Social Question

Blackberry's avatar

Yes, this is really biased, but work with me, as it's a new concept to me. But, why is it that policies typically defined as "liberal" usually seem better for society/people?

Asked by Blackberry (29399 points ) February 15th, 2012

Things like a more universal healthcare, socially liberal stances on things like marijuana or prostitution, certain Keynesian policies etc.

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58 Answers

Nullo's avatar

It depends on what your core principles are. They seem better because you are a liberal, just like I favor restrictions on some of those for the reasons that make me a conservative. You favor drugs and sex because your worldview is structured to favor those things. Additionally, politics is in part about presenting the prettier side of the truth. Another part, naturally, is opposing the other guy, which is probably why you don’t see more cooperation on what really are issues of mutual interest.

Core principles typically derive from things like upbringing and experience and, occasionally, really good arguments.

I think that you will find that most informed people – on both sides of the aisle – agree that the present health care situation is becoming increasingly untenable. Their reservations lie in the particulars – like where all the money is going to come from, and what the implications and ramifications of the legislation are.

rebbel's avatar

Maybe, because you consider yourself liberal this is an assumption their liberal stance and policies strike you as better for society because yours and theirs match?

SpatzieLover's avatar

Conservative=less government
Liberal=More services

Conservatives…see the world in ‘us’ versus ‘them’ terms article with study linked

Blackberry's avatar

Yeah, it’s obvious I’m liberal, but am I that liberal that I can’t see the other side? I don’t know. I’ve constantly looked at the other side to see if there are things I agree with, and there are some things, but not many.

phaedryx's avatar

@Blackberry going along with @Nullo‘s response: what are your core values and principles? Unless those change I doubt that your views will change.

Nullo's avatar

@Blackberry You very probably are. It took me several months to really grok the liberal cause.
@SpatzieLover beings addressing the differences, but I think we could be more fundamental than that: Conservatives tend to emphasize the individual and individual responsibility, whereas liberals tend to emphasize society and societal responsibility.

Blackberry's avatar

@Nullo @phaedryx Yeah that makes sense. I don’t think I’m going to change anytime soon, but I like to try to shake my foundations every now and then. I heard a quote from Neil DeGrasse Tyson awhile ago that essentially said “If you aren’t re-evaluating your beliefs every now and then, you’re doing something wrong.”

@Nullo It seems that way. I’ll admit (although it sounds really lame and naive, I know) that I generally feel like humans are kind of a “family” that should “look out for each other”.

flutherother's avatar

Because Capitalism is like a runaway horse. It has to be put to the plough to do something useful.

Nullo's avatar

@Blackberry Try hanging out with more conservatives, if that’s an option. Ask them about things in a non-confrontational fashion – you want opinions, not a debate. It ought to help broaden your perception.

digitalimpression's avatar

Because you were probably raised in a generation where things considered “better for society” are far different from what they used to be.

dappled_leaves's avatar

Yeah, I think @Nullo and I actually agree on this one – it depends on your definition of “better”. The conservative definition of “better” usually leaves me torn between wanting to rock myself in the fetal position and having a succession of stiff drinks. Because, you know, it’s hard to do both of those things at the same time.

Nullo's avatar

@dappled_leaves If I dare ask, what part of the conservative definition are you thinking of? I’ve got nothing ‘twixt the ears that’s so distressing.

marinelife's avatar

Because they are.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Because they’re all dressed up as pretty options. Kinda like wolves in sheep’s clothing.

tom_g's avatar

@Blackberry: “But, why is it that policies typically defined as “liberal” usually seem better for society/people?”

Because you’re smart informed, have good values, and aren’t a millionaire.

Edit: informed is more appropriate here

Paradox25's avatar

I think that it is important to understand what the term liberal really means before such a question can be answered. I’ll define the term liberal in the classical sense from what I’ve always understood it to mean: a laissez-faire or hands off/live and let live as long as it doesn’t intrude on my individual rights policy. Leftism and/or socialism have absolutely nothing to do with liberalism. Liberalism always had its fair share of opposition from both the left (as in Marxism, other types of socialism and communitarianism) and the right as in conservatism, feudalism, religious dominionism, monarchies and fascism) throughout its history.

Personally I’ve always believed that a truly liberal (in the classical sense) government would be nothing more than an enforcer of equal rights, nonbiased in pertaining to religious issues and making sure that everybody should have an even playing field in order to obtain liberty and success. Also freedom seems to be a relative term depending upon whom you may ask. I’m sure that a Communist, a Muslim Extremist, a Conservative Christian, a Communitarian, a White Supremist, etc will all tell you that they’re fighting for ‘freedom’.

Even when it comes to both economic and social legislation the term freedom seems to be variable depending on the person you ask. What does economical freedom really mean? We have the ‘right’ to prosper financially, right? What if this inherent right to prosper means buying all of the land that we use to live on, hunt, fish, and contains the bodies of water that we get our water from? What about the right to pollute our air, land and water? What if corporate interests completely controlled our schools and prisons? Because of the profit factor the prison industrial complex would have the incentive to push for tougher laws. The Confederacy claimed that they were fighting for the freedom to keep slaves. Clearly we can see that the pure economic freedom that libertarianism calls for does not necessarily mean true freedom for most of us if we have the right to oppress others simply because we have more money and political influence.

I posted all of that (and I had to fight myself from posting anymore here) to try to describe how I define the term liberal and what I would consider to be liberal policies vs left or right leaning authoritarian policies. Personally I see going both too far left or right as opposing liberalism, and I do not identify liberalism with being on the left side of the political ideology scale like most political spectrum graphs tend to do. Obviously the further to the left or right, both economically and socially that a political ideology veers, the further from liberalism that we get.

I consider issues like gay rights, civil rights, womens’ rights, drug legalization, ending alcohol prohibition, laissez-faire capitalism (not corporatism), social help programs, seperation of church and state, the freedom to practice the religion of choice and just about any policy that allows reasonable personal freedoms and choice (without invading others rights) to be liberal policies. I also consider reasonable economic regulations that protect us from corporate greed to be liberal policies as well. Many self-described conservatives claim that they support liberalism in the classical sense but it is very clear to me that many ‘conservatives’ are pretty far off base with their authoritarian social stances, their views on religious roles in our government and their support of corporatism. When it comes down to it I personally believe that liberal policies are the only way to go relating to both social and economic issues. Unfortunately today what is termed as ‘liberal’ policies are really authoritarian leftist policies, not liberal.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Paradox25

Excellent exposition of classical liberalism. Unfortunately, the modern definition of liberalism includes the mindless drivel of “politically correct” nonsense and excludes most of what constitutes individual freedom.

mazingerz88's avatar

Because the word liberal sounds fun and carefree while the word conservative’s connotation is boring, therefore it sucks.

Blackberry's avatar

@Paradox25 Definitely, and thanks for the great answer. Maybe we could possibly say, using typical terms that are popular now, that center or moderate policies seem to be the best for society/people.

wundayatta's avatar

@CaptainHarley Political correctness is not mindless. When you characterize it as such, you leave yourself open to the accusation that you simply can’t be bothered to try to understand it. It is statements like yours that give liberals all the fodder they need to conclude that conservatives are beyond the pale.

I believe there is a principle behind most policies that are called “liberal,” and that is the Kantian notion of the greatest good for the greatest number. Conservatives are necessarily opposed to that idea, since they propose to achieve good via the mechanism of the “free” market, regardless of whether it is possible to have free markets. So conservatives are willing to tolerate vast disparities in “good.”

If you’re willing to accept that, then you can be a conservative. If you that strikes you are morally wrong, then you can’t hold that point of view. Liberal policies do what they can to mitigate harm and try to equalize society. Conservatives think that is simply wrong, perhaps because they believe it is impossible and the the harm caused via the side effects of liberal policies are unacceptable. Better to have inequality and freedem to fail, then to force society to be more equal and in the process create inefficiencies.

For a person like me, there is no question but that the conservative point of view is malicious and wrong. It is hard for me to be civil to people who I think want to deliberately hurt others. I think they fool themselves about the harm their policies cause. I’ve been around 55 years now, and I have never seen a conservative policy do anything but make things worse for people. That’s hyperbole, of course. I’m sure if I really studied hared, I might find a few cases where the data show people are better off. But I’ve written them off, and I don’t feel much compunction about doing that. Well, maybe a little.

Liberal policies really are better for the vast majority of us. Political correctness really does help. People make fun of it because they don’t see the harm. They can’t empathize with people who are being hurt. And if you can’t empathize with people who are harmed, then of course you will favor policies that hurt them and benefit you.

Conservatives seem “challenged” in the empathy department. That’s why the notion of a “compassionate” conservative was such a joke. Should one feel empathy for a group of people who don’t know how to be empathetic? Isn’t that kind of a waste of energy?

Liberal policies are better. No two ways about that. Liberals are willing to use data to make policy. Conservatives seem to only be willing to look at science if it happens to support their point of view at the time. Mostly they prefer “common sense.” Which unfortunately is all too common and rarely makes sense.

digitalimpression's avatar

Why don’t we just “out and say it”. This is a Republican vs Democratic bout of epic proportions. Go team!

Fluther is overwhelmingly liberal, so you’re bound to get some great support in this thread on your ideas for society.

SpatzieLover's avatar

^How ironic: A Republican that just made it Us vs. Them ;)

Blackberry's avatar

@digitalimpression I do like to generally take a look at my own belief system. I’ve asked a question similar to this on a majority conservative website. I got one or two honest and accurate answers that helped a lot, and the rest was random crap like “communism doesn’t work”. I’ve had some trouble finding another website like Fluther with many conservatives/republicans who could have a genuine conversation with me, but I just haven’t found it yet.

Even you would be surprised by the borderline ignorance/sociopath answers I’ve seen on some of those websites, lol. Just so you don’t think I’m looking for a circle jerk. I’m aware I’m liberal, but I occasionally take a moment to evaluate why I think the way I do.

ETpro's avatar

The definition that @Paradox25 is excellent. Unfortunately, it isn’t what most people mean when they talk about liberalism today or in recent American history.And I don’t think it is what Blackberry meant in the question. Currently, it means a movement favoring policies such as Franklin D., Roosevelt advanced, as opposed to the laissez-faire capitalism and free-market rule of the Gilded age. The reason such policies seem better for society than what passes for conservatism today is that they are far better for the society in general.

From 1933 when FDR took office till 1980 when we entered Reagan “conservative” Revolution, America enjoyed a growth in GDP that outstripped even the Gilded Age of 1865 to 1895. We created the world’s first vibrant middle class. Unlike the Gilded Age that benefited only the rich, the slough up out of the Depression and the subsequent Post War Boom lifted us all, poor and rich alike. We gained the 40 hour work week, paid vacations, holidays, sick leave, health insurance, a living wage and a social safety net for those that fell on hard times or suffered a medical disability.

In short, we became the world’s most prosperous nation. And in doing so, we did not pile up massive debt as conservatives would tell you. Quite the opposite. Our debt hit 120% of GDP at the end of WWII and over then next 30 years we had paid it down to 30% of GDP, Then Reagan launched the Conservative revolution. Reagan tripled the national debt in just 8 years.

Like the distortion of the word “liberalism”, what we call conservationism today is far afield from the dictionary definition of that word. Today’s conservatism is aimed not at preserving existing social structures (what the word means) but rather at tearing them all down and dragging us back over a century to the policies of the Gilded Age or even further back to those of pre-war Southern states. It is radically regressive as opposed to liberal/progressive politics.

The Gilded age did produce a burst of growth before exploding in the Great Depression. But that growth benefited the Robber Barons and the giant trusts, not the average American. There was virtually no middle class. Most Americans were held in wage slavery. Hired thugs were used by the titans of industry to beat and lynch anyone who tried to organize workers. Safety in the workplace was ignored. Child labor was the norm and children worked some of the most dangerous jobs, toiling 12 to 14 hours a day for a subsistence wage. Food posioning was commonplace and ignored by officials who were on the take. That is the America today’s GOP base has been duped into yearning for.

The current conservative movement is funded and informed by a handful of billionaires such as the Koch Brothers and the Waltons, and by CEOs of the world’s largest multinational corporations. For 40 years, they have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into a 50-state network of neo-fascist right-wing think tanks they have set up. Their purpose is to take us back to the Gilded Age, because if they can do that, they will be the Robber Barons and they can add billions or perhaps trillions more to the billions they already control. The GOP today is a cleverly designed propaganda mill mean to achieve that goal for its Greedy Oligarch Pig overlords.

I know that sounds incredibly partisan and harsh. So did it when the GOP called all who opposed them traitors, communists, fascists, socialists, cowards, defeatocrats, surrender monkeys, elitists, etc. etc. The president is a Christian Cult follower of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and is also secretly Muslim and not even from America. He’s not only secretly Muslim/Christian Cultist—he’s declared war on all religion. Fascism has always used demonization of its opponents as one of its chief tools. Fascism was a corporatist movement, and so is today’s GOP. The policies the GOP advocates will be good for a tiny handful of people at the very top who are already fabulously well off. It will be terrible for all the rest of us.

digitalimpression's avatar

@SpatzieLover It was clearly all about that before I said anything. Why you gotta be hatin? xD

SpatzieLover's avatar

Did you read my earlier study link in this thread? It’s not hate…It’s humor

CaptainHarley's avatar

@wundayatta

Why do you compose a diatribe on conservatives in a post directed at me? I am not a conservative. I am against statism regardless of the reason, regardless of WHO advocates it, conservatives OR liberals. I favor the maximum individual liberty for everyone covered by the US Constitution, and that means that I tend to oppose handouts, bailouts, and foreign shoot-outs.

augustlan's avatar

In general, conservative policies seem to focus on money over people, while liberal policies seem to focus on people over money. For me, people will always trump money, and that’s why, in a nutshell, I’m a liberal.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@augustlan

For me, liberty within the constraints of the Constitution trumps all else, whether it’s an attempt to placate special interests so they will make a huge donation to your election campaign, or an attempt to cultivate a massive underclass to vote for you because they have been trained to see government as the source of all that’s good. We are promised the PURSUIT of happiness, not the government’s purchase of happiness for us.

wundayatta's avatar

@CaptainHarley I’m sorry I conflated you with conservativism. I was replying to both you and the question in the same answer. Should have made the distinction clearer.

Still, being against “statism” is not a good way to maximize personal liberty. It’s a great way to maximize inequality of all kinds, especially financial. The more financial inequality there is, the fewer people who actually have what can be called personal liberty, especially in comparison to anyone else.

I don’t know your personal story, but I’m willing to bet that if I sat down with you for a day and dragged your story out of you, I would find a significant number of circumstances where you, personally, have been hurt by your own philosophy.

Cooperativism works better and there are all kinds of reasons why, and I’ll bet that I could find all kind of evidence to support that contention if I wanted to look. I think you could look at many different kinds of economic analysis for proof. Game theory points towards cooperativism as the best strategy for advancement of most people.

Clearly the anti-statist approach works best if you want some people to accumulate massive wealth. If you aren’t concerned with the greatest good for the greatest number, but only with removing barriers for people to take what they want, then your approach is good.

But I think your approach fails on moral grounds. Maximizing personal liberty is immoral. It is short-sighted selfishness that doesn’t even understand self-interest. This is what kills me. It’s not even a good philosophy for those who hold it, and yet they continue to believe in it. Is this some reflexive belief? I can’t explain it otherwise. It’s like shooting yourself in your own foot.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@wundayatta

We’re never going to agree on this.

wundayatta's avatar

@CaptainHarley No, I doubt it. But I really am truly baffled as to how you think this idea is a good thing. I asked a question about it. Don’t expect agreement, but maybe I can understand you better.

CaptainHarley's avatar

I place great emphasis on personal responsibility, for one’s family, for one’s participation in the body politic, and for one’s self. If I expect someone else to take care of me, I’m little better than a slave.

wundayatta's avatar

Ah. Personal responsibility. To me, that is quite different from maximizing personal liberty. Caring for yourself is about the opposite of being allowed to get away with anything, which is pretty much as irresponsible as you can get. Personal responsibility means, to me anyway, being responsible for others, as well… or maybe it’s responsible to others, not for others.

In some cases, it’s both. When I have children, I am responsible both to and for them. I am responsible to society by being responsible for them. one of the reasons I am responsible for myself is that I am being responsible to society. I do not want to be a burden.

On the other hand, I feel responsible for others because I know that my future is tied up with theirs. If they are not doing well, it is my responsibility to help them. It is also my self-interest to help them. Their poverty makes me poorer because of the complicated way in which we are all tied together in society.

bkcunningham's avatar

So help them, @wundayatta. What is stopping you?

wundayatta's avatar

@bkcunningham Nothing is stopping me, and I do the things I choose to do to help. However, a lot more could be done if people would cooperate.

bkcunningham's avatar

What type of things, @wundayatta, and what do you mean by cooperate?

CaptainHarley's avatar

Cooperation at the local level is not only good, but often necessary. But when cooperation at a national level becomes buying votes with government handouts, or deciding that certain categories of people are incapable of providing for themselves, we back into statism and a type of government-enforced, multi-generational slavery, and unconstitutional activities.

Nullo's avatar

@wundayatta Personal responsibility is what a mature person demonstrates when given personal liberty. They’re not the same, but they’re pretty close.
An extreme example would be how you don’t steal something that you want even though there are neither cops nor security. It’s Law in your own mind, rather than Law chasing after you with a taser.

wundayatta's avatar

@bkcunningham I spend time with people helping them plan their lives. I give money to groups that I think play a productive role in community building. Cooperation would mean more folks getting together to help in these positive efforts. We could do more, then.

@CaptainHarley Can you give specific examples of votes being bought with government handouts or what kinds of people are determined to be incapable of providing for themselves and what form this determination takes? Can you also say if you have any specifics on the extent of such activity?

@Nullo are you saying that if a person doesn’t have personal liberty, they don’t demonstrate personal responsibility? I.e., they would steal in your example? Conversely, if they had personal liberty, they wouldn’t steal? This surely can not be what you mean.

Nullo's avatar

@wundayatta Not at all what I said; I suggest you re-read my post. On the off chance that you are being deliberately dense, please stop. It’s annoying.
Personal responsibility is necessary for personal liberty to work.

wundayatta's avatar

@Nullo I’m not going to guess again. Please try to explain what you meant. I’m not stupid, but you’re not making yourself clear to me. I read it several times already. Perhaps you could provide some examples to make yourself clearer. You seem to be making a connection in your mind, but it isn’t translating in a way that makes sense to me. The example you gave is so obvious as to be useless. Anyone who can’t do the right thing when no one is looking can not be said to have developed any useful moral sense.

Personal responsibility has to be a great deal more than that, or it is not worth talking about. Try to be a bit more forthcoming, please. I feel like you aren’t really challenging yourself to look at what this means to you. I’m pretty sure you could be a lot clearer.

Nullo's avatar

@wundayatta Personal liberty only works if the people who have it are responsible for themselves. Society requires order to function, either external (laws) or internal (ethics). To be free from one means that you are under the control of the other.

I wasn’t originally trying to explain personal responsibility, just illustrate how it ties with personal liberty. Sometimes that means stating the obvious.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@wundayatta

“Can you give specific examples of votes being bought with government handouts?”
Solyndra, to name just one of many.

“what kinds of people are determined to be incapable of providing for themselves and what form [ does ] this determination take?”

Drive through any large city and ask where the housing projects are. Government handouts have now created a population so brainwashed into believing that the government is the source of all good things that they are now in their 3rd or 4th generation. Or just go back and research the response of many people in New Orleans when Katrina hit… rather than realizing that they could only depend upon themselves, they sat down and waited for “the government” to save them.

“Can you also say if you have any specifics on the extent of such activity?”

Most major cities have an underclass which is totally reliant on various government handout programs to survive.

augustlan's avatar

Personal responsibility is important, yes. But stopping there also seems incredibly selfish and shortsighted. We are all responsible to each other, too, with or without a government.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@augustlan

The question was about politics. If you want to talk ethics, that’s another matter.

augustlan's avatar

@CaptainHarley To my mind, they are inextricably intertwined.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@augustlan

Perhaps so, but for the purposes of discussion, I was dealing strictly with politicial issues.

mazingerz88's avatar

Politics, ethics, whatever. In the end, what is one citizen to do? Or any government? Leave 3rd or 4th generations of welfare seekers to die? Or intervene with the 5th generation Chinese style and order them to produce only one kid per couple?

I also hope that people here are aware that ( since Katrina and housing were invoked ) there was a report that majority of food stamps nationwide were given to white citizens in need, not black citizens. I’m trying to look for the link so I could post it here. It seems liberals are about responding with solutions while conservatism is about responding with complaints.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@mazingerz88

I wouldn’t know. I never claimed to have any great answers to all this. If I did have them, it’s highly unlikely I would be chatting on Fluther.

mazingerz88's avatar

@CaptainHarley I’ll drink one cold bottle of San Miguel to that, Cap! : )

CaptainHarley's avatar

@mazingerz88

Dude! I can’t believe you’re going to drink that in front of me without offering me one! : ((

bkcunningham's avatar

@wundayatta, you volunteer helping people plan their lives? Like career counseling?

mazingerz88's avatar

@CaptainHarley Shoot, where’d my manners go? Apologies, Cap. Here’s yours. : )

wundayatta's avatar

@bkcunningham career counseling, life counseling, whatever. A lot like what I say here.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@mazingerz88

Woo hoo! Does the girl come with the beer?? [ he asks, hopefully! ] : D

mazingerz88's avatar

@CaptainHarley The way it works is you tickle the girl first then she pops the bottle open with a body part which would make your jaw drop. Heh heh. : )

CaptainHarley's avatar

@mazingerz88

OMG! LMAO! TMI! TMI! : D

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