So I should be talking about healthcare or the economy, but honestly those are both such a mess right now I’m not even going there. Someone way smarter that I am is going to have to sort those out. Or we can just leave it to Congress.
I thought I’d relate some knowledge recently dropped on me that can clarify some of the difference between conservatives and liberals. So much about those two words has been distorted by both sides that most of us probably don’t think much about what they really mean. Equality is at the heart of the issue. Most conservatives would tell you that they believe in equality of opportunity. Liberals tend to see equality in terms of outcomes. So you can see then, for example, why conservatives back something like a flat tax (everyone pays the same percentage) while liberals would back progressive taxation (like our income tax…sort of). A conservative would argue against progressive taxation by saying that you are penalizing people that have worked hard and should be rewarded. Everyone had the same opportunity to make money, so those that did should get to keep it. Liberals would counter that a flat tax disproportionally takes from the poorest among us, people who already are at a disadvantage. If life is a race, then those folks are running with a peg leg. If one person makes $17,000 a year, and another makes $170,000, taking 10% of that $17,000 is going to hurt a lot more than 10% of 170,000. Both are reasonable arguments in and of themselves.
There’s another analogy that makes this point. Imagine the country’s wealth as a pie. Everyone has a slice. Oprah has a relatively large slice. The person that served you that burger you shouldn’t be eating at the drive-thru probably has a relatively small slice. Conservatives and liberals agree on two things: as the pie gets bigger, so does the difference between the slices. But as the slices get more equal, the pie gets smaller. So there is an inherent contradiction. Growth makes rich people richer, and redistribution makes everyone less well off. A conservative would say that when the pie grows, everyone gets richer, so it’s all good (supply-side or “trickle down” economics). More elegantly stated, a rising tide raises both the yacht and the rowboat. To a liberal, the rowboats are full of holes, so the people in them need some extra love.
So what does all this mean for policy? The “decision rule” for which projects gets funded is notably different. Efficiency is most important to conservatives – they want to know which projects are going to bring the most benefit. Liberals will want to know who pays the costs, who gets the benefits, and how much. Distribution is the key. Obviously no electable politicians exist at either of these extremes. Political motivations (e.g. how much benefit is coming to my constituents) are at the heart of many, if not most policy decisions. But where are you at? Efficiency or distribution? Opportunity or outcomes?
****Questions? Suggestions? What is this liberal-ass hippie clown talking about? Butta can be reached at email@example.com ***