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November 07, 2007

Comments

Isn't changing "how we talk about policies" actually very much like changing what the policies are?

Look, supposing you think that all the oil companies ought to be nationalised. Once upon a time, back in the late 1930s, there were serious politicians who wouldn't have sniffed at that. There was a huge campaign in the 1940s, especially after FDR's death, against ideas of that sort. People stopped talking about such policies. Eventually they forgot that such policies might even be an option. Now raising such policies would get you accused of being insane, even if you have the solidest arguments imaginable.

Controlling the discourse is half-way to controlling everything.

AMERICANS IN "BEING REPRESSED ABOUT SOMETHING" SCANDAL

This certainly accords with my own perception, that while the Republican party is a party with popular principles it's leaders for the most part don't really hold, the Democratic party is a party whose leaders really do have principles... that are unpopular enough they don't dare acknowledge having them.

IOW, you're on to something here. '94, for instance, really was a case of Democrats going for what they really wanted, instead of playing it safe, and paying the price at the next election.

If your present generation of candidates are becoming unafraid, maybe the Republicans will be back in the majority sooner than I thought.

A good example of this would be immigration: The latest poll on drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants has the public against it, 77-16; So, naturally, all the Democratic front runners have embraced them. Handing a GOP that's been committing sepiku on the corruption and war front a roll of gauze and some tape.

That's the sort of thing that happens when you forget for a moment that your core values are wildly unpopular.

Publius: First, I think this is refreshingly insightful. It’s something that I believe always defines the narrative but is rarely if ever discussed. But there is also an element of self-denial here I believe.

On the professional front, liberal journalists and pundits internalized the view that the public disagreed with their fundamental beliefs.

(mind reading cap on) I think many liberals want to believe that their views are truly representative of the public at large. Their beliefs are just so right, so good, how could it be otherwise? (cap off)

But the majority of the public does disagree with their (your) fundamental beliefs. For the last 30+ years, only around 18% of the population self-identify as liberal. Almost twice as many (33%) identify as conservative. The majority are still in the middle. During the same period the number of people who consider themselves Democrats (no matter how they actually vote) has been steadily declining. And that 18% number has remained very steady – regardless of war or the economy or the party in power for at least 3 decades. The public is just not on board.

When only 1 in 5 Americans self-identify as liberal there are only two possibilities IMO: either your beliefs truly are far from mainstream or the GOP has been remarkably successful in framing the argument (liberal is a bad word). The latter is not representative of the inept and dysfunctional GOP I’ve come to know.

A politician running on a liberal platform is (in most cases) unelectable. I think that naturally spills down to the pundits. Heck many Republicans believe HRC is a socialist, and that comes through in unguarded moments. But she certainly isn’t running as one – she wouldn’t have a chance. True liberals literally have to hide their true beliefs to get elected (with exceptions of course).

Note: Even conservatives believe that your beliefs are good, even desirable. We just don’t believe they are workable in the real world for the most part.

One objection: equating the religious right’s positions (e.g., evolution, pretty much every anti-gay anything) as conservative arguments. That’s like me claiming that atheism is a liberal argument.

that while the Republican party is a party with popular principles it's leaders for the most part don't really hold, the Democratic party is a party whose leaders really do have principles... that are unpopular enough they don't dare acknowledge having them.

which party's leaders have been pushing these wildly unpopular positions: staying in Iraq indefinitely, championing torture, increasing government surveillance of US citizens, lowering the taxes on the mega-rich and their silver spoons scions, limiting access to abortions and even to contraception, homophobic paranoia, xenophobic paranoia, eliminating Social Security ?

"Note: Even conservatives believe that your beliefs are good, even desirable. We just don’t believe they are workable in the real world for the most part."

I think that's somewhat of an exaggeration. "I suppose they mean well" hardly translates into something THAT positive.

Cleek, you slipped a few in there that you only WISH were unpopular.

But the majority of the public does disagree with their (your) fundamental beliefs.
...
For the last 30+ years, only around 18% of the population self-identify as liberal. Almost twice as many (33%) identify as conservative.

that says almost nothing about the actual policies. it only describes how people feel about the labels "liberal", "moderate" and "conservative".

Heck many Republicans believe HRC is a socialist,

sorry, but that says more about the ignorance of the average conservative than it does Hillary's secret hidden policy desires.

you slipped a few in there that you only WISH were unpopular.

that's true, i only wish the rancid shrieking *phobias were less popular. but until the demagogues of the right decide to stop stoking those fires, i guess we'll all have to live with the effects.

OCSteve: One objection: equating the religious right’s positions (e.g., evolution, pretty much every anti-gay anything) as conservative arguments.

When conservatives stop being anti-gay, OCSteve, you'll have a point. When conservatives in the US stop arguing that it's wrong for children to be taught that evolution is a basic scientific principle, you'll also have a point.

Hope that day comes soon. Until then, you would do better making clear to other conservatives that you, as a conservative, oppose these conservative policies and think they ought not to be conservative policies... than complaining to non-conservatives that they're identifying common conservative policies that you personally don't agree with as conservative policies.

the Democratic party is a party whose leaders really do have principles... that are unpopular enough they don't dare acknowledge having them.

But the majority of the public does disagree with their (your) fundamental beliefs.

I think it depends on what the meaning of "liberal" is.

I do not self-identify as a liberal. I'm a lefty. The two things are not the same. Granted, if you're a conservative, my being a lefty is probably a far, far more egregious sin, but if a pollster called me on the phone and said "do you self-identify as a liberal" my answer would be "no".

Further, at a time when icons of "liberalism" include Barack Obama and Howard Dean, it seems to me that "liberal" has come to mean "someone running against a Republican".

I'd be curious to know if either of you guys -- Brett or OC -- could give me a precis of the policy positions of either of those two guys off the top of your head. If I walked into a diner most places in the country and presented their positions over coffee in a reasonable tone of voice, without attributing them to a known "liberal", more than a few heads would nod. Trust me.

So, I'm not sure the polling numbers mean a whole hell of a lot.

To my eye, conservatives have been taking this country straight to hell for the last forty years. They built a base by freaking people out, but you can only ride that horse for so long. They wore out "the coloreds are coming" as a rallying cry a while back, and "the hippies are coming" is getting long in the tooth as well. "The Muslims are coming" probably has a few good years left in it, though, so you all have that to fall back on.

Meanwhile, folks are losing their houses, health insurance, retirement money, and jobs. Their kids and neighbors are being sent overseas to get blown up, with no particular end in sight, and no particular good coming of it.

Their freaking spinach is killing them.

Good, stout, family values conservative politicians show up on a daily basis with their hands either in the till or in somebody else's pants, and I'm not talking about simple consensual dalliances like BJs from interns. I'm talking freak show.

We now have a President who openly states that he is not beholden to the law, and who breaks laws both domestic and international with all the concern most folks devote to taking out the trash. You can try the "yeah, but he's not really a conservative" line on for size if you like, but I can tell that that dog will not hunt.

Folks are fed up, and I'm not just talking about us coastal elites. If the Democrats remotely get their act together, conservatives will have their a**es handed to them. If they don't get their act together, hopefully somebody else will step in and get it done.

If not, we're screwed, cause our modern day conservatives, plain and simple, do not have the first idea of how to run a country. They know how to "send a message" like nobody since Goebbels, that's for sure. But in terms of hands on, roll up your sleeves, keep the wheels on governance, they could not find a clue with both hands and a flashlight.

Thanks -

One objection: equating the religious right’s positions (e.g., evolution, pretty much every anti-gay anything) as conservative arguments. That’s like me claiming that atheism is a liberal argument.

When atheists across the country organize fax and email campaigns, and raise millions upon millions of dollars, supporting Democratic candidates to the exclusion of all others, you might have a point.

When Democratic politicians troop by the tens and hundreds, hat in hand, to the meccas of American atheism, to swear their allegiance to all that is atheistic, you might have a point. Except there are no meccas of American atheism.

Plus, there are plenty of conservative atheists.

Thanks -

From an (old) European perspective US "liberals" are not liberal for the most part and US "conservatives" are not conservative.
The Dems are at best center-right and the (current) GOP the second coming of the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harzburg_Front>Harzburger Front.
Given that the rule of law is now a leftist fringe view (according to Beltway pundits)...
I say nuke it from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

Brett: I think that's somewhat of an exaggeration. "I suppose they mean well" hardly translates into something THAT positive.

Fair enough – missing the word many in there - many of your beliefs are good, even desirable

Jes: Sure thing – you’ll just have to point me to where those things are considered part of a conservative platform vs. Republican or GOP.

Jes: Sure thing – you’ll just have to point me to where those things are considered part of a conservative platform vs. Republican or GOP.

Good luck separating the two, either in the public mind, or in actual practice, here and now, in the US.

If you sleep with dogs, you wake up with fleas.

Thanks -

Maybe from the Latina union-supporting, ERA activist who dumped Mickey Kaus in college.
Was that when he turned to goats?

Changing topics a bit back to the Obama vs. Clinton issue, the simplest explanation is that their life experiences were so different due to the ages they were when the same events took place. The turmoil of the late 60's meant far more to a college student like Clinton than an elementary school student like Obama (even ignoring that much of the time he was overseas). Vietnam looks different when the males of your cohort were being drafted (like Clinton) than if it was winding down at the time you were old enough to follow the news (like Obama). The free love of the 70's meant something different to a 20 something like Clinton than a pre-teen like Obama (for whose cohort the largest impact was increased divorces among parents).

Obama (if he gets elected) would be our first X'er President. Unlike the Boomers, the issues of the 60's and 70's were not the epic struggles of his early adulthood. Instead, Obama grew into early adulthood in the mid 80's, the only time in recent history when being conservative was more cool than being liberal (think of Michael Fox's character on Family Ties, or Andrew Dice Clay's comedy or Morton Downey Jr.'s talk show). Numerous surveys have shown that the only age group which remains more Republican than Democratic is the one born in the first half of the 60's. That, more than liberal guilt is what Sullivan is pointing to, and I agree with him that it makes a huge difference in the way he thinks.

OCSteve: Sure thing – you’ll just have to point me to where those things are considered part of a conservative platform vs. Republican or GOP.

Oh well - any excuse, eh? Much easier to put your head in the sand and pretend that the Republican party is not conservative than to try to change the Republican party. I get you.

or the GOP has been remarkably successful in framing the argument (liberal is a bad word). The latter is not representative of the inept and dysfunctional GOP I’ve come to know.

But they have, OCSteve. Sure the current clown show in Congress/Presidency is incredibly inept at, well, almost everything, being "on-message", bleating about some supposed outrage (see the Moveon ad, the Frosts, etc.) and getting the media to repeat their nonsense is something they have done, and continue to do, quite well. Meanwhile, they have perfected the turn on a dime political positioning, see, e.g., the filibuster, "liberals say mean things!", and don't get called on it.

And Russel's right, the crass use of "the muslim's are coming" and "9/11! 9/11! 9/11!9/11! 9/11! 9/11!" has been incredibly effective for them. Hell, absent the Iraq war I'd guess they would still have a majority in both houses of congress, based on those two bleatings alone. Plus the constant preying upon American optimism* to deliver a massive (and it is truly massive) tax cut to the richest among us over the past 6 years, has been disgusting (sez one who has benefited rather nicely from those same cuts).

So, I don't see a contradiction between the massive ineptness of the current GOP when it comes to governing (heck, I bet the higher ups actually think they've done a good job of governing, it's just that their definition of a good job is different than most people's) and their ability to mislead the public into voting for them (or voting against the democrats).

*"We're all going to be rich someday!" Which reminds me of a friend of mine in college who would proclaim on Friday night as we exited our dorm to head out to various parties, "We're all gonna get laid!" which, of course, meant that no one did.

The classic example pre-dates 1992. Go back to 1988.
Bush 41 almost never mouthed the word "liberal" when speaking about Dukakis. Instead he kept referring to the "L word."

Just by doing so, with the knowledge that everybody knew he was speaking about liberal, he was equating in people's minds that the word liberal was on a par with the "F word."

Throughout that campaign I kept hoping that Dukakis would just come out and ssay something like:

"Yes, I am a liberal and proud of it. Almost everything positive in thsi country during the last century has happened because of others who were liberal, things such as Social Sevcurity, Civil Rights reform, Medicaire, etc. I am proud to be some one who represents caring for all people, for giving hope to our children, for taking care of our elderly, for making sure the common man or woman is not oppressed by an unfair economic system, etc."

Instead, all I heard were the crickets chirping.

Yes, the word liberal has a bad taint, which is why the term progressive is used more often today. But if someone actually had the courgae to present what liberalism has done for this country just perhaps more people would see that in most ways they are actually liberals at heart.

The immigration polls are all over the map; they are in some ways much more anti-immigrant than our existing laws & in other ways much less so. They have also varied wildly over the last few years.

Anyway, the country doesn't have to be majority liberal about everything for publius's post to be right. The country just has to be much MORE liberal than Congress or the press act like it is, & that is certainly true.

the other thing about polls is that they tend to vary 20-35 points based on how you phrase the question. Public opinion is susceptible to change, & the Democrats & many allegedly liberal opinion writers don't try to change it--it's a wonder we're not worse off than we are.

With the media, I think it's the desire to 1) influence events; and 2) create drama. Since the media's ability to promote stuff is limited, they use the tried-and-true method of shooting stuff down. So basically, everything that happens is bad for everyone.

I hate to bring up RedState again, but I was reading a thread about the impeachment resolution, and the rationale for the Republican tactic was described as "holding the Democratic leadership accountable for the lunacy of their base". So Ron Paul is Republican fringe, and Kucinich is Democratic base. The narrative lives.

I don't see liberal guilt as much as liberal pragmatism. As a couple people have said, the public at large isn't very liberal. More importantly, though, the public at large is not very ideological. They're for labor unions if they're in one. They're for saving social security if they're getting older. They feel threatened by illegal immigration and gay marriage, but aren't really able to articulate why. Their arguments for or against things are mostly rationalizations of what they already want to believe.

Hmmm - maybe substitute "cynicism" for "pragmatism".

Excellent post. You're _almost_ there, but you're still hedging.

We moderate when our hearts aren't in it -- and we come off sounding phony. Or, we remain silent when we shouldn’t and come off looking cowardly.

See? When we do these things we don't "come off looking" phony and cowardly -- we are phony and cowardly.

Bravely standing up for what you truly believe has consequences. Sometimes most of those consequences hurt. It's still better than being the phony coward that most Democrats, including me, have voluntarily become.

Half the country favors impeaching Cheney, & the Democrats are supposed to be embarrassed to even debate it.

I think many liberals want to believe that their views are truly representative of the public at large.

Except, OC Steve, the public does tend to support liberal positions if they're just posed to them in a neutral way without identifying them as liberal positions. For instance, the public supports social security.

But liberal has become a bad word, thanks to Reagan, the Christian Coalition, and all their accolytes.

Rust never sleeps.

"But somewhere along the way, liberals got it in their heads (not always wrongly) that showing their true colors risked professional and political harm."

Maybe liberal politicians (the political harm side). But in the large majority of states with the large majority of population where a large majority of people work, that just isn't remotely true, and hasn't been at any time in the past 40 years. What profession is exposing yourself as a liberal risking professional harm? Lawyer? No. Doctor? No. Writer? No. Journalist? Please. Professor? Come-on. Banker? Nope. Actor? Surely no. Who exactly are you talking about. Certainly not enough people to generalize that statement to all liberals.

I suspect that one of the problems with liberals is that Americans have (or at least like to think they have) a strong streak of HATING to be told what to do, while many of the high profile programs of most liberals involve telling them what to do (eat, smoke, build, drink, spend their money on etc.)

They also hate paying the consequences of their actions, which is why many liberal policies are so popular.

Part of the problem with the US electorate is that (all the way down to the individual level) many people are almost schizo in their professed desires.

"It will make people think you're a hippy."

"Hippie." It's not a description of body shape.

"Except, OC Steve, the public does tend to support liberal positions if they're just posed to them in a neutral way without identifying them as liberal positions. For instance, the public supports social security."

This is true of almost any program, left or right, if couched in a 'neutral' enough way at a high enough level of generalization. Think "faith based programs"--wildly popular in the abstract, at most 'eh' in practice. Almost everybody would like all sorts of things for free too. But that doesn't make it possible in a world of actual trade-offs.

"Rust never sleeps.

Posted by: Billmon"

Rust in peace, Billmon. You are greatly missed.

I suspect that one of the problems with liberals is that Americans have (or at least like to think they have) a strong streak of HATING to be told what to do,

when i think of the GOP, one of the first things that pops into my head is "moralizing authoritarians". i'm pretty sure i'm not alone.

many of the high profile programs of most liberals involve telling them what to do (eat, smoke, build, drink, spend their money on etc.)

contrast that with the conservative impulses to tell everyone who to have sex with, what women can do with their bodies, what to teach children, how and when it's permissible to criticize the government, what you can read, etc..

Sebastian: They also hate paying the consequences of their actions, which is why many liberal policies are so popular.

They also hate being permanently disadvantaged because their parents were poor, or because they're not white, or straight, or male, or rich. That's why so many liberal policies from the past and in the present are so popular.

Dying of brain cancer at 45 because you opted to be a self-employed carpenter in a country with the worst health care system in the developed world may be "paying the consequences of your actions" - but you're right that most people hate the idea that they should base their whole career, everything they want to do with their lives, on whether or not that will mean they get health insurance so that, if they get cancer, they're more likely to survive.

It may be "paying the consequences of your actions" when a woman who has no health insurance and is in a job with no maternity benefits decides to have an abortion rather than a baby - the commonest principal reason for abortion in the US is that the woman can't afford to have a baby - but it's a payment I don't think any woman ought to have to make.

Liberal policies are more popular because most people feel instinctively that there is a certain basic standard of care that civilised people owe to each other, whereas conservative values hold that if a man can't afford to pay for cancer treatment; he should die; if an old person can't manage to work, they shouldn't have an income (the whole Social Security thing is founded squarely on the offense to conservative values of people who worked hard all their lives and now can't work any more being able to retire with financial security); and the utter offense to conservative values of women being able to decide for themselves, regardless of their current level of income, marital status, or sexual orientation, when to (and if) have children.

Not to mention the awful liberal policy of ensuring that people don't have to pay the consequence of "deciding" to be lesbian or gay, by removing the legal discriminations that conservatives support against LGBT people.

Insightful post. Do you think you're blogging has changed since you've moved to Obi-Wi? Seems to me sometimes like you're a little more cautious/careful.

Also, right on about Billmon.

Miss that guy's writing. Would be particularly interesting to get his take on the sub-prime/Citi stuff.

russell: Good luck separating the two, either in the public mind, or in actual practice, here and now, in the US.

Jes: Oh well - any excuse, eh? Much easier to put your head in the sand and pretend that the Republican party is not conservative than to try to change the Republican party. I get you

I agree that separating the two in the public mind is a lost cause. But “pretend that the Republican party is not conservative” – there is no pretend there. The current Republican party has all but abandoned traditional conservative principles.

Does Democrat = liberal?


russell: I do not self-identify as a liberal. I'm a lefty.

Can you expand on that at all? I mean I couldn’t define the exact difference between a liberal and a lefty – which is further left? I would have said that liberal was further left than lefty, but you make it sound as if the opposite is true.

If I walked into a diner most places in the country and presented their positions over coffee in a reasonable tone of voice, without attributing them to a known "liberal", more than a few heads would nod.

But isn’t that kind of the point of this post? I can’t tell you what Dean is up to these days but Obama does not strike me as trumpeting a truly progressive platform. It’s been pointed out to me that I’d likely agree with many of his positions. What I have read strikes me as not objectionable – nothing too far out there.

But it’s all “and a pony” - a chicken in every pot with no concrete details on where he is getting the chickens. That’s where things get divisive. Ask the diners if they are for or against a clean environment – nods all around. Explain to those same diners exactly what “drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions” means and note their reaction then. Much of the rest is noting problems without even claiming he has a plan to resolve them. Those diners will mostly agree that immigration is a problem – and then what?

Even if he is talking about progressive issues he is certainly not talking about what progressive solutions to those issues would be.

OCSteve: Actually, Obama (like most of the Democrats) is talking, in considerable detail, about what his solutions would look like. From this page you can find pretty detailed positions on most issues (health care, energy, etc.)

Do you think you're blogging has changed since you've moved to Obi-Wi? Seems to me sometimes like you're a little more cautious/careful.

Probably - everyone here's like all respectful and stuff. :)

Please applaud and support brave and genuine Harry Taylor, who had the courage to take the microphone at one of Bush's public appearances and say :

I have never felt more ashamed of, nor more frightened, by my leadership in Washington, including the presidency. And I would hope from time to time that you have the humility and the grace to be ashamed of yourself."

OCSteve: The current Republican party has all but abandoned traditional conservative principles.

In what way? It holds to the traditional conservative principles of do down the poor, oppress women, be publicly anti-gay, and make the rich richer. What traditional conservative principles am I overlooking?

Does Democrat = liberal?

You'll have to ask someone who's a Democrat. Or a liberal.

I am a radical left-wing loonie from the Socialist Republic of Europe, remember? ;-)

In what way? It holds to the traditional conservative principles of do down the poor, oppress women, be publicly anti-gay, and make the rich richer. What traditional conservative principles am I overlooking?

Yes, this is a sarcastic question, and deserves a sarcastic answer. But those are the principles that the Republican Party in the US, the Conservative Party in the UK, and indeed other conservatives and other conservative political parties have embodied for my entire life, and, from my reading of historical conservative principles, for many decades since before I was born, both in the North America and in Europe. "Liberal values" - which is in my mind middle-of-the-road, since in my country there has been a strong left-wing party since my grandfather's time - embody compromise between socialist values and conservative values. Fall too far in either direction, and government or corporations will have too much power for individual comfort. So I guess I could say I'm on the socialist side of being a liberal: I believe in universal education to capacity for all, decent health care for all, having a basic safety net so that a run of bad luck doesn't put you and your children down forever, supporting women when they have children - all of which are good socialist values: but I also believe in the value of entrepreneurial enterprise and individual competition - which of course is best supported and encouraged by having that basic socialist safety net. That way people can be free to be self-employed carpenters without worrying about whether or not they're going to develop brain cancer and die untreated at 45.

"Can you expand on that at all? I mean I couldn’t define the exact difference between a liberal and a lefty – which is further left? I would have said that liberal was further left than lefty, but you make it sound as if the opposite is true."

Setting aside how many times we've gone around on this at ObWi, since it's been quite a while since the last time, which was probably before OCSteve was around, it's hard to know how to really address this without a kindergarten class in the history of the last two centuries of American political thought and development.

It's extremely frustrating to have to start from the most pre-elementary level on up. Couldn't you just read a couple of books on the history of politics in the 20th century?

"I would have said that liberal was further left than lefty, but you make it sound as if the opposite is true."

This is just so profoundly ignorant, it's almost impossible to know where to start: the Enlightenment, I guess, and early communitarians. But it would take us a while to get to the start of the 18th century, let alone to American and European late 19th century socialism and Marxism, and then the early 20th century splits, and the domestic American left-liberal wars of the early through mid-century.

Maybe you should start by seeing Reds. Then we can talk about the first three decades of the 20th century, with perhaps only brief looks further backwards.

"I would have said that liberal was further left than lefty, but you make it sound as if the opposite is true."

Yes, I think it's fair to say that Mao was "further left" than Adlai Stevenson. That Stalin was "further left" than FDR. That a member of the Socialist Worker's Party is "further left" than a Democrat. And so on.

Brief previous comment here.

What do you even mean by "further left," in your own mind, OCSteve, if you can't tell a leftist from a liberal?

Liberalism. Socialism. Communism.

Generally and highly loosely speaking, if you believe in revolutionary Marxism, or some flavor of it, and want a revolution, you're a leftist, and if you oppose it, and believe in continuing to improve liberal democracy via reforms, you're a liberal.

This was all fought out from the late 19th century through the first half of the 20th century; the last battlelines were finalized in the post-war Fifties, when the last liberal organizations expelled the last communists, building on the mutual expulsions and splits of socialist organizations of the Twenties and Thirties. The result in the Sixties was the New Left, contemptous of the Old Left, and of liberals.

I could go into endless detail about the League for Industrial Democracy, and the development of SDS, and PL (Popular Labor), and backwards into Stalin's disillusioning of much of the American left, and through the rise of Roosevelt and the triumph of liberalism over revolutionary Marxism in America, the earlier communists, and their roots in pre-Marxist communitarians, and back through the Levellers and all sorts of interesting English history, but there are countless books on the topic: I read hundreds, myself, back when I was 10-16, giving myself a basic political history education, and they'll do a far better job of informing you than any little recapitulations by me here.

russell: I do not self-identify as a liberal. I'm a lefty.

Can you expand on that at all?

Sure, with the caveat that I'm talking about self-identification.

Liberalism has the flavor of improving humanity, maybe even the world. Part of the liberal project is making people better, nicer, happier, etc. Frankly, I don't want government involved in deciding what "better", "nicer", or "happier" mean. So, I don't consider myself a liberal.

Being a lefty just means being comfortable with an active role for government in matters of public interest. Implicit here is that I believe that there is such a thing as a public interest. It used to be called the "common wealth". Nowadays we call it "pesky, burdensome intrusions in the market".

I like a mixed economy. I'm fine with government regulation of industry, and frankly I wished the regulations we already have were actually enforced.

I'm fine with government owned or sponsored monopolies on things that are essential infrastructure, and which are naturally monopolistic. I don't want or need "market based solutions" for who is going to supply my highways, water, electricity, natural gas, etc. National ownership of railways, airports, or even airlines would not upset me in the least. Whatever makes the right thing happen.

I for damned sure do not want "market based solutions" for national defense, intelligence, or public safety. They're on their way.

I think that people who share a polity bear some responsibility for each other's well being, simply because they share a polity, and I think it's absolutely appropriate for government to be the vehicle by which that responsibility is carried out.

ObWi readers outside of the US are either puzzled or are quietly chuckling to themselves as they read this, because only here in the good old USA would I be considered a lefty. Nonetheless, by our lights that's what I am.

Bill Clinton was a liberal, but was not especially a lefty.

There used to be lots of lefties, as I've defined the term here, in this country, but lately they're scarce as hen's teeth. I'm hard put to think of one.

Hope that helps.

More importantly, though, the public at large is not very ideological.

Game, set, and match.

Normal folks, "heartland Americans", call 'em what you like, want government to keep the wheels on. Not like Mussolini "keeping the trains running on time". Just want plain old effective governance.

People aren't against, for instance, Social Security because it violates their sense of the proper role of government. To the degree they're against it, they're against it because they've been told it's going to run out of money before they get their share.

It's not the principle that bugs them, it's the execution. Or, at least, the perception they've been given of the execution.

Folks want government to be effective, responsive, transparent, and accountable. They may not use exactly those words, but that's what they're after.

Conservatives spent a couple of decades promising that. Based on those promises, they were given the reins of power.

They failed to deliver, and failed in spades. Folks are beginning to notice that.

Thanks -

Hilzoy: Actually, Obama (like most of the Democrats) is talking, in considerable detail, about what his solutions would look like.

That’s the page I linked actually – I’ll give it another read but I saw little there in terms of concrete detail on proposed solutions. I saw a lot of words on what the problem was, but then mainly blurbs like “comprehensive solution”, “in Chicago”, “in the Senate”, “he has a plan”…

Jes: What traditional conservative principles am I overlooking?

Small government, fiscal responsibility, free trade, deregulation…

You'll have to ask someone who's a Democrat. Or a liberal.

Try this then. Liberals tend to align with the Democratic Party. Some members of the Democratic Party support the war in Iraq. Therefore liberals support the war in Iraq.

That seems to be your argument: Conservatives tend to align with the Republican Party. Some members of the Republican Party are anti-gay. Therefore conservatives are anti-gay.

I think that Osteve is right that the current Repubican party ( although composed of and supported by people who self-identify as conservative) has indeed abandoned what I guess you could call philosophiclly conservative principles. Thre's a reason for that : no one, ouside of an ivory tower or wealthy suburb, really supports those pure philosohical conservative principles. No politician can get elected on them except from a few weathly districts where the constituency is protected by their nmoney from the consequences of the principles. It's the Republicans, not the Democrats, who have to hide ther unpopular principles from the electorate. Over the last thrity yea4rs or so the Republicans who call themselves consevatives have hidden their principles and run for office so effectively by appealing to authoritarian personality types that the mask has become the party.

Take for example the principle of small goevernment, self-reliance, the opposite of mommy statism, the idea that government neees to stay out of the way. Who actually wants that principle to be applied to themselves?

Drug dealers might. Farmers, ranchers, sheep raisers, Boeing employees, people who don't want their local taxes to go sky-high,people who want a road, or a safe work place, or health insurance for their kids, or protection for their property from the crappy things their neighbors might do or people who want public land to be managed for long term benefit of the public rather than shortterm special interests.....damn near everyone who cares about their own long term interests or the general public interest wants the government to use its power and its money to make policies, rules, inititatives that will mitigate their problems. And contra conservative belief that the govenmet can't do anything right, for the most part the policies, rules and initiatives are reasonably effective when administred by professionals (as opposed to party hacks and cronies a la Bush ADmin>)

The appeal of Republicans who call themselves conservatives is to people who want the government to help them--and only them. Not anyone else. The priciple of governing best by governing least, becomes "I'll pander to your selfishness and tell you the lies that you want to hear and and hide the discreecies and controdictions behind the promotion of hate and fear of everyone else"

So in a state like Idaho, the conservative principle of small government means that we the tax payers subsidize sheep ranchers in their use of public land--and those ranchers are "freed" from "excessive governmental interfertence" in their subsidized use of our resources. ANd the ranchers are told that they, parasites for generations, are the real true embodyments of American self-reliane and anyone who doesn't support them is a latte-drinking liberal pinko etc etc etc.

A true conservative would either advocate the privatzing of public land, or demand that the users of public land behave responislby, or leave the sheep ranchers to the mercy of market forces. That's not what the self identified conservative politicians of Idaho say to their self-identidfied conservative suporters, however.

The same pattern exists throughout the nation. The whole state of Alaska is the sheep-ranching parasite pattern writ large. ANother example: so-called small government conservatives who want to use the power of government to decide for women if they should take a pregnancy to term or not. Another example: my father in law was a Deomcrat back in the Depression. He woked for the WPA. Later he got a subsidized loan to start an apple orchard watered by irrigation form the socialist Bonneville power administration. Once he got financially comfortable he became a conservative and voted Republican because he was pissed at all those peole who couldn't fend for themselves as he claimed had done all his life and, while expecting raods, schools etc, to mateialize in his vicinity, he was not willing to pay taxes.
Most Americans believe that the govenment is suppsed to do for them what they want done. Sometimes that means solving problems. Sometimes that means minding other people's business. There has always been a a gray area of discussion about whether or not the governemt should intervene in a situation. However the conservitve pattern has not been to preseve freedom or independence or limit control or oppose the mommy state. That's all eyewash. The practical realworld differece between people who call themsleves conservatives and other people is that the people who call themsleves conservatives only want the govenment to act on THEIR behalf or on THEIR beleifes. The rest of us are capable of supporting governemtn actions which are intended for the general good and are capable of opposing government actions to micormanage other people's morals.

So, conserrvatism as a philosophy is a fantasy. It cannot exist in the real world because it lacks sufficient support.Its main fuction in the real world of politics is to mutate into a justification for selfishness.

Which has nothing to do with Publius's post which is I think right on the money except that I don't think the problem is liberal guilt. It's liberal fear. And I'm sick of it. It's way past time to get mad and fight back.

Gary: Sorry to put you out like that. Really, don’t feel you have to spend your time repeating what’s common knowledge here or leading the kindergarten class.


Russell: Hope that helps.
Yes it did. Thanks. Sounds quite reasonable actually – not even a hint of “revolutionary Marxism”.

The current Republican party has all but abandoned traditional conservative principles.

This is mystifying.

Conservatives in the US overwhelmingly support the Republican Party. Now suppose your statement is true. Then I guess conservatives vote Republican on a "lesser of two evils" basis. But why aren't there enough of them to push the Republican Party back to "traditional conservative principles?" Maybe it's because those principles really are not particularly popular.

You tell us that 33% of the public identifies as "conservative." That means a large majority of Republicans so identify. Yet the Republicans have "all but abandoned traditonal conservative principles."

There's a disconnect here. The self-identification is not with what you consider conservatism, but with actual Republican policies which, I cannot resist pointing out, have a goodly component of "a chicken in every pot with no concrete details on where he is getting the chickens."

OCSteve: Small government, fiscal responsibility, free trade, deregulation…

Makes the poor poorer, and the rich richer. Just sounds better.

"Small government" sounds much nicer that "Let people drown when a hurricane overwhelms the banks of a levee, if they don't have the money to get away."

"Fiscal responsibility" sounds much nicer than "Don't tax the rich for social programs that will mostly benefit the poor".

"Free trade" sounds much nicer than "Don't let developing countries stop us from buying their raw goods at a price that benefits us, and selling them our processed goods at a price that benefits us" - "us" being the very rich, not you and me.

"Deregulation" sounds much nicer than "Let manufacturers run their factories to kill their workers and produce lethal goods, so long as they can profit by doing so".

But it comes to the same thing.

OCSteve: Try this then. Liberals tend to align with the Democratic Party. Some members of the Democratic Party support the war in Iraq. Therefore liberals support the war in Iraq.

That seems to be your argument: Conservatives tend to align with the Republican Party. Some members of the Republican Party are anti-gay. Therefore conservatives are anti-gay.

In 2004 and 2006, the Republican Party campaigned on an anti-gay amendment to the Constitution. There was no significant conservative movement to oppose the Republican Party's decision to campaign on making all LGBT people second-class citizens in the US. (If you're trying to claim that there was, please link to a sampling of the major conservative voices who said explicitly that they thought the Republican Party should support the right to marry, not ban it Constitutionally.)

In 2004 and 2006, the Democratic Party campaigned on ending the war in Iraq. (Or so I recall from the campaigning stuff I read at the time.) While some Democrats support the war, and some seem to have just given up opposing the Republican support for the war, overwhelmingly, the Democrats and the liberals seem to have come to the common-sense conclusion that the war in Iraq is unwinnable and should end as soon as possible. You can doubtless link me to Democrats who argue that the US should go on fighting in Iraq forever, just like all the Republicans who think that, but I think for every Democrat voice that supports the Republican never-ending war in Iraq, I can find you a major Democratic voice that says the US should end it.

You want to continue this argument, or just give up now?

You want to continue this argument, or just give up now?

Given that I’m not going to change your mind on any of this and the post is not about conservative anything I’ll give up now.

Back on topic - here is what I think is the bottom line: The last Presidential candidate to run on an openly liberal platform was Mondale. He lost 49 states and barely carried his home state of MN. It was the biggest rout (Electoral College wise) in the history of the Democratic Party. Obviously there were other factors – Reagan was credited with the economic recovery, plenty of Democrats likely voted for Reagan based just on that. And Mondale did get 40% of the popular vote. But election-wise it was a blowout of historic proportions.

Next up, Dukakis. He was also pretty openly liberal. He carried 10 states – a big improvement.

Clinton then ran as a centrist and handily won two terms.

So I think you have to start by making the case that things have really changed that much in the past 23 years. As of 2004, a year into this war, I don’t believe they have. 18% is not going to win the day.

Kevin Drum's done a number of posts on the difference between "identifying as liberal" and "supporting liberal policies" that would be worth reading. I'll link'em later once I'm no longer dead on my feet.

I like how people use "statistical" analyses of presidential races to prove that X is impossible based on 1 correlation, 4-5 observations, and no controlling for any other factor.

Reading these comments make me think most of you didn't experience the 60's as a young adult.

That's not a slam...indulge me as I express my old timer view on the labels we endure today.

My generation had parents who lived/personified the *American Dream* of a house, picket fence, Chevy wagon/sedan in the drive, homemade cookies and ironed shirts from stay at home Mom.

Vietnam escalated as we came of age. We were being drafted by the thousands and killed by the hundreds. We saw our parents as the status quo, the enablers of all things wrong in the world and at home. The usual teenage rebellion was far more intense as it was aimed in a deadly manner against virtually all things our parents stood for. The social restrictions put on our Mothers to not work, play nice with the neighbors, stand in silent support of their husbands...the same restrictions put on our Fathers in reverse, put your head down, support your family, never express emotion, certainly never express any creativity as it might threaten your *good* job sort of nonsense.

We didn't want to go to some land we'd never heard of only to be killed for an existential cause that we could never grasp. We didn't want to be trapped in the mire of social restrictions our parents were forced to endure and which made them, personally, so miserable. The nation happened to be enduring an overtly deceitful, negative political scenario personified by an assassinated hero most of us didn't know much about before he was cut down enshrining him whether right or wrong through the closeted Nixon debacle. Interior social rebellions of women, civil rights, etc made for more upheaval.

So many of us rebelled...and we took it to an extreme never seen. We demanded no restrictions on anything we did. We balked at all of societal mores. Nothing was sacred and all was changing at breakneck speed...no time to absorb, no slow transformation. I didn't live through it, but the depression was similar in transforming an entire generation's psyche. In short, you had to live through it to truly understand it.

Of course as we grew up, I think many of us realized just how hurtful much of our behavior was to ourselves and everyone else...the troops we slammed, the institutions we trashed, and most particularly our parents who watched in complete disbelief and befuddlement.

At the same time the majority of us were pulling the *hippie* act, some of us were going hard right...the birth of the well oiled neo-con machine. Old principles made more visible by better educated marketers.

I'm sure many of those days hard right as they grew up came to believe their youthful beliefs were just as radical as we hippies were.

But some stuck with it and just did a better job of sustaining and growing their message through far better organization and marketing than the loose collection of what was the hippie movement.

Back in those days, the larger Republican party represented business...period. The Democratic party represented the big tent...wildly diverse in their roots and joined only by the tenet that the nation could never go back to the pre-New Deal days.

Today, there is still the underlying current of rivalry between those days youthful two factions. I believe many of us who sprung from the hippie movement truly resent the better plan of those that sprung from the hard right. I believe that many of us of both strips feel guilty about how we went about our philosophical evolution.

But I know two things. First, most of us now register as somewhere in the middle between the hard extremes and secondly, the old control battle, guilt, resentments within my generation will not go away so long as we live any more than the depression generation will ever change their psyche so long as they live.

Today, I truly believe most of the nation has one foot in each camp and most of their views lie very much in the middle. We are a reasonable people and when sitting face to face, one on one, we carry on debate very well...we discuss our differences and most times come to solutions that lie in between.

The rhetoric of the extremes is a road to accomplishing nothing and I believe, as a nation, we know there are serious problems that need solutions found only somewhere in the middle.

I believe most folks believe we need government, but want as little contact with government personally as possible. We want good roads, we want fire departments, police departments, reasonable restrictions on land use. We don't want government taking all our money and we don't want government telling us what to think. We want our underlying beliefs as expressed in the constitution upheld at home and across the world, not contorted to whichever extreme is using the document as a bludgeon against the other. We want some damn common sense in governance.

But our nation is so big, our politicians so isolated we seem to have reached another stalemate. There seem to only be visible extremes anymore...no middle ground thought at all.

Maybe we need another moratorium, another rebellion.

Or maybe we need to turn the reins of power over to anyone who isn't still harboring latent resentments of the past. Maybe we need new, thoughtful different perspectives to, if not wash away, put away the mess that my generation has made of the world.

Don't be ashamed to express yourself...but please don't be afraid to listen to other perspectives and try to reach some sort of resolutions. If we only spout our own views and fail to listen to other reasonable perspectives, we will continue the polarization that has seemingly paralyzed us as a nation.

Forget the extremes on both sides. They will never be satisfied with the opposite extreme and that is what got us where we are today.

Take the bell curve of society and slice out the extreme 15% on either side of the middle. Answers are in that lump of the curve and most of the answers are reasonable.

Be there as a nation to supply a floor that no one will fall through, but be there as a nation to demand personal responsibility. Be there as a nation to support other less fortunate across the world but allow for the fact that other nations do not need to be shoved in our mold.

Be thoughtful, be responsible. So easy it's hard.

which party's leaders have been pushing these wildly unpopular positions: staying in Iraq indefinitely, championing torture, increasing government surveillance of US citizens, lowering the taxes on the mega-rich and their silver spoons scions, limiting access to abortions and even to contraception, homophobic paranoia, xenophobic paranoia, eliminating Social Security ?

I wish I could agree with you, but to me it seems pretty clear that, with the exception of the last, a whole lot of Americans are perfectly fine with the things you list, as long as nothing goes obviously wrong. Let's be honest, here: Very few people give a damn about what goes on in Gitmo or whose calls the NSA is monitoring, because it's assumed that it happens to those people. And while support for the Iraq adventure was never very deep, but if it had gone passably well, most folks would be hailing Bush as the next FDR.

And that is where a whole lotta lefties **do** have to hunker down and stay mum. Because the hard fact is that "the American people" are NOT uniquely wise or benevolent or far-sighted. They're not uniquely deficient in any of those virtues, either -- but nobody gets to DC by throwing cold water on the crowd.

Ask Jimmy Carter. To this day, even many liberals go along with the "Great Communicator" myth about Reagan, when in fact the ONLY thing he ever did was tell people what they wanted to hear.

The polls on torture & habeas show about 50 percent supportive & 50 percent opposed, though that's an extremely rough estimate--it's quite sensitive to how you phrase the questions, & varies from question to question & poll to poll. In Congress, though, there's about 25-30 anti-torture votes & zero willingness to mount filibusters about this issue. I'd guess in the public maybe 20-25% is actively engaged in opposition to these policies; in Congress it's more like 5-10%. Contrast the number of Democrats who routinely break ranks on torture, war, foreign policy, etc. with the number of Republicans willing to break ranks on say, S-CHIP. The GOP has sustained filibusters & vetos with very few defections on issues where the public is quite clearly actively opposed to their position. The Democrats haven't managed the same with: (1) a Congressional majority (2) an evenly split public.

OCSteve (if you haven't fled the scene):

What do you think US conservatives, in general, conserve? What are *you* trying to conserve?

It seems to me that a person is a conservative when they want to conserve something, to keep something the same. I, for instance, am an ecological conservative: I want to keep the species, habitats, ecosystems, & ice caps we've got.

But my ecological conservativism doesn't count as political conservativism because politics is a game of power in human societies. So *all* political conservativism must by definition be about maintaining a status quo of power, whether that's the power of the priesthood or the nobles or the aparatchiks or the large corporations. What else do you think it could be?

G Davis,

Interesting take, but one I (as an early X'er) have some quibbles with:

"But I know two things. First, most of us now register as somewhere in the middle between the hard extremes and secondly, the old control battle, guilt, resentments within my generation will not go away so long as we live any more than the depression generation will ever change their psyche so long as they live."

I think these are two contradictory thoughts. The second seems correct to me -- Boomers seem to want to refight their culture wars forever. The first does not; to the contrary, the most extreme people, on both sides of the spectrum, are Boomers.

"But our nation is so big, our politicians so isolated we seem to have reached another stalemate. There seem to only be visible extremes anymore...no middle ground thought at all.

Maybe we need another moratorium, another rebellion.

Or maybe we need to turn the reins of power over to anyone who isn't still harboring latent resentments of the past. Maybe we need new, thoughtful different perspectives to, if not wash away, put away the mess that my generation has made of the world."

What I think we need is someone to make a synthesis of the competing strands of Boomer thought, who can take the best part of what each side has been saying for the past 30-40 years, and wrap it together in a way which gets the whole of the Boomers to feel like the things they have fought for so long for have been incorporated into a new vision for the future.

"Forget the extremes on both sides. They will never be satisfied with the opposite extreme and that is what got us where we are today.

Take the bell curve of society and slice out the extreme 15% on either side of the middle. Answers are in that lump of the curve and most of the answers are reasonable."

Not going to happen. The two 15% extremes will be hopping mad at the betrayal of their beliefs and decades of hard work. And since Boomers are both at the peak of their power currently and the biggest part of the most extreme elements, they will have the power to block pragmatic solutions unless there is a sufficient crisis to get everyone onto the same page of the playbook. I thought 9/11 could have been that, had Bush used his moment of national unity to take an inclusive course. Someone else will get the chance soon, and hopefully do a better job of it.

The polls on torture & habeas show about 50 percent supportive & 50 percent opposed,

Poll:

"
Asked whether they think waterboarding is a form of torture, more than two-thirds of respondents, or 69 percent, said yes; 29 percent said no.

Asked whether they think the U.S. government should be allowed to use the procedure to try to get information from suspected terrorists, 58 percent said no; 40 percent said yes.
"

OCSteve: Actually, Obama (like most of the Democrats) is talking, in considerable detail, about what his solutions would look like. From this page you can find pretty detailed positions on most issues (health care, energy, etc.)

I suggest that "detailed positions" might be a large part of the liberals' problem. Look at Obama's energy "solutions": What I see is a studied attempt to win over important geographical splinter constituencies, or appear to be doing something. CAFE standards, for instance, are a band-aid, and a cheap ploy for a politician who's decided that it's safe to brawl with a weakened domestic auto industry.

If Obama really wanted "solutions", he'd be talking about taxing carbon-based fuels, and he'd acknowledge that this will cause some short-term pain. And if he was really as inspirational as I keep hearing he is, he'd persuade folks that 1) our current energy "policies" include pissing away trillions in Mesopotamia, and 2) if we tighten our energy belts now, there might be real industrial opportunity ahead.

But I don't see him, or any leading national Dem, doing that. It looks like similar criticism apply to ALL the health care "reforms" I'm seeing, which all discreetly tiptoe around the giant sucking tick known as the insurance industry.

OCSteve: Given that I’m not going to change your mind on any of this

You could, if you could find me the data I asked you to provide in order to change my mind - the major conservative voices opposing the conservative anti-gay legislation and the conservative anti-gay campaigning.

and the post is not about conservative anything I’ll give up now.

Fair enough.

That many individual conservatives are not homophobic, I accept right away - you're not, Von's not, etc.

I dunno, I think part of it is our press is fundamentally un-serious these days, due to profit pressures from the honchos at the paper.

"President Bush Found in Bed with Three Boy Scouts and a Dead Poodle: Bad News for Democrats!"

Republicans have spent at least the past 30 years attacking the word Liberal, which is why so many people use the word "progressive" now. Trying to associate liberals with mythical "Dirty F***ing hippies" who hate America and whatever crap they made up this time.

And the Democratic party, the closest thing there is to a national liberal party in the US, went along, or at least didn't fight it. Partly, because there were a lot of "Dixiecrat" racists still from the Old South in the Democratic party, and partly probably from running scared from Reagan's election, even though he only got 60% of the popular vote.

The entire propaganda efforts of Republican/conservative politicians has boiled down to "Government can't work! Vote for us and we'll prove it!" and then use their incompetent handling of stuff as evidence of how liberal government programs won't work. See also: Katrina, Social Security, wildfires, health care.

Yeah, I'm just a little angry.

even many liberals go along with the "Great Communicator" myth about Reagan, when in fact the ONLY thing he ever did was tell people what they wanted to hear.

Reagan did two other things that were far more important in shaping the world we inhabit today:

- He convinced the Republican party establishment that they could violate the law, even to the point of grossly subverting the Constitution, as long as they brazenly refused to admit it. The lesson of Reaganism is that only PR matters; actions have no consequences if you have message discipline, even if the message is composed of lies.

- He convinced the Republican party establishment and the nation at large that complete fiscal irresponsibility has no consequences.

And we have been paying ever since Reagan the cost of these internalized falsehoods.

Kirk Anderson nailed the Reagan myth here.

Katherine: I like how people use "statistical" analyses of presidential races to prove that X is impossible based on 1 correlation, 4-5 observations, and no controlling for any other factor.

Assuming that was directed at me – I don’t do "statistical" analyses. Unless you want to consider my off the cuff remark of “Yeah – that worked out so well for you guys the last couple times you tried it I think you should give it another whirl” as some kind of deep analysis…


Doctor Science: What do you think US conservatives, in general, conserve? What are *you* trying to conserve?

We’re stuck with these labels that don’t accurately describe many of us. I’m not currently trying to preserve/conserve much of anything beyond my job, my marriage, and my sanity (any two of those three are probably questionable at any given time).

I’m certainly not interested in maintaining the current “status quo of power”.

If you are considering the traditional/formal definition of conservative the only thing that may really apply is the desire to reform society slowly and carefully. More accurately in my case I don’t like laws to “fix” something that lead to unintended consequences that lead to more laws to “fix” those problems, that lead to more unintended consequences…
And I am a fiscal conservative but not a social or religious conservative.

Jes: You could, if you could find me the data I asked you to provide in order to change my mind - the major conservative voices opposing the conservative anti-gay legislation and the conservative anti-gay campaigning.

Finding opposition is easy. Your original wording makes it tougher: “explicitly that they thought the Republican Party should support the right to marry, not ban it Constitutionally”.

There are major conservative voices in opposition to banning it – but that basis is more often than not opposition to amending the constitution for something that should be resolved by the states. That is ultimately the conservative viewpoint on a question like this.

Finding major conservative voices that explicitly support the right to marry is a bit tougher. Who’s “major”?

State Assembly Members? (lots of those, this is just one example)

Jerry Sanders? (Mayor of San Diego)

If your point is that no national-level Republicans explicitly support the right to marry I think you are correct. But where are the national Democrats who explicitly support the right to marry? Don’t forget that the DMA passed overwhelming in both the Senate and House and was signed into law by Clinton. I don’t see how the Democrats are much better on this issue.

Generally and highly loosely speaking, if you believe in revolutionary Marxism, or some flavor of it, and want a revolution, you're a leftist, and if you oppose it, and believe in continuing to improve liberal democracy via reforms, you're a liberal.

Two brief comments.

First, in the context of Gary's very informed historical analysis of the terms, it is correct to say that "leftist" is basically equal to some form of Marxist.

Second, although I self-identify as a "lefty", I'm not a leftist per Gary. I'm just well left of center by modern US political calculus.

A lot of the time, I think that just amounts to believing that interests other than, and in addition to, those of private capital and property deserve consideration in public policy. In this country, that's more than enough to put you out there in deepest Leftghanistan.

But, you know, no revolutions for me.

If you want money for people with minds that hate, all I can tell is buddy, you have to wait.

And that is where a whole lotta lefties **do** have to hunker down and stay mum.

I disagree with this.

Things affect folks more than they think they do. Even esoteric things like torture or rendition of foreign nationals, civil rights of less-popular demographic groups, or abstruse topics in economic theory. They take their toll.

IMO it behooves lefties and/or liberals not to hunker down at all, but instead to make it blindingly clear how profoundly even the most ordinary folks' lives are affected by the things their government does, or doesn't do.

It's not a matter of throwing cold water on anyone. It's a matter of talking about what a deep, cold well of water we're already in.

Thanks -

As far as why liberals are afraid to be themselves, I think Sebastian has it right. American politics is perfectly encapsulated by this:

Edna: It's your children's future.
Audience: That's right. Children are important. etc.
Skinner: It'll cost you.
Audience: No to taxes. My God, they're going to raise taxes. etc.
Edna: C'mon!
Audience: She makes a good case. Good point. etc.
Skinner: [rubs his fingertips together]
Audience: More taxes? The finger thing means the taxes. etc.

Most Americans believe in liberal policies until it's time to pay for them. That's why the policies poll so well but Republicans keep getting elected. There's a parallel with support for civil liberties, which is trumped by fear of crime/terrorism every time. It hasn't always been this way, and I'm sure it won't always be this way, but that's the era we're living in.

Liberals are afraid that all their opponents have to do to defeat them is hold up a picture of Osama bin Laden in one hand and do "the finger thing that means taxes" with the other.

They're right.

"Most Americans believe in liberal policies until it's time to pay for them."

That's because most Americans still hold, in a somewhat incollate way of course, a negative conception of rights. And THAT conception of liberty really doesn't imply much of a price tag.

American's love the nanny-state, however they like their nannies to have big balls under that dress.

American right-wingers are sick enough to give it to them.

OCSteve:

There are two ways of being a "fiscal conservative". One would be the kind who doesn't believe in levelling taxes, because money should stay where it is -- which in practice conserves the status quo of financial power, in which the rich stay rich.

Another kind of conservative would be fiscally prudent over a longer term than the stock market or a large corporation finds reasonable. It would have been more prudent and conservative in this sense to spend money -- to *raise taxes* -- to prepare New Orleans to withstand a Category 5 hurricane.

If you're going to describe yourself as a "fiscal conservative", you still need to be clear what you're trying to conserve. And if you want "the desire to reform society slowly and carefully" but say you're not a "social conservative", what are you talking about if not the desire to reform the distribution of power, of which money is a subset?

I personally am a believer in the Alice Tax, as proposed by Calvin Trillin's late wife:

To state the provisions of the Alice Tax simply, which is the only way Alice allows them to be stated, it calls for this: after a certain level of income, the government would simply take everything. When Alice says confiscatory, she means confiscatory.

The ruling principle of the Alice Tax is the concept of enoughness.

You'll notice that "enoughness" is a conservative principle in the sense of: restrained, recognizing limits, not going too far. It's only *not* conservative if what you're trying to conserve is the concentration of power & wealth in the hands of the wealthy & powerful.

Like Alice, I'm OK with that.

For an even broader historical perspective, recall that Marx's sentence "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" is a profoundly Christian sentiment. Though the entire phrase doesn't seem to be in the Bible, its constituent halves are, in different verses of Acts, and it is clearly how early Christians behaved towards each other.

Fast-forward a millennium and a half, and the heir to this tradition is the Catholic Church. But in the excesses of the Renaissance, the Church seemed very far away from its roots. Hence the Reformation, trying to bring back the days when anyone could find, in the community of the Church, a home and protection from a hostile world.

But by then the increasingly prosperous middle class of small tradesman and entrepreneurs would not be denied, and they gave success to the Protestant churches that told them what they wanted to hear: that success in business was a sign of success in God's eyes, and conversely poverty and failure was a punishment from God. The poor had to be supported of course, of course, but not with too much because even God thought they deserved little.

I strongly recommend "Religion">http://www.google.com/search%3Fq%3Dreligion%2Band%2Bthe%2Brise%2Bof%2Bcapitalism%26ie%3Dutf-8%26oe%3Dutf-8%26aq%3Dt%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-US:official%26client%3Dfirefox-a&sa=X&oi=print&ct=title&cad=one-book-with-thumbnail#PPP1,M1">"Religion and the Rise of Capitalism", by R.H. Tawny, for more on this process. Favorite quote: '... the poor, it is well known, are of two kinds, "the industrious poor," who work for their betters, and "the idle poor," who work for themselves.'

But this left out in the cold those who still wanted to return to the communism of the early Christian Church. They coalesced into the Communist movement, led by Marx and many others. If you were wondering how anyone could possibly be attracted to Communism, it's the same yearning that attracted them earlier to the Christian Church and the Protestant Reformation.

But then in the 20th century came Lenin and Stalin, who did to Communism what Bush and cronies were later to do with Conservatism: make it a story to hoax the yokels while stealing their money, their land and their freedom. (Disclaimer: Lenin and Stalin were worse than Bush and Cheney. If Rudy gets in, all bets are off.)

For myself I try to avoid the left-right metaphor -- it puts Hitler and Stalin at opposite ends of the spectrum, when they are really two peas in a pod. If we can throw the thugs off the spectrum, because their position on it is simply lip service and their real ideals are theft and domination -- then maybe it will start to make sense.

I identify myself as a liberal because I believe that an engine runs best when all cylinders are firing. To fail to help someone escape from a life of suboptimal productivity because of poverty or disease or accident or sex or sexual orientation or race or it's what they "deserve" -- that damages the country as a whole, and everyone in it. You might claim that paying the cost of that escape is even worse. In a given case you may be right. But as a policy, the pendulum has swung so far the other way, we can go a long way back before that kind of concern starts to be important on an economy-wide scale. Fortunately, the clowns and idiots leading the conservative movement seem to be facilitating that. (Much like the clowns and idiots leading the liberal movement did, in the opposite direction, in the 70s.)

Be happy with your past 30 years of conservative domination. The previous 30 years had been very different. More important now are the next 30 years.

OC Steve: "But it’s all “and a pony” - a chicken in every pot with no concrete details on where he is getting the chickens."

Ah...the curse of liberalism. Much better to be a republican and shout 'untrammeled market freedom!' 'low taxes!' and 'Waste, fraud and abuse!' thus absolving onself from any responsibility to justify, or even provide, policy detail. The myth is the reality.

How convenient.

Again from a European perspective:
Over here it is difficult to find people more conservative than on the Left (fringes excluded). A bit oversimplified the idea on the left is that the status quo is near the ideal or at least not far from the best that can be reasonably expected to be achievable. The conclusion from that is that the status quo (in essence, not necessarily in the details) should be maintained, which is in my book the basis of what conservative means.
The "Right" on the other hand finds the status quo pretty undesirable for reasons that can differ widely between groups. Therefore they want to change it radically. Relatively few want to return to the "old right" (the idealized 50ies or the second empire*). Those could be called reactionaries. Then there are the neonazis (most of which simply do not know what that actually implies and are mainly motivated by hatred of the enemy du jour). The main force are the "let's imitate the US and become GOPish".
In other words political positions that make one a conservative over here (in reality not just perception) would make one a progressive radical in the US. From that point of view liberal and conservative are not necessarily contradictory (because the status quo is [still] liberal).
The German liberal party (FDP=Free Democratic Party) is regularly torn by this. It always included the social liberals, the laissez-faire capitalists, a sinister undercurrent of nazism** and the "don't rock the boat" fraction. For decades they have acted as moderators and voice of reason in German politics (through coalitions on the state and federal level) but with the old guard dying they have drifted constantly to the right and became "market radicals". At that moment I stopped to vote for them and am now better represented by the "realo wing" of the Green Party.

*Wilhelminism is negligible though
**in Austria that part took over

Doctor Science: If you're going to describe yourself as a "fiscal conservative", you still need to be clear what you're trying to conserve. And if you want "the desire to reform society slowly and carefully" but say you're not a "social conservative", what are you talking about if not the desire to reform the distribution of power, of which money is a subset?

It's only *not* conservative if what you're trying to conserve is the concentration of power & wealth in the hands of the wealthy & powerful.

Being neither wealthy nor powerful and knowing full well that I’ve topped out in terms of where I’m going in life - what might my motivation be in conserving “concentration of power & wealth in the hands of the wealthy & powerful”?

There seems to be this thought that conservatives, the vast majority of whom are not in the class of the wealthy and powerful, wish to protect that class as a goal in and of itself. Let me ask - for what possible reason? Early on in life someone might think to themselves “well someday I’m going to be in that class and I don’t want the government taking all my money when I get there”. But most of us reach a point where we realize we aren’t going to get there. What reason do we have for protecting that unreachable class at that point?

I think that this is attributing motivations of greed and selfishness where for the most part none exists. There are plenty on the right who make the same mistake. They believe that liberals are strictly after power; that they wish to make as many people as possible dependent on the government – with themselves in control of that government of course. They are equally wrong IMO. As with most things there is a grain of truth on both sides, but in general both sides are wrong to attribute this kind of intent to the other.

you still need to be clear what you're trying to conserve

What I’m trying to conserve as a fiscal conservative is the entrepreneurial spirit that has made this country what it is economically. A rising tide… etc. With no evil intent at all, I just honestly believe that a million dollars in the hands of the right business-person or entrepreneur can do hundreds or thousands of times more good than that same million dollars in the hands of the government. The standard of living of those living below the poverty line in this country is the best in the world in terms of the “poor”, and that is not due to entitlement programs. Legislating social change just doesn’t work. Social change follows economic growth IMO and you can’t legislate economic growth (although that certainly doesn’t stop people from trying). That doesn’t mean I think that the system is perfect, far from it. Certainly we can do better, especially in terms of health coverage. It’s not perfect, just better than the alternatives IMO.

Ask Alice what happens to innovation in her world. What possible reason is there for people to work any harder or take any risks once they reach her government mandated "enoughness"? Is she going to have a government position of “Innovator”? A government paid (enough) employee whose job it is to innovate between 9 and 5 (not counting their hour lunch and hourly union mandated breaks)? Is the government going to play the role of VC using government designed rules of what constitutes “enough” risk?

And I’m not against taxes as a general principal. I’m against corruption and wasteful spending. In my experience the more money you give the government the less careful they are in spending it. I’d rather demand accountability than just keep giving them more money to waste. (And I’m not saying Republicans are better than Democrats here – not with this current administration.)

Your Katrina example is perfect here:
It would have been more prudent and conservative in this sense to spend money -- to *raise taxes* -- to prepare New Orleans to withstand a Category 5 hurricane.

The taxes were raised and spent to prepare NO. Most of it went to pork projects and corruption – and ultimately it was the inefficiency and/or incompetence of a taxpayer funded government agency that led to the levee breach after a Category 1-2 hurricane hit.

I don’t need to sell or justify conservatism. One third of the country plus a chunk of that middle 40% are already with me. This thread should have been about defending and promoting liberal principles but very little of that happened here. Instead it turned into me defending conservatism. Notice that I didn’t start it by claiming conservative principles were better – I was pointing out that the public is just not on board with liberal principles.

Back to publius’s post and to turn this around: I believe that liberals can not run openly on their core beliefs because those beliefs are just too far out of the mainstream. I’ve offered polling data to back that up. Can someone make the case that that data is wrong? It is three years out of date, but the numbers were remarkably stable going back 30 years. No one has offered any evidence or convincing arguments here that I’m wrong.

Steve,

"Let me ask - for what possible reason? Early on in life someone might think to themselves “well someday I’m going to be in that class and I don’t want the government taking all my money when I get there”. But most of us reach a point where we realize we aren’t going to get there. What reason do we have for protecting that unreachable class at that point?"

This would be a persuasive argument if it were not for the fact that Republican framing of issues (most notably with respect to the estate tax) is precisely aimed at convincing people they could become part of that class and therefore must not tax it.

I don't think it is unreasonable for people to save and invest throughout their lives, and get to a point in their retirement that they have their house mortgage paid off, and a million in stocks and bonds, looking for a return between 6%-10% a year so that you can live off your investment income. Is that so far out?

OCSteve, would you characterize the vast majority of Americans as being conservatively liberal? That's how I see it, and how I think of myself.

"What reason do we have for protecting that unreachable class at that point?"

For my part, my neighbor is a millionaire, runs a horse bording stable. You don't think I'm going to take offense at the notion that I ought to conspire with somebody to rob my neighbor, in return for a share of the proceeds?

For an awful lot of people, while the wealthy are not a group they expect to join, neither are they distant strangers for whom we have no sympathy. They're our neighbors, the owner of the small business we work for, a cousin's husband... They're human beings, with rights, and we know them too well to dehumanize them to the extent necessary to feel ok with looting them.

Ask Alice what happens to innovation in her world. What possible reason is there for people to work any harder or take any risks once they reach her government mandated "enoughness"? Is she going to have a government position of “Innovator”?

Hmmmm.... don't you love nationmaster? Lets look for instance at the business spending in research and development. 13 European countries in the top 18 and two in the top three (US is 5th) - maybe a bit more socialism is not so bad for innovation after all.

If you look at enterpreneurship als number of new business started the US is ahead of the EU - but that list is topped by poor countries. Necessity driven enterpreneurship.

If you want to have booming new businesses that can potentially grow big, you need quite few favourable circumstances. Infrastructure matters, education matters (both government driven), innovation matters, culture matters, etc.

For an awful lot of people, while the wealthy are not a group they expect to join, neither are they distant strangers for whom we have no sympathy.

I doubt anyone here has no sympathy for the wealthy; if you really insist on that frame, the issue is doubtless that people have more sympathy for the destitute than the wealthy, which strikes me as a perfectly sensible arrangement.

[Unless, of course, the poor are a group of distant strangers for whom one has no sympathy...]

They're human beings, with rights, and we know them too well to dehumanize them to the extent necessary to feel ok with looting them.

Oh please. "Looting"? More like "Ensuring that everyone contributes, commensurate to their abilities, to a fair and equitable society."

Brett,

It is telling that your words to describe taxation are robbing and looting. What words do you use to describe someone who uses the products of taxation, such as roads, public schools, courts, etc.? Are they also robbers and looters?

"It is telling that your words to describe taxation are robbing and looting."

I think it's telling that YOU insist on using different words to denote the exact same activities, when they occur in the private and government sectors. What else are you going to call it when somebody uses the threat of violence to obtain something of value?

Look, government is nothing more than a highly evolved protection racket. And, while a parasite can evolve into a symbiote, government is never very far from it's base origins. You'd think the monsterous death toll during the 20th century, of governments killing their own citizens, would adequately underscore this. To quote our first President,

"Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master."

You want my real beef with liberalism? You actually DO think that government is reason, is eloquence. You've got a terrifyingly benign view of an inherently violent and destructive institution.

You just don't accept the reality that government is a necessary evil, and so you're always all too ready to resort to it when it's not remotely necessary.

THAT is what I hold against you, and it's no small thing.

Brett,

"Look, government is nothing more than a highly evolved protection racket. And, while a parasite can evolve into a symbiote, government is never very far from it's base origins."

If you really believe this, I think you should move to your own island where you don't need to worry about government taking away any of your stuff under threat of force. Otherwise, if you want to enjoy the benefits of society, paid for by taxes, and view paying those taxes as theft, then you, and not the government, are the parasite.

A perfect example of what I'm saying: Utter incomprehension of the concept of a "necessary" evil. What part of "necessary" don't you grasp?

Government is, regrettably, necessary for the moment, until we find SOME way to dispense with it. But it is still an evil, and should only be resorted to when the only alternative is some greater evil.

Liberals, in my experience, simply can't accept that government is an evil, that there's anything wrong with, for instance, taxation. And so are only too glad to use it for purposes where the alternative isn't remotely as bad as the tool.

That doesn't mean there aren't cases where we really have to resort to this blunt tool, and accept the horrible things that happen as a consequence. But they're not nearly as common as people who don't think taking money from somebody by threatening to lock them away in a tiny room is wrong seem to think.

Heck, you don't even bother looking for a non-governmental solution before resorting to government. Government is your first resort, not your last.

Brett
-The surgeon drugged and knifed the patient in the operating theatre.
-The teacher blackmailed the student to remember vast tracts of information on pain of failure.
-The child trashed the room, strewing various objects she found all over the floor and covering the walls with illegible scribbles.
-The parent forced the child to swallow a noxious mixture that she clearly didn't want.

They say that a chicken can be thought of as an egg's way of making another egg, but at some point, you have to accept that government is not some actively malicious intelligence out to deprive you of something, if you accept the importance of efficiencies gained by scaling up systems.

Brett,

For someone who is claiming I am not comprehending what you are saying, that is a pretty good example of doing the same. Care to actually respond to my argument that taxes are not theft, as the taxpayer is getting the benefit of governmental services in return? That government is a social contract, where each party benefits?

To answer your comment, since I view democratically elected government as the sum total of the people governed, and since I don't view my fellow citizens as evil, I don't view their government as evil. Therefore, you are starting from a false reference point for me.

"Look, government is nothing more than a highly evolved protection racket."

Some of us prefer the views of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and their peers.

Alexander Hamilton, January 1, 1788, Federalist #31:

[...] How else could it happen (if we admit the objectors to be sincere in their opposition), that positions so clear as those which manifest the necessity of a general power of taxation in the government of the Union, should have to encounter any adversaries among men of discernment?

[...]

A government ought to contain in itself every power requisite to the full accomplishment of the objects committed to its care, and to the complete execution of the trusts for which it is responsible, free from every other control but a regard to the public good and to the sense of the people.

As the duties of superintending the national defense and of securing the public peace against foreign or domestic violence involve a provision for casualties and dangers to which no possible limits can be assigned, the power of making that provision ought to know no other bounds than the exigencies of the nation and the resources of the community.

As revenue is the essential engine by which the means of answering the national exigencies must be procured, the power of procuring that article in its full extent must necessarily be comprehended in that of providing for those exigencies.

As theory and practice conspire to prove that the power of procuring revenue is unavailing when exercised over the States in their collective capacities, the federal government must of necessity be invested with an unqualified power of taxation in the ordinary modes.

Hamilton, December 28, 1787, Federalist #30:
[...] IT HAS been already observed that the federal government ought to possess the power of providing for the support of the national forces; in which proposition was intended to be included the expense of raising troops, of building and equipping fleets, and all other expenses in any wise connected with military arrangements and operations. But these are not the only objects to which the jurisdiction of the Union, in respect to revenue, must necessarily be empowered to extend. It must embrace a provision for the support of the national civil list; for the payment of the national debts contracted, or that may be contracted; and, in general, for all those matters which will call for disbursements out of the national treasury. The conclusion is, that there must be interwoven, in the frame of the government, a general power of taxation, in one shape or another.

Money is, with propriety, considered as the vital principle of the body politic; as that which sustains its life and motion, and enables it to perform its most essential functions. A complete power, therefore, to procure a regular and adequate supply of it, as far as the resources of the community will permit, may be regarded as an indispensable ingredient in every constitution. From a deficiency in this particular, one of two evils must ensue; either the people must be subjected to continual plunder, as a substitute for a more eligible mode of supplying the public wants, or the government must sink into a fatal atrophy, and, in a short course of time, perish.

[...]

What substitute can there be imagined for this ignis fatuus in finance, but that of permitting the national government to raise its own revenues by the ordinary methods of taxation authorized in every well-ordered constitution of civil government? Ingenious men may declaim with plausibility on any subject; but no human ingenuity can point out any other expedient to rescue us from the inconveniences and embarrassments naturally resulting from defective supplies of the public treasury.

I tend to be more impressed with their reasoning, then with yours, I'm afraid.

Regardless, yours as above is hardly an agreed view of our society, either historically or presently, however popular it is at LP party gatherings.

Brett - you say that like parasites are a bad thing.

I can't speak for all liberals, obviously, but I don't see government as reason and eloquence. I think "highly evolved protection racket" is apt -- I simply believe that things actually can evolve pretty far from their base origins.

I can't help but think that a cognitive linguist would have a field day with your comment. The conceptual metaphors you use for government are different from George Washington's in an important way. Fire is both very useful and extremely dangerous -- but it's not evil (or good). It is "inherently violent and destructive", but it's also a beacon, and a place where people gather, and a protection against darkness and cold. Kumbaya.

"Care to actually respond to my argument that taxes are not theft, as the taxpayer is getting the benefit of governmental services in return? That government is a social contract, where each party benefits?"

1. "Progressive" taxation, rather than user fees, assures that some people are paying hugely more in taxes than the benefit of the governmental services they recieve.

2. Many government services, such as victimless crime laws, actually confer negative 'benefit'; We'd be better off if the taxes funding them were burnt, rather than spent on them. Others confer the benefit on somebody other than the person paying. Still others the person might simply not want, or might want to buy elsewhere.

3. See Lysander Spooner's essay "No Treason" for a detailed response to the suggestion that we are bound by some social "contract". More like "an offer you can't refuse".

Brett,

"1. "Progressive" taxation, rather than user fees, assures that some people are paying hugely more in taxes than the benefit of the governmental services they recieve."

In any group, some will always get greater and some fewer benefits than others. If you think you can persuade the majority of your fellow citizens to change the composition of taxes, or the amounts or types of services provided, that is what democracy is for. However, since Libertarians continually get less than 1% of the vote, one can only conclude that their ideas are simply not too popular when push comes to shove.

"2. Many government services, such as victimless crime laws, actually confer negative 'benefit'; We'd be better off if the taxes funding them were burnt, rather than spent on them. Others confer the benefit on somebody other than the person paying. Still others the person might simply not want, or might want to buy elsewhere."

Again, a matter for persuading your fellow citizens on specific cases. Not for shreiking that all taxation is theft.

"3. See Lysander Spooner's essay "No Treason" for a detailed response to the suggestion that we are bound by some social "contract". More like "an offer you can't refuse"."

Since his essay has been around for 140 years, if it were able to persuade the majority of people to change their view of government, we would have had a revolution. Instead, we have a Libertarian Party who can't get 1% of the vote (and the only claimed revolution since then was Janice Rogers Brown's bogeyman of the Socialist Revolution of 1937, which went in precisely the opposite direction).

Moreover, if you still feel like you are getting the short end of the contract, you aren't bound to stay in this country. You won't be arrested if you try to emigrate. Go to your own island, or your choice of countries with no intrusive government. Just don't expect the same services which you feel are paid for through theft.

Hmm. No takers on my 10:24AM. Everyone still arguing how conservative (and now libertarian) principles are wrong rather than how liberal principles are not out of the mainstream… OK…


Dantheman: This would be a persuasive argument if it were not for the fact that Republican framing of issues (most notably with respect to the estate tax) is precisely aimed at convincing people they could become part of that class and therefore must not tax it.

I really think people give too much credit to Republican’s ability to frame these issues. They can try to convince me all day long that I’m going to make it into that upper 2% - but they haven’t seen my balance sheet. ;) I understand that some people go through life certain that they are going to win the lottery and move to easy street (seriously – I know a guy who coasts through life now because he is absolutely certain he will win the lottery any day now) but I think most people have a realistic picture of their possibilities.

I think a more realistic take is that when you say today “it’s just a tax on the super rich and doesn’t impact most people” we think “yeah, but what about tomorrow”. Once upon a time the estate tax did only impact a few families. Now families are losing the farm they have owned for generations due to the appreciation of the land value. The AMT is probably the best example of this. When it was introduced in 69 it targeted only 155 households in total. Who could object to that (outside the 155)? Today some households with income just over $75,000 are being impacted. Does a married couple with kids making $75k sound like “the rich”? In other threads here they would qualify for SCHIP.


DaveC: would you characterize the vast majority of Americans as being conservatively liberal

The majority are clearly in the middle. Some mix of conservatively liberal and liberally conservative – in what percentages I have no idea.


Marbel: Lets look for instance at the business spending in research and development. 13 European countries in the top 18 and two in the top three (US is 5th) - maybe a bit more socialism is not so bad for innovation after all.

But spending on R&D doesn’t tell us anything about results. Up until the early 90’s the Soviet Union spent 2% of GDP on R&D. That would put them 4th on that list, right before they totally collapsed.

Hmm. No takers on my 10:24AM.

/me does a polite wave... but it is nearing bedtime on this side of the ocean.

"Now families are losing the farm they have owned for generations due to the appreciation of the land value."

Cite?

It would likely be helpful, though, if you also mentioned approximately what number of families you consider to be sufficiently large as to be a significant problem, or objectionable level, or if you prefer, what approximate number would be small enough not be to a problem, in your eyes.

OCSteve, I'm not sure the AMT or estate taxes are great rhetorical cudgels to use against liberal, since the general liberal line I've seen on them is they should be reformed, and they should be indexed with inflation.

Also, the "Losing the family farm to estate tax!" canard is overused and far less common than its wielders would like to claim.

As for defending liberal principles, people have already quoted the polls that find broad popular support for most liberal programs, such as Social Security, health care, and not starting wars with coutries that didn't attack us. Broader among the population than in Congress, even.

Which leads to the discussion of which mainstream we're looking at. Mainstream in Congress? Yes, liberal principles are outside the mainstream there, because the vast majority of the Republicans in Congress are off in the depths of madness (or at least vote that way), and most of the Democrats are center-right corporatists.

Out of the mainstream in the media? When the Washington Post can run an article with the headline "Climate change bad news for Democrats" when the article says the exact opposite, that's not a good baseline either.

The self-identification numbers I find slightly fishy, for the Republican demonization of the word "Liberal" for the past 40+ years, also mentioned above.

And unfortunately, now I have to run sine my girlfriend just got here, so I'll finish this another time, probably tomorrow.

OCSteve,

"Once upon a time the estate tax did only impact a few families. Now families are losing the farm they have owned for generations due to the appreciation of the land value."

Not a shred of truth to this. Republicans have tried to find such families for years, and never have.

"The AMT is probably the best example of this. When it was introduced in 69 it targeted only 155 households in total. Who could object to that (outside the 155)? Today some households with income just over $75,000 are being impacted."

True. I was one of them, as I noted in my 2005 taxes (as the increased charity I gave after Katrina did not lead to an increased refund). And note which party has actually proposed doing something about this without the sweetener of extra tax cuts for the over $200,000 net income crew, and which is relying on the AMT not changing for its rosy budget projections.

But spending on R&D doesn’t tell us anything about results. I know, that's why I used that only as a reply to your innovation fears ;)

The enterpreneurial part of the comment were adressed in the last paragraph. I think we are better in infrastructure (incl. ICT) and education, but I think the US culture is much more "go for it" than ours, and that has a substantial impact.

At the same time, things are going pretty well and I don't mind having more time for leisure, sports and broadening the mind ;).

Nate,

"I have to run sine my girlfriend"

Would that be going out on a tangent? Since you're away, you secant this joke until tomorrow.

Oh, and I don't mind paying high income taxes but I do have a problem with some of our other taxes. In the Netherlands I am a centralist ;)

The estate tax has never, not once, taken a family farm away. It is common knowledge in the tax community that, as DTM says, various lobbying groups have looked for such people an never found one (and will admit it if you ask in private). The best way to fix it would be to exempt, say, $5 million per spouse, index that to inflation, set the rate to the highest individual marginal rate, and require heirs to take a zero basis in inherited property.

Politicians of all stripes deserve scorn for letting the AMT get out of control. Right now, getting rid of the AMT will cost something like $800 billion over the first ten years. Charlie Rangel's recent tax bill would finance this by (i) imposing an extra 4% tax on modified AGI over $100K, and (ii) another 0.6 percent on modified AGI over $250K (each $ for single filers, double for married filing jointly) - and indexing those numbers for inflation.

The republican house's leadership response to this AMT fix? It's "the mother of all tax hikes".

The best way to fix it would be to exempt, say, $5 million per spouse, index that to inflation, set the rate to the highest individual marginal rate, and require heirs to take a zero basis in inherited property.

I would be willing to support repealing the estate tax only if bequests are taxed as ordinary income to the recipient. Since, you know, they are income.

"The republican house's leadership response to this AMT fix? It's "the mother of all tax hikes"."

Which only goes to show how short their memory is. IIRC, the correct answer (as a percentage of GDP) was in Reagan's first term.

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