Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Cost Of Doubling Down, Or Why Im Not A Conservative.

This article in TNR is a kind of greatest hits for errors in conservative judgement, begrudging women the vote, supporting child labor... that kind of thing. Its an easy lampoon of course but it gets to the core of why Im a liberal and how time erodes the impact of fear and turns it into foolishness.

My conservative friends would state the case for their beliefs on a point we'd both agree with; given that human understanding is limited it is not possible for us to address every inequity in society. We immediately part company however in how we value the attempt to address the inequities we can and what the costs of doing nothing are. For conservatives disparate social outcomes are an ipso facto affirmation of what they believe to be the best possible scenario in an imperfect world. It has always struck me as a circular kind of logic that justifies our supposed inability to address social ills based merely on their existence. Conservatives move forward in the belief that what can be known about humankind is known and life is essentially the business of balancing our competing interests in a way that benefits the most people possible. Those things that fall thru the cracks are evidence of human imperfection and the ultimate reality lies in accepting our inability to engineer social fixes on a large scale.

I think history tells us something entirely different. I think the world clearly spins forward and in time we always come to treat one another with more fairness and humanity and the only way we come to that new understanding is in the attempt to make sweeping change. The worst possible justification for refusing to remediate a social inbalance is to appeal to a long history of not having done so previously. In the short term we will fail in some things and even make matters worse in the attempt, but long term we fail much more miserably by refusing to make the effort. We expose our values as situational and fleeting if we do not challenge ourselves to extend them to everyone. Everyone. In every circumstance.

Either we hold certain truths to be self evident or we do not. There isn't a middle ground.

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