2014-04-25

A Few Brief Thoughts From Facebook

Some Facebook friends and I were having a discussion, and there were a few things coming out of that discussion that I would like to reiterate here.

First, one of us expressed the idea that liberals (leftists) seem to care more about racism and "the little guy," while conservatives seem to be more focused on "the welfare of those that aren't at the bottom." I didn't think that was quite right, so suggested a correction. While leftists seem to care more about about correcting for the direct welfare effects of things like racism, rightists seem to be more resigned to the idea that government reallocation of resources is Pareto inefficient (or Kaldor-Hicks inefficient, if you prefer).

That went over well enough, but even though I was the one who offered the correction, it still doesn't quite sit right with me. It doesn't feel fair enough to leftists.

Earlier in the conversation, I had pointed out that many rightists and libertarians are attracted to those belief systems not because they believe in liberty, but because those belief systems offer them a philosophical justification for some pretty hateful tendencies. It's not exactly a secret that many non-leftists harbor latent or not-so-latent bigotry. While many people fervently believe in the right to (for example) freedom of speech, some simply give lip service to the idea because it makes them feel more justified to say hateful things.

Similarly, there are many genuine leftists out there who belief that socialism is definitely the way to go; but still, there are a lot of people who blabber socialist rhetoric simply because it provides them with a justification for robbing the rich and fancying themselves poor. Or because they want larger welfare checks or higher wages.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that some people espouse a particular philosophy out of pure ideological conviction, or perhaps even due to rigorous logical or empirical analysis. But a lot of other people cling to any lousy argument, so long as it justifies their priors.

It's probably worth it to know which kind of person you're dealing with before you enter a political discussion with them. (FYI - No one involved in my recent FB discussion was the "bad" kind of political adherent.)