Happy-mongers or Despair-mongers?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this interview, especially in relation to the comments that I’ve been getting in other threads. This is the sort if thing that I have intuited a long time ago:

Half of the difference between conservatives and liberals is demographic. It has to do with religion and marriage, which is more frequent among conservatives. The real question is why is the other half unexplained? Conservatives have a different orientation. Conservatives think there is a lot of opportunity in America. A lot of liberals feel this way, too, but conservatives overwhelmingly believe if you go around and work hard and persevere, you’re going to get ahead, as opposed to you are a victim of circumstance or oppression and you are screwed in life. Again, that might be right, but it’s not happy.

People involved in any level of politics are trying to influence you in a certain way. (That includes people who mix politics with other things, like Wright.) They have incentives to make you think and feel certain ways. They win when they get the reaction from you that is to their advantage.

The right wins when people feel happy and strong. When we think that we can make it on our own, we want a conservative government. When we think that we can defend ourselves against all comers, we want a conservative government. When we think that the sky is the limit, we want a conservative government. The right has an incentive to make you happy.

The left wins when people feel oppressed and vulnerable. When we feel like everyone around us is out to get us, we want a liberal government. When we feel like the only reason we haven’t been shot is because the other guy doesn’t have a gun, we want a liberal government. When we feel like we are living hand to mouth and the ends will stop meeting any day now, we want a liberal government. When we feel like our situation is miserable, we want a liberal government. The left has an incentive to make you desperate.

I’m not saying that “every liberal out there is plotting to make you feel desperate”, any more than I am saying that every conservative is sitting around thinking, “what can make this guy feel happy?” (If that was the case, you would see more push for drug decriminalization from the right.) I am saying that when the left looks back at the things that give them victories, they are also things that feed on desperation. When the right looks back on things that have given them victories, they are things that feed on (usually an already present) happiness.

Look at the changes of power recent history. Clinton came into office when people were in despair over the recession of the GHB final years, and the feeling of betrayal over “read my lips.” GWB came into office on the tail end of the dot.com boom. The ’94 revolution came at the start of the dot.com boom. The ’06 revolution came in the despair over the Iraq war.

This is the question that each of us needs to answer for himself, and there are so many shades of gray that there can be no right or wrong answer. Do you want to be a part of the group that capitalizes on the good times, or do you want to be part of the group that is in power when everyone else is miserable. More importantly, do you want to end up in the group that stays in power as long as the people are happy, or the group that can stay in power only when people are desperate?

There is a lot of power in the words of the Operative from Serenity. “I believe in something greater than myself. A better world. I’m not going to live there. I have no illusions about it, but it must be done.” I can see where someone could believe in that.

I believe that it is a siren song.

11 Comments

  1. Jazzy says:

    “opposed to you are a victim of circumstance or oppression and you are screwed in life”.

    I consider myself a moderate liberal I don’t agree with the concept of a “FREE” handout as so many Conservatives like to call it. However, I DO FIRMLY believe in giving someone a chance an opportunity to make more of themselves in spite of the circumstances they were born in. I was able to attend a private college because someone saw fit to help me out I was always a straight A student I killed the SAT but with out that help there was no way I could even entertain the thought of attending Austin College. Liberals believe in hard work plus the opportunity to give someone a chance. Conservatives believe hard work I hope you can make it.

    “Do you want to be a part of the group that capitalizes on the good times, or do you want to be part of the group that is in power when everyone else is miserable.”

    Anyone that is letting a politician dictate there “relative” happiness needs to get out more.

    The problem with the happy group is that they fail consistently to view the hardships that so many Americans face because of blinders. The despair-mongers as you call them view the lives of their constituents as their right to fight for something more then they possess already.

  2. Phelps says:

    However, I DO FIRMLY believe in giving someone a chance an opportunity to make more of themselves in spite of the circumstances they were born in.

    Conservatives tend to believe the same things. They just don’t believe that the government should be the one giving that opportunity. Conservatives believe in charity, and it isn’t a dirty word. What we tend to not believe is that charity exacted at the barrel of a gun (which is what spending tax money on social programs is) is the type of aid that truly benefits anyone.

    Conservatives put their money where their mouth is. The numbers are consistent and pretty irrefutable. Conservatives give more and more often to charity, and I believe it is because of this mindset.

  3. Jazzy says:

    I do believe that some people abuse government funding but those same individuals would abuse and do abuse aid provided at the local level. So then my question is: would you punish the masses that government funding has aided to stop the pilfering of the few? In all honesty those that pilfer will always continue to find a way to do so. I am a product of government aid, that aid helped me and my family through difficult times. I am proud to be able to give back to that institution so that someone else may benefit the way I did.

  4. Phelps says:

    I can’t accept that it is punishment. Being in a bad situation is not punishment. It’s unfortunate, but it isn’t punitive.

    Government does everything worse than the private sector. I look at what the government is doing with its aid programs, and think, “$5 of every $100 is actually making it to the people who need it. What if it was a charity, and $75 of every $100 was making it to them?”

    I’m not worried about poor people getting a bigger share. I’m worried about rich government workers mismanaging the aid because of incompetence.

  5. JAZZY says:

    I can tell you first hand I volunteer in the non-profit sector and $75 of every $100 DOES NOT go to the people who need it either.

  6. Phelps says:

    No, but some of the best do. A .75 ratio is not unheard of. On the other hand, you are lucky if a government program gets up to .05.

  7. Phelps says:

    Meh. I’m trying to get accurate numbers on the ratio for government overhead. The overhead on charities is easy to find (the Salvation Army is at .86, for example — $86 of every $100 actually makes it to people in need.)

    I did find this argument, though:
    http://www.cato.org/pubs/policy_report/cpr-18n6-1.html

  8. JAZZY says:

    This document is from 1996 research if current and valid is only looked at within the last five years. Sorry that’s the scientist in me. Therefore, find something more current and then I will be willing to look at it and debate the merits or points.

  9. Phelps says:

    You really think that government has changed drastically in 10 years? Really?

  10. Jazzy says:

    Yes War, impending recession nuff said

  11. Phelps says:

    The same recession that has been impending since, oh, when GWB was sworn in? Think it might hit sometime in his term?