Saturday, July 31, 2004

Democrats vs Republicans

Which party has the greatest faith in human potential?

By Mark Connolly
Editor, Dallas Bureau

My nephew asked me last night what the differences were between Republicans and Democrats on education. I stumbled through an answer. I realized during the attempt that as far as I know, there really is not a huge difference in what is being said by either party. So I had to resort to my perceptions of an overall approach to governance, which in my opinion entails a certain world view regarding individual citizens. And that leads, however indirectly, to the topics of Democrats and Republicans, and Liberals and Conservatives.

When asked whether I am Republican or Democrat, I always say Republican. I am Republican for some perceived general ideological stances, and not because of specific policies or platforms. I have some basic perceptions that may or may not be accurate, which I now hang out to swing in the wind, offering them up as fair game for any commentary.

I would first like to set out one issue that contributes to this debate; the assertion that "all Democrats are Liberals, and all Conservatives are Republicans." Liberal and Conservative are kind of world views, and they do overlap with Democrat and Republican platforms. But even inside one's own skin you will find you are liberal on this issue and conservative on that issue. You shouldn't simply pigeon-hole individuals into one or other group. Nevertheless, I do believe that Republicans tend toward a more conservative world view while Democrats tend toward a more liberal world view.

I have two quotes that kind of sum up my views on Dems and Reps and Libs and Cons.

Regarding liberal and conservative:
Any man who is under 30 and is not a Liberal has no heart; and
any man who is over 30 and not a Conservative has no brains.
- Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

And now for Republicans and Democrats:
On God and Santa Claus
From P.J. O'Rourke's book Parliament of Whores

I have only one firm belief about the American political system, and that is this: God is a Republican and Santa Claus is a Democrat.

God is an elderly or, at any rate, middle-aged mate, a stern fellow, patriarchal rather than paternal and a great believer in rules and regulations. He holds men strictly accountable for their actions. He has little apparent concern for the material well-being of the disadvantaged. He is politically connected, socially powerful and holds the mortgage on literally everything in the world. God is difficult. God is unsentimental. It is very hard to get into God's heavenly country club.

Santa Claus is another matter. He's cute. He's non-threatening. He's always cheerful. And he loves animals. He may know who's been naughty and who's been nice, but he never does anything about it. He gives everyone everything they want without thought of a quid pro quo. He works hard for charities, and he's famously generous to the poor. Santa Claus is preferable to God in every way but one: There is no such thing as Santa Claus.

I use these two quotes to introduce a core question:
Are people responsible for their own actions, or is society responsible for the actions of its people?

What's so core about that? Well consider in the above debate regarding education. One thing that is not touched by either party is the role of the parent in education. That is a taboo topic and nobody wants to go there. In my opinion that has made both parties default into the premise that society is responsible for the education of its citizenry. That may be a no-brainer to some. But, if you will honestly look at some of the "failures" in our educational system, I think you would have to acknowledge contributory failures in parenting. An involved parent will cause a child to study, whether or not the classroom has computers. An involved parent will expect a level of behavior by their child. An involved parent will communicate to their child the importance of education, and that the child will have a good education whether said child wants one or not.

This is why you can have an individual parent triumph over the (documented) failure of a particular school system. An involved parent will always outperform a school that has had a child handed over to it for rearing. (It is not really fair to expect schools to do what we are expecting them to do.) I speak from personal experience as a child and a parent. I and my child did not go to school in a vacuum. I succeeded where others failed, and my child succeeded where others failed. I know first hand in my case, and anecdotally in my child's case, that our successes are attributable to parenting, NOT to the school (if it was just the school, everyone would have succeeded). And most certainly, the presence or lack of money in the school system had nothing to do with our education.

Based on this, in my opinion, both parties act liberal regarding education. They act as if they believe society is the answer to the problem, not individual parenting.
Human Potential

Let's look at the old saw, If you give a man a fish, you feed him for an hour, if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.

That is only true if the man will actually go and fish. And whether he will go and fish depends on the quality of the character of that man. If his character is of one sort, even if you teach him to fish if someone will still give him a fish, he won't fish. And if his character is of another sort, he will walk past free fish stands and go and catch his own.

The issue then becomes, do you expect him to fish, or do you decide to give him a daily fish? If you are pragmatic, and you are looking long term, you know that he can fish. But you also know that he may or may not fish depending on if he is hungry and if he thinks he can get a fish without effort.

1. If you believe in the potential of that human being, you will expect him to fish. If he does not, he can go hungry. When he is hungry enough, he will go and fish, and find out maybe that he kind of enjoys being self-sufficient. And he becomes a productive member of society and society is better off. (Or he might steal, and if he gets caught, he'll be put in jail.)

2. If you do not believe in the potential of that man, you may teach him to fish, but you really won't expect him to. Meanwhile, he's got to eat. The only right thing to do is feed him. Hopefully, you can encourage him to get up and face the world again, after he is fed. But we are a wealthy society, so feed the man, already! (And, he won't need to steal if we take care of his basic needs.)

The first example is seen as cold hearted and unfeeling. The second example is seen as caring and just and good.

If you have kids, do they all have the ability to clean their own rooms? If the answer is yes, will they clean their rooms if you don't tell them to? Some will, and some won't. A parent has two basic approaches:

1. They are made to clean their rooms, whether they want to or not. You believe they will learn life lessons that will help them as they get older. As in 'One day you'll thank me'. You know they can do it, and you are not going to let laziness or other priorities keep them from doing basic things they have to do. It doesn't matter if they are happy or not. It matters that they do it. Happy and unhappy are temporary states of affairs. They'll get over it. Meanwhile, the room needs cleaning.

2. Some kids will clean their rooms on their own, and some won't. Hey, they're kids! Who wants to clean rooms? I've got time, I'll clean it for them. Some day they will see what I've done for them, and they will thank me. Meanwhile, the room gets cleaned, and all my kid's friends think I'm really cool. Besides, it makes me feel good. Not like those other bastard task master parents that force their will on their kids. Why can't they see it my way? It's all so obvious. (condescending sigh)

To me, the examples marked "1." expect individuals to do what they are supposed to do, or face consequences. The examples marked "2." expect nothing, hope for everything, and wonder why everyone else can't see the light.

In the sets of examples above, the ones marked "1" are conservative world views. The ones marked "2" are liberal. You will note that the liberal world view also wonders why everyone doesn't feel like they do. Meanwhile the conservative world view doesn't care if you agree or not. They are going to do what they think is right, and expect you to do what you think is right.

And so it goes in the political party system. The Republicans expect people to take care of themselves. They believe that they can. The Democrats believes that society should take care of everyone. They believe some people can't get by on their own, and that a civilized society should take care of them. Republicans believe that the percentage of people who really can't get by on their own is smaller by several orders of magnitude than what Democrats are hoping for at election time.

Republicans believe in individual human potential, and expect people to live up to their potential. They don't want people to suffer, but see a lot of suffering as self inflicted. This is perceived as haughty and uncaring by liberals.

Democrats believe in collective societal potential, and expect people to sign up for that belief. They don't believe people should ever suffer, and that it is a failure of society when people do suffer, regardless of the reason. And they feel good about believing that. This is perceived as elitist and condescending by conservatives.

Personally, I believe in human potential, and I believe there should be consequences for your actions, if only as object lessons for other individuals to learn from. You should learn from your own mistakes, but I can't make you. I don't want you to suffer, but that is largely up to you, since I believe you have the wherewithal to make better decisions. Ψ


Buck said...

Frater Bovious did a fine job with the details. As a pubic service herewith Uncle Buck provides a simplified version…

General Democratic/liberal platform: we will join together and form a social order that will protect you from those more powerful than yourself

General Republican/conservative platform: quit whining and get back to work

J.D. said...

Are people responsible for their own actions, or is society responsible for the actions of its people?

Democrats believe people are responsible for their own actions, and that society should be responsive to the needs of its people. No free lunch, but nobody should starve for want of opportunity either.

Republicans believe people should be responsible for their own actions, as well as their children, which is why poor kids deserve to be poor and rich kids are entitled to great wealth. They also believe that society should be responsive to the needs of people like them and not responsive to the needs of "others." NO free lunch, and screw the poor.

Frater Bovious said...

TWD, I believe that you have to start with people being responsible, and held accountable, for their own actions. You can try to hold society accountable but it is entirely too unwieldy. Plus, since society after all only means "other people" if all the other people are waiting for all the other other people to fix things up... well, I would think you could agree that is not a realistic expectation.

By the same token, one should not be selfish. So, I agree completely with your statement that "society should be responsive to the needs of its people."

I don't get the next paragraph though. No one deserves to be poor, least of all children, and no one is entitled to wealth. In fact, entitlements of any kind, whether welfare, or the Hilton fortune, I submit summarily retards the development of any human being. I think you can look at any "spoiled rich kid" and see this theory supported.

In my job I used to hire people. Large numbers of them. I have literally done approximately 3000 job interviews for everything from entry level to department heads. Some people want to come in and go to work, and prove themselves, and some people want to be given a fat salary because it is owed to them. Never mind actually coming to work on time, or actually working while you are there.

There is a severe disconnect among a large number of people between what work really is, and what making a living actually entails. It is my perception that these people who believe they are owed a livlihood but feel the "man is keeping them down" by expecting something back in return for their paycheck tend to vote Democrat. And I think that is a target audience of Democratic rhetoric.

But it does not automatically follow that if I expect people to earn their way in life that my attitude is "screw the poor."