Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Irrational Contagion

Informed, rational debate is a cornerstone of American ideology. The American constitutional republic is a clear implementation of European Enlightenment Rationalist ideals.

Conservatives want government to keep its hands off their Medicare. They're going to get what they asked for and they're not going to like it.

Conservatives claim government can't run anything efficiently, but that government-run healthcare will put private insurers out of business. The healthcare industry seems to be doing just fine despite Medicare and Medicaid; the health care industry is making out like a bandit.

Conservatives criticize Muslims for wanting theocracy, and advocate returning the US to its "Christian roots."

Conservatives think we need to cut back the public sector -- except the military, which at 5% of GDP, is a pretty sizable chunk of the public sector (1/3 of federal spending).

Conservatives claim to oppose subsidies on principle, but promote school vouchers, expect free roads, advocate increased spending on "national security," and hold that corporate welfare is beneficial to ordinary citizens. "National security" is the oldest subsidy program in the United States: 80% of the federal budget under George Washington's administration went to Indian eradication. America was built on subsidies and genocide, not entrepreneurial initiative: railroad subsidies and land grants fueled the Westward expansion, which was more about the advance of technologies like the telegraph than it was about the rugged individualist squaring off against the wilderness. In this sense, conservatives do hold traditional values.

Conservatives believe in traditional values, and uphold entrepreneurs has the epitome of these values, despite the fact that entrepreneurs get ahead by innovating -- that is, overturning tradition. It was the new, urban, bourgeoisie that displaced the feudal system in the Middle Ages, and it was the bourgeoisie that overthrew the monarchy in the 18th Century. Capitalism is the enemy of tradition.

Conservatives want competition, which is unpredictable if it is fair; and they also want stability in the markets to guarantee a return on their investments. They blame regulation for causing "uncertainty," despite the fact that accepting risk is a central feature of entrepreneurialism, which they hold to be quintessentially American.

Conservatives oppose stem cell research because it destroys embryos, but have no problem with fertility clinics, which also destroy embryos.

Conservatives oppose biological Darwinism, but embrace social Darwinism.

Conservatives claim to be religious, but have no compassion for the poor or the sick. They believe we're all sinners, and that we need laws like the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule to guide our behavior; but somehow, we're more trustworthy where large sums of money are involved, and industry suffers from too much regulation.

Conservatives want government to stay out of business, but expect their elected officials to create private sector jobs.

Conservatives oppose "activist judges," but uphold an individual right to bear arms, which is the result of "activist judges." Conservatives often ignore the first clause in the Second Amendment, "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State," which, as a preamble, serves the purpose of a legal "whereas" clause. If there is an individual right to bear arms, it is the result of "activist judges." They support the NRA as though it were a civil rights organization, when in fact, it is an industry trade group.

Conservatives disdain the mainstream media, but cultishly adhere to the Fox News worldview -- the most watched cable news channel -- part of a multi-billion dollar media empire, including the Wall Street Journal.

Conservatives want lower taxes so they can "starve the beast," but disparage anybody who is too poor to pay federal income tax.

Conservatives claim to love the Constitution, but despise the federal government.

Conservatives claim to love liberty and marriage, but want to dismantle the Bill of Rights for the sake of national security, and refuse to let gay couples marry.

Conservatives point to dysfunctional government as evidence that government itself is a threat, but would never point to the contemporary rise in divorce rates as evidence that the institution of marriage is a problem that should be abolished.

Anything follows from a contradiction. Even though conservatives believe that their positions represent established, well-reasoned principles, they are conditioned by the media to exhibit knee-jerk reactions in response to stock key phrases. With respect to the vehemence with which conservatives advocate their positions, it is worth noting that hardly anybody ever actually sees the people they elect; voters give authority to "personalities" constructed through the media. The media then uses the authority of these constructed personalities to further shape the behaviors and attitudes of voters.