Liberals are more conservative

If you don’t watch bloggingheads.tv you really are missing out.

The basic format is the familiar, two people with opposing views debate but the genius of bloggingheads.tv is that the debaters try to seek common ground rather than score weak, partisan points or to shout each other down.

bloggingheads.tv/ posts several debates a week and, while many are lame, there are some real gems.

Today’s gem has Brink Lindsey (libertarian) and David Frum (conservative republican) discussing the reasons for the recent decline in conservative fortunes.

They cover all the usual ground (a dumbing-down populism, George Bush, Hannity& Limbaugh, tension between libertarians and social conservatives etc etc) but, about 24 minutes in, they rustle up a nice hypothesis that I find quite compelling. It goes something like this…

In the 60s and 70s, it seemed like traditional values were under assault from liberal ideas like feminism, welfare, homosexuality, multiculturalism, secularism etc etc etc. As a result, divorce, abortion, out-of-wedlock births, crime, teenage promiscuity and other social ills were spiralling out of control and America was headed to hell in a liberal hand basket.

Perhaps appropriately, conservatives organized around preventing this terrifying decline but…and here’s the punchline…

Among the people most likely to be liberal – affluent, college-educated people – the decline never happened! Among liberals, all those indicators of traditional conservative values – divorce, traditional families, illegitimacy, stay-at-home mums, crime, under-age sex, drug use, hard work and ambition – have steadily improved over the last 30 years.

The red states and the less affluent (less liberal) communities have not fared so well but the conservative movement still ascribes to theories of cause and effect that are thirty years out of date.

Not noticing that liberal values have not led to a collapse in traditional values, conservatives have redoubled their fight against what they wrongly perceive as the causes of social problems in their communities.

In a confusion of baby and bathwater, conservatives are still attempting to throw out the wrong thing.

Brink Lindsey is one of the pioneers of liberaltarianism – the idea that libertarians have more common ground with liberals than with conservatives. Since almost everyone I know describes themself as either liberal or libertarian and based on this exchange, I think there is something in it.

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Ragged Clown

Based in San Jose, California

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