Thursday, November 10, 2005

A Dose of Reality

Ask yourself what truly differentiates conservatives from liberals, at the core. Do not think of it in terms of supporting this policy or that policy, but think of it on the philosophical level. What is the difference? Well, I have pondered this and here is what I have come up with.

It is all about realism versus idealism. Neither "ism" is necessarily a bad thing but either one taken to the extreme becomes problematic. A little idealism is good in that it promotes innovation and often positive change. Realism allows one to evaluate whether or not such innovation or change is practical or functional. That being said, I think the true difference is that liberalism is the result of extreme idealism while conservatism is the result of realism.

Being a realist and a pragmatist, I will explain my case in very simple terms. For example, ideally, if you pass a law outlawing handguns, criminals will turn in their weapons and violent gun crime will disappear. Then there will be no need for law abiding citizens to have guns designed for protection either. Then everybody lives happily ever after and we can all join hands and sing Kumbaya.

Now a dose of reality. You outlaw handguns and you disarm the law-abiding citizens while criminals retain their weapons. Then you create more potential victims, as people are unable to defend themselves. Gun related crime rates rise.

Ideally, if you are a law-abiding, hard-working, tax-paying citizen the government will be there to protect you in your time of need. Let's say you are a woman and some thug kicks in your door; you will call 911 and the police will immediately show up in time to prevent you from getting raped and killed. Then you can all join hands and sing Kumbaya. (You will want to include the would-be rapist too, because it is not his fault he is a criminal, it is yours because you are privileged to be a hard-working, law-abiding taxpayer while he is not).

The reality? The police show up just in time to collect evidence, your frantic 911 call makes the 11:00 news (assumng you made it to the phone) and you are dead, unless you have a gun. This is not a reflection of any incompetence on behalf of the police. Realistic thinking allows one to see they cannot possibly be everywhere all the time.

Ideally, if a man is poor and life has dealt him a few bad hands you can provide him a handout. He will then use this handout to take responsibility for his own future, even though he has never had this requirement placed upon him at any point previously in his life, and begin to work toward building a better future. He will be given whatever a guilt ridden society deems he deserves, as he has been labeled a victim. He will miraculously become a contributor, not a burden. Should this fail the first time, the solution is simple. He was given too little. Give him more and for sure he will be a success. This will be repeated across the country. All the poor will no longer be poor. All the jobs filled by immigrants will be filled by these new-to-the-workforce Americans. We can all join hands and sing Kumbaya for poverty has been eliminated.

Here is the next dose of reality. After being reminded constantly of being a victim and deserving of more, this poor man feels he is entitled to the handout he receives. He feels no obligation to give back, as he is the victim. He owes society nothing. He has been conditioned to believe that society owes him. In fact, he wants to know when and where the next handout will come from. When it comes, as it always does, he becomes dependent on it. He has never had to work for it so why should he start now? In fact, he is so convinced that society owes him, remember he is and always will be the victim, the handout is not enough. Not only is he dependent, but he is entitled to more. Society has created a burden by turning people into victims, providing handouts and, most importantly, requiring nothing in return. You, the tax-paying citizen, get to support him and all his illegitimate children.

Let's look at this real vs. ideal on the global level. Ideally, if our country dumps billions of dollars in foreign aid into the world, lets the UN dictate policy, caters to demands of extremists from various factions and refuses to use military force for any purpose, then everybody will like us. If we could just act like France then everything would be OK. In short, if we are nice then everybody will be nice to us. The world could then join hands and sing Kumbaya.

The reality is that the US will always have enemies, regardless of how nice we are. There are always groups or nations that either want what we have or want us all dead. There is a limited repertoire of solutions to these problems that do not involve being nice and expecting nice behavior in return.

I could go on with examples of the contrast between realism and idealism, but I won't. When you hear the phrase "feel good policy" it is seldom applied to conservatives. Such feel good policy is merely overly idealistic policy. It is like making a birthday wish. Idealism, put simply, is how we think the world should be, which is fine but it should not be the only driving force behind policy. If it is the only force, it fails miserably and usually creates more problems than it solves, no matter how good it makes us feel. A conservative views the world through the lens of realism. Idealism is then used to help shape such policy in the context of the reality.

So, the next time you find yourself asking what those liberals are thinking, remember they are often blinded by idealism and have no regard for the reality that constrains the possibility of that ideal becoming real. They are more about making birthday wishes than dealing in reality.
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