Touchy-Feely time in Washington

Monday, January 8th, 2007 11:36 am by Neal

Jeff Jacoby’s column, “Arguments left and right,” discusses how the discourse in Washington will change now that the Democrats control the House. The bigger point of his article, however, is how this change in discourse reflects the true difference in attitude and world-view between liberals and conservatives: liberals focus on idealistic “good intentions,” whereas conservatives are concerned with “good results.”

Political discourse will dwell even more than it already does on “fairness” and “compassion” and “unmet needs” — and even less on factual evidence and the historical record.

What is true of the minimum-wage debate is true of so many others. Affirmative action, sex education, energy policy, family law, criminal procedure — on issue after issue, people on the left are more likely to stress virtuous motives, while those on the right accentuate real-world outcomes.

Should income-tax rates be cut? Liberals say no, repelled by the apparent selfishness of enriching the well-to-do, when it is the poor who need more money. Conservatives say yes, knowing that tax relief spurs economic growth from which everyone benefits. Is bilingual education desirable? Yes, argues the left, concerned about the self-esteem of non-English-speaking children. No, insists the right, recognizing that children master English more quickly when they aren’t shunted off into linguistic ghettos. Time and again, the pattern is clear: Liberals are galvanized by idealistic motives; conservatives find reality more persuasive.

This helps explain why the left is so often infatuated with the idea of its own benevolence — and why liberals are so quick to accuse their opponents of being not just wrong, but wicked.

“Conservative principles and conservative approaches start in the real world as it exists, not in some lovely but imaginary utopia.”
— Robert Bartley, The Wall Street Journal

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