In Whom Should Americans Trust?

I had an epiphany the other day…  That liberals and conservatives differ sharply in terms of whom they fundamental trust to have their best interests in mind.  My observation was that conservatives generally trust the business world more than they trust the government, and that for liberals it’s the opposite.  Libs would rather put their faith in the government than in business.  Conservatives tend to trust the military more than liberals do.  Liberals have much greater faith in human nature than conservatives do.  Trust in God is all over the map, as is trust in self – probably not breaking down along liberal-vs-conservative philosophical lines.  It seems to me that these fundamental “trust vectors” play a critical role in understanding where liberals and conservatives are coming from on a number of issues, including some of the hot spots we’ve discussed recently:  universal (socialized) health care, social security, the culture war, closing the wealth gap in America, etc.

My first question…  Do you agree with the above statements?  My second is “why are these statements true?”

For instance, why do conservatives seem to ignore the concern that if a company is focused “only on making a profit”, then they could very easily be willing to step on the little guy, the environment, the law, etc in the proces?  We see this happen all the time, and it’s getting worse.  CEO’s are taking salaries 10x what they used to be, in comparison to their workers, for example.

Why do liberals seem to ignore the historical reality that when you trust the government with too much (socialism / communism) and undermine capitalistic forces like the free market, competition, etc then you end up with totalitarianism that oppresses just about everyone?  (Well, everyone except the guy at the top taking everything for himself — through the governmental structure we were supposed to be able to trust.)  They say they don’t want that, but they openly admit that they trust the government with their money more than business, use the word “profit” like a swear word (and in order to do away with it, you have to do away with competition), etc.

Why do conservatives feel that human nature is fundamentally corrupt, and constantly want to compensate for that?  Can’t they have a little faith in people!?

Why do liberals (far more than conservatives) mistrust the military?  The Iraq conflict has been an extremely clear indicator of this – when liberals over and over again assumed the military was guilty 5 minutes after suspicion of guilt was raised.  From Abu Grab Prison to Guantanamo Bay to a dozen times when our troops were assumed to have shot innocent people in cold blood before a second of investigation had occurred.  Some have even called the terrorists “freedom fighters” while calling our troops “oppressors”.  Why is that?

So, my question to you…  Are these stereotypes real?  And if so, why?

I submit that one reason is a left-brained / right-brained thing.  Typically, right-brained people are more emotional and heart-based.  They’re creative, artistic, etc.  These people have a tendency to be more liberal, because the decide by feeling.  Typically, left-brained people are more rational and brain-based.  They’re analytical, math and engineering types, etc.  These people have a tendency to be more conservative, because they decide by analysis.  This isn’t to say that left-brain people are smarter or more sane (not that definition of “rational”) than right-brain people, it’s just different … and a difference that seems to be important.  Also, keep in mind that stereotypes are about the majority – not every single person.  There are always exceptions.

An example…  the trusting business vs. trusting government thing.  I think much of the reason liberals don’t trust business and conservatives do, is that most conservatives understand business better.  The average liberal, not very familiar with business, fears it and makes their decisions based solely on the fact that they’re seeing the little guy get screwed by the big guy … and that’s just not fair.  They’re right, that is happening, and it’s not fair, but macro economic questions such as universal health care are about way more than that reality.  However, I don’t think many liberals see it that way.  They are “choosing sides” over a knee-jerk emotional reaction, not over a thorough understanding of the economic implications of their choice.  They choose government, because it’s the opposing force to choose.  Their choice isn’t so much “pro-government”, it’s “anti-business”.

Distrust of the military is another example.  Guns are bad; they hurt people.  I’m a pacifist; I believe we should not hurt people.  We have no right to run around on other nations’ soil and shoot people.  Etc.  These are all very legitimate ways to feel, but they don’t make good governmental policy.  This kind of thinking gets people killed.  So, the military is chalk-full of hard-core-rational-analysis people who know what needs to be done to secure the nation, win the war, defeat the enemy, etc.  Those who have the same perspective on the outside are their supporters, and those who think some of the bad-guns, pacifism, stay-out-of-their-business thoughts I described above not only don’t join the all-volunteer military, but are its detractors from the outside.

Okay, enough of my bloviating.  Other opinions?  Analysis of my comments?

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About Jeff Block

Lover and follower of Jesus, the long awaited King. Husband and father. Writer and seminary student. On a long, difficult, joyful adventure, learning to swim with the current of God's sovereign love and walk with Him in the garden in the cool of the day.
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27 Responses to In Whom Should Americans Trust?

  1. Neva says:

    I largely agree with you on the liberal/conservative divide on trusting government/business, at least as it applies to me and the environment I was raised in. I am by no means saying that government is perfect, just that I find it preferable to business in many areas, much of which we’ve already discussed, so I won’t bother elaborating too much.

    As for the military thing, I’m not so sure on this one… I am a liberal and a pacifist. I do dislike guns and was raised in a household where no toy guns were permitted, and we weren’t even allowed to watch cartoons like GI Joe as a kid because they promoted realistic violence. (In retrospect, their inability to actually hit anyone with all that shooting may contradict the “realistic” part, but I think you get the idea.) That being said, I also grew up in a military town. At least half of my friends as a kid had a parent in the military, and I respected and cared about many of those people very much. I do not have a problem with the existence of the military or with the people in it. They are good people who make a lot of sacrifices I know I wouldn’t be able to make.
    What I do have a problem with, often, is military policy and the decision on when it is appropriate to use military force. I cried when I heard about civilian casualties from our early bombing runs in Afghanistan, but I believed we had a reason to be there. I did not believe from the beginning that there was a reason for us to be in Iraq, and I still don’t believe that we should have gone there in the first place. But that’s irrelevant and we have to deal with the situation as it is now, which is a whole separate issue. I just wanted to clarify that I, personally, do not distrust the military as a whole; I simply don’t have faith in some of the people doing the decision-making on its behalf in recent years (the majority of whom are civilians, not military).

    I don’t think I would agree that this is a right-brain/left-brain issue. I was raised in these beliefs by an experimental psychologist and a computer programmer, and I’m a molecular geneticist. Those aren’t exactly artistic, non-rational careers. I agree it’s possible that these could be exceptions, but most of the rational, analytical scientists I work with are also generally liberal, so it would have to be a pretty large class of exceptions.
    I will agree that I personally am not intimately familiar with the workings of big business or with economics. This lack of familiarity may contribute to my general distrust of corporations. But again, I do know people with a better knowledge of economics who do consider themselves liberal, so I don’t think that’s the only explanation.

    I will toss out an additional distinction that I’ve noticed in our discussions recently: Money. With most of the issues we’ve been discussing lately, the conservatives seem to be coming at it from a perspective of money. How much will it cost? How do we pay for it? What does it do to the economy? etc. I can’t speak for all liberals, or even neccessarily a majority, but to me, money really isn’t that important. Life is not about money. There are definitely other factors I consider first. Maybe this is part of what you mean by being rational and analytical, but I consider it to simply be a matter of having different priorities to weight the outcomes of that analysis. Of course the costs need to be considered, but that isn’t my first concern. Is this something that is worth doing? Will it provide a substantial benefit to the general public? If so, then it’s time to look at what it would cost, what would need to be changed, and if those changes will create more harm than the initial benefits. The money is a factor, but it’s not where I start my thought process.


  2. Chris Berry says:

    Ok, I’m finally gonna chime in here. For those who don’t know me, I’m another of Jeff and Brad’s old-time friends from high school. I’m also Neva’s husband, a Clinical (read as Psychiatric) Social Worker, a Christian (Jeff and I met at church) and a long-time and die-hard liberal. I’ve avoided the blog so far because, while I think honestly and openly listening to each other about our varing views would be a major benefit to ourselves and the nation, I’m not very good at “virtual” discussions. That being said, I’m going to give it a shot and see what happens.

    As to Jeff’s point on the difference between liberals and conservatives being higher trust in government or business respectively, I suppose that may be true. I’m not sure it’s the causal factor, but it does appear to be an accurate descriptor. I would like to point out that I do not believe that a) either side entirely trusts one or distrusts the other, or b) government programming and capitalist business are incompatible. I also want to point out that I don’t have an over-arching philosophy on the difference between right and left and why people fall into those groups. I do, however, think that some of Jeff’s assumptions are inaccurate. Let me see if I can actually articulate this.

    1. Right- vs. Left-brainedness: I don’t particularly think that this is accurate. While many engineers and business people are conservative and many artists are liberal, I don’t feel that this is representative. As Neva pointed out, an apparent strong majority of scientists and scholars (professors, graduate students, teachers, researchers, etc.) in and out of academia are liberal, and most of them are by requirement of their field very analytical, rational, “left-brained” people. While on the other hand, many more “right-brained” people, including (off the top of my head and non-inclusively) many country music and Christian music recording artists, are quite conservative. These examples may be seen as statistical outliers, but there is significant research (which I won’t look up now as it’s 11:00pm on a Saturday night and I’m sleepy) that shows a strong correlation between higher levels of education (often in very left-brained fields) and more liberal views. I think background, upbringing, and information sources tend to be more predictive of political philosophy (my parents/hometown were liberal, ergo I’m more likely to be liberal).

    2. Black & White vs. Shades of Gray: I’m not certain that this pervades the entire liberal/conservative dichotomy, but I do believe that a prime difference inherent in many such discussions is that of the binary state. Are there entirely knowable right and wrong answers to questions. Is any deviation from a philosophy allowable, or is there a possible “slippery slope?” Are all situations reducible to good vs. evil? I don’t tend to think so. There are definately some situations and some points in which a slippery slope is reached and beginning to travel a path is too dangerous; however, I also feel that an all-or-nothing approach is also almost never appropriate. The U.S. Constitution is based on, and was developed through, the concept that compromise is a vital part of developing policy. Ergo, sometimes we have to find an acceptable shade of gray in the middle.

    3. Quantifiable issues: Picking up on Neva’s point about money as a primary or preliminary issue in policy development, I think one point that she is trying to make is that while money is (obviously) easily quantifiable, people are not. The field of psychology (and by association, Social Work) have been working for more than a century to be able to accurately quantify several major issues such as happiness, misery, depression, poverty, suffering, prejudice, etc. Some progress has been made, but this is a very difficult thing to do. Human behavior, individual and collective, is one of, if not the, most complex systems that has ever been studied. As a result, finding a way to deal with the problems inheirent therein (or even predicting future behavior) is extremely difficult and rarely given to simple answers. I tend to see an emphasis on categorical solutions and limited intervention as a main feature of many conservative stands, and I generally disagree that they will be effective since human behavior rarely conforms to such categorization. The point of that digression is that I do feel that sometimes, for example in the case of universal healthcare, the motivating issue needs to be something we cannot quantify as well: human suffering and our ability to alleviate it. While I believe that there are many cogent and important economic arguements for the program, I agree it may be costly. I don’t think that that should be the sole measure, however. The more important question for me is, does it alleviate suffering, improve the welfare of the public, care for our citizens and allow others a more even field in which to engage in the “pursuit of happiness.” I feel it does, in part due to my profession, but largely due to my faith and values. I feel that the money is as worth it in this case as in spending for the military. And, as with many of these priorities, I feel that the federal government is the best AVAILABLE institution through which to provide the care. Private business is ill-suited to the task due to the inherent profit-driven nature of business; this is not one of it’s many strengths. Private not-for-profits simply do not have the resources or breadth to administer such a program, and would have less accountability. Same with faith-based institutions; any given faith organization is not going to have the breadth to provide healthcare for all of those un or underinsured and may have added difficulty reaching those who are of differing faiths or practice incompatible behaviors. Finally, using a variety of these non-governmental agencies would likely be even less efficient or effective than an governmental agency.

    4. Views on the military: I think that views on the military are a highly amorphous thing. I will agree that, at least from the point of view of a person of our cohort (ie, a “child of the eighties” or so), views on the military in the 60’s and 70’s fell primarily upon liberal vs. conservative lines. In many ways in the Viet Nam era, they defined liberal and conservative. I also suspect that our views of history are not entirely accurate, but that’s immaterial at this point. I think that the views of the military of many people on both sides, myself included, have changed and matured a great deal in the past 6 years. I know, for example, that I think much more about the distinctions in the military and government. Overall, I continue to find myself completely ill-suited for the military; I have too much of an aversion to hurting others and too much of a problem with the indoctrination necessary to allow people to engage in warfare. That’s why I’ve never volunteered for the military forces. However, I do believe that the military is a necessity of the world and of government and strongly respect those who serve, from my grandfathers and father-in-law who served in wartime to several friends, including Brad, who have chosen to serve more recently, to those on active and reserve duty as we speak. I do have a strong lack of respect for those who commit major crimes and acts of atrocity such as Abu Grab and the other’s Jeff referenced. I abhor those events just as I abhor those committed by civilians at home and abroad; domestic violence, school shootings, murder, etc. But I think that that is a different issue than the blame for the war. I, and many if not most of those that I have talked to/heard that are against the war, lay the responsibility for this not on the military, but on their civilian leadership. How often have we heard that a good deal of advice from senior military leadership was discreditied or ignored by the Administration in the run-up to the war? Our military is controlled by the civilian government, as it should be. And, from the final plans for the invasion and aftermath to the use (or lack thereof) of diplomacy, to the “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” attitude of our international relations, to the interrogation techniches approved by the civilian DOD, I place a large part of the blame on the administration. I also strongly include the failure of Congress (both Republican and Democrat) to provide effective oversight or criticism of the entire situation.

    Ok. I know that I rambled a bit (a lot) more than I may have intended to, but I’m too tired to go back and edit much. Regardless, I don’t think I said anything that I didn’t mean. I’ll do my best to clarify anything that you would like, though I won’t promise how timely it will be (another of my difficulties with virtual communication). Regardless, thank you, Jeff, for the opportunity to share my thoughts. And, to all reading them, please remember that the spirit intended in them was to communicate, not controvertialize. I promise to attempt to listen to and understand your points of view before responding on the condition that you extend the same consideration to the rest of us. And with that some what pompous ending, I’m going to bed.


  3. Bill Woessner says:

    Speaking for myself, it’s a matter of choice, not trust. With the government, I have no choices. With business, I do. If a company adopts some practice that I don’t like, I can simply take my business elsewhere. If the government passes a law I don’t like, my only recourse is to move to another country. Maybe this is why Thomas Paine said, “That government is best which governs least.”

    Since we recently talked about health care, it’s worth pointing out that health insurance is an example of a situation where you might not have choices. Specifically, if your employer provides health insurance, you’re usually stuck with their plan. You could seek out insurance on your own, but it’s usually a lot more expensive.

    Concerning the military, I’m continually amazed when people are shocked about the war atrocities commited in Iraq. Anyone who’s studied even a modicum of history knows that war leads to atrocities. Pick any side of any war and they commited war atrocities. It’s the inevitable result of putting human beings in combat situations for long periods of time. In no way am I offering this as an excuse. But I am saying that it happens every single time and it’s almost laughable that we’re still shocked by it.

    As far as trust goes, I most definitely do not trust the government. My reasons are two-fold. First, and foremost, the government doesn’t do anything well. Whether it’s collecting taxes, making budgets, providing services or immigration, the government sucks at it. I suspect this is because there are no consequences for failure. It’s all but impossible for a government employee to be fired. And if you’re truly dissatisfied with the performance of the government, are you really going to pick up and move to another country?

    The other reason that I distrust government is politicians. Politicians’ number one job is getting reelected. They don’t work for the good of the country. They work to make themselves look good to their voting constituents. More importantly, they work to make the other guy look bad. Why simplify taxes when you can use the existing tax code to pander to voters? Better yet, wait until the other guy tries the same thing and then bash him over the head with it.

    I believe this is a very good argument for term limits. Of course, that’s impossible because Congress will never impose term limits on itself (just like it won’t pass a pay raise). Funny how they were quick to slap term limits on the presidency after someone had the gall to run more than twice. As an aside, I think limiting the president to two terms actually increased the power of the executive. The president (especially a 2nd term president) doesn’t have to worry about pissing people off. Congressmen seeking reelection must always walk on eggshells.


  4. Brad Bull says:

    I agree with your initial statement Jeff, but like everyone else it starts to breakdown from there.
    I completely disagree with Bill’s assesment that we the people have more control and influence over business practices than we do the government. I feel the opposite, that we can influence the government more than business. Therefore, I don’t think liberals feel they can trust the government more than business, rather they feel they can influence the government more than business.

    I would also point out that liberals “trust” our system of government, where the people have the power. Not a socialistic government, where the power is out of the people’s hands.

    RE: Why do liberals (far more than conservatives) mistrust the military?

    Why do conervatives trust the military? Any organization with that much power requires constant scrutiny and supervision.

    RE: I’m continually amazed when people are shocked about the war atrocities commited in Iraq.

    Just because it has been done regularly does not mean we should accept the behavior. We cannot hold isurgents to our standards, but we can hold our soldiers to our standards.

    This has been on my mind for a while, and Neva briefly touched on it. A popular perception is that liberals are more educated “effete professors” and conservatives are blue collar “working stiffs”. This is different from the left v. right brain argument (which I do not know enough about to argue). What do you think Jeff? Is their any truth to this? If so, why?


  5. Jeff Block says:

    There’s SO much that’s been said here, that I’m pretty much forced to pick and choose what to respond to (which I normally don’t like to do)…

    First, Chris, welcome! Glad you joined the discussion.

    Neva… I understand your distinction between the people in the military (the soldiers) and the people making the wartime policy / decisions (the military and political leaders). I agree. What I was talking about here was more that it seems liberals are very unwilling to give the military the benefit of the doubt. It seems many assumed guilt (and quickly) on the part of our troops at Abu Grab and other situations in Iraq. More to the leadership, it seems like many assumed we were torturing people in Guantanamo Bay, instead of giving us the benefit of the doubt. In an “our word against theirs” situation re: Guantanamo, my default position is to believe that the terrorists are lying and that we weren’t torturing people. But it seems like much of the left defaulted the other way. I’d have made the same assumptions / drawn the same default conclusions regardless of who was President (liberal or conservatives). Do you all think the libs generally would have as well?

    Re: more choice = more trust

    I think it’s a great point to translate the “more trust” question to a “more choice” question. In other words, “over whom do I have the most control? That’s the person I’ll trust.” What this really boils down to is a trust in self, right?

    Frankly, I feel almost completely unable to impact both government and business. I used to agree with Bill about just shopping somewhere else, but now that so much outsourcing and internationalization has occurred, I feel like there isn’t nearly as much meaningful choice in business related to the average consumer as their used to be.

    Re: always talking about money

    Money is the mechanism we’ve devised for trade. If I work really hard to produce something, and you want it, you give me money for it. The money is what was traded for all the blood, sweat and tears to create it. If I want something, I use money to get it. In a lot of ways, money is the best representation of what we want, what we build, etc. A lot of who we are is wrapped up in those things, and then closely tied to money. So, that’s the first reason we talk about money a lot. It’s pretty central, and the very healthy sign of a civilized modern environment.

    Of course we should consider what ought to be done, what’s right and wrong, etc. In fact, these things are first (I think we’d all agree – I hope). But if you cannot practically implement something, no matter how great an idea it is, then it’s not worth talking about much, is it? This goes back to my left-vs-right-brained point… Many times I feel liberals are talking about what should be, with little substantive discussion about how that would be practically implemented or little obvious thought as to the unintended consequences. That stary-eyed-dreamer / idealist perspective is *very* right-brained. The left-brain person is always asking the “how” questions, *in addition to* (not instead of) the “should we?” questions.

    Universal health care (UHC) is a great example… Because the average liberal views health care as a right and doesn’t want to see poor people go with out or inequity in society, they say, “Of course we should have UHC. We’ll talk about the cost later.” (Neva even said this outright.)

    The conservative (I’ll just blatantly speak for all of them based on how I responded to the question) does ask the “should we?” question, but in addition asks the “how feasible is it?” question. Because the answer to the latter is so egregious, it becomes part of the former. And I focused on it because that seems to be so lost on the liberal population, and because I don’t think the “is it a right or isn’t it?” question has a resolution.

    That said, there were some discussions on this front too remember… such as whether or not it weakens a person to do things for them, whether or not people generally appreciate something they don’t pay for / work for, etc.

    Re: left- vs. right brained

    I still think these are factors, even if you guys have been able to cite exceptions. Perhaps I’m wrong.

    Re: white-collar vs. blue-collar

    This is, I think, a very interesting point, and goes to some thoughts I have that I didn’t mention because they might be considered overly controversial. But since you brought it up, I’ll talk about it…

    First, I think it’s *easier* to be a conservative. In other words, the uninformed person who looks at things as black and white has an easier time defaulting to a form of nostalgic, remember-the-good-ole-days kind of mentality that fears change and becomes almost isolationist. This perspective will have far more in common with conservatism than with liberalism, so these folks will identify with conservatives more than liberals. Hence, some of the uneducated masses who tend toward conservative politics. Obviously I view both sides as positions that can be occupied by either well-educated folks or poorly-educated folks, but I believe this is a factor.

    Second, I think a large segment of the liberal party is the second-generation-wealth crowd. When life is easy and people grow up with money, I think it’s far easier to be a liberal than a conservative. The guy who builds a small business from scratch is almost always a conservative, and his kids are almost always liberal. When farmer Bob has to work all day in the field just to make ends meet, he’s going to be pretty practical. This life won’t leave much room for him to dream up new progressive philosophies about life. However, there is a very large segment of the liberal population that has a lot of money, and is essentially bored (deep at the core) with the way things are. They really don’t have anything better to do than to be “trendy” in their philosophy. Hollywood is an excellent example of this. And because this group has resources, they pool together at the finest schools in the country, get great educations, etc. But because they’re not as interested in economics or business, as we’ve discussed, they end up teaching at major universities, some are researchers / scientists, many are journalists or historians or work in social fields. Far fewer engineers than writers, far more teachers than accountants, etc. Now again, there are a lot of liberals who have less and conservatives who have more, I’m just pointing out one contributor, not an overarching general rule.

    Lastly, the education system in America leans left. This isn’t a very disputed fact. Right now, liberal philosophy is “trendy”, as I mentioned before, and is represented far more in the academic world than conservative thought is. This is true in the media too, but that’s a debate for another day (I plan to post a conversation on the media soon.) Because teachers are liberal, they pass expectations along to their kids

    So, I feel like this was a rambling point, but I’m sure it will at least be interesting to discuss.


  6. Brad Bull says:

    As far as not giving the military the benefit of the doubt. I have mentioned repeatedly that I don’t trust anyone in power and absolutely believe in rigorous oversight. Therefore, when an administration hides everything they can “for our own good” people have a right to be suspicious. I know we have debated government secrecy before, but I hope that you can see how a person who does not trust those in power would be suspicious when they are secretive about their actions, especially when ambiguous open-ended detention is involved. Also important to point out that we are not believing TERRORISTS over out government, we are listening to people who have not been accused of committing any crime. Calling them terrorists is incorrect and somewhat biased.

    RE: What this really boils down to is a trust in self, right?
    I don’t understand, it really seems to be trust in others.

    I am intrigued by your white v. blue collar analysis. It is interesting that you specifically mentioned farmers in the conservative group. I have never understood them. They receive, by far, the largest handouts from the government. Far larger than TANFF recipients, yet they consistently vote against their own self interests. Except, most red state republicans would dare touch farm subsidies to cut the budget.

    Another way to form your argument, in my mind, is that conservatives focus on money more than liberals. I hadn’t thought about this, but doesn’t throw up any immediate flags. I would say that on the universal healthcare topic we did state their would be associated costs, but they currently appear managable to us who support it.

    Education leaning left: I just don’t know. I guess it is hard to teach engineering classes with any political bias 😉


  7. Chris Berry says:

    I think that there is one other point that needs to be addressed here and considered in all of our discussions when citing examples, and especially in trying to determine the difference between liberal and conservative. The issue is what is referred to in research as “investigator bias.” It is essentially the concept that, when judging a set of information, most human beings have a strong unconscious tendency to see what we already to believe to be true. Speaking as a professional counselor, I can say that I literally see this many times every day. People hold certain beliefs (ie., life sucks, she hates me, I am SO cool, liberals are all completely impractical and unpatriotic, conservatives are bigoted hicks, etc.) and they tend on an unconscious level to pay more attention to information that agrees with those beliefs. For example, we know that a depressed person has more difficulty remembering positive memories than negative ones. People with a strongly held belief tend to give more weight to information that supports that belief than do people with an opposite or neutral belief on that topic. And, as a result, often discussions between people of differing beliefs, such as liberals and conservatives, degenerate because we are each unconsiously giving more weight to different information and can’t understand why the other side is too stupid to do the same.

    We need to be careful of this. Modern scientific and research practice is based around establishing methods to rule out and avoid investigator bias (control groups, double-blind studies, etc.) in order to get accurate rather than expected results. Much of modern therapy is based on helping people to see past their preconceptions to what is REALLY going on (it just FEELS like no one likes you when actually, you have many friends and loving family). I think that it would behoove us to take up this goal in political discussion and debate. That is not to say that I expect the 2008 presidential race to be without the us vs. them mentality, but I DO think that forums like this, where one of the asserted points has been to actually talk to each other rather than repeat party spin, HAVE to address this issue. This does not mean that we have to have complete studies for each issue we bring up. It does mean that we need to be willing to look at the possibility that we are giving too much, or too little, creadence to information based on our views. We’re all (read as: humanity) guilty of this; but I, for one, will do my best to really consider this when discussing these issues. I hope you will do the same.


  8. Neva says:

    Just for the record, I really don’t think I was saying, “Of course we should do this. We’ll worry about the costs later.” I was more saying, “If this is worth doing, and here’s why I think it is, then we should be willing to look at realistic numbers and see if there’s a way to make it feasible.”
    I felt that the discussion started with, “It will be very expensive, so it’s not worth doing.” And that is the position I was responding to. Perhaps you had gone through the thought process on whether it was worth doing first, but all that was given here was an analysis of why it’s too expensive to consider, and one that I didn’t find terribly convincing in terms of where the numbers were coming from.
    I also think that we need to discuss why something is worth doing and how important the benefits will be in order to define what is “too expensive” because that concept is subjective based on how much you value something and thus are willing to pay for it.

    As for academics leaning liberal because it’s “trendy”, I completely disagree with that idea. I can’t speak for all areas of academia, but I can tell you exacly why most scientists I know aren’t at all inclined to support conservative causes: Conservatives are promoting the suppression of reason. Conservatives have tied themselves to the religious groups that are trying to interfere the teaching of science in our schools. Conservatives are finding “experts” (with theories not published in any peer-reviewed literature) who will claim global warming isn’t occurring so that policy-makers don’t have to put restrictions on big businesses and their carbon emissions.
    I realize that not all conservatives support these ideas; however, the conservative movement as a whole has embraced the groups that do because they are part of the active conservative base. There is little a group can do that will more quickly alienate the scientific community, so I don’t think there’s any need to invoke hypotheses of “trendiness” to understand why scientific academics are supporting liberal causes rather than conservative ones.


  9. Brad Bull says:

    Neva, I guess you alse recently rented “An Inconvenient truth”? It was pretty interesting to discover that no article disputing global warming has ever appeared in a peer-reviewed journal.

    Chris and Neva,
    I may be completely wrong, but I have the impression you may be disillusioned in your faith by the attempt of the conservative right to gain a monopoly on Christianity. If so, I just wanted to make you aware of a significant movement to bring it back. I would recommend the following books for peice of mind.

    “Our Endangered Values” Jimmy Carter

    “Why the Christian Right Is Wrong: A Minister’s Manifesto for Taking Back Your Faith, Your Flag, Your Future” Robin Meyers

    Eryn and I are currently reading:
    “The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream” by Barack Obama , And it looks pretty interesting even though we just started.


  10. Jeff Block says:

    Re: why I don’t want universal health care

    As apposed to “It will be very expensive, so it’s not worth doing”, I was saying “I do not support it because of all kinds of things, including that it will be very expensive”. Does that make sense?

    Re: academia

    Neva cited that conservatives categorically support the supression of reason. I feel this is both untrue and unfair. SOME conservatives have blinders on, just like SOME liberals do. The argument involved with many hot-button scientific issues is not about the data (is the earth’s climate trending warmer?), it’s about the interpretation of the data (liberal: this is solely the fault of the SUV and big business, and we’re going to destroy the planet — vs — conservative: this is a natural cycle, and things will return back to normal eventually). Both sides have evidence to support their conclusions, but neither side can proove it one way or another because there’s no test tube I can put the earth in to test either theory. Therefore, it becomes a philosophical question.

    As such, frankly, I find that just as often it’s the liberal who does not want to allow discussion involving any theory but the one they’ve accepted. The classic example here is evolution vs. intelligent design, which I have addressed in far more detail here.

    So, I don’t think this is a conservative only thing. It’s more akin to Chris’ point that people see what they want to see based on their own personal bias.


  11. Brad Bull says:

    I wish you would have used better examples in your point, becase I see what you wanted to get at. However,

    1. Global warming. Most peer-reviewed accepted science shows that human activity is a contributing factor, and although history (if you believe the earth to be more than 6,000 years old) shows that the climate of the earth tends to go in cycles, their is no guarantee that we will still be here when it returns. Most argument appears to be of the “minimize the damage to ensure the best chance for species survival” sort.

    2. Evolution v. Intelligent design. As discussed in our previous conversation I personally believe in a form of Intelligent Design. This is my profession of faith. However, intelligent design is not a scientific theory and cannot be compared to evolution on the basis of science.


  12. Jeff Block says:

    I disagree. Please read my new post on the topic.

    Oh, and feel free to give better examples.


  13. Brad Bull says:

    A good conservative v. liberal adcademic argument “off the top of my head” would be the argument between classical economics v. Keynesean economics. I know their are many new economic theories that fall into a middle ground between the two, but cons tend to lean toward classical and libs tend to lean toward Keynes.


  14. Neva says:

    Brad, I actually haven’t seen “An Inconvenient Truth.” I’ve been listening to scientific reporting and interviews (mostly on NPR’s Talk of the Nation: Science Friday), probably with some of the same people used as sources for that movie, I would guess.
    I wouldn’t say that I’m disillusioned in my faith, merely that I’m often cautious about expressing my faith because I don’t like the connotations (of bigotry, narrow-mindedness, etc) that have become attached to Christianity. Through the ESL Bible study that I’m currently participating in, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is the wrong response, and it’s time for me to start being more open about my faith to help change that public perception and prove that Christians don’t have to be part of the religious right.

    Jeff, I understand that expense may have been only one of your points, but I felt that it was the major one. (Look at the title of the post.) And that is the point I have a problem with. Until we decide how valuable something is to society, how can we know what is too much to pay for it? You have to establish worth before you can discuss what is a reasonable cost.
    My statement was not a categorical depiction of all conservatives. I specifically said that I realize not all conservatives agree with this, but the conservative political movement is tying itself to groups that do, so the perception is enough to drive many scientists away from supporting any conservative groups.
    I am also (to go back to an earlier comment that I skirted the edge of) deeply offended by your characterization of academia as a cushy job for second-generation wealth who don’t want to have to do real work by getting into the business community. I plan to enter the ranks of academia not because I think it would be easier work than industry; in my field it’s actually a lot harder work with longer hours for less money. I want to do it because I absolutely love teaching and believe that this country is very much in need of more science education as topics like GM crops and stem cells become mainstream issues. I also resent the implication that, as part of this community, my beliefs are formed as a result of boredom and looking for something new and trendy to believe in. I hope that you’d realize that I have more substance to my thinking than that.
    I am more than willing to discuss conflicting evidence and alternative hypotheses, but I agree with Brad that I have seen nothing to convince me that Intelligent Design has any sort of scientific basis to discuss. “We can’t fully explain how something happened, so an intelligent being must have done it,” is not a scientific explanation. Do we claim that dark matter and dark energy are the result of an intelligent being out in space doing things that interfere with our data collection? No, we assume that there is just information that we don’t currently understand, and we try to study it in order to understand it. Unlike Brad, I do not believe in Intelligent Design in any form; I believe in Theistic Evolution and the idea that the laws of science are the framework God put in place to run the universe, possibly even with an idea of what sort of results he wanted it to produce. The most wonderful explanation I’ve heard, I believe from a physicist explaining his Christianity, is that, as scientists, our life’s work is a process of gaining deeper understanding of God’s complex and wonderful great work.


  15. Brad Bull says:

    Confession: I don’t know the difference between Theistic Evolution and Intelligent Design.


  16. Neva says:

    From my understanding, theistic evolution accepts that evolution happened and was a process put in place and possibly guided by God. Intelligent design says that life forms are too complex to have come about through any natural means and thus God made them. Both are religious/philosophical beliefs that accept a divine driving force behind the complexity of life; the difference is largely a matter of whether that force acted through a process understood to science or not.


  17. Jeff Block says:

    Re: Cost was perceived as my primary argument

    I think one of the reasons (that hasn’t been stated yet) why cost bubbles to the top in a conversation like this one, is that liberal thinking would implement ideas like universal health care because in their minds it’s the right thing to do. And I believe they would do so with little regard for the cost of the program, because in their minds it would be primarily the responsibility of “the rich” to pay for it. As I’ve shown before, “the rich” isn’t just billionaires, it’s small business leaders and a lot of other people (like myself) who would get absolutely hammered financially to cover the cost of these ideas. That’s a pretty tough pill to swallow.

    Re: Neva was “deeply offended by your characterization of academia as a cushy job for second-generation wealth who don’t want to have to do real work by getting into the business community.”

    Okay, you’re combining two things I said. I believe that academia leans left. I also believe that second-generation wealth produces a kind of “boredom” that makes the liberal in their thinking. You are connecting these. I did not (or at least I didn’t intend to). I have the utmost respect both for you personally (as I’ve said *many* times, you are very reasoned in your responses here) and for teachers in general (my brother is one and I will most likely teach someday as well, by the way). I niether consider the profession “cushy” nor “not real work”. I’m struggling to find where I actually said that in anything I wrote.

    Re: Intelligent design…

    Let’s move that discussion to the post I created for it, where I have specifically addresssed a few of the things mentioned here.


  18. edarrell says:

    Liberal thinking would implement universal health care? Then we should do it. It would be cheaper than the current system in the U.S., which siphons off up to 25% of every health dollar simply to pay a for-profit company to distribute the money and keep poor people from getting health care.

    The Canadian system is a fine example — it’s much less expensive than the U.S. system, especially in malpractice and tort issues, and the preventive care is much more effective. Canadians live healthier, longer, and cheaper, with no serious problems with the system (other than physicians who wanted to get rich bailing out).

    A business bias in health care almost always raises costs and reduces the quality of care.

    We see similar issues in education, where the private system simply could not fill the bill, so we created widespread public education.

    Academia doesn’t lean left — there are few if any schools of labor, but hundreds of schools of business, for example. But academia leans toward real information and accuracy, and conservatives think that means liberal.


  19. Jeff Block says:

    > Academia doesn’t lean left. Academia leans toward real information and accuracy, and conservatives think that means liberal.

    Wow. That’s an amazing statement. Correct me if I’m wrong, but what I think I hear you saying is that teachers deal in reality, which is liberalism, not fantasy, which is conservatism. Is this correct?


  20. Neva says:

    I’m sorry if that isn’t what you were saying about academia, Jeff. It was all in the same paragraph and seemed to be part of the same argument. I may have over-reacted because I feel that you are often critical in your characterization of academia.


  21. Jeff Block says:

    No worries, but I certainly did not mean to give that impression. I have no general criticism at all for teachers as a whole.

    I do feel that there is a liberal bias to most universities, but that’s not a criticism of the profession. I would contribute it more to “hereditary” hiring practices – as in, once a school becomes slanted in one direction at a high level, then when hiring new staff, the board generally hires more people who see things the way they do, and the school gets more and more skewed.

    This is then combined with the idea that liberals (stereotypically) are less interested in, trustful of business, so they avoid it and pursue alteratives like medicine or research or teaching. Of course, this isn’t the case for everyone, but I would think it’s broadly got some truth to it.

    Either way, good discussion.


  22. edarrell says:

    I wouldn’t call it fantasy, but I’m at a loss for a better, gentler word. Yeah, that’s close to the truth: Some people are realists, and fantasy-loving conservatives call them liberals. George Bush is not the only don’t-confuse-me-with-the-facts conservative around. Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Really?, the blonde bimbo, and others, are all walking advertisements for the good value of reading newspapers — since they don’t.

    It reminds me a bit of the time Orrin Hatch insisted on a study of the efficacy of Head Start, when he couldn’t muster the votes to kill the program. The study came back showing that every dollar invested in Head Start saved the federal government $7.00 in later outlays, not counting savings from other programs. Head Start kids do better in school, graduate, go to college, get better jobs, pay more taxes, raise healthier kids, etc., etc., etc. It took Hatch some time, but he finally came around to being a Head Start advocate.

    More conservatives should read the studies they commission, or the ones they pretend don’t exist.


  23. Jeff Block says:


    Almost everyone who comments on the entries I post to this blog is generally liberal. Bill is, I believe, a fiscal conservative, but probably more on the liberal side socially. Obviously, I’m a conservative, socially and fiscally.

    I welcome diverse viewpoints here. I encourage (and like it when) people to disagree with me. I intentionally post topics that are controversial, so that we can have an open, engaging, high-impact dialogue about what we believe, and learn from each other.

    Let me ask you… Do you feel that your recent comments here (or in other threads) are in that spirit of openness and willingness to listen to other ideas? How much do you feel you can learn from people who disagree with you? I hardly consider it fair or open to call people names and state categorically that every idea they have is bad.

    Bush, Limbaugh, O’Reilly… They are not evil or stupid, they just see things differently than you do. Not all their ideas are good; not all their ideas are bad. The same is true for Clinton, Gore, Dean, Pelosi and others. Not evil people, just misguided (in my view). But again, it’s not like they’re incapable of a good idea.

    So, let’s drop the name calling (there’s no reason to call someone a “bimbo”, etc), stick to the issues at hand, and have more of a conversation. I want this blog to be a place where we discuss issues, not just demean people with whom we disagree.


  24. Ed Darrell says:

    My name calling? It’s nothing compared to O’Reilly and Limbaugh. And you defend them!

    Can you explain why you defend people like that?

    My experience — and it’s in direct dealings with two of the commentators I mentioned — is that they are not stupid at all. Evil? That’s about the only alternative. Perhaps greed is a driving factor.

    But no one would describe them as noble, or accurate, or truthful, or polite. And no one would accuse them of not calling names.

    I’ll drop the name calling– respond to the substance. Conservatives ought to pay atttention to their sudies. They should get their facts straight. Do you disagree?


  25. Jeff Block says:

    Of course I don’t disagree. The difficulty is that for every liberal claiming there’s a study to support their view, there’s a conservative doing the same. It’s one of the reasons I dread watching political debates… It’s devolved into a group of people each calling everyone else in the group a liar. The average American isn’t well-informed enough to know the difference … and are too busy going about their lives to delve more deeply into many of the issues to find out for themselves.

    In fact, that’s why I’ve stopped blogging for the most part. I just don’t have the time to research things enough to have an intelligent opinion … plus the fact that I’m just tired of arguing all the time.

    But I digress… The short answer is of course that if someone comissions a study, they should read the outcome, be involved in the process, accept the results (instead of fabricating alternate results), etc.


  26. Ed Darrell says:

    So, write about questions you have, and ask them.

    One of the funny things in your last post is that you decide to stop blogging when you don’t know enough to form an opinion. That immediately sets you above O’Reilly and Limbaugh.

    My experience, on Capitol Hill, on K Street, on L Street, in the executive branch, in courts, and especially in media, is that people who read a lot and are better informed tend to be regarded as liberal. It really is a case of lack of information, or lack of thought, before speaking.

    Alas for our republic, an ill-informed electorate is a greater enemy that just about anything else.

    Wish I had a solution to that problem.


  27. Pingback: Fair and Balanced? « Jeff Block’s Personal Idea Fountain

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