Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

A core contradiction of social conservatives

with 19 comments

It is so strange to me that conservatives believe so strongly that our religious beliefs and our sex lives should be dictated and controlled by the government. That seems so… well, unconservative. If I have any conservative readers (which I doubt), I would really appreciate an explanation.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 November 2012 at 12:17 pm

19 Responses

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  1. They aren’t conservative in some kind of less government, libertarian sense. They are conservative in the sense that they resist change. In this context, the expansion of rights and social acceptance of new groups of people. They want things to remain the same as they were: closeted gays, traditional gender roles, segregated minorities. In fact, I often think that the less government thing is a smoke screen. The thing they don’t like about government is that it’s redistributive and it doesn’t discriminate and so on.

    scottfeldstein

    13 November 2012 at 12:36 pm

  2. Still, some conservatives definitely think that the government should (for example) forbid same-sex marriages, make homosexuality illegal, make Christianity the favored religion, etc. I’m wondering how those people would mark an item such as: “Your religious beliefs and your sex life should be dictated and controlled by the government: yes/no”. I have to think that they would mark “no”.

    LeisureGuy

    13 November 2012 at 12:42 pm

  3. I am a conservative… but I have to say that I’m conservative in the old way – I want less government intrusion in our lives. I think many on the liberal side of things tend to lump us all in with the Tea Party loonies- I don’t believe the government has any right to interfere in people’s private lives- it’s ridiculous that we even need to vote on gay marriage. My (conservative) reading of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is that anyone should be able to marry anyone they choose. As to religion, I think the founders covered it well when they created the separation of church and state.

    In any event, as a conservative I have to agree with you- it makes no sense to argue for smaller government and then try to dictate religious beliefs and sex lives.

    The other “big issue” is abortion- my take is this: I am personally opposed to abortion, but I don’t feel that I have the right to force my belief on others. I am, therefore, pro choice.

    Jeff Beyea

    14 November 2012 at 5:11 am

  4. I must say also that if conservatives don’t read your blog, they are doing themselves a disservice. I don’t always agree with your viewpoint, but I find your arguments to be well reasoned and well presented. If more liberals, and more conservatives, approached the issues this way perhaps we’d find more common ground.

    Jeff Beyea

    14 November 2012 at 5:14 am

  5. Jeff, you’re exactly the kind of conservative we need and I respect. I certainly don’t think the progressive answer is always right—indeed, I wish we (the US) took more advantage of testing solutions at the state level before passing national legislation: the world is a complicated place, and even our best ideas don’t always succeed in standing up to the complexity of reality. And conservatives and progressives can help each other by examining carefully the proposals and ideas from outside the conceptual framework—that is, both conservatives and progressives create ideas based on various assumptions, some recognized and some unconscious. It helps a lot to have the ideas examined by a mind that doesn’t share all those (unconscious) assumptions. Indeed, this is the idea behind the dialectic method espoused by Plato.

    Too many on both sides carry a chip on their shoulder—a large chip, that blocks their view to the side (progressives with a chip on the left shoulder, conservatives with the chip on the right). If they could discard the chip and look at reality and test ideas together, we could make much better progress.

    Thank you for reading and for your comment, and I’m always interested in constructive correction.

    LeisureGuy

    14 November 2012 at 8:37 am

  6. Jeff, where are the other conservatives like yourself? I’m sure they must exist. YOU exist. But where are they?

    scottfeldstein

    14 November 2012 at 8:40 am

  7. @ Scott- I grew up in a whole family with similar ideas. Unfortunately, my parents have simply dis engaged from politics as they’ve become more disgusted with the Republican Party. In my case, I find that I’m uncomfortable with both major parties at this point- I feel that there is no reason that I, holding strong conservative views, cannot be friends and enjoy debating with those who hold strong liberal views. I think anyone who is not willing to consider other points of view is doing nothing to help the discourse.
    The downside is that often I find myself disliked by liberals and conservatives.
    I guess the short answer to your question is that the current GOP seems to want to hide behind rhetoric rather than engage in a meaningful exploration of ideas and solutions.

    Then again, this is easy for me- I’m a contractor and fisherman, and I don’t have to answer to any constituents.

    I suspect I’m really more a Libertarian than a Republican, though i find that party lacking in many ways as well.

    If it were not for the idiotic idea that people should not be able to choose their own life partners, and the concept that a bunch of old white men know what’s best for a woman facing an unexpected pregnancy I could be a happy Republican. If not for the insane deficit spending and desire to ban guns everywhere, I could be a happy Democrat. In the end, I’m left only with frustration.

    Jeff Beyea

    15 November 2012 at 9:17 am

  8. @Jeff: I’m delighted to have you as a reader and hope you will engage. I’m not clear on deficit spending, though. It seems to me that the GOP created the deficit by combining an expensive pair of wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) with tax cuts—indeed, Dick Cheney (who as the GOP Vice President) said explicitly, “Deficits don’t matter.” And even now the GOP will not accept ANY increase in government revenue to fight the deficit and indeed incessantly call for decreases in revenue, even as the deficit grows. That seems crazy to me.

    The Democrat approach to deficits seems much more defensible and tactical in my eyes: well-founded Keynesian findings that when consumer demand falls, creating a recession, the government should spend (in building and maintaining infrastructure, for example) to create a demand and keep the economy moving, even at the cost of a deficit. Then, when times are flush once more, retire that deficit by increasing government revenue. To me, that all makes sense.

    The Libertarian idea that regulations should be abolished because then companies will behave appropriately due to market pressures seems to me to contradicted by repeated experience with company behavior. I don’t see how that idea stands up for a microsecond given what e know about corporations and how they act in the absence of careful regulation and close monitoring.

    Those are my views. I am not at all happy with the Obama Administration in many areas—drug laws, human rights, and so on—but the GOP today seems simply insane.

    LeisureGuy

    15 November 2012 at 9:44 am

  9. Michael,
    I don’t pretend that my feelings/views on this subject are entirely logical- one of the reasons I enjoy your blog is that you are, in essence, forcing me to think through things I might otherwise allow to pass me by. When I became interested in politics as a teenager, and then as a young adult I was a die hard Republican. Then came GW Bush. It was truly an eye opening experience for me- I was horrified that I had voted for a person who seemed so lacking in personal integrity, and who got us involved in a war which seemingly had no end. I was every bit as outspoken and upset by his deficit spending then as I am by Obamas now. In 2008 I did something I never expected to do- I volunteered for the Obama campaign. I kept thinking that although I didn’t agree with all his ideas, here was a man who I felt I could trust. I viewed Obama then as a true bringer of change. And one of the things he said which resonated with me was that the Bush deficit was “immoral” – yet here we are 4 years later with an even larger deficit.

    Unfortunately I have a lot of strong feelings, but I have no answers either.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you regarding the GOP- the proud, honorable party that my parents were members of is no more, and I have found that I cannot in good conscience be a part of a party is so openly opposed to equality among all.

    Jeff Beyea

    15 November 2012 at 10:10 am

  10. I should mention also that I have always considered Dick Cheney an embarrassment to the GOP. On the other hand, there are still some wise and caring people left. One of my personal heroes is Colin Powell. I think if the Bush administration had listened to Gen. Powell we wouldn’t have ended up with the mess we got.

    Jeff Beyea

    15 November 2012 at 10:13 am

  11. Every attempt Obama has made over the past two years to reduce the deficit (by increasing revenue) has been stopped by the GOP House. I blame the deficit on the GOP almost totally: the House controls government spending, as you know. Moreover, the tactical deficits of Keynesian stimulus make perfect sense to me—but the other half of that is to reduce the tactical deficit later by increasing government revenue, and that is what the GOP blocks.

    Yeah, Cheney is definitely an outlier. In one case, that is good: he has good views of same-sex marriages and gay tolerance. But his views on torture are an abomination.

    LeisureGuy

    15 November 2012 at 10:20 am

  12. Well, I’m Conservative, but of the Canadian variety, so largely don’t give a hoot what goes on in other people’s bedrooms. Thankfully my chosen political party is mostly in agreement with that (or at least, if they’re not, they’re not attempting to enact any legislation on the matter).

    Palpz

    15 November 2012 at 10:34 am

  13. On the one hand I agree with increasing revenue by increasing taxes on the wealthy- however I think we need to do a really good job of defining wealthy as part of that process. Here on the rural coast of Maine, I have many neighbors who are fishermen- they routinely gross over half a million dollars a year, and net less than 25 thousand. The incredible cost of operating a fishing vessel means that they look as though they are wealthy, yet often have trouble feeding their families.
    These businesses are run as sole proprietorships. If Obama can come up with a way to raise taxes on those “donald trump” types without putting small farms and fishing businesses, and other high gross/low net business in a bind, then i am all for it.

    I’ll agree with you again and say the GOP has behaved terribly throughout last several years. I’ve also been none too impressed with some on the left- notably Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

    I would really like to see a change in the congressional leadership of both parties. I think the time has come for a new group of leaders who will be more willing to work together, and with the Obama Administration. I think there are ways to maintain traditional conservative values such as smaller, less intrusive government without trying to blockade every single thing the White House tries to do.

    Jeff Beyea

    15 November 2012 at 10:44 am

  14. The tax code taxes net income—that is, income after adjustments. A business owner, such as the fishermen you mention, routinely deduct all their business expenses, and are taxed only on the net income remaining.

    To be clear, I am not saying “tax the wealthy,” but rather that we are all in this together and we all should contribute revenue based upon our ability to afford it: thus I favor a progressive tax on net income, with increasing tax rates on the increasing increments—that is, have the marginal tax rates increase, as they do now, but more so: one problem is the extremely low tax rate at the highest increments, much lower than under (say) Ronald Reagan and too low to support the government services we want—e.g., a robust and active FDA. There are other problems—for example, hedge fund managers do not pay taxes on their (multi-billion) annual incomes as income, but rather as capital gains, which flies in the face of the facts.

    I also have my problems with Harry Reid, but I think Pelosi has on the whole done a very good job. Willing to discuss specifics, though.

    LeisureGuy

    15 November 2012 at 11:04 am

  15. I have to say that I agree with contributions based on the ability to afford it- and I can also stand behind any proposal to enact a progressive tax based on net, rather than gross, income. However, along with that I think it’s essential that we get rid of the myriad of loopholes that exist in the tax code. As a small business owner I have to hire an accountant to get the taxes right- and that seems bizarre to me.

    As to the robust and active FDA- I think that’s a good thing only if President Obama “cleans house” at FDA. Having Michael Taylor in a position of power is horribly irresponsible. I am also adamantly opposed to the idea that raw milk sales should be illegal- raw milk is perfectly safe, and very healthy, if produced and handled correctly. I think we should approach raw milk sales in the same way that unpasteurized apple cider sales are handled in many states- require the placement of a warning label on the container so that consumers are informed, and can then make their own decision.

    I’m also in favor of requiring GMO foods to be labeled, which is not a popular opinion… but as someone who has worked in agriculture for most of his life, I can assure you that there are real problems there.

    Jeff Beyea

    16 November 2012 at 6:20 am

  16. I agree with everything you wrote. One chronic problem with regulatory agencies is that long-time personnel start to identify with the industry they regulate instead of with the public, and also of course the regulated industry does everything in its power to pack the agency with its own people, as it were, and to influence the choice of agency leadership to put in place someone who will favor the industry. I’m not surprised the FDA has succumbed.

    I woke up with a sudden insight into why a progressive tax rate makes perfect sense, and I’ll blog that.

    Loopholes are a terrible problem with the tax code, an attempt in some cases to recognize special circumstances, in others to advance policies (e.g., the deduction for mortgage payments), in others to favor industries by (in effect) subsidies (e.g., the oil depletion allowance). A tighter code would simplify the whole process but will be fought vigorously by those who benefit from a complex code (e.g., H&R Block et al.) as well as by those who would lose their favored deduction even if closing loopholes reduces the overall tax rate—and of course by Congressmen funded by industries benefiting from loopholes. But it’s a worthy objective, one that could be achieved if we had an attentive and involved citizenry.

    Although unpasteurized milk has indeed caused some deaths, I’m with you: explain the hazards to the public (e.g., with signs in place where it’s sold), regulate and inspect it, and allow it to be sold. (Tobacco also causes deaths, but we allow the sale of that.)

    And I agree with you on the labeling of GMO foods: consumers should know what they’re buying. I also back labeling foods with country of origin. (I do support genetically modified foods in some cases, of course: no blanket condemnation is possible. I condemn the Roundup-Ready GMOs, but I think Golden Rice has significant promise. And releasing genetically-engineered mosquitoes to combat dengue fever makes perfect sense to me.

    LeisureGuy

    16 November 2012 at 7:24 am

  17. Interesting to see how much common ground there really is between the liberal and conservative viewpoints 🙂

    On another note, I sent you an email, not sure if you received it.

    Jeff Beyea

    16 November 2012 at 7:30 am

  18. I’m not sure I received the email—could you resend?

    Yeah, once there is actual discussion, common ground can be found and differences negotiated or settled by voting. What’s happening in Congress is a travesty. An interesting finding from Pew Research:

    A new survey by Pew Research shows that many Republicans think their party leadership shouldn’t work with the president at all.

    According to Pew, when voters were asked whether “Republicans leaders in Congress should” either “work with Obama” or “stand up to Obama,” only 46 percent of Republicans said they should work with him, and 50 percent said they should stand up to him.

    On the flip side, 54 percent of Democrats said Obama should work with Republican leadership, and 42 percent said he should stand up to them.

    LeisureGuy

    16 November 2012 at 7:40 am

  19. sent again, with subject “not spam”

    I can also just post the questions/comments here under a shaving post, but didn’t want to overdo my comments on your blog…

    Jeff Beyea

    16 November 2012 at 7:44 am


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