Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Liberal Advantage

Conservatives are better at some things, and liberals are better at others.  For example, conservatives are better at target shooting, and liberals are better at appreciating bad art.  Unfortunately, the ability to effectively articulate one's political philosophy is an area where liberals have an advantage.  The reason for this is simply, simplicity.

Someone who restricts his reading to the Huffington Post might think that liberalism is a nuanced and complex philosophy, and that conservatism is nothing more than a primitive instinctual reaction to a changing world.  Like much of what one reads on HuffPo, this is not entirely accurate in the sense of being true.  Though there are plenty of complex debates between liberal technocrats about how to best apply their ideology, that ideology is actually quite simple. 

Conservatives refer to multiple "first principles" but liberals need look only to a single first principle, the principle of equality.  Russel Kirk attempted to summarize conservatism in "Ten Principles," but the liberal ethos was adequately defined in three words by John Rawls, who preached, "Justice as Fairness."  Chesterton's description of Islam as a "simple faith for simple men," is applicable to liberal egalitarianism.  This does not mean that Muslims and liberals are stupid people, but that their belief is straightforward and easy to articulate. 

When liberals talk about the need for an equal society, they sound convincing because their rhetoric comes directly from their basic principle.  When conservative politicians try to articulate their philosophy, they tend to sound uninspiring at best, and foolish at worst.  Many politicians don't want  to make the effort to thoroughly examine political ideas, and conservative ideas require more effort.  Even those conservatives who have thought deeply about their principles can struggle to communicate them because the depth of conservative thought makes it difficult to express in a soundbite.  Instead of a genuine explanation of conservative ideas, the public is treated to vague assertions about American exceptionalism and the value of a free market.

What is the solution?  I don't know; I'm a blogger, not a rhetorician.  However, I do recommend that politicians and voters alike, whatever their political persuasion, truly educate themselves about conservatism .  An education in conservatism can begin over the internet.  Check out the Russel Kirk Center and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute for stimulating conservative thought.

Crossposted on The Raven Republican

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