Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Liberal Equation

I was listening to the radio this afternoon, and listened to self-described radical Mort Sahl talk about wealthy liberal support for liberal causes - that it was because liberals felt guilty over being wealthy.

It so much doesn't match my views about liberalism. Perhaps I'm not wealthy enough to experience liberal guilt, but since I've never felt bad about improving my position, don't expect to feel bad if I improve it further, and yet fully expect to someday be both wealthy, and liberal, I think there must be more to it than Guilt.

It seems to me that I hope to become wealthy for two reasons - one is for my own comfort, the other is because that positions me to help others, and that mere fact is a portion of the Liberal Equation - if you accept these premises, then you are probably a liberal.

First premise set: I gained my position through a combination of hard work and luck.

By 'Luck', I mean that entire combination of factors that you had no control over - being noticed by a boss, being born into wealth, having the right editor take a chance on your work, by lumping all these things into the category of 'luck' there becomes an obvious implication.

That one *could* be just as able, just as qualified, just as worthy, and yet not achieve the same thing.

Second Premise set: That my wealth, my taxes, and my actions, in addition to improving my life, improve the lives of others.

Seems obvious - it means I can and do help others via my personal actions *and* via the actions taken on my behalf by the government.

Third Premise set: The wealth, taxes, and actions of others, in addition to improving their lives also improves my own.

I am not unique. My actions and taxes help others, their actions and taxes help me.

It seems to me that a sane liberal accepts all of these premises, and a sane conservative rejects one or more of them.

The first set is the most obvious - luck implies that there are people just as worthy as oneself that never achieved as much simply because didn't get as many breaks.

Many Social Conservative consciously or unconsciously reject this premise.

Either A) They believe they got where they are through hard work - alone, or
B) they may grant that they got 'breaks', but those were through the Grace of God.

Either of those implies something much different from mere luck and hard work - most obviously, if you don't have what I have, it's because you don't deserve it is much as I do, either because I simply worked harder than you, or because God recognized my worth as being more than yours. I can see why to you it might *look* like luck, but it's not.

The second set tends to be rejected by fiscal conservatives. Liberals assume something that the fiscal conservative may even consider arrogant - that we *can* help others.

It's a fundamental disagreement - at best the fiscal conservative doesn't believe tax monies are ever the most efficient way to help, at worst he simply believes we can't help via financial means, in either case using the government to help is a waste.

The third set is the reason I call myself a Greedy Progressive - as other people rise in quality of life, their quality of life improves my own, and vice versa. Some 'Guilty Liberals' may donate to causes to assuage guilt - I never have.

It's an Investment - I hope I'm not going to benefit directly since that would indicate that I myself have fallen upon hard times - but the better off everyone is doing the better off I am doing. I don't care if I keep up with the Jones, I *do* care how *I* am doing, and it turns out the Jones and I benefit from each other.

But that seems to be the minimum set of assumptions to make a sane Liberal. That there was luck involved with doing well, that you can help others do better at little cost to yourself, and that the investment in others turns out to make your life better as well.

If you accept those three things, you are probably a liberal. If you don't accept any one of them, you're probably a conservative.

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