25 June 2008

Differing Worldviews

In our "Religious Generosity" post of a few days ago, we posited a philosophical difference between conservatives and liberals that we believe persists in this election.

Namely, we see conservatives, with their focus on individual giving, contrasting sharply with liberals who want to institutionalize every native, generous impulse. Then, they create confiscatory tax policy that unfairly taxes the rich simply because they're rich.

This they do to fund their behemoth federal bureaucracies and programs--bureaucracies and programs which too often fit the old maxim about the cure being worse than the disease.

We wrote about one example of this a few weeks ago.

And we know we're a little late to the game with this example, but Barack Obama's speech to the graduates at Wesleyan perfectly exemplifies the difference in worldview between conservatives and liberals. To wit:
But during my first two years of college, perhaps because the values my mother had taught me —hard work, honesty, empathy — had resurfaced after a long hibernation.

. . .

I wrote letters to every organization in the country I could think of. And one day, a small group of churches on the South Side of Chicago offered me a job to come work as a community organizer in neighborhoods that had been devastated by steel plant closings. My mother and grandparents wanted me to go to law school. My friends were applying to jobs on Wall Street. Meanwhile, this organization offered me $12,000 a year plus $2,000 for an old, beat-up car.

And I said yes.
Wow. Blatant self congratulation aside, other observers have noted that $14k/year was pretty average for college grads in the early 80's--not the pittance it seems today. And last year, he and Michelle took in $4.2 million--less than the Clintons, but far more than most Americans.

In all his talk of service to country and the world, you might expect to find a graph or even a throwaway sentence acknowledging service in the military.

You're going to be disappointed. There's nothing--not a word.

Certainly public service is important and admirable, but it is the dynamism of capitalism and the American economy--all those selfish people working their selfish jobs to give their families a better life--that make it possible for America to do anything remotely philanthropic anywhere. And obviously military service plays a large role here. Without a strong military and economy, we would have zero influence and power to "do good." Obama's view of America is one in which people in the Peace Corps are the only ones with souls and the rest of us are just out there to get ours.

*UPDATE 26 June 1:51pm: Dennis Prager sums up the attitude of many of today's progressive leftists--an attitude embodied by Obama's comments above and his repeated campaign boilerplate that "we (meaning he and his ilk) are the change we have been waiting for" or the other version "we are the ones we have been waiting for." Prager:
The modern secular liberal knows that he is not only morally superior to conservatives; he is morally superior to virtually everyone who ever lived before him.
Utopia? Yes We Can!

(commence self-immolation)

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Not Matt said...

Actually Jake, you don't get yours. You get yours given to you. How about a little honesty here?

RD said...

My favorite part about Obama's self-congratulating hyperbole about charity is that, as a portion of income, Obama gave less last year than both McCain and Hillary. This speech was quite a stunt by Obama.

I do take issue with two things about this post.

1. You never addressed my points in your religious generosity post. We had a good discussion in which you never participated. I won't rehash it here, but your readers should revisit that post. There is some inconsistency in the conservative morality position.

2. This quote, coming from a conservative, is, frankly, comical.

"This they do to fund their behemoth federal bureaucracies and programs--bureaucracies and programs which too often fit the old maxim about the cure being worse than the disease."

Jake, when is the last time the budget was balanced? Under Clinton. What has happened since then? Under Bush and the Republican congress, the national debt nearly doubled!. When it comes to government spending, conservatives mocking liberals is pure hypocrisy. One of the only real fiscal conservatives in Congress, John McCain, was labeled as a liberal and has now bowed to pressure from the Right to sell us down the river fiscally. Liberal programs for massive government expansion have the same effect on the long-term economic health as the religion of deficit-funded tax cuts and chronic deficits.

Honest Question said...

"Without a strong military and economy, we would have zero influence and power to "do good." "

Jake, without a job and declining to serve in the military, how do you have any power to do good?

Ben Treasure said...

Polarizing politics, placing every individual from either side exclusively into one finite form of behavior or another. I took issue with this in your last post because of its glaringly obvious pig-headedness and you never responded.

So what are we to think of individuals who champion these "conservative" values you espouse, yet do nothing in their own lives to embody what they preach? And yes, I'm talking about the authors of this blog.

bcb said...

oh, goody! Let's start the million-post-long discussion we had on facebook a few months back. Anyone care to cut and paste?

Mark said...

Hello all...

I love a good controversial argument. I really think this all boils down to semantics. The term "conservative" no longer applies in the historical sense to Republicans. In reality, the true essence of the Republican party (constructive view of the constitution, fiscal conservatism, small govt etc.) is dead.

I think anyone would have to be naive to think otherwise.

However, the Clinton example, is equally disingenuous as Bill Clinton's primary method of "balancing the budget" was through a dramatic decrease in defense spending and deep cuts in the size and scope of the military. The vast majority of federal jobs under Clinton that were cut came from the military, thus forcing us to now have to dramatically increase the size of the force. Of course, Clinton couldn't anticipate the scale of the Global War on Terrorism.

Now as for the term "liberal" I interpret that to mean "socialist" that doesn't mean that someone who considers themselves "liberal" is a socialist. However, I believe that at its core the Democratic Party is a socialist party....however that Republican party has in some respects adopted a fascist hue that I also find frightening.

Now, if we must make distinctions I think it all boils down to one concept. How do we view government? I take the view of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and other founding fathers. I belive that government is a "necessary evil." Government at its core is in a sense evil as government's "power" is ultimately derided from the abiility for it to use violent and lethal force against its own citizens. This isn't my interpretation it is simply a fact.

Now the founding father's understood this better than anyone as they were attempting to create system of government after having thrown off a tyrannical system. So they crafted a constitution designed to restrict government's growth to a finite point. Why? because once you give government an inch it takes a mile....that last 100 years of American history speak for that as we went from paying no income tax (per the Founder's intent) to now paying trenmendous taxes...and the list of endless government expansion goes on and on.

So now both parties are essentially the same, Republicans want to expand government and the miltary industrial complex in order to continue to subsidize inefficient industries, such as Oil etc. Meanwhile, Democrats who are socialists want to "tax the rich" goverment, and therefore their own power.

I am equally disgusted by both. What America needs is a reform movement based on the constituion. A movement that demands a real and meaningful decrease in the size of government, a gradual abolition of the inherently unconstitutional income tax and an end to corporate subsidies and corporate taxation.

I am convinced that most Americans, especially those of us on this website would agree that returning to the constitution is much better than what we have now and will have in 8 years, whether McCain or Obama gets elected...because ultimately....what is the difference.

Okay, I'm getting off my soapbox now.

Mark Patterson

From Baghdad

Ben Treasure said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ben Treasure said...

From the AP this evening...

LOS ANGELES — Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's love for children is by no means limited to their own: The couple has donated $1 million to help kids affected by the war in Iraq, the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict announced Wednesday.

The organization will distribute the donation, made through the couple's Jolie-Pitt Foundation, to four organizations working on behalf of children who have lost parents, homes and schools in Iraq. Children in the U.S. who have lost parents in the conflict will also benefit.

Jake, do you have back-channel communication with Jolie/Pitt too? Wow.

Wendle said...

Glad to see you read the article. Sad i didn't get a hat tip. :)

RD said...


I won't respond to your whole post, but your comment about Clinton's military spending is just inaccurate - or, as you, say, disingenuous (though it's a common allegation by conservatives who still want to blame Clinton for all our problems).

A paragraph from the new Chollet and Goldgeier book (this is a must-read for national security/foreign policy wonks):

After the Cold War, politicians on both sides of the aisle believed, correctly, that the United States could spend less money on the military and embraced the idea of the "peace dividend." George H. W. Bush had begun the drawdown after the collapse of the Soviet empire, cutting the defense budget and reducing the number of active-duty troops. In a long-planned speech in Aspen, Colorado, delivered the day after Saddam invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Bush calculated that "by 1995 our security needs can be met by an active force 25 percent smaller than today's. America's armed forces will be at their lowest level since the year 1950." Clinton sustained these reductions and went further in some areas, such as cutting military personnel, but overall his administration's defense spending was barely less than what the senior Bush had projected. In fact, by the end of the decade the defense budget had increased. In 1999 the Pentagon received its biggest financial boost since the end of the Cold War. Yet Republicans howled at Clinton's defense budgets, arguing that he was slowly draining America's military might. (297, emphasis added)

Mark, this is hardly the "dramatic decrease" you claim. Clinton has become a scapegoat for the failed Rumsfeldian strategy of the Bush administration in Iraq. The steady and small reductions that did occur were set in motion by Bush 1 - and why not, since the Cold War was over! A good time to fire some of the huge corps of counter-Soviet experts, etc., and, as Al Gore reminded a critic once, offload some obsolete equipment.

The truth remains that Clinton was just more fiscally responsible than other presidents, especially Republicans. Even Reagan, the fiscal hero of the GOP, failed to get deficit spending under control and even increased it during his terms. What we've seen under Bush 2 is irresponsible, deficit-funded military and tax cut spending, which has the probable potential to decrease growth over the next decade by 2% at least, in addition to putting future policymakers in a straitjacket and undermining the US government's credibility.

I once considered myself a Republican, but it's hypocrisy like this (the claim that Republicans believe in small government) that has turned me off to the whole partisan system.

Intellectual Honesty said...

It is most comical to me how the antagonist liberals through the "Bush spent more that previous administrations.." argument in your face, when that is exactly what they want. Where's the intellectual honesty? The answer is they have none, and they have to hide how they really feel, because what they really believe is intellectually repugnant to most people....so they attack the stator.

RD said...

Now that's intelligent. Assume anyone with a concern about Bush's fiscal irresponsibility is a (gasp!) liberal, and that they want to spend big money too. I know you're not talking about me, because time and again I have criticized the big spending ideas of liberals. You fit in nice with Jake's dichotomous view of the world, in which anyone who questions the Conservative establishment is a baby-killing, big government liberal.

Bush cut taxes in a time when the national debt was over $4 trillion dollars and we were entering a war. So, let's have some "intellectual honesty", and you explain how that is responsible governance.