I’m fascinated by how the conservative mind works. When I say that, I am not trying to be condescending. My mind works in a certain way too. I have a mind that is, I like to think, pragmatically liberal. I believe in liberal ideas of social justice and a strong security net for individuals; I believe in having a strong economy and thriving businesses. I believe in liberal programs, but also in being able to pay for them. That is my liberal mind. I guess I feel like my ideas are obviously the right ones.
And that is a dangerous way to think.
Not the liberal ideas, but thinking my ideas are obviously right, and yours are obviously wrong (if you are disagreeing with me). Being imperfect and wrong is the human condition, and what is more, we do not know when we are being imperfect and wrong. Everything we believe ultimately comes down to a gut feeling and judgement. At some point, no matter how many facts we have and consider before making a decision, the final deciding judgement comes down to a feel, and the decision is made based on that feeling.
So, the question can be rephrased as: why do conservatives feel different about how our society should be maintained than liberals do? Can it be that the debate about the Affordable Care Act comes down to feelings? (In the background, I can hear those soft lyrics of the song “Feelings.”) All our social debates come down to emotional responses. If facts can change a person views on issues, those facts must be structured in a way to motivate a person to adjust themselves emotionally to a new view point. That’s not an easy thing to do and many people will not do it because it might not feel good.
Hence all the disagreements.
I believe every person on this earth who is living now or who has ever lived always does their best. It is not the case that some people do not try, while other people do try. We all try. Even those lazy people we see are trying very hard to create the best life they can have. If they are failing, it is because they don’t know how to succeed or they don’t see any opportunities. But they do want good lives, just like everyone else.
The same is true of conservatives. They are trying. They want good lives. Now I can guess what you’re thinking because I’m wondering about this too. Yes, they are trying and they do want good lives, but do they care if other people have good lives?
We all know there are those people who do not care about other people. There are conservatives like this and there could be liberals like this. But I’m going to ignore this possibility because I think there are many conservatives who do care about other people’s lives regardless of color. I believe President Bush (father or son) cares about people’s lives and are not racist. And the same for Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (at least until I see evidence otherwise). But much of their agenda hurt the lives of many people. Paul Ryan’s current push to end the Affordable Care Act would hurt millions of individuals, of all colors, if it had passed.
One possible answer is surprising easy: They really do believe in the power of the free markets and capitalism to fix almost any social ill. They do believe, using health care as an example, that free markets will solve our societies health care problems in a better way than legal actions by the government. They do believe big government is bad, even evil; even though there is no reason small government would be any better.
So perhaps, and I think it is likely, the President Bushes and Paul Ryan and all other conservatives like them are sincere about their belief in the magical powers and perfection of free markets and capitalism.
I too believe free markets and capitalism are great and have been beneficial to our society. However, I do not think they are magical or perfect. They are imperfect which is why government action is often necessary.
So why don’t conservatives see those imperfections?
Or to put it another way, why are they emotionally disposed to ignore the imperfections of free markets and capitalism?
The answer, or part of the answer, is they have become emotionally attached to an ideology which they love. They like and feel good about the way free markets and capitalism are supposed to work. This is understandable. If free markets and capitalism worked as well as I learned it in college, our society would be wonderful and perfect. The problem is that it doesn’t. Free markets and capitalism are flawed and that is why we need government policies like the Affordable Care Act.
They love an ideology and refuse to see its imperfections. That is the mindset of American Conservatives.
Political ideology can corrupt the mind, and science. E. O. Wilson