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Liberal versus conservative thinking

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  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    This is my 1,500th post on the Democratic Hub. Two years ago on February 21, 2011, President's Day, I wrote a special post in this website: The absence of Critical Thinking in our society. I said at the time:

    "I have chosen to write about a topic that I have mentioned in several postings and drives my passion: Critical Thinking, or more specifically, the absence of critical thinking in our political discourse, whether by our politicians, our media, our religious leaders, or just friends, colleagues, neighbors, family and relatives."

    You can read my entire post if you like at the above link. Like many of my posts, it didn't stimulate much interest. Ha. I was now thinking about what special topic I should write about for my 1500th post when I saw pgr's posts referencing a couple of very good books: The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science- and Reality by Chris Mooney and Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free by Charles Pearce. I have read both books, and I won't go into the details...the titles speak for themselves. Please read the Amazon reviews to get good summaries.

    I don't plan to revisit the many current and past anecdotal examples of the lack of critical thinking in our society (you can read Idiot America for that...or just browse the examples cited by members in this website). Rather I pick up on the psychological points of why indeed liberals and conservatives think differently as discussed in Chris Mooney's book above. I should also point out that I use the terms liberal and conservative rather loosely. There is no such thing as a pure liberal or conservative on all issues. Many people are in fact single issue voters and vote against many of their other interests...perhaps in ignorance...or perhaps because of the absence of critical thinking.

    Delving into the area of psychology to understand why people think as they do can be both revealing but also stupefying...the more I read, the more I realize I don't understand. Nevertheless, psychologists write articles and books to be read by layman like me to marvel at their intellect. Ha. And each puts their own spin on different aspects of it. For example, Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the New York University Stern School of Business and author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion emphasizes the tribal aspect of why people vote against their own self interests in a January 3rd AlterNet article: Have You Ever Wondered What Compells Your Conservative Relatives to Vote the Way They Do?

    "People often assume that politics is primarily about self-interest. They wonder why someone would vote for a candidate who’s going to raise their taxes or cut their benefits. But politics, especially at the presidential level, is more like religion than a shopping excursion. Despite all the individualism and materialism within our culture, our group affiliations matter deeply to most of us. Politics begins to make more sense when you understand it as a tribal phenomenon.

    "Politics is largely about moral missions for the nation, and the president is expected to be the high priest of the American civic religion. It can be illuminating to see the left and right in this country as practicing different civic religions, and looking to very different high priests."


    "Political beliefs act as badges of membership, badges that say who we are and give us a sense of meaning and purpose. They’re badges that we display to show our moral character. So simply refuting someone’s views about global warming or needle-exchange programs or abortion or anything else will have little effect, because people aren’t going to betray their team because you show them evidence that they’re wrong."

    Haidt goes on to talk about how the left and right have different understandings of fairness. The left focuses on equality, with an emphasis on equality of outcome, while the right cares more about proportionality of outcome: "if outcomes are equalized when deservingness isn’t the same, they consider that an abomination." On the subject of welfare, social conservatives are deeply offended by the thought of bailing out people who might have contributed to their own sorry state, while liberals show compassion. There is a distinct difference in moral attitudes about how each side thinks about “fairness.” But why? Embedded in the interview is one statement by Haidt that in my opinion is the crux of why we think as we do:

    "Our tendency to be on the left or the right is as heritable as anything else–around 0.5, depending on the measure. For example, our genes predispose us to seek change, diversity, and variety, or order, stability, and predictability. People with different brains will find different kinds of arguments and different social settings attractive. To understand political attitudes fully, you have to understand a range of factors, including genetics, neuroscience, childhood development, adolescent development, and cultural psychology."

    That's an all encompassing statement and the reason why I feel overwhelmed as I delve deeper into the area of psychology. Nevertheless, when pgr responding to a post said "There is a difference (and it's biologically driven) between Conservatives brains and Liberals brains," he is absolutely right. Maybe that's really all we need to know.

    It also explains why that no matter what the weight of facts in our politic discourse, Americans are going to vote largely out of loyalty to their brand. TV pundits marvel on the fact that Barack Obama got just over 51 percent of the popular vote. On the other hand, despite all that I have read, I still wonder about the mental state of that other 49 percent. Ha.

    The latest debates about guns is just one example of that kind of thinking. For many, wearing the NRA membership badge is a badge of honor. And the Sandy Hook massacre of childen is not even enough to change that brand loyalty...the loyalty to the NRA and Wayne LaPierre. In my state of Colorado, gun owners are rushing to buy even more guns, especially assault rifles, while in other more liberal parts of the country people are turning in their guns in local buy-back programs. Statistics reveal that while the number of homes with guns is declining, total gun ownership is on the rise with gun owners buying up even more guns. It just accentuates our political divide even more, and reading right wing sites I understand that many of these gun owners by guns because they fear "the Fed."

    I don't propose to reignite the gun debate in this forum, but to understand the mentality of those that fear our federal government watch this Infowars video that is circulating in the right wing blogosphere: Demand A Real Plan - Disarmament leads to Democide

    I think it defines the mentality of many on the far right...it's what Eternal flame would call "brain washing."

    I'll leave it at that...my 1,500th post to stimulate critical thinking.
  • Are you sure you want to delete this post?
        
    Compassion and empathy are the defining traits of a liberal. Compassionate Conservatism may be the best oxymoron.
  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
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    "schmidt" your forefathers must have been German; You still speak the language? Anyway I like to congratulate you on your 1500th's thread!!
    I barely know you yet, but the discussions about the "medicare" and your other "threads" are always very well worked out and concise.
    Anyway I would not have the time to "dig" like you do, so my "threads are mostly much smaller without a lot of research, but more from my worldwide experience point of view. Yeah, like "leftofcenter" says if we do not change our culture; then it may hit us one day scarely on the nose.
    All the best compliments, Rob
  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    Dutch --

    Actually my forefathers were Finnish. I grew up in the mining town of Butte, Montana...it had a Finnish community amongst others, mostly Irish. I chose the name "Schmidt" after the beer that my Dad drank...one of the popular miners' beers still brewed in Milwaukee. He used to like to go down to the local tavern and "chew the rag" with his miner comrades while drinking Schmidt beer. He was also union activist pushing for safer and healthier working conditions and wages for the miners.

    Frank
  • Center Left Democrat
    Democrat
    Flagstaff, AZ
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    Schmidt:


    Schmidt beer originally started operations in my home state of Minnesota in 1901, but essentially went out of business in 1955.
    Because it was a "local" beer, it was favored by my relatives (especially by my German uncles). You can still buy the stuff today,
    but not in all states. If you lived in Minnesota or Wisconsin, you'd be able to get some. For the guys who live in Colorado or Arizona, though, we're just out of luck.

    http://schmidtbeer.com/history/default.aspx

    Even though it's brewed by Pabst Brewing in Illinois, you can't buy any in Illinois. Pabst Brewing brews an astonishing 54 kinds of beer:

    http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/447


    My dad drank Hamm's beer, which was also brewed in Minnesota. Although Hamm's is no longer an independent brewery, it's now made by Miller Brewing Company of Milwaukee:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamm%27s_Brewery

    Hamm's always had the BEST beer commercials:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hc7HoWEk6y8

    The most intriguing beer company is Schlitz, which was the most popular beer in America at one point. The article below provides more
    information, roughly halfway down:

    http://tohell-andback.blogspot.com/2011/05/ive-been-goosed.html:

    If you'd like to try one of the most popular beers in Finland to keep in touch with your roots, you'll have to stay thirsty, because you can't buy any of them here:

    http://www.ranker.com/list/top-beers-from-finland/reference
  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    Thanks Arizona for all the beer links. You are right...I can't get Schmidt beer in Colorado so I usually buy a stock when I travel through Montana which does carry it...although not in all stores.

    I certainly recall the Hamms ads from the 50s and 60s. Your link is to one of the best ads.

    I tried all the beers sold in the northwest at one time or another...Olympus, Ranier, Lucky and also Butte Special and Great Falls Select, but both are out of business now. Also Pabst and Blatz and Schlitz...and Strohs while in Michigan. All good beers.

    No I have never had the opportunity of drinking Finnish beer, but I have tried the Norwegian Hansa...very good. In the UK I drank the local beers...a "pint of bitter" in London pubs...a "pint of heavy" in Scottish pubs. Both were pretty close to the beer I brewed myself while living in Libya. That was an illegal activity then.

    For Colorado beers, Fat Tire is popular and I usually get that in a restaurant on draft. For imported beers, I still like Moosehead (Canadian) and Peroni.

    For all those beers we drank in our youth (and later), it is not the beer itself that is so remembered, but the stories that go with them...you know all the stupid things that beer makes you do when you imbibe too much. Ha!
  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    And since the forum topic is liberal versus conservative thinking, I should have noted what kind of beer each group drinks. Looking at the graph in this Huffington Post link,

    Sierra Nevada: America's Most Political Beer (PHOTOS)

    It would appear that conservatives like to drink light beers for the most part...many of the conservative beer drinkers (to the right of the axis) choices of beers are light beers. I personally don't like light beers...tasteless.

    On the other hand, liberals like Sierra Nevada, microbrews plus a host of imported beers...but nothing with the word "light" in front of it. That suggests liberals like their beer to have real "taste"...more true beer connoisseurs.

    However, one of the most popular non-light beers for conservatives is Shiner bock...it's to the far right of the scale and probably is heavily weighted to the conservative political views of Texas whereas Sierra Nevada is a California beer...a liberal state. I tried Shinor Bock but even though it has a color of a darker ale, I found it to be a bit tasteless as well.

    My opinions...subject to debate.
  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
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    "schmidt" thanks; great Finnish people are great thinkers and have a lot of patience, because the winters are there so long; I've got a Porsche
    Boxster built in Finland!! Then you have Nokia and a lot of furniture, styling, also very expensive entertainment equipment, beautifully styled.
    (Bang & Olafson)
    However on "beer" I'll stick with the Dutch one, either Heineken, Amstel, Grolsch, Stella Artois( Belgian, they own now Budweiser)
    You should visit Finland, great nature, nice people, lots of deer and wolves ("united" loves these)
    But since it is cold in Montana you should drink Aqua Vite instead of beer or the Finnish Vodka.
  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    Dutch --

    I agree on the European beers. I vary the beers in my fridge and right now I have a stock of Stella Artois in addition to Moosehead and Schmidt plus Big Hole beer (Montana).

    And yes, I'm ashamed that I never found the time to visit Finland despite living nine years in London. Finland is more socially liberal than many other western countries, but in their recent presidential election, the National Coalition Party won the most seats...it describes itself as "liberal conservative." They also have a love of nature and absolute reverence of their forests. That crosses all party lines.

    And regardless of party affiliation, Finns are very progressive as demonstrated by their education system rated the best in the world:

    Business Insider: Why Finland's Unorthodox Education System Is The Best In The World

    There are some eye openers here...no schooling until age 7...no exams or homework until they are in their teens...

    For a more detailed account of the Finnish education success story you can read this Smithsonian article.

    Smithsonian: Why Are Finland's Schools Successful?

    With our political system which tends to "blame the teachers" we could never replicate it in the United States.
  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Dallas, TX
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    Some of those European conservatives are flaming communists compared to our rightwingers. Fact is, over there it was the conservative parties that initiated the welfare state to forestall demands from the socialist parties.
  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    CBB --

    Yes when you get into a discussion of liberalism and conservatism in Europe, you need to work with a whole new set of definitions. Liberalism and conservatism means something entirely different not only in Europe but also between countries in Europe. And add to that terms like economic liberalism, social liberalism, classic liberalism, neoliberalism, conservative liberalism and liberal conservatism and also natural conservatism and traditional conservatism and progressive conservatism...enough to get your head spinning. So I'm not going to go there.

    Republicans in the United States meanwhile like to refer to all of them as "socialists" or ""European socialists" in the derogatory sense, not really understanding one iota what that term means.

    Maybe we should just forget all these terms. What matters most is the quality of life. In terms of the Life Satisfaction Index, Denmark ranks No.1 followed by Norway, Switzerland, Netherlands, Austria, and Canada. The United States ranks 12th.

    "Life satisfaction measures how people evaluate their life as a whole rather than their current feelings. It captures a reflective assessment of which life circumstances and conditions are important for subjective well-being."

    Then there's Gallup's World Poll to measure "happiness." Again Denmark ranks No. 1 followed by Finland, Norway, Swedan and the Netherlands. The USA ranks 14th.

    In this poll subjects were asked to reflect on their overall satisfaction with their lives. There responses were ranked using a "life evaluation" score from 1 to 10. "Then they asked questions about how each subject had felt the previous day. Those answers allowed researchers to score their "daily experiences"--things like whether they felt well-rested, respected, free of pain and intellectually engaged."

    So instead of liberalism versus conservatism, maybe we should just evaluate happiness. In that regard, I would have to believe the Tea Party advocates must be some of the unhappiest people in the world.
  • Liberal
    Independent
    Durham, NH
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    Thank you for this informative post!

    unfortunately, the typical right wing US Conservative has no desire to hear, much less understand what you have said!
  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
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    "schmidt" you describe exactly how it is; yes down here they do not understand "politics" etc. in Europe, like you said it is totally different than here. Indeed schooling is much better and not too self centered as here; much broader in all aspects. For instance I went to a higher technical school which was linked with Philips Industries; so you would fit right into the technical companies. Sure you can do that here too, but not for free; that is the difference. "Socialism" is indeed a wrong word here; it indeed means there: make the place livable for everybody. so no slums, good public transportation, infra structure, better integrated society, care for the eldery, clean cities, waterways, bridges etc. all services via underground means (no poles) lots of clean energy (windmill farms) and natural gas; most trucks drive on LPG (liquefied natural gas) and good gun laws!!
    So again someone will say; if you do not like it here then leave; "schmidt" got it right, but do not think that this country has no advantages, it has plenty of them, only there is a lot which can be improved as clearly is stated on this site many times. I hate to repeat such; read my other threads and "schmidt's" then you got the picture; sorry to say if just about 45 to 50% is Republican in a two party system, it is virtually impossible to come close to a European system. A capitalistic system is here to stay so we have to live with that; however certain elements of it should disappear to make it more pleasant, like the "lobby" system, "militaristic attitude", also "money" should not be the "all over driver" of doing things.etc etc.