Tuesday, November 01, 2005

I posted a comment last night at Professor Bainbridge and he's responded to me in a post. I've been getting a lot of visitors today.

Conservatives are as philosophically opposed to human empathy are liberals are philosophically predisposed to assuming they themselves exhibit it.

Conservatives aren't that smart and they know it. But they're afraid of being conned and they suspect rightly that most liberals are hypocrites. Bainbridge is a lower-middle-class kid who wants His; and he's a Catholic who believes in old fashioned morality. How he reconciles the philosophical defense of selfishness with Catholic moral teaching I have no idea.

1 comment:

Max Lybbert said...

It's always interesting to hear sweeping generalizations about other people's politics. While you are definitely entitled to your opinions, I would like to set the record straight rgarding this particular conservative (a.k.a., me):

/* Conservatives are as philosophically opposed to human empathy are liberals are philosophically predisposed to assuming they (themselves) exhibit it.
*/

I'm not opposed to human empathy so much as I believe "other people's feelings (and my own, on occasion)" take a back seat to certain other issues. For instance, I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings, but I'll do so if it's necessary to prevent a robbery, to reduce the risk of terrorism, or to speak out regarding human rights abuses in China. I'm not philosophically opposed to human empathy, I support it, but not as much as I support strong property rights, personal security, or human rights.

/* Conservatives aren't that smart and they know it.
*/

I won't say anything about my own smarts, but I will say that history has proven that most people aren't as smart as they think they are. Most social changes have been accompanied by serious unintended side effects: Social security -> ability to hide serious government budget problems by borrowing from the trust fund; improved computer networks -> easy credit -> high bankruptcy rates; increased internet connectivity -> easier for political junkies to find others like them -> polarization of politics, etc. So, yes, I am a little cautious about promises that X or Y will make the grass greener, the birds chirpier, or the like. Not that I'm opposed to social security, improved computer networks, or increased internet connectivity. I'm simply opposed to the groupthink that's common among social revolutionaries.

For instance, while I recognize that it's indisputable that the world is warmer than it once was, I believe Kyoto (1) would have devastating unintended economic side effects, (2) would do nothing to actually reduce global warming (as it does nothing regarding the massive greenhouse gas emissions from developing countries -- emissions that dwarf the ones Kyoto regulates, think trying to balance the budget deficit by making all the cuts in the Department of Education), and (3) I wonder if a strong global economy in a warmer world might be a net positive (measured in number of people living, and their living conditions) compared to a colder world with a weak economy. I don't think the Left has considered these things because of the groupthink that plagues social revolutionaries.

/* Bainbridge is a lower-middle-class kid who wants His; and he's a Catholic who believes in old fashioned morality. How he reconciles the philosophical defense of selfishness with Catholic moral teaching I have no idea.
*/

He's actually made something of a succesful career writing papers about how he reconciles this. While I won't speak for Bainbridge, I can bring up an example that might help. European nations spend about twice as much of their national budgets on foreign aid than the US, but their citizens don't contribute to charity as much as US citizens do. The result? About the same percentage of GDP going to other countries from European countries as from the US.

My point? Something tells me the Left prefers the European model, while Bainbridge would prefer the US model. People who are well-off because of strong property rights are in a better position to contribute to charity than poor people.