The other day, I quibbled with John Derbyshire’s contention that liberals are optimists and with Joel Mathis’s objection that his liberalism is pessimistic. Today, CMatt Yglesias writes:

One of the bigger systematic differences between the left and right in America is that progressives have a realistic view of human behavior while conservatives at times seem unhealthily obsessed with moral hazard.

Sounds right: liberals aren’t optimists, but conservatives sure are pessimists! (I.e, conservatives think If you don’t punish everyone for taking needless risk, like not carrying earthquake insurance on your home in Virginia, you’ll be overrun by cheaters).

Comments

  1. #1 Bob Day
    August 26, 2011

    Then again, among many conservatives, there seems to be a completely unwarranted optimism when it comes to unregulated free markets. Remove the shackles of regulation from business and they will pursue their own self interest which will translate to perfectly efficient markets which will create heaven on earth.

  2. #2 Anthony McCarthy
    August 26, 2011

    I’m not an optimist except in so far as I think people are free to choose to do what’s good instead of what’s bad, which often requires people to choose that which they’d rather not do or have happen, often because it means they will have to give up personal enrichment or opportunities, they will have to go against their self-interest with no personal gain from it.

    And that’s the basic distinction between liberals and conservatives, two words that mean little. The real distinction is between people who are selfish and people who aren’t selfish. Conservatism makes selfishness a virtue, at least for those who are wealthy or privileged. Liberals are supposed to make equality and justice a virtue, though that seems to be out of style these days.

    Science has nothing to do with those values, though scientism and very, very often, scientists do have something to do with them, and it’s not always for the good as the obscene numbers of scientists involved in weapons production and the oil, gas, coal and other such industries prove.

  3. #3 Art
    August 26, 2011

    Conservatives, IMHO, tend to be behaviorists, but they a very simplistic view of it. They seem to have apprehended the concept of rewards encouraging the behaviors rewarded and punishment discouraging the behavior punished. But they apply this mechanically.

    Reading the literature a central prop of their philosophy seem to be that if you could just make wealth enjoyable enough, and poverty painful enough, then everyone would be motivated to be wealthy and property for all would follow.

    It follows that welfare would distort this. By taking money from the wealthy and giving it to the poor it keeps the wealthy from enjoying full orgasmic bliss, and the poor from feeling the full measure of pain.

    In this it seems to me that then that conservatives are pessimists. They assume that everyone is locked into, and at the mercy of, a matrix of rewards and punishments. That everyone is operating out of unalloyed self-interest. There is no self-sacrifice, no common good, no social contract, and that anyone can be leveraged to do anything if you just establish the right set of rewards and punishments.

  4. #4 Anthony McCarthy
    August 27, 2011

    Art, I think you are overly generous in thinking conservatives want poor people to be motivated to become rich. They don’t want poor people to be rich, they want them to be dispossessed, usable and disposable to the ends of people with money. They love the idea that they are superior to poor people and that they have the right to use them like chattels. Nothing much has changed about that way of thinking since before the classical period. It’s just they have a better cover story in things like constitutional origialism and other such lies. Oligarchy and plutocracy don’t change except for the cover story and the methods of defrauding the majority into accepting it. I’ve never met a lower class conservative who didn’t share that attitude along with the delusion that they now are or will be superior to someone with less than they have.

    The Bush II regime should have shown everyone that there is no lowest level to which they will go. The Roberts court is a good place to look at how they can do the most depraved things and come up with some flimsy fraud to explain it.

  5. #5 Anthony McCarthy
    August 27, 2011

    Art, I think you are overly generous in thinking conservatives want poor people to be motivated to become rich. They don’t want poor people to be rich, they want them to be dispossessed, usable and disposable to the ends of people with money. They love the idea that they are superior to poor people and that they have the right to use them like chattels. Nothing much has changed about that way of thinking since before the classical period. It’s just they have a better cover story in things like constitutional origialism and other such lies. Oligarchy and plutocracy don’t change except for the cover story and the methods of defrauding the majority into accepting it. I’ve never met a lower class conservative who didn’t share that attitude along with the delusion that they now are or will be superior to someone with less than they have.

    The Bush II regime should have shown everyone that there is no lowest level to which they will go. The Roberts court is a good place to look at how they can do the most depraved things and come up with some flimsy fraud to explain it.