Originally written 2016. Updated.
We have all heard American Republicans and Democrats speak of each other with rancor. It is especially tragic when we realize both “sides” want the same things; fairness, peace, health, prosperity, a strong WiFi signal, freedom, security, sex, pizza, and happiness [I’m talking about the humans, not the politicians]. We merely have different ideas about how to get there.
Trigger warning: I’m going to generalize about both “teams” in order to make a point
(recent past and now)
The “left” believes in freedom for all – but they know better for people with regard to protecting them from poverty, starvation, ignorance, discrimination, hurt feelings, and bad health. How do they get around the exception? Like the conservatives, they too, might call it “morality” or “pragmatism”.
From their perspective, it is the moral thing to sacrifice the product of your labor in order to have the [hopefully] beneficial ends they strive for. But who chooses what those ends are and who chooses whom to take from and whom to give to? “The ends justify the means” is a dangerous idea to base policy on. The pragmatism can often be the result of seeking a “practical” solution that works for the here and now but ignores far-ranging effects.
The simplified version: “You are free to do what you want with your body but not your words or property.”
Why is that a paradox? Because you own your body, which means you own what you do with your body, as well as that which is produced by your body. Contradictions to this principle are detrimental to the individual – thus the group, being that groups are made up of individuals – and unsustainable.
UPDATE: Now in the years 2019-2022, Leftists seem to have become more authoritarian in the name of the above justifications. “You are responsible for the health of others and we are responsible for your health. We will judge you by your skin color.”
(recent past and now)
The “right” believes in freedom for all – except in believing that people need forced guidance and protection from some or all of the following: drugs, the “wrong” religions, sex (same sex relations and prostitution), pregnancy issues, and “foreign terrorists”. IMPORTANT: See “Update” at the bottom.
So that “freedom… but…” is an exception. How do they account for this exception? Different conservatives may have different answers. From “just being practical (or pragmatic)” to “morality”. Sometimes that morality comes from “the word of God” and sometimes “It’s just what is right and moral”. We may ask, “Who chooses what is right?” The pragmatism usually comes from the same thought processes Team Left goes through when seeking solutions.
Let’s simplify: “You are free to do what you want with your words and property but not your body.”
NOTE: I’m not talking about Constitutionalists, Classical Liberals, or Conservative Libertarians here! I said above that I’m going to generalize and that is what I’m doing.
UPDATE: Now in the years 2019-2022, A growing number of conservatives seem to have become more Libertarian with regard to acceptance around sexuality, drugs, religion, and war.
Both of those points of view share the idea that it is okay to take people’s property against their will or otherwise control people (coercion) in order to fund the team’s favorite kind of “protection”. I ask you to look through your beliefs and see that both “sides” want similar things and both put forth “solutions” that rely on coercion. Guess what? It is possible to work toward a world where we do not legitimize coercion of any kind. This article and the videos there show a few of many potential well worked-out solutions.
If you are a Republican or Democrat, you want the same thing as those you deride, with your only differences being the methodology you favor!
Also, you are both willing to give up some of your own freedom and sacrifice the freedom of others in order to enact your favorite means to achieve those ends. Whatever “team” you are on, you support a system allowing for exceptions and contradictions to your principles and both are intolerant of those with differing views:
“We want you to be free to do what you want with your body BUT not your words and property/money, which we know better than you how to use.”
“We want you to be free to do what you want with your words and property/money BUT not your body, which we know better how you should use.”
Pragmatic vs. Principled
Both left and right propose [attempts at] pragmatic or “practical” solutions, as opposed to principled. On the surface that may sound effective.
However, without an underlying principle to tie solutions together with integrity, a system becomes a never-ending stream of problems-and-bandaids, often contradicting itself and quickly becoming unfair, inefficient, and… impractical, because it doesn’t work. Something going wrong? Patch it! See the irony?
These kind of systems tend to promote “surfacey” quick fix solutions, often leaving out the following four dimensions:
(c) Relationships to other solutions;
(d) Effects on all individuals (in energy/wealth, safety/health, and freedom); and
(e) Looking “up” at the big picture and “down” at the underlying causes.
When a system is made up of parts, it is important to look at the relationships between the parts when deciding whether a part is “practical”. That is where a “map” comes in handy to check each part against. That “map” is principles.
For a deeper dive into pragmatic vs principled: https://clearsay.net/pragmatic-vs-principled
Are there better ways?
Then there is the demonizing; the lack of understanding from both sides. Is it possible to understand the motivations of the other team? I say yes, it is.
On the left it is ignored or not even recognized that the conservative is actually thinking about the future and the good of all people just as much as the liberal is. One might argue that the conservative tends to think more about wide-reaching and/or future effects, while the liberal tends to think more about what is happening right now. “Damn the costs! That person is suffering and needs help right now!”
The conservative has a plan, just like the leftist does. Yet they are called stupid, selfish, mean, or close minded. They live too much in the future and not in the moment.
And the conservative points to the liberal, saying they are thieving fools who can not do math because they don’t understand the economic unsustainability of their programs and how terrible the suffering of dependency is.
Perhaps he can appreciate the leftist’s caring and goals?
What if both “sides” were to look at the other and say, “I appreciate your compassion for people who are disadvantaged. I feel the same way. I merely disagree with your method of how to best help those people.”
Why is that so hard? Here’s a reason: Both sides look at the other and – maybe subconsciously – realize that other side is cheering [voting] for coercion [laws] to be enacted against their team using money taken from them [taxes].
What if leftists need conservatives to remind them about the importance of respect for individuality while conservatives need to learn about the value of relationships from leftists?
To go deeper with compassion for the “other team,” we can explore what needs may typically underlie their positions:
- Community & Support
Like Yin and Yang, it is easy to see how both positions are equivalent and necessary.
More on Absolutists/Contextualists here.
Do we need to be forced?
Do we really need government to force us to give and to work together peacefully for common goals? Most people have a natural desire to give. We also have a natural desire to organize and work together so that we can specialize. We see the efficiency inherent in cooperation. We don’t have to be forced to cooperate. It naturally occurs!
Forced transactions have a winner and loser. Voluntary transactions have two winners because both chose the transaction because they saw benefit for themselves in it.
“But not everyone is unwilling to use coercion to get what they want! You seem to assume the opposite. How do you protect the doves from the hawks?”
This is an important question! Voluntaryists do believe in protection for the “weak” or vulnerable. Actually, protection for everyone who wants it! Here are some practical solutions to the seeming paradox.
We hear so much from the left about the greed of conservatives, it is almost a cliche. Rarely will a liberal believe that a conservative would actually give to charities if he is allowed to keep the money he makes. “They despise the poor as lazy and would force them to starve.” I propose that the average “right winger” looks at the poor and feels the same amount of human sadness as the “left winger”. The difference is in preference of solutions. So, speaking of solutions…
Parenting & Pain
Think parents and the range of how they treat their children. Some will attempt to fix every discomfort and problem for their children for a short term gain of harmony, comfort, the satisfaction of nurturing, or safety from real or imagined threats.
Others will stop and ask themselves, “Is the thing happening/about to happen going to damage my child or merely give him/her a valuable lesson? Should I wait a bit before interfering and see what he/she does to solve their own problem?”
Both of the parenting solutions above are from moms and dads who care deeply for their children and want the best for them. Do you think the more “conservative” parent’s motive is to selfishly save their energy by not interfering? I propose they are often just as eager to “save” their child from that skinned knee they see coming but they are biting their lip and holding back because they know:
We must all experience pain in order to grow and learn compassion for the pain of others. “Saving” others from their pain is often costly in more than one way, including depriving the “victim” the opportunity to save themselves.
“But what can I do, personally?”
Investigate Libertarianism or even Voluntaryism. They are principled approaches to politics. They are tolerant, too. You can accept other ways without condoning them.
Here are a couple ways you can begin:
Bonus fun; read this:
The past several months have made one thing clear: Our country faces disaster if the Other Team wins.
No reasonably intelligent person can deny that. All you have to do is look at the way the Other Team has been speaking and acting. Instead of focusing on the issues that are important to the People, their Team has continued to fire a barrage of distortions, misrepresentations, and lies.
Just look at the Other Team’s latest public statements, which take a reasonable statement by the candidate for My Team out of context to make it seem as if they are saying something immoral. This shows how desperate the Other Team is and how willing it is to mislead the People.
The Other Team even has the gall to accuse My Team of being authoritarian, sexist, and racist, when they are the ones obviously embracing methods and speech born of ignorance and fear. This shows you what a bunch of hypocrites their Team is.