Value Voters try to. Low divorce, out of wedlock births, dropping out of school, drug and alcohol use—you name the pathology, the left-elite trail only Mormons in avoiding them.

                As Prager asks, why don’t they preach what they practice???Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                You and I must know different Kennedys.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                They do practice what they preach on that category: they live how they wish to; not how they’re told to*.

                *that how they wish to live overlaps in many areas with how traditional authorities order people to live is incidental.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Not “incidental” atall. It’s the whole point! As Ben Franklin said of the Bible:

                “Revelation had indeed no weight with me, as such, but I entertained an opinion, that, though certain actions might not be bad, because they were forbidden by it, or good, because it commanded them; yet probably these actions might be forbidden because they were bad for us, or commanded because they were beneficial to us, in their own natures, all the circumstances of things considered.”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Are you freakin’ kiddin’ me? I’m only so smart, Tom. These kids have so much more energy than I do and as good as I am with computers, I still see them as things you have on a desk rather than things you have in your butt pocket.

                Getting these morons to get knocked up, smoke pot, and otherwise make themselves under/unemployable is the only leg up I have!Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                OK, JB, but we’re gonna need these young wastrels to finance our Social Security. I’m gonna wear white shoes, drive a Buick, take cruises to Cozumel and they’re gonna pay for it. That’s the New Deal and I’m holding them to it.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                But still Tom. The Liberal elite do practise what they preach. They preach that you should be free to live how you wish to. Then a lot of them live rather traditionally in some ways. Revelation doesn’t have a monopoly on happy living. It’d be like a Satanist laying claim to your lifestyle because you enjoy pleasure and relishing pleasure is a doctrine of Satanism. It strikes me as base stealing.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                As Prager asks, why don’t they preach what they practice???

                That’s an interesting question to me, precisely because it would never–not ever–have occurred to me.

                I grew up in the evangelical protestant tradition, but in that tradition there are–very roughly speaking–two different ways of witnessing to people: one is to preach to (at?) them; the other is what is sometimes called “living your witness,” not making a big deal about holiness, not drawing attention to yourself, but just living your life in the proper way and letting those who have eyes to see, see.

                I imagine there’s a similar dynamic for politics, and some people–not just the liberal elites in question, by any means, but surely people across the political spectrum–who believe in living their witness in terms of values that have political meaning.

                I can’t say that “preaching what you practice” is wrong. I understand why people are motivated to do it. But I do think it’s often ineffective because preachiness–about anything whatsoever–can so easily be irritating to the object of the sermon.Report

          • Avatar Pinky says:

            Oh, I should have addressed your comment better. You’re talking about culture, I think, not what I’d call social populism/elitism. There’s some overlap. But in general, I’ve seen cultural reporting become more and more aimed at niches. People don’t get their news and reviews from the same sources any more. If they want to know about the latest movie, they don’t open their paper or even click on their local paper’s arts section (and a lot of papers don’t even have movie reviewers any more). They look to favorite online reviewers, aggregation sites like Rotten Tomatoes, or watch the previews and decide for themselves. I could give you my opinion of that, but we’d really be getting off-topic.Report

          • Avatar dhex says:

            “The only remaining bastions for good cultural reporting are: The New Republic, The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, and more niche journals like N plus One.”

            that’s a fair chunk of text each month, however.

            what’s happened, in part, is options. want to read about the latest in tech-death metal? there’s a blog for that. plus the high culture/low culture distinctions started to die a long time before we were born.

            my own son will be well versed in the classics, by which i mean he’s heard an awful lot of reign in blood already. 🙂Report

            • Avatar NewDealer says:

              I agree that the increase in options leads to more niches in culture overall and now people can seek out various blogs, etc.

              However I do think that one part of being a critic is exposing people to culture that they might have to seek out a bit. Yes critics need to review the mass culture stuff but they should also work as exposing agents and say “Hey, there is a Truffaut retrospective in Madison, Wisconsin and if you are in the area go see Jules and Jim and The Last Metro”.

              I also have the very unfashionable belief that it is good to nudge people into eating their “cultural spinach” and to try and watch something like The Diving Bell and the Butterfly or see a Richard Serra retrospective instead of sticking with comfort food culture. If there is value in work, there is also a value in wrestling with difficult art that encourages contemplation or different brain functions.Report

              • Avatar dhex says:

                on the one hand i don’t disagree, as i’d rather read joyce than harry potter or a lot of other stuff, but it ain’t spinach if one finds joy in it. ulysses is a comfort food book to me.

                different styles and mediums require a different way of seeing, or hearing, or engaging, but selling it as TRY TO THINK AND STUFF is a crappy way of doing it. if weird stuff is a comfort, then justin beiber is your spinach. or psywar.

                and what counts as spinach changes. jazz is spinach now, especially the more freeform you get. jazz 70 years ago (to the people who support jazz and high culture now) was a grab bag of racist and classist fears of drugs and miscegenation.

                10 years from now classic detroit techno will have discovered the same kind of academic veneer that classic pre-popularity explosion disco does now. (same bag of the intersection of race, gender, sexuality, sensuality, plus swapping pre-aids new york for post apocalyptic detroit)

                in 30 or 40 the met will have done nights of classic dubstep. skrillex at the opera.

                ugh! but life goes on.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            looney toons. Figaro figaro figaro! (which is French, believe it or not!)Report

      • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

        “I don’t recall any Republican saying that the poorer segments of society are lazy, shiftless, et cetera. ”

        “I’d tell young black men to get off Food Stamps and get a job.” Does that ring any bells?Report

  4. Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

    Allow me to say I wasn’t addressing Frank’s book specifically, which I only flipped through at the time and barely remember. Just the general trend.Report

  5. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    Great post Rose!

    I’m going to ask the dumb question here: Isn’t the basic concept of liberal policy, “What can the government do for me?”

    If so, then it should be no surprise that liberals complain about other people voting against their economic self-interest. And of course there’s the condescension there that a vote for Republicans accomplishes that because obviously conservative economic policy can only equal harm in the longrun.

    It reminds me of how some conservatives complain that blacks harm themselves by voting for Democrats who perpetuate cultural problems with dependency on government programs. That assumes that conservative-favored drug laws and lack of support for back-to-work programs have nothing to do with the problem when they absolutely do.

    I’m sure it’s not obvious that I am struggling decide which side I hate more these days.Report

    • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

      Isn’t the basic concept of liberal policy, “What can the government do for me?”


    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      I’m sure it’s not obvious that I am struggling decide which side I hate more these days.

      Sing it, brother.

      Anyway, it reminds me of how Commentary and other Republican outlets lecture Jews about how if we had any brains, rather than being motivated entirely by a sentimental attachment to FDR and the60s, we would vote Republican, because

      A. In aggregate, we pay more for social welfare programs than we get back, and
      B. Only the R’s are wholly dedicated to enabling Israel to act self-destructively.Report

    • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

      Isn’t the basic concept of liberal policy, “What can the government do for me?”

      That’s certainly not how I see it either. Rather, that I perceive there is a potential *very significant* social benefit whose *best or only* instrument of implementation in the government, then government should go ahead and try to do it.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      It’s all down to the money. If your roads are supported with MY tax dollars,a dn you say you want to reduce the federal/state taxes… well, your roads ain’t gonna be supported anymore with my tax dollars, sweetie. And without that, you hogtie your economy to low gas prices (ask Arkansas!)…
      I’m not saying conservative economic policy can only equal harm in the long run.
      Conservative fiscal policy, and conservative scientific policy, on the other hand…Report

  6. Avatar Kazzy says:


    This was a great piece. Concise, succinct, and perfectly outlining the problem in a way that made it easily identifiable.

    When I think of folks making these arguments, I think of what would happen in everyone *DID* vote in their own economic self interests… so many programs so beloved by the left would disappear. Most people don’t benefit directly* from welfare… GONE! Most people don’t benefit directly* from Medicare or Medicaid… GONE! Most people don’t benefit directly* from food assistance programs… GONE!


    * I say “directly” because there are a number of economic ways in which non-recipients DO benefit from these programs but my hunch is folk wouldn’t identify these programs as being economically beneficial to them.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      Most people don’t benefit directly* from Medicare or Medicaid… GONE!

      Most people don’t notice that they’re benefiting directly from Medicaid. About half of all Medicaid spending is now for long-term care (the vast majority of that nursing home care for the elderly). As I’ve been known to say to acquaintances who are movement conservatives, and want to see Medicaid gone: “Then it’s good that you bought a McMansion, because your mother-in-law can’t afford the nursing home, and you can’t afford to keep her in the nursing home, so she’ll be moving in upstairs and your family will be the ones helping her change her diaper.”Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      We’d lose most of the roads in this country, as they aren’t self-sufficient.
      Rural electricity would be next on the kill list.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      Most people don’t benefit directly* from Medicare or Medicaid… GONE!

      Most people do benefit from Medicare, actuarially speaking. Because there’s no cap on the Medicare tax, it’s fairly redisttributive, with those with high incomes paying much more than the expected cost of their post-65 medical care, and those with middle and low incomes paying much less than their expected costs. That is, if you tried to buy a policy that does what Medicare does (pay in until you’re 65, then get benefits for the rest of your life), it would cost significantly more than what most people pay in Medicare taxes.Report

  7. Avatar NewDealer says:

    I never liked Frank’s “What’s the Matter with Kansas argument?” because it is generally highly offensive to tell someone what is in their self-interest. It is perfectly feasible for these voters to think that Republican economic policy is in their self-interest. On an application level, I think they are wrong though. But there are probably things that I think are in my self-interest but am wrong about on an application level as well.

    That being said, I think that social conservatives are being played, at least on the national level. Let’s say the movement launched roughly at the time of Roe v. Wade. This was 40 years ago and for the most part, we are more socially liberal. Abortion is still legal, all sorts of pornography are easily available, Gay Rights are now a mainstay of politics for at least half the country. Perhaps social conservatives have control on a state level (but are still constrained by the Federal Government, there is no working around Lawrence v. Texas).

    What victories do you think social conservatives have won in the past 40 years?Report

    • Avatar KatherineMW says:

      What victories do you think social conservatives have won in the past 40 years?

      Well, they’ve managed to make gay marriage unconstitutional in several (I don’t remember how many) states. They prevented Clinton from being able to permit openly gay people to serve in the military. The general trend of public opinion becoming more pro-gay certainly isn’t due to lack of trying by Republicans.

      On abortion, I agree that if I was a Republican who voted based on that issue I’d be very displeased with the party. They had the presidency and both houses of Congress for six years, and abortion’s still less restricted in the US than it is in most of Western Europe.

      I suspect that even the most delusional Republicans recognize on some level that trying to ban porn in a world where the internet exists isn’t going to work.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Well, they’ve managed to make gay marriage unconstitutional in several (I don’t remember how many) states. They prevented Clinton from being able to permit openly gay people to serve in the military. The general trend of public opinion becoming more pro-gay certainly isn’t due to lack of trying by Republicans.

        That’s playing defense, though. Not scoring touchdowns.

        If you want to look at conservative victories, abortion is actually a good place to start. Getting an abortion is actually harder now in many parts of the country than it was a decade ago. That’s not necessarily a victory, but it’s some points on the board.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          Actually, now that I think about it, the most striking example is guns. It’s a completely different environment than it was 15 years ago.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

          Strictly speaking, “conservatism” only plays for a tie.

          In American conservatism, there’s a bit of revanchism, but only so much of a rollback is even possible: overturn Roe and the question reverts to the states as a matter of policy rather than constitutional right.

          Of the New Deal and Great Society, the only question is how to save Social Security and Medicare, not abolish them. Of the record 46.7 million now on Food Stamps, how many will one day come off them, and how many who just got on them will simply stay there is hard to say.

          As for drugs, I just don’t see it in the polls. Like illegal immigration and prostitution, I’m more of the see-no-evil persuasion, neither formally endorsing them by legalizing them* nor in favor of draconian enforcement. Me, I can live with gray areas and the use of a little wisdom: These things are only a problem when they become a problem, and you need the tools to deal with them when they do become one.

          As for fiscal conservatism, free markets, economic liberty, low taxes and a constitutionally limited state, that doesn’t even seem to be the topic here. I would say as a thought I read somewhere else, that we actually tend to vote for what we believe will be good for the other guy, not ourselves but the great suffering masses out there whom we conceive of in our mind’s eye.

          Sort of the “fellow-feeling” of the 17th century British philosophers, that empathy is part of human nature. I rather agree with this, and it’s a way of viewing the conundrum without assigning base motives to either side: One can think “fairness” via politics is the best way, one could think that creating wealth and plenty via markets and competition is the best way to achieve the same desired end—a society optimized for “human flourishing.”

          I think there are some people who vote for government handouts for themselves and some who vote for lower taxes for themselves. But I think most of us vote for what we think is best for the next guy, and for our nation as a whole. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Kansas OR the Upper West Side.

          * Yes, “legalizing” does carry a level of societal, even moral, endorsement or at least acceptance. That’s what drives a lot of the gay issue culture war—on both sides. As it’s sui generis, it’s often not very applicable to the rest of the picture. Indeed many of its advocates insist that it’s sui generis and NOT the top of a slippery slope that descends to polygamy, etc.!Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            “Yes, “legalizing” does carry a level of societal, even moral, endorsement or at least acceptance.”

            This is an argument that I used to make myself: drug legalization sends a signal, particularly to children and young people, that a given behavior is acceptable. However, as I’ve thought more about it, I’ve moved away from it for two reasons:
            1.) Broad-based legalization would be intended to signal less about the specific drugs or behavior and more about the value we played on individual freedom and autonomy. Now, as has been discussed (by yours truly!) the intended signals and the received signals are not always one in the same.
            2.) I’m a strong advocate of stronger fraud and truth-in-advertising laws. While I don’t believe in any form of mandated information (e.g., caloric counts at fast food joints), I do think that whatever information is put out there need be accurate. So, yea, we might make heroin available, but it is going to be hard to market in a way that conveys any sort of moral legitimacy because (as far as I understand it), the best thing you can say about it is, “Hey, it feels good when you first try it.”

            But, yea, I see the logic in that objection, at least vis a vis drugs. I’ve just moved to a different perspective on it.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      In a way gay marriage is a victory for social conservatives. My completely haphazard and incomplete and overly simplistic understanding of the gay rights movement is that it was born into a period where advocates and fellow travellers wanted to tear down all existing social and cultural norms (e.g. free love).

      Now, though, everyone wants to live in a Bobo Paradise.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      They’ve gotten the left to advocate for anti-blasphemy laws. That’s something.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

        Ah, but when blasphemy is intended not as an expression of contrary religious opinion under the First Amendment, but only to disturb the peace? See People v. Ruggles [NY, 1811], the last great US blasphemy case. Ruggles called Jesus a bastard and his mother a whore.


        “Surely, then, we are bound to conclude, that wicked and malicious words, writings and actions which go to vilify those gospels, continue, as at common law, to be an offence against the public peace and safety.”

        Not an offense against God, then, just against society and fellow man.Report

      • Avatar The Left says:

        I was just typing up the agenda for Chairman Soros’ JournoList meeting , and found my ears burning.

        We are to advocate for anti-blasphemy laws? Did I miss an agenda item?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Something about that Sam Bacille guy.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            I am a little unsettled by it, seeing as how people were wondering if we could arrest Terry Jones and lo and behold we found someone we can arrest…

            but Ken Popehat says that there is nothing amiss here, and that he would have been arrested even if it had been a lovey-dovey movie with kittens in it that happened to catch attention. So I am inclined to give benefit of the doubt here.Report

            • Avatar greginak says:

              SB, or whatever his name really is, clearly violated his parole. There doesn’t seem any doubt on that based on the info we have. Its pretty silly to spin that as anti-blasphemy.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I don’t think it’s silly at all. In a case like this, I’d be worried about selective prosecution (which, if based on speech, I would find highly problematic).

                As I said, in Ken Popehat I trust. He says that the violation of using the computer probably wouldn’t trigger an arrest, but the other part would. So unless something else comes in telling me (or him, for that matter) it as targeted, benefit of the doubt it is.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Ken laid it out clearly…this guy was practically begging to be arrested. I’d be surprised if he didn’t expect it, he was using an alias. he was doing pretty much what he had been convicted of. He created a huge splash with all this, he had to know his PO was going to pull his parole.

                I get the concern about selective prosecution, but this is a small data set: 1 huckster. One out of one people in this set broke their parole.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                When I first heard about the arrest, my immediate thought was… is this what would have been done if not for the content of the movie? Absent knowing that, I believe it to be perfectly reasonable to be worried about even if there was a supervised release violation that perfectly enabled law enforcement to arrest him. That’s basically what I’m saying.

                (I should add that I have some views on supervised release and parole that ordinarily have me somewhat sympathetic to liberals. The “tight leash” they are held on seems to be an invitation for selective prosecution. That was the definite impression I got when I was living in an apartment complex with early releasees.)Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                I’ve worked with a few prisoners who chose to stay in prison and finish their sentence as opposed to getting out earlier and living in a half way house where they felt more screwed with and held back by petty rules.

                I think if you take away the political hooha this guy caused he seemed to be doing the same crimes he was guilty of previously. If he wasn’t’ arrested i would think it was politically motivated.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                “I think if you take away the political hooha this guy caused he seemed to be doing the same crimes he was guilty of previously”

                I thought he was robbing banks? (though with electrons, not with a ski mask and a gun)Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                I don’t even need to read Popehat to feel OK with the guy going back to prison if he violated his parole terms. You violate parole AND get caught, you’re going back to prison. You DRAW THE ENTIRE WORLD’S ATTENTION to yourself, through any means, you are gonna get caught – because the minute word gets out that you’ve violated probation terms (and it will), they’ve got no choice but to put you back in prison (or else lose face for failing to enforce your parole terms).

                Ergo, prison.

                What I’m sayin’ is, if you’re on parole, keep a low profile, and also, you know, abide by the terms of your parole.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Hrm. Popehat is someone that I trust enough to say that this arrest might not be politically motivated if he is willing to come out and say that it isn’t politically motivated.

              But it still looks creepy as hell.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                But I’d also like to point out that Ken also said:

                “Some Western apologists, believe it or not, include Western law professors who believe that the United States Constitution, specifically including the First Amendment, should be subservient to international treaties prohibiting speech that offends the religious. I’m not given to frequent use of rhetorical flourishes like this, but: the point at which the government attempts to make the First Amendment subservient to international treaty is the point at which violence against the government is morally justified.”

                Which is why I love him and trust him enough to say that, okay, this arrest might not be politically motivated.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                Perhaps the arrest itself wasn’t politically motivated; but there are any number of whackos who intentionally violate their paroles in the most blatant way they can find, and they don’t all end up on national TV having to wear scarves and wool caps to hide their features.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I don’t think he’s hiding from liberals.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                He did his best to make Jews and Israelis the target of any violence he provoked, so I’d say he’s made a wealth of enemies.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Cowards are usually pretty good at that sort of thing.

                I don’t envy the guy, if he goes back in the can. They’ll have to keep him in solitary just to have him survive the rest of his time.Report

  8. Avatar damon says:


    “Now think of all the things you want for the world that have nothing to do with you whatsoever. Surely, unless you are navel-gazing to the point of near-sociopathy, you have desires that the world change in some way that will not benefit you at all….”

    Indeed I do. But, here’s my problem, the means. As Tod said ” If there is a parks initiative on the ballot, for example, I almost always vote for it … Any additional tax dollars I agree to are clearly going to someone improve else’s neighborhood.”

    Yes, but Tod, you’re not just committing YOUR money to the effort, you’ve obligating my money for this too. And you’ve used a tool (gov’t) to force my money from me, you didn’t persuade me that I should voluntarily give it. While I may support the park, and even might pay money to do so, I will NOT force others to pay for it.Report

    • Avatar rexknobus says:

      damon — fair enough. But let’s turn it around a bit. What are you willing to force others to pay for? What are you willing to use the “tool (gov’t)” to force me to pay for? (Possible answers: Defense; Police; Nothing; etc.)

      It seems to me that unless you answer “Nothing,” then you are in the same gray area of debate that most of the rest of us inhabit.

      “…now we are merely haggling over the price.”Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

        I hate the idea of consent as it is used in this argument:

        “…you’re not just committing YOUR money to the effort, you’re obligating my money for this too.”

        Yes, that’s right, we’re using our system of government which we’ve had for 200+ years to tax you for things you don’t want to pay for, just as we’re doing the same thing to me for things that I don’t want to pay for, because the system isn’t designed to require our specific consent for spending. It was never worried about the issue of consent. It assumes consent from those that continue to stay in the country. That’s the system though; it’s not Tod (or me, or you, or whatever).Report

      • Avatar damon says:


        • Avatar damon says:

          @ Sam,

          It’s not the consent that’s the problem; it’s the use of force. There is no moral difference between you mugging me on the street for my cash or voting for someone who will impose a tax on me. Both are backed up with the threat of violence/force if I resist. The rest of your argument falls into the “my country, love it or leave it” BS.Report

          • Avatar rexknobus says:

            damon – can this be re-phrased as “the use of force is always immoral”?Report

          • Avatar Liberty60 says:

            There’s no difference between you driving on our roads without paying taxes, and mugging me for my wallet.Report

            • Avatar damon says:

              Actually, there is. If I drove on public roads and didn’t pay taxes, I would be a “free rider”. I would benefit from the use of the road while not paying for it. In this, I am committing no act of violence. I’m not forcing you to allow me to drive on your road. However, mugging you for your wallet is an act of force/violence.Report

          • Avatar Sam says:


            I genuinely disagree with you. There is a vast moral difference between me mugging you (no consent whatsoever) and you voluntarily living in a nation with a government whose structures you’re fully aware of. Also, are you proposing an anarchist redesign of our nation wherein taxation is outlawed? Because you didn’t answer the very reasonable asking of that question above.Report

            • Avatar damon says:

              Well, we’ll have to disagree then as I see no difference.

              But I have to take issue with this concept that I’ve consented to certain gov’t structures. IIRC, the majority of the general population was against TARP and yet it was passed, so using that as just one example, how can you say that people living in this country “consent” to those gov’t structures when they were manifestly against it and it still was passed by our “leaders”?

              Now, as to your question about whether or not I’m proposing an “anarchist redesign”, I’m not making any proposals.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      Damon takes the “no difference” argument further than I’m willing to (I think we have to think seriously about collective action and free riding problems as at least a potential justification for forcing people to contribute to some public works). But, talking to the liberals here, let’s assume you all and I are in agreement on that, and let me ask you if the following statement by Damon has any significance resonance to you or whether it just doesn’t really sound meaningful to you at all?

      Yes, but Tod, you’re not just committing YOUR money to the effort, you’ve obligating my money for this too. And you’ve used a tool (gov’t) to force my money from me, you didn’t persuade me that I should voluntarily give it. While I may support the park, and even might pay money to do so, I will NOT force others to pay for it.Report

      • Avatar Liberty60 says:

        I am thinking of the exchange Roger and I had about voluntary vs coercive, and how he argued for a minimalist definition of coercion.
        As in, when you freely engage in a contract, you surrender the claim to coercion when you are called upon to honor the terms of that contract, however onerouos they may turn out to be.

        I can actually accept that.

        But I would argue likewise, that citizenship is an implied contract; as a citizen of your city, state, and country, you have implicitly agreed to honor the results of elections, however onerous that may be, within of course the limits set forth in the Constitution.

        So asking for specific agreement to each and every requirement, or demanding that they be voluntary, is analgous to objecting to the latest fee increase on my credit card; its renegotiating the terms of the contract after the fact.

        I know this definition would irk some people, with its “assumed to have agreed” part. But I just don’t see how any modern society could possible operate any other way.
        Actual functioning examples to the contrary would be a pretty strong argument.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:


          Respectfully, whether we ought to go along when others commit our wallets to public works is not the question. The question is whether Damon’s hesitancy to commit other people’s wallets resonates at all?Report

          • Avatar Liberty60 says:

            I know its pretty easy to argue past each other here, and we have certainly done that a fair bit.
            So I guess I am not grasping what is meant by “resonate”- or more specifically, what argument is being presented, if not the argument against the coercive nature of taxation.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              That’s a fair question. I’ll see if I can be clearer.

              For the sake of argument I totally accept, without objection, your claim that we must “honor the results of elections”; that if a majority of my fellow citizens vote to tax ourselves for some public works project, I have a duty to accept that and pay my share. So I’m not arguing the “pay up” side of the issue.

              But what about the “ask others to pay” side of the issue? When you think about some potential public project–say one that does not yet exist but could, like a new sports arena, a new theater for the high school, a fountain in the park, etc., etc.–do you ever, as part of your thinking about whether to support the issue say, “Is it right in this case that I insist that those who don’t agree with me about the value of the project also be forced to pay for it?” Does the thought ever even occur to you?

              Here’s a real world example. Most cities have an annual festival. One city I lived in had trouble paying for it–it was a net cost to the public purse–and considered shutting it down. I loved the festival and wanted it to continue. Assuming all citizens had an iron-clad duty to fund it if I persuaded a majority to vote for continued public funding, is it proper for me to try to require the minority to continue paying for it? Should I at least ask the question of whether it’s proper?

              Does asking oneself that question make sense to you, or does it seem non-sensical? Is it something that ever enters your thinking on policy issues, or does it never enter your thinking?Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                No, it’s a perfectly valid question. Sometimes it even works, using other forms of force rather than the police (societal pressure, throwing parties, etc).

                We don’t always have to go through the government. In fact, it’s probably a pretty damn stupid thing to rely on for everything. I support folks like ACORN, who basically say “okay, we’ll get the government to pay for SOME, and then we’ll get the crazy libs (and concerned others) to pay for the REST”

                Like most liberals, I’m more about “Okay, how do we get the best outcome”, not about “how does the Gov’t get the best outcome”Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                “Is it right in this case that I insist that those who don’t agree with me about the value of the project also be forced to pay for it?” Does the thought ever even occur to you?

                Yes, that thought occurs to me. I readily grant that most people probably don’t think about this, in these terms.

                Most often, of course, what also occurs to me (due to the corollary there)… is that many of the people I disagree with don’t give two flying figs about forcing me to pay for things they want, so that thought is tempered accordingly.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                You’re not as definitely “liberal” as a lot of other commenters here, though, right? I don’t think you’re as libertarian as, say, oh, I don’t know…um, me, but you have a libertarianish bent?

                I’m sort of trying to feel out whether there’s a difference between liberals and libertarians here.Report

              • Avatar rexknobus says:

                It’s basically politics that we are talking about, right? We are not individual creatures who subsist by scraping grubs from under rocks — we have decided as a species, and even as individuals, to live in groups: cultures, or societies, or tribes, or neighborhoods, or families, or countries, whatever. We don’t go it alone. If folks like Damon feel “mugged” by taxes, there are wilderness areas out there filled with grubs and rocks — but they never seem to leave here to go there and live free.

                So, I’m content to say that we as humans pretty much agree to be part of something beyond ourselves, call it what you will. And since there is no possibility of any two, or more, human beings achieving an absolute agreement about all eventualities that come along, we construct ways to talk about them. Compromise, back-scratching, nit-picking, agreements. Politics, if you like. Civilization, if you will.

                Now we’ve gotten into the gray area of argumentation where no one agrees totally with anyone else, and yet we still must work together to live in nice houses and be taught to read our nice books. Disagreements will abound. Let’s say I don’t like the idea of your annual festival to honor my town. But my neighbor says “It’s a lovely town and I want my kids to appreciate its history.” And the local business community or chamber of commerce says, “A festival will put us on the map and make us all better off.” And the veteran’s league says, “We need a parade to honor their service.” And I say, “I disagree with this expenditure, given that the bathrooms in the school need servicing.”

                Argue a bit, some signs appear on lawns, citizens concerned enough go to a polling place and voila, I’m taxed for the festival. I still don’t agree, but life continues apace.

                And this happens, locally and globally, a whole heck of a lot of times and, if we do it right, the aggregate of all of those decisions works more to our benefit than not.

                So as long as it is working in the Big Picture, then basically I can say, “Damon, you innocent young thing, you are not being mugged. You functioning as a part of a larger entity which has for more benefits to you that liabilities.”

                And for heaven’s sake, I hope you never get mugged and learn the difference between that misfortune and paying your taxes.Report

      • Avatar Sam says:

        It has no resonance to me whatsoever, if only because this argument is selectively applied again and again and again by conservatives who don’t like paying for welfare programs, but have no problem demanding that I pay for wars. The only people who can reasonably make this arguments are anarchists who don’t believe in either taxation or the state; everybody else is simply complaining about government not bending exactly to their own wishes. Boo hoo.

        Meanwhile: consent is an issue here. I struggle to believe that somebody hasn’t consented to our system of government if they’re voluntarily remaining in the country, if they’re voluntarily paying their taxation, if they’re voluntarily participating in our economy. I really don’t care if they’re putting on a tricorner hat and screaming about liberty (!!1!) because all of their actions point to consent to the system.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          The only people who can reasonably make this arguments are anarchists who don’t believe in either taxation or the state

          Doesn’t that imply that nobody can possibly have a principled standard for what types of projects it’s legitimate to commit other people’s money to and what types it’s not?

          And can we please set aside the consent issue? That’s not what I’m asking about. I could go on at length with a response to your and Liberty’s claim that remaining in the country mean I consent, but that’s a political philosophy thicket I don’t want to enter. I just want to find out if the idea of being reluctant to commit other people’s money to our own favored project is something liberals seriously consider or not.Report

          • Avatar Liberty60 says:

            I am certainly on board with the notion that committing tax money is a serious matter, and should only be done when there is a sufficient and compelling need.

            It seems so commonsensical a notion, I am wondering what the counterargument could possibly be- or if there is a question lurking behind the question.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              But “sufficient and compelling need” is still not really the question. The question is, on issues that you personally find compelling, do you ever say to yourself, “is it right for me to demand contributions from those who disagree with me about how compelling this is?”

              There’s no hidden question there, but you keep sliding off to the side of it. It seems to me that means either I’m not doing a good job of making the question clear or in fact the question is foreign enough to you that you can’t quite grok its relevance.Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                I cheerfully admit to not quite grasping it.
                To answer the question:

                “[on issues that Liberty60 personally finds compelling] is it right for me to demand contributions from those who disagree with me about how compelling this is?”

                I would answer firmly, NO. That would be unfair to place my personal policy wishes as public law.

                Does this ever happen, though? When have one single persons compelling issues ever been able to be enacted?Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            Remaining in the country does mean you consent.
            How serious you are about an election can be measured by how many backup plans you have in case you lose.
            Well, that and how evul the other side is.Report

          • Avatar Sam says:

            It not only implies it: it flatly states it.

            As for the idea entering my head, it does, occasionally, but then I dismiss it, because if we start saying “We can tax to pay for this but not for that!” then our national politics will somehow become even more insufferable than they already are.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              I can’t tell you how disturbing I find both those ideas. I won’t argue, though; I’ll just leave it at noting deep disagreement.Report

              • Avatar Sam says:

                What disturbs you? I’m happy to talk this out.

                Or perhaps, what do you deeply disagree about?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                I literally don’t have time. I have class in 3 minutes, then it’s off to pick up kids, watching a marching band competition this evening, then off to New Mexico for 4 days. So just in a nutshell, not every political philosopher is going to agree that being a member of society means you’ve consented to all they might do, and a part of the problem there is that we don’t actually have ready choices about opting out. And to say that we can’t have meaningful standards about what it’s legitimate–or at least appropriate–to ask others to pay for and what’s not without making our politics “even more insufferable” sounds to me like saying we shouldn’t talk about fundamental, constitutional-level, values and rules, but just saying “everything goes, and whatever a majority wants to make a majority pay for is inherently justified.”

                I’m sure others know the arguments very well, if they want to take it up.Report

              • Avatar Sam says:

                We can have debates about when things are and aren’t appropriate, but those are elections. That’s how it works within this system. Whether or not I disagree with these realities is beside the point; I’m not willing to pay the cost to pull up anchor and sail away to somewhere else.

                As for the notion of our politics becoming more insufferable: I don’t want to listen to politicians say, “It’s totally fine to make peace loving people pay for war that they abhor, but don’t you dare extend any social welfare to that guy over there, because that is illegitimate and I don’t consent!” It’s awful enough when we have to endure them saying so implicitly.Report

              • Avatar BobbyC says:

                I’ll attempt a stand-in for James Hanley, libertarian.

                Your account on interest-group politics is true enough. That’s not the disagreement here. I can agree with you that it is more than annoying to hear Republicans rant about govt spending when it’s done by the left, but treating their uses of govt (eg wars) as above reproach. I don’t think James, me, or many libertarians would disagree about that.

                What a classical liberal would deeply disagree about here is that you seem to be throwing out the whole notion of limited govt, and deciding that it’s all just power relationships and people should not reflect on whether there are proper and improper uses of govt. In your words, someone who thinks that under a system of limited govt, certain uses of govt should be prohibited is “simply complaining about govt not bending exactly to their own wishes.” Now maybe you don’t mean that, but that’s what is disturbing, viz the idea that govt is just a tool of the majority, unchecked by any consideration by political participants about the proper role of govt.

                It’s one thing to dismiss political opponents who you believe are disingenuous, but it’s quite another to dismiss the whole notion of limited govt.Report

              • Avatar Sam says:

                Well, I don’t believe in rights either, if that gets us anywhere.Report

              • Avatar BobbyC says:

                Look, I actually probably agree with you more than you may realize. At the end of the day, the world consists of our actions, our intentions, our beliefs, and stuff. I think of notions of liberty and limited govt are useful ways of organizing society so that it’s isn’t the nasty grab-a-thon that you describe. If everyone decides to be nihilists and anti-social, then such ideas are just that, ideas.

                Do you consider yourself a nihilist? (I just mean it literally, not as an effort to discredit you)Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

                Obligations? I don’t believe in any of that. It’s a bunch of nonsense which does not align with the actual track of human history. People have “rights” when majorities (or those in power) decide that they do. Ask gays living in Alabama how that “right to marry” is working out for them.* From that alone we know that “rights” aren’t inherent to the individual. But even then, the “rights” that we do have are often constricted and constrained by various legal and realistic wrangling.

                *please note: there are thousands of other examples I could have gone withReport

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

                As for the idea of being a nihilist: no. I don’t identify with any of that nonsense. But the arc of human history doesn’t suggest the existence of rights, either natural or human. It suggests the existence of brutal human beings with guns and power. If a concept of rights helps to control those brutal human beings, so much the better, but that’s just a concept being used as a restraint, not evidence of a greater truth.Report

              • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

                I’m not 100% sure rights exist. But simply because people have not respected rights is no reason to infer that they don’t exist.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:


                Those entail duties, sure, but that’s a long ways from what you think of as rights. Even a purely constructed conception of social and interpersonal obligations can entail duties. If we identify that nexus with rights, well, then, that’s what we identify them as.Report

              • Avatar BobbyC says:

                So you believe some things have value, but people don’t have rights. Fine by me … I’m pretty much a realist on such issues as well … when it comes down to it, there are actions and consequences. Talk of rights is convenient in that it defines what I think are legitimate / good / acceptable ways for humans to interact. One (eg Roger) could call that consequentialist thinking, but then again, I would justify it on more emotional / intuitive as opposed to utilitarian grounds.

                But to get back to James’s question, whether you believe in rights or not, it’s unclear to me why you reject thinking beyond self-interest when it comes to policy choices (do you?). James asked whether the imposition of govt on others who disagree with you is a concern that impacts your policy preferences. You were a big no to that. It seems to me that is highly anti-social, like being a bad person to be in a club with. Maybe that’s not surprising if you don’t believe in rights. I may agree as a philosophical matter about the non-reality of rights but still try to behave like a generally social sort of fellow when in a setting that calls for some concern for one’s fellow man. Why isn’t using govt such a setting?Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

                @Rose – how far has my right to life gotten me if I’ve been murdered? Not very far I’d wager, and its pretty much useless to me after I’m dead. If the concept stops the other guy from pulling the trigger? Awesome. But that’s the concept and that’s in his head and reflective only of a decision he’s making and reflective of what he values. That doesn’t indicate the existence of a right itself.Report

              • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

                @Sam. “But that’s the concept and that’s in his head and reflective only of a decision he’s making and reflective of what he values. That doesn’t indicate the existence of a right itself.” Totally agreed. Could be a flase belief. However, if he did pull the trigger, that is also not evidence that the right does not exist. There is nothing about the concept of rights that says they are magic things that WILL protect you from harm. They would just be a property you have such that people shouldn’t harm you no matter what.

                What the (potential) murderer does or does not do, whatever he does or does not believe, whatever he does or does not consider reasons, says nothing about whether rights really exist.Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:


                If they don’t matter at the precise moments when they’re most needed, I continue to remain hugely suspicious about their existence at all.Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                Can’t speak for Sam, but it seems to me that we DO reflect, quite a bit, on the proper and improper uses of gov’t.
                And I would never suggest that there is a single pat and tidy answer; (e.g., should tax dollars pay for abortions? For parks? For drone strikes? etc.)
                And I would agree that gov’t should never be “just a tool of the majority, unchecked by any consideration by political participants about the proper role of govt.”

                But we do have currently a system of checks and limitations that allow consideration of the minority participants.Report

              • Avatar switters says:


                As someone who is inclined to agree with Sam, although perhaps not so strenuously, that staying in this country and taking advantage of those advantages of US citizenship that you happen to find desirable implies some measure of consent to working within its bounds and playing by the rules, whatever they may be, I’ll admit that I’ve not given it a sufficient amount of thought to feel comfortable declaring it so.

                That being the case, I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          There are an awful lot of people in the country right now who can’t afford to move STATES, let alone Countries!!
          Mises would have a lot to say about them dragging down our economy…Report

          • Avatar BobbyC says:

            The Mises reference is apt. Mises would see the whole project of having divided up the whole earth into nations as deeply bad for humans. Instead of allowing human migrations from impoverished areas to prosperous ones, we’ve drawn up lines and now we have all the problems inherent in say Israel bordering Palestine with huge economic inequality but little migration. If you look at it like a zoologist, we’ve sort of caged up different groups, allowed economic conditions to vary without offsetting human migration, yet insisted on feeding and subsidizing poor areas to keep them populous … about the worst outcome if you sincerely care about human suffering.

            At least Sam and Mitt can agree that the Palestinians consent to being poor. I’ll disagree happily with both.Report

          • Avatar damon says:

            Nice to see that the concept of force got a discussion on this site. It generally doesn’t. Folks tend to use the love it or leave it arguement, which was used here too.

            Good discussion. I’m sure no one’s changed their mind. 🙂Report

            • Avatar Sam says:


              While you’re free to describe my arguments however you’d like, I don’t think it is entirely unreasonable to question the veracity of those who claim to deny their consent, especially when they’re unwilling to pay any of the costs that come along with withholding it.Report

        • Avatar BobbyC says:

          Wow … seems to me this is the ultimate realist position about govt … it’s a knife fight for you and you intend to wield your knife as expertly as possible, with a nod to the pacifist anarchists who have legitimately opted out. I’m cynical about govt, but not that cynical!

          As for your account of consent, it’s worthy of a Todd Akin prize for justifying violence on other persons.Report

          • Avatar Sam says:

            Are you referencing me?Report

            • Avatar BobbyC says:

              Yes, I was.Report

              • Avatar Sam says:

                I’m not sure I’ve justified violence against other people so much as recognized that it regularly occurs. Whatever I might personally believe about how governments ought to function hardly seems to matter.Report

              • Avatar BobbyC says:

                I was responding to the part where you said, paraphrasing, that it doesn’t matter if someone is shouting about liberty and objecting to govt policies which are imposed on them by the threat of force, because their refusal to find a new country amounts to consent. It’s as if taxation is “so-called mandatory taxation” for you, is people asking for it by being in the country. The only sense in which I consent to taxation is that I choose to comply voluntarily, but I only do so because I believe in the consequences of non-compliance and prefer to pay the taxes vs leaving the country. That’s quite different from me signing a contract with you or some other non-govt actor. You get the Todd Akin prize for justifying violence on other persons, because you’re saying that when Tea Party types say no, it means yes, because they were asking for it. Hogwash.

                Is there no difference between consent and allowing something to occur? Of course there is! Do the Palestinians consent to being in their mess because they haven’t left for somewhere else? I think you are doing some violence to the word consent!Report

  9. I ALSO find this attitude infuriating from the Left.Report

  10. Avatar MaxL says:

    I wonder if it’s not so much economic self interest that is driving these liberal conversations but more that liberal debates about government are usually about policy. That sort of argument is better regarded by other liberals when empirical evidence is used to strengthen the point (this is just my experience, your mileage may vary). .

    That policy conversation always sounds a lot like economics even if it doesn’t set out to be about economic self interest. I think I have seen a couple posts here on LoOG lately about progressives and empiricism, scientific method etc… and there was some discussion earlier this summer about the liberal tendency for all political debate to devolve into wonkiness. I have a feeling that it’s that sort of detached view of politics as policy that is both infuriating and economic-y sounding at the same time.

    And for what it’s worth, I am almost certain I am a liberal because the tendency of libertarian debate to devolve into almost pure theory and conservative debate to end up as a discussion of markets and rules as morality grates me even more than know it all college hippies with their graphs and charts.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer says:

      My fellow liberals often seem more comfortable about producing white papers and doing research than going out and talking to voters. There is a certain technocracy streak that I find disconcerting as if the Rhee and Ygelias types would like to just produce a peer-reviewed white paper that says “X is the best policy and we should enact it” and then have the voters say okay.

      I think these people are honest and sincere in their desire to find good policy but they seem to find retail politics distasteful like an old law professor might find the study of law to be divine but the actual practice of law to be vulgar. Many of the more wonky liberals seem to not always understand that good policy is not necessarily good politics.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Very well said, ND. But I’m very sympathetic to their position: policy is interesting and intellectually stimulating, whereas politics involves dealing with people, which is rarely better than irritating and almost never intellectually stimulating.Report

        • Avatar NewDealer says:

          Fair enough and I largely agree that policy can be interesting and intellectually stimulating.

          However we live in a representative democracy and the other (and possibly most important) half of the equation is going out and doing retail politics. You can’t enact policy if you keep losing elections.

          I will add that I have no desire to run for political office ever so this is a big fat hypocrisy on my point.

          There is also the fact that I am not a neo-liberal which makes me a bit less than sympathetic to the Rhee’s and Matt Y’s of the world from time to time. Matt Y is not one of my bloggers and I don’t understand how he became a rising star blogger or Andrew Sullivan’s voice of braveness for speaking “truth to power.”Report

          • Avatar Liberty60 says:

            I mentioned once about my distate for the NPR/ Yglesias sort of liberalism, that was detached from economic populism.
            I agree with the proposition that social values are as valid as economic ones to motivate voters; thus affluent liberals.Report

            • Avatar NewDealer says:

              Interestingly I do like NPR.

              The problem is that there seems to be an unending fascination with being “wonky” and too clever by half instead of understanding the real wants and needs of people. Everyone is looking at graphs and charts because people are just too darn contradictory and messy

              Ygesias seems to see deregulation as an axiomatic good. Like many neo-liberals, he would like to see it combined with a welfare state but this is not happening. I am also not sure whether deregulation is a natural good. Plus a private entity will just come in to fill the role previously done by government. I am not sure why private Barber licensing is better than government licensing.

              I think that too many wealthy people on the left and the right live disconnected and in bubbles. The liberal variant are the Rhees and Yglesias’ of the world. They grew up in a largely parallel universe of private school or super-good wealthy suburban public schools. They attend TED talks which amount to nothing more than a puppy pat on the head while avoiding really hard questions on income inequality.Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                Chris Hayes illustrates this pretty well in his book Twilight of The Elites.

                NPR isn’t snobbish as some claim; its just parochial in its cultural references and touchstones. Parochial in region, class, and increasingly, generation. It always sounds aimed at the dad in Family Ties.

                I also think that liberalism will not be a dominant force in America until we capture the Sarah Palin demographic. And we sure as hell won’t do that with another white paper.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                For better or for worse, I am a large fan of most of those NPR cultural references and touchstones. Much of the culture I consume is baseline NPR to the more avant-garde. If anything, Matt Y is possibly more culturally populist than me.

                The second point is well taken though especially the white paper part.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Here’s where it gets tricky: a non-trivial number of people who lean left do so in part in opposition to the Sarah Palin demographic. I don’t mean the governor, or even the policies her demographics support (necessarily – though there are potential conflicts there, too), but rather the social hierarchy.Report

              • Avatar BobbyC says:

                My view on the Sarah Palin demo is that issues need to be framed for them as moral issues. Really, I think that about all Americans honestly, or at least the ones in flyover country. Scratch that – all of them. Maybe not the Russian immigrants. Most all of them.

                If Romney wants to win the debate on Wed, he better talk about why President Obama’s policies are morally wrong – he needs to get people to think that it’s wrong not to reform Social Security, wrong to have large deficit, wrong to put off fiscal reform. It’s a big lift.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I am not sure why private Barber licensing is better than government licensing.

                Because it’s advisory rather than mandatory, meaning it doesn’t create high barriers to entry. A person can still set up as a barber, they just can’t claim they are approved by the National Council on Hirsutology Standards, and any customer willing to take the risk of a bad haircut (at what is almost certainly going to be a lower fee than for the “licensed” (actually certified) barber). This doesn’t keep out people who can’t afford up front to pay for the license that is mandatory in a government-run licensing system.

                That doesn’t mean there’d necessarily be no regulations. It would be wholly appropriate to require them to be subject to a set of workplace safety standards (who cares about bad haircuts–I’m worried about getting nicked with bacteria-laden scissors). Those are a separate issue from the licensing itself.

                We had lots of debate a while back about inequality and opportunity. Licensing is an area where government-created barriers to entry detail economic opportunities. It ends up being an area where liberals end up shooting themselves in the foot on one issue they care about (opportunity) because they are emphasizing another issues they care about (consumer protection). The two issues aren’t inherently mutually exclusive at all, but the technique for the latter that liberals so often favor–licensing–makes them at least partially so.

                To clarify that last part, I’m not critiquing liberals’ goals at all; just the technical methods they favor for pursuing that one particular goal.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                My brother takes a lot of dancing classes. There is no regulating body for this but there is a private association whose name I can’t recall. From what my brother tells me, dance studios that do not have the private associations badge of approval fold quickly because potential and actual students look for association approval as somewhat of a short-hand for at quality.

                I imagine the same would be true in many other industries. So in the end it becomes the same thing.

                Perhaps barber was too low an example. How about esthecians who do things like waxing and chemical peels? This stuff can cause physical injury if done incorrectly. I would say that regulating physical safety is a traditional police power.

                In the end consumer protection probably ranks a bit higher for me than opportunity if needing to make a judgment call though.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:


            Well, I was actually poking a bit of fun at myself. I wholly agreed with your post, intellectually. On a personal level, I wholly identify with the wonks who don’t want to talk to actual real live humans. So of course you can tell just how politically effective I am.Report

      • Avatar MaxL says:

        Exactly so. And OP is absolutely right that nobody ever changed their mind about a policy by being told their position was wrong and we know better what’s good for you. All evidence shows the opposite to be true – that when shown information contrary to a held belief, most people simply harden their support for the original position. (hmm that wonky evidence thing is like a tic, huh?)

        One of the things that frustrates me is the inability of liberals to explain their policies in a way that engages voters in a way other than “The most effective policy is X.” For example, the ACA could very easily have been explained as a way for entrepreneurs to set off on their own without fearing for the health of their family. Mitt Romney was certainly smart to sell MassCare as amounting to taking personal responsibility for one’s health.

        I agree completely with the OP and your reply above that liberals make a grave mistake thinking that politics is a rational competition of policy ideas. I am not sure which is the cart and which the horse, though: does the taste for detached, wonky debate predispose you to being liberal, or is it a habit that comes from familiarity?Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          detached wonky debate was a republican thing for years upon years.
          then all the cool republicans became democrats.Report

        • Avatar NewDealer says:

          Possibly a bit of both but largely a habit that comes with familiarity.

          I am fairly academically oriented but more in an arts, history, and humanities way. I love hitting the stacks but not for the ability to produce white papers with charts and graphs. But I am still a liberal.

          Your argument for ACA is good but I prefer a more moral argument on a right to health care as a basic fact of human dignity and decency. To me universal healthcare is a moral and ethical issue, not a cost/economic one.Report

          • Avatar MaxL says:

            That was the argument that worked for me to, but I think I had to back into it: If it’s not a right, then what is it? A privilege? If I recall correctly, that was exactly how Obama framed it in one of his debates with Hilary Clinton. From my limited experience, that argument falls flat with my more conservative friends.

            Explaining ACA as a cost control/economics measure is the worst way of all (death panels! rationing! – regardless of the fact that insurance companies deny coverage all the time), and any sort of argument requiring a description of pooled risk exploded the personal responsibility angle, too. Better to just go with “No Free Riders.” Though all of those arguments are true, there is an art to it that some understand but liberals need to be taught, apparently.Report

        • Avatar BobbyC says:

          This reminds me of how Christopher Hitchens described the two American political parties: (paraphrasing since I cannot find the quote) “one party believes in a revealed truth written down 2000 yrs ago and the other believes in whatever three out of five experts say.”

          A colleague recently described Congressional Republicans thus while arguing that President Obama will find it hard to negotiate tax cuts even after we go off the fiscal cliff: “The South Carolina delegation was the critical vote on passing funding for children’s health insurance. So they went into the Congressional chapel and prayed on it for 40 min, then they came out and said that God wants them to vote against giving health insurance to little kids. That’s who the Congressional Republicans are.”Report

  11. Avatar James Hanley says:

    when liberals are stunned…by conservatives’ continuing interest in voting against their own economic interest. The working assumption seems to be that to vote for any reason other than economic self-interest is to be somehow bamboozled. Or at least, clearly irrational.

    Praise be upon you, Rose. I’m so sick of the “against their self interest” line, especially coming from those liberals who claim that money isn’t everything, and we should focus more on the Things That Really MatterTM. For God’s sake, if I was pro-life, thought drugs were a scourge on society, believed the world really needs a hegemon to keep (relative) peace (and thought my country just might do a better job of that than Russia), then the Democrats offer me a few more dollars in my pocket at the end of the year, what the hell kind of person would I be to vote for the cash?

    As much as a liberal might despise that person’s beliefs, they ought to be able to appreciate a person for not selling out their beliefs for a fistful of dollars.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      I think the thought process of the people who talk about voting against your self interest is, in essence this: rich folk will vote (and fund) for candidates whose policies will make them richer, so if poor people don’t do the same, the rich will continue to get ahead/fuck poor people over. And there’s something to that. I mean, if rich people keep making sure they get richer through political action (not necessarily voting), and poor people don’t, then poor people will get the short shrift, politically while the rich people get richer. Distracting poor people from this reality by creating and exploiting culture war conflicts can certainly facilitate this.

      That said, there’s something weird about thinking about this in terms of rationality. Though to the extent that reason is involved, it is reason that we created.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Distracting poor people from this reality by creating and exploiting culture war conflicts can certainly facilitate this.

        There’s some real condescension there. As much as I despise conservatives’ position on culture war issues, that’s real important stuff to real live people. It look like manipulation and exploitation to folks on the other side, but that doesn’t mean it really is. There’s a big element of “false consciousness” lurking in there, I think, and I’ve always had huge problems with that concept; not so much that it’s a non-feasible concept, but just that nobody can ever tell from an external position whether that’s what’s happening inside another person’s head or not.Report

        • Avatar dhex says:

          unfortunately (because i don’t care for it either) false consciousness works really well with this line of argument – if i know what’s good for you, and i’m 100% certain i’m right, but you keep listening to someone else, clearly they’re able to manipulate your beliefs entirely. and if you claim your beliefs are right and mine are wrong, and mine are 100% true, that’s just further proof of your delusion.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          James, when I vote in national or statewide elections, I vote primarily based on (in no particular order) women’s rights, gay rights, war, and labor, health care, only the last two of which could be considered economic issues. So I have no problem with people voting based on their values, because when I do vote, I tend to vote based on my values, and not solely on economic interest (which, of course, expresses values itself). So I don’t mean to suggest that people shouldn’t vote based on their values. I don’t even mean that they shouldn’t vote Republican (it’s not as though the Democrats aren’t in bed with the people with money too). What’s more, I’m not even talking about voting exclusively, or even primarily. Voting is only one form of (particularly ineffective, as Jason keeps reminding us) political action.

          If you don’t want to think about it in Marxist terms like “false consciousness” (which, I’d say, is only part of the story, though it is part of the story), think of it like this: most of what goes on at the national and even the state level in terms of law and policy-making goes on outside of the gaze of most Americans. The people who drive much of that law and policy-making are the people with money (lots of money). They are working, for the most part (though not entirely: see Chick-Fil-A’s head honcho) to make more money. One way to keep making more money is to ensure that the law and policy-making that makes more money stays outside of the gaze of most Americans, because they’re often getting fucked by those policies. And one way to ensure that it stays outside of their gaze is to make them focus on other things, like culture war issues, some of which (sharia law, anyone?) are entirely manufactured. And Democrats do this too.

          Is this condescending? Maybe. All it’s really saying is that the process of law and policy-making is really complex, there’s a shitload of it, and we (without big money) have very little influence on it, and it’s in the best interest of big money to make sure it stays that way.Report

        • Avatar BobbyC says:

          James, I hear you and have similar suspicions when people want to go around telling others what is good for them. But you have to admit that there is some merit to the notion that cynical political operatives know how to manipulate issues to drive turnout. I agree there is the identification problem that you mention, but often with hindsight we can see that the govt or a party used manipulative tactics to create a short-term shift in the perspective and intensity of feeling on particular issues. Take the selling of the Iraq War – you could argue that the country was legitimately pro-war and scared and then became less interested after it went badly. I think with hindsight we can look at the spike in US opinion based on the manipulation of the media and conclude that it was manufactured consent.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      … yeah. If you’d rather go back to dirt roads and sad irons… really, then you’re making an intelligent choice.
      Koz would probably says “Hell Yes! Local Government Rulez!”
      And that’s fine.

      I just doubt most uneducated folk have such perspicacity.Report

    • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

      For God’s sake, if I was pro-life, thought drugs were a scourge on society, believed the world really needs a hegemon to keep (relative) peace (and thought my country just might do a better job of that than Russia), then the Democrats offer me a few more dollars in my pocket at the end of the year, what the hell kind of person would I be to vote for the cash?

      A libertarian?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Sorry, Mike, that one didn’t even elicit a chuckle. You must be having an off day.

        But you still belie Sturgeon’s Law.Report

  12. Avatar Kim says:

    My economic interests hinged on the last election too.Report

  13. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Voting has little to do with values. These choices aren’t amenable to Values Choices any more than Romance can be reduced to the Birds and the Bees. Voters don’t choose values. They choose candidates. Those voters know they’re getting a pig in a poke. This is a republic: we grant mandate to our elected officials for set terms. The candidates make all sorts of promises, hoping to win the affections of the soi-disant Values Voters, but these promises are nothing more than a pick-up artiste working a bar.

    Liberals start with the premise of a More Perfect Union. If we hold out hopes for a greener planet, a world where everyone has a home, where children get a decent education: this arises from an understanding of the consequences of not taking action to deal with desertification and turtles entangled in six-pack rings and illiteracy and cholera in refugee camps.

    We have been damned as either idealists or Chicken Little-s since time immemorial, depending on the tenor of our messages. Naturally, when our predictions come to pass, when unregulated markets shit themselves and invasions go disastrously wrong, we may always rely on those who called us Idealists to forget they ever denied the truth of our predictions or the axioms which led us to make them. Being a Liberal is tougher. Our causes are embodied in manifestly awful people: prisoners, poor people and victims of prejudice. You know, the Moocher Class.

    I see no reason to give the Conservatives an inch of ground on pro-life or anti-gay, any more than we’d give a racist or misogynist any ground here, either. I have laid out why we shouldn’t in the previous paragraph. Furthermore, I have laid out the grounds for considering the choice of a candidate to be a fundamentally irrational choice, no different than romance. Men do not choose wide-hipped women because they have better odds of surviving childbirth and nobody’s choosing either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney on the basis of what he’ll do for this country or for their economic bottom line. Attempting to extrapolate voter behaviour on the basis of rational choice is just bad anthropology.

    Deep down, we want someone we like to lead this country. Birds of a feather flock together and so will pigs and swine. Rats and mice will have their choice and so will I have mine.Report

    • Avatar BobbyC says:

      Very nice … of course there are some people who are voting Romney to keep their tax rates in place … and giving him money as well … funding a political candidate, I think you’d agree, isn’t exactly the romance you describe … it’s not even like a marriage with a prenup … it’s more like designing an ad campaign for a product that you’d like to see succeed when it hits the shelves … and that can be because you are a true believer or a businessman, as the case may be.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        That’s all true, BobbyC. I did put that bit in the first para about the candidates making all sorts of promises, hoping to win the affections of the soi-disant Values Voters. But there’s also that Pig in a Poke aspect to these candidate: they make promises but have trouble keeping them.

        An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought. Few are they in Washington who Stay Bought.Report

        • Avatar BobbyC says:

          Part of the problem it seems to me is that no decent, highly capable American should become a politician. There’s never a shortage of people willing to run for office, and surely some of them are true believers making a career mistake, but the most talented people in society should steer clear of public office. That’s probably for the better in the long-run, but it creates a problem when big decisions need be made and the issues are complex.

          As John Adams said “if good men will not come to the service of their country, others will.”Report

  14. Avatar Dan O. says:

    Most New York liberals I know, and I know a lot of them (including myself), found the the economic interests thing curious… 10 years ago. After 10 years of conservatives fetishizing 9/11 while simultaneously expressing shocked disapproval at our not real-American ways of life (from the financial industry to same-sex marriage), we’re off condescension. We’re now at the point where we’re simply returning the enmity we’ve received, as opposed to mistaking it for stupidity or ignorance. Lesson learned.

    Another point, which should be obvious. Many of us simply don’t share enough values to collectively deliberate. However, we all want prosperity and security. So, it is no shock that ‘NPR Liberals’ would utilize perceived common values to convince or cajole. The perception that ‘NPR Liberals’ believe that economic value is the only value worth discussing, may be chalked up to a belief that it is the only value practically discussed. While this latter belief is pernicious, it is backed by evidence.Report

    • Avatar BobbyC says:

      I’m usually on board with arguments that economics drives behavior, but this goes a bit far, no? It seems to me that many votes are determined by abortion rights, gay rights, war policy … issues that are not primarily economic for those whose vote is determined based on them.Report

  15. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    I think this has already been written; I seem to remember a fairly tongue-in-cheek piece entitled “What’s the Matter with the Upper West Side?”Report

  16. Avatar BobbyC says:

    Off topic a bit, but Rose’s musing that some of us may be wishing that homeless people get homes reminded me of an evil solution to the NYC homeless. No joke, I had an epiphany on a walk through Central Park last wk that I should try to get homeless people in NYC to move to Philly. Just start a campaign to advertise to homeless people in NYC that Philly is a great place to be a bum. Offer bus rides there. Make a real effort to shift the homeless to Philly. Because, you know, then they would be in Philly.

    Horrible maybe, but brilliant.Report

  17. Avatar BobbyC says:

    Ok – to respond to the OP (since my anti-homeless measure is so shameful in its cynicism):

    I agree with you Rose, liberals should stop complaining that some poor people won’t vote for handouts. I’d prefer they focus on complaining that rich conservatives delude themselves into thinking that their party isn’t itself quite guilty of handouts, just to different folks. Personally, I strongly prefer the left-liberals who understand that govt is always at high risk of being co-opted by the powerful of both parties, liberals who dig Marx, as opposed to the naive do-gooders who think that they can use govt to design a better society, done and done. God save us from the well-intentioned.Report

  18. Avatar Chris says:

    I remember a conversation in which I was told that the reason Christians (this conversation was with born again Evangelicals) can’t vote for candidates who support gay marriage is that doing so would be to in effect condone, even support, the sin. Allowing a sin that you could prevent is itself a sin. That would be bad for their own souls as well as the souls of the sinners. So, in an odd way, to them, not voting for candidates who support gay marriage was voting in their own self-interest. Of course, the people I was with at the time all have money (most of them have a lot of money), so they don’t really have to worry about whether a candidate’s politics would benefit their bank accounts. I mean, they don’t ‘t really need any more money, and if they did, it’s a good bet the politics would benefit their bank accounts anyway, because money has money’s back.

    What’s the matter with Tennessee, right?Report

  19. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    One thing to keep in mind is that “voting against their own self-interest!” is Romney’s “forty-seven percent” rant presented from the opposite side of the political axis. Both take it as given that there is a group of people whose economic interests are directly tied to a Democrat government.Report