My Open Letter to the Bernie-Or-Bust Folks: There Is A Better Way

To start off, a quick summary of where I’m coming from:

• Bernie supporter
• Long-time opponent of corporatocracy
• Long-time environmentalist
• Long-time health advocate
• Open Source proponent
• Noam Chomsky fan
• Active in Occupy movement
• Disgusted with status quo
• Have never had any elected official I voted for represent my priorities
• Not a fan of Hillary Clinton
• Firmly believe a revolution is required to create a better world
• Written essays and a book about post-capitalist political economies

Hopefully these add a tiny bit of cred with angry Bernie supporters around what I’m going to say….

There have been many revolutions throughout history that I think can help us understand how to effectively counter tyranny, oppression and oligarchy. Some by way of positive example, but many more by way of negative example and warning. As recently as the Arab Spring we have both: Tunisia as a positive example, vs. pretty much everywhere else where oppressive conditions are now much worse than they were before the uprising. But in looking at Tunisia, we still see all of the same tensions and pressures that exist in the other Arab countries where the revolution has failed – in fact most Tunisians seem to feel that real progress has been slow. But what was the difference? Why haven’t things fallen apart?

Mainly this was due to a handful of Tunisian civic organizations that worked together to broker a compromise between newly elected Islamists, members of the overthrown Ben Ali regime, and other political parties. These civic organizations included the local Human Rights League and General Labor Union, UTICA (Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts), and the Order of Lawyers. In other countries, like Egypt, Syria, Libya, Jordan, Algeria and Yemen, such organizations were not strong enough to counter a pervasive tendency to settle disagreements with oppressive and divisive tactics and, in the worst cases, brutal violence. Where in Tunisia the struggle for control remained embedded in democratic processes and dialogue, in these other countries the impulse to dominate and contain any opposition overflowed the bounds of civil society.

IMO this is an incredibly important lesson for us here in the U.S. Why? Because it illustrates that non-governmental organizations can play a key role in the political process, helping mold it into constructive outcomes. Is there still government corruption in Tunisia? Sure. Is there still fear among the population about the conservative Islamist agenda? Of course. Is there a possibility that civil society in Tunisia might still devolve if the brokered compromises cannot hold? Unfortunately, yes there is. But there are also now demonstrated civic change mechanisms to allow at least some progressive improvements to inch slowly forward without completely alienating other factions.

As with the Arab Spring, the ratio of positive to negative outcomes for other uprisings around the globe has been fairly constant: perhaps 1 in 8 succeeds to create a better, more just, more stable situation for its people. Have things gotten better in South Sudan, Russia, Greece, Turkey, Ukraine, Hong Kong or Venezuela after recent activism, protests and revolutions in those countries? On the contrary, in most cases they have gotten considerably worse. In other words, there is no guarantee that disrupting, undermining or even overthrowing the status quo will result in a beneficial outcome.

Perhaps you can sense where I am going with this. Basically, as I see it, if there is sufficient momentum in the U.S. to disrupt the status quo via political or other means, this year’s presidential election could produce unsavory outcomes closely mirroring the consequences of the Arab Spring and other recent uprisings around the globe. We could, for example, end up with a deluded megalomaniac with the knowledge and attention span of a gnat commanding the most powerful military on Earth. Or we could have far-right obstructionists take complete control of Congress. We could have eight years of new pro-corporate, anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-poor Supreme Court Justices receiving lifetime appointments. We could have another economic downturn resulting from laissez-faires government policies, tax breaks for the rich, and risky investment behavior. We could have all of this.

And for what? What would that accomplish, exactly? It’s not as if only the foolish idiots voting for Trump would be punished for their stupidity and ignorance – we would all be punished for their stupidity and ignorance. And as the economic, political, civil rights, religious and other freedoms and choices consequently become fewer and harsher in the U.S. for a majority of its citizens, the right-wing neoliberal fear-peddlers could keep the flames of hatred, anger and blame burning ever-so-brightly in America. Because, just as with so many of the Arab Spring countries, the darkness and despair would all but extinguish any lingering hope.

That is, unless we can follow Tunisia’s example and strengthen our non-governmental civic institutions instead. I think that is where the tremendous energies of those who feel disappointed, disillusioned and disenfranchised in the U.S. could be focused. Instead of using a protest vote in November to rail against an unjust system, we can turn to more effective revolutionary efforts and apply our passions there. After all, that’s precisely what wealthy corporations do when they lobby Congress or use A.L.E.C. to push self-serving laws through state legislatures. For progressives, there are all sorts of organizations involved in battling the neoliberal agenda – from overturning Citizens United, to trying to pass constitutional amendments against “corporate personhood,” to environmental activism, to holding corporations accountable for malfeasance, to ensuring voting rights for the oppressed….hundreds of opportunities to engage. And again, to be clear, this is exactly how right-wing fanatics have influenced U.S. politics: by investing their time, energy and money in ultra-conservative organizations and movements over years and decades.

In other words, we should never believe that putting all of our eggs into one basket (i.e. electing Bernie) would be a sufficient solution to the systemic problems we face in America today. I think that, in many ways, this is an illustration of how our consumer mentality has corrupted the political process: instead of actively engaging the long arc of the moral universe, applying ourselves each day with diligent effort to right the wrongs of plutocracy, we want justice right now. We want a quick fix. We want a hero, a champion, who can promise the execution of a new vision without our having to participate and work hard to make that vision real. This is a hallmark of consumer society, where we are told – every day, and often every minute – that real answers can be obtained at the click of a button, and all our needs can be met with an instantaneous purchasing decision. But enduring change requires real commitment over long stretches of time…not just one vote.

So this is why I’ll be voting for Hillary in November. Not because I buy her campaign hype. Not because I think she’ll represent my interests. Not because she will genuinely pursue the revised Democratic platform that Bernie helped shape. Not because I think she will keep us all safe or keep the U.S. out of wars. Not because she cares about children. I do not believe any of these things will impact the long arc of the moral universe in profound ways. What is much more critical, in my view, is that the very small, painfully slow and incremental changes to our unjust status quo that a Clinton administration is likely to champion are infinitively better than the descent into mayhem and destruction a Trump presidency guarantees the world. Relative stability - even if it is distasteful stability - is preferable to precipitous backsliding. It’s that simple.

And, in the meantime, I can roll up my sleeves and involve myself in the countless other avenues of activism and reform. For example, perhaps I can begin to address the obvious corruption and failures of the DNC - through my sustained effort over time. That’s just one thing that could really make a difference in our democracy. Whereas not voting for Hillary this fall…well, it might feel principled and righteous in-the-moment, but it won’t do squat to fix the problems with the DNC, or any of our broken institutions or social maladies for that matter. It will just fuel more suffering and injustice for a majority of my fellow citizens – it will actively do harm to many innocent people – and that would just make me complicit with the tyrannical jackasses who are manipulating the current shitshow to serve their agendas.

My 2 cents.

Why did the United States become a capitalist society?

In short: because wealthy Americans wanted it to. Before industrial capitalism came into existence, our Founding Fathers held the view (which was fairly common throughout Europe during preceding centuries) that people who owned land were somehow better (smarter, more educated, more blessed, etc.) than those who did not, and should hold the most power in any government. In fact this is how the term “entitled” originated. We inherited this mainly via the cultural heritage of Great Britain, IMO, but what was unique about the U.S. was that it maintained this prejudice in a democracy. And, since then, we’ve never really shaken off that legacy. So when industrial capitalism did take hold, the wealthy quickly began exerting their influence to bend government to their will, as well as manipulate the democratic process. It’s how we ended up with bizarre concepts like “corporate personhood” as a feature of law, and why so many politicians throughout U.S. history have been in the pockets of big business. In many ways, U.S. commercialism is just a revised formula for feudalism - a new face on a very old concept. The main difference - as reflected by many of the answers in this thread - is that the modern serfs have swallowed the propaganda that they now have economic and political freedom. Which of course is true only up to the point where the modern serf’s actions begin to interfere with the status (i.e. wealth and influence) of the modern vassals.

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question:

How could the US political system be restructured so that it would motivate politicians to make policies that benefit all Americans?

Thanks for the A2A Joel. Some relatively easy steps that could help greatly:

1) Revoke corporate personhood as a feature of law, and nullify all subsequent related rulings that favor corporate speech, corporate money as speech, etc.

2) Publicly fund elections (at each round of campaigning, everyone gets the same amount of airtime, funding, etc.)
Outlaw SuperPACs and corporate lobbying organizations like ALEC - businesses (or anyone with high concentrations of wealth) do not need representation in government, period.

3) Authorize recall elections for all public offices.

4) Implement Swiss-style direct democracy at local, state and national levels to counterbalance legislators who are not reflecting public interests. For example, 100K direct votes in Switzerland can freeze implementation of any legislation passed at the national level.

5) Strengthen the initiative process at the state level and outlaw corporate advertising for or against any initiative (since it will no longer be protected speech).

6) Institute civic lotteries and for public offices that counterbalance elected officials (city councils, for example, could be appointed by civic lottery).

7) Create a computer-generated districting plan for all states, based strictly on population distribution alone, which updates with each census.

8-) Create mechanisms for additional parties (other than the Dems and GOP) to be represented.

9) Institute severe penal consequences for anyone attempting to bribe public officials or corrupt the democratic process (tamper with voting machines, etc.) either directly or by proxy agents. Mandatory 25-year sentences with no possibility of parole would be a good start.

10) It should be said that wherever there are extraordinary concentrations of wealth, those entities will work the system to become players, creating favorable outcomes for their agendas. In fact, it is those special interests that have worked very hard to prevent many of the steps listed above from occurring. These ideas are not new. So, ultimately, the most reliable long-term solution will likely be to move away from capitalism altogether.

My 2 cents.

(from Quora question:

An Aha Moment: Why So Many Republicans Love Trump

The original Trump-Pence logo
I just finished reading Jane Meyer’s New Yorker Article about Trump’s ghostwriter, Tony Schwartz. ( It’s a truly chilling account, depicting Trump as a sociopath who craves money and attention above all else…and who will do just about anything to obtain these things. But as I read Schwartz’s account, an insight began to gain momentum in my mind, and by the end of the article, I was sure that the insight had merit. I finally understood why so many Republicans love Donald Trump. I think it’s simple, really: it is because they can see both their ideal selves and their real selves embodied by him. And in embodying precisely that intersection so artfully, Trump has them fully hypnotized.

Allow me to explain.

First, the ideal self that Trump offers is really the gold standard of American commercialism: a larger-than-life personality, grandiose expressions of wealth, an indefatigable confidence in his own abilities, a fearless dismissal of anyone who disagrees with him, a joyful disregard for any facts that might get in his way, a boisterous and frequent display of “the art of the put-down” against any competition….It’s all there in one shiny package, everything that has been tirelessly promoted in salesmanship seminars for decades – and everything that poorly educated worker-consumers have been conditioned to believe equates a distinctly American flavor of success.

Why am I so familiar with this ideal? Well I worked in sales early on in my career, and later became a senior IT manager in what was primarily a sales company. I’ve been tricked into attending Amway rallies, have been pitched every imaginable multilevel marketing scheme, and years ago read countless books on sales techniques. I was so immersed in sales culture and philosophy when I was young because I did not have a college degree, and selling stuff was the easiest and fastest way to earn a decent living. In fact, at age twenty-one, I purchased my first home in Seattle from the proceeds of sales commissions. Then, one day when walking home from selling things people didn’t need to people who couldn’t afford them, I found myself looking down at my feet for the entire length of that journey. I felt demeaned, small and dirty for having become such a good salesman; in fact I was beginning to earnestly hate myself for it. Why? Because a salesman will do anything, believe anything, say anything, agree to anything, present themselves as anything, indeed invest their whole being in pretty much anything – no matter how unpleasant, unethical or inimical to their own core beliefs and values it may be – if it will just facilitate a sale. On that long walk home, my very nice shoes, expensive raincoat and uncomfortable suit and tie seemed to be taunting me with these simple truths.

On the front lines of a sales force, salespeople will joke easily about “hiding the stretch marks” around their mouths for the things they have done to close a deal. Higher up in the food chain, however, the investment in a product, company or brand is so complete – the sales beliefs and self-talk so absolute – that such jokes are frowned upon. These higher level managers become the priests of an unquestioning huckster religion, and the flames of zealous conviction radiate out from them as they inspire the soldiers of their chosen faith at morning company pep talks and regional sales conferences. So it is really no surprise that many of the various pyramid schemes have looked to fundamentalist churches to recruit new believers to their brand: the wiring is already there to believe unquestioningly, and then fervently proselytize. Again, I can also relate this to my personal experiences…for I, too, was swept up in a fundamentalist religious experience, not coincidentally as I arrived at the height of my sales training and abilities. The philosophies, narratives, self-justifications, objectives and trajectories of fundamentalist religion and American salesmanship are, in my view, functionally inseparable. They are cut from exactly the same cloth, as organizations like Amway have elegantly illustrated (see

And so we arrive at the real self that Trump also embodies. In my twenties, I abandoned both sales and fundamentalist religion, and quickly regained a more authentic compassion for my being – along with a more realistic self-perception and self-worth. But a large number of rank-and-file Republicans, indeed the ones who seem to most devotedly praise Donald Trump, are still stuck in that self-deceiving delusion. They have rationalized and internalized an enormous body of lies that supports their chosen value system, and done this so completely that they no longer recognize what a lie looks like – or what the truth looks like. Thus they must fully invest themselves in bizarre or farcical inventions: that climate change science is a hoax, Obama was born in Africa, liberals want to take away everybody’s guns, homosexuality and welfare have destroyed the American family, Saddam Hussein had links with Al Qaeda and 9/11 (and/or there was evidence of WMDs that justified invading Iraq), capitalism has saved the world, immigrants and foreigners abroad have taken the best U.S. jobs, every failure of the market has been the result of government interference, the Postal Service and Medicare aren’t socialism, the U.S. Constitution was grounded in Judeo-Christian ideals, competition drives innovation, consumers are rational but voters are not, corporate monopolies are more ethical and efficient than government, unions are the reason American companies fail, that voter election fraud is rampant in the U.S., that corporations are people and Citizens United wouldn't corrupt the political process, and so on. An endless chain of unfounded lies, building one upon the other, to prop up profoundly distorted and destructive beliefs. And so identifying with Trump is a perfectly natural next step for these Republicans - because, at his core, Trump operates within the same fractured, self-deceiving reality that they do. Like attracts like.

Exciting mutual resonance, the real and ideal Republican selves then intersect perfectly in Donald Trump: he himself is hopelessly lost in a thought-field of self-deception that makes him look fantastic, projecting a veneer of confidence and success over a long string of personal failures, propping up a flagging ego that is completely blind to its own inadequacies and delusions, while easily fixing blame on others. He is a poster child for the Dunning-Kruger effect ( that many Republicans so often seem to exhibit; a Great White Hope that will lead America back to the glory days that – as an equally distorted and revisionist view of U.S. history – further justify Republican beliefs. Trump is an almost supernatural expression of all the hallmarks of right-wing extremism: an immense tolerance for cognitive dissonance, the desperate reaching of confirmation bias, and a reflexive denial of any personal responsibility or accountability for past failures. The fusion of identities, purpose and conviction becomes complete. Trump emerges as a glistening Angel of Light, deceptively but artfully leading the deluded masses into the Bottomless Pit…all the while cajoling and assuring them with his glossy glamor of fake success. Thus the joyous marriage of Trump and the Republican electorate cradles itself in self-reinforcement, an ever-growing orgy of homogenous falsehoods that fortify self-righteous prejudice and arrogance.

Now I do know some thoughtful conservatives who are shocked and dismayed at Trump’s meteoric political success. They are appalled by his rhetoric, sickened by his character flaws, and bewildered that so many of their fellow Republicans have fallen under his spell. But as devout Republicans, they will still vote for him. Why? Because they have rationalized that he is the lesser of two evils. In other words, they are ignoring the clear signs that Trump is obviously much less suited to be POTUS than Hillary Clinton, and denying the excess of evidence that should warn them away from this immature, impulsive, megalomaniacal huckster having access to America’s nuclear launch codes.

Just my 2 cents.

7/23/2016 Update: I came across these Jerry Falwell, Jr. quotes in a recent NPR interview (see It's a somewhat surreal example of the very behavior I describe in my post above:

"You know, it was funny that rank-and-file evangelicals were ahead of all the leadership. They saw for decades conservative Republicans had made promises to them on issues that were important to Christians and conservatives when they were running for office. But when they won, they didn't keep those promises. And I think, you know, like the song by The Who "Won't Get Fooled Again," I think they just decided no more. We want somebody who maybe makes mistakes and maybe sort of talks off the cuff and may not get it right all the time, but at least he's not bamboozling us."

"I just see how Donald Trump treats other people, and I'm impressed by that."

"He doesn't talk like we do as evangelical Christians, and so his way of describing his faith may not appear to line up with others. He just expresses his faith in a different way than many evangelical Christians do."

"Yeah. I've never seen any arrogance...I think he's very outspoken, and I think he is - what's the old saying? If it's true, it ain't bragging."

"But I - but I just - I just know you don't get where he is in life by not telling the truth or by being dishonest in business and by treating your employees unfairly. And it's just not possible."

And lest anyone doubt that Jerry Falwell, Jr. is approaching a full-fledged schizophrenic break with these bizarre assertions, here are two articles that go a long way to refuting every single one of them:

"Donald Trump’s Deals Rely on Being Creative With the Truth" (

"Donald Trump is a unique threat to American democracy"(

Why do SOME intellectual Democrats think Socialism is a fiscally positive Economic plan when it's SO proven internationally to be catastrophic?

Thanks for the A2A Glenn. I have read through your comments to other answers and think I have an understanding of where you are coming from and what you are looking for. So here goes….

- The kind of “socialism” that Bernie Sanders is selling is mainly a fairly vanilla New-Deal-Democrat-styled socialization of certain services, industries, infrastructure, etc. as part of a mixed economy, to generate a broader base of public goods. It wasn’t really considered a “radical socialist” idea in FDR’s time (at least not on the Democratic side), and Sanders’s proposals are really harkening back to that New Deal vision. From the perspective of the Left, the New Deal remedies are viewed mostly in a positive light, because their impact on the poor, the elderly, the sick and the unemployed in the U.S. population over time has mainly been positive (using specific metrics). So, for example, in terms of health, standard of living, purchasing power, longevity, home ownership, infant mortality, economic mobility, employment, labor relations, etc., things got a lot better for those groups than they were during the Depression.

- Since the end of WWI, however, there has been a concerted effort by the far Right to demonize anything smacking of Soviet communism, which has often involved conflating Marxist-Leninism with the social democracies in non-Soviet European countries, as well as with progressive initiatives in the U.S. (or at least placing them in the same Boogieman bucket). Of course these are all quite different flavors of political economy - and none of them is really “socialism” in the ideal sense - but that is a separate conversation. Thus the far Right likewise attacked FDR as a communist and fascist, insisting that smaller government, lower taxes and a freer market were a preferred outcome over New Deal policies.

- Fast-forward to modern day. The far Right - which became associated with the term “neoliberal” in the 1950s and thereafter - has gained significant traction in defining its “smaller government, lower taxes, freer market” narrative, successfully countering the the New Deal Democrat meme so that it now appears to be “radical” or “far Left,” when it’s actually centrist in historical terms. Neoliberal Republicans have done such a good job of this, in fact, that many conservative Americans believe things like “all socialist economies have failed,” or “the free market is responsible for our greatest technologies and innovations,” or “free market capitalism has single-handedly improved the living standards of everyone around the globe.” Now it doesn’t really matter if these are factually true statements - in reality they aren’t - because so many people believe that they are. And belief is a powerful thing: powerful enough to consolidate an often unquestioning ideological, political and economic conformance.

And there you have it. That is why many Democrats (and independent Bernie Sanders supports) view the creation of public goods as a positive thing, and can accept the term “socialism” as a description of New Deal socialization and regulation.

I hope this was helpful.

Comment from Glenn Nall: very very helpful. i am admittedly far from knowledgeable in this Socialist philosophy. did you read the response from the Norwegian young socialist democrat? i was floored by even the idea that free education, healthcare, social programs have succeeded anywhere. she is very articulate and knowledgeable, and she knows why (at least she thinks) it works in her country, unlike the things we hear from our own counterparts who seem to just hear the word Free and stop there (probably because they have to go get ready for the Trump rally demolition).

The problem I have, as I explained to this young woman, is that I just don’t hear any defenders of ANY form of Socialism using these definitions.

Has BernieSandals EVER described his idea of Soc. in these enlightening terms? Has anyone publicly? It seems to me that all of this knowledge is shared amongst a very select few people who have made it their business to know these things. The large majority of today’s voters who want Birkenstock Sandals’ (can’t help it - i really like the guy but for his politics) socialism I’m sure cannot tell you why they do.

I’ll admit to being a victim to some of the Right Rhetoric, if as you say this has succeeded in some countries. Of course, my conservative bent would raise other issues with which i would not agree in such a society, i’m guessing. But my socially accepting bent might. I’ll have to ask them. :-)

You and the young lady have opened my eyes to some potential learning.

I read this “Origins of Political Correctness” a few times, and in it this Neoliberal and Right stuff is referred to (Marcuse and his Freudian/Marxist sabotage of the vulnerable Left in the 60’s…?). I’m wondering how that version aligns with yours… The Origins of Political Correctness

I’m very grateful for your time in offering me a civil explanation. These are rare. I’m a Conservative, fiscally, mainly because i cannot disagree with the idea that free enterprise and competition is how business succeeds, since it’s how humans are naturally built to behave. and because it’s what has always worked, party lines aside. and because it’s clear that that’s what the USConstitution meant.

but i really wish to be open to new ideas and to accepting other people no matter how wrong they are - just kidding. no matter how different we are. If a form of free edu. and healthcare is presented that works and doesn’t close down every other company, i’m all for it, of course.

i’m rambling. thanks

Thanks for the thoughtful reply Glenn. I agree with you that many of the terms we throw around in the general public discourse are not always well understood, and it doesn’t help that here in the U.S. those definitions may be different than elsewhere around the globe…and may even change in different regions of the U.S. And of course mass media often muddies the waters even further, as does the seemingly spiraling polarized rhetoric of Right vs. Left. So boiling things down into what we might call “ideologically neutral” language can be challenging. :-)

As to what Bernie Sanders voters actually think about X, Y or Z - that’s tough to nail down. It’s a pretty diverse crowd. Some probably do think the platform is all about “everything for free!” Others probably read it more as “take from the rich and give to the poor.” Still others are more focused on social issues, and don’t give a damn about economics. Bernie himself has certainly been sparse about the details. For me personally, as a libertarian socialist I’m more interested in disrupting the status quo and moving away from crony capitalism, where government has come to mainly serve the largest corporations, and a constitutional democracy of the people, by the people and for the people has become a farce.

Regarding Political Correctness, there is no question that Marx had a profound influence on socioeconomic thought over the last century, which is why every person who wants to be informed about world history during that period should carefully read Capital (and not just critiques, summaries or praise of it). However, in the speech you linked William Lind is promoting a conspiracy theory (see Frankfurt School - “cultural marxism” subheading) that connects too many dots in unsubstantiated ways. It’s just not tenable, and has a similar feel to the Illuminati conspiracies at the other end of the spectrum. There is no coordinated attempt to “overthrow western culture with political correctness and multiculturalism,” and this is the playbook Lind is alluding to. Instead, what Lind, Buchanan, Weyrich and others are upset about are just progressive ideas that slowly have gained a foothold over time - some of which were indeed promoted by Marx and other socialist writers, and some of which came into focus through other movements, activists, artists, politicians, etc. They are representative of a predictable, generational zeitgeist shift that, perhaps ironically, seems to be a predictable result of affluence, knowledge diffusion, and mass communication…rather than conspiracy. And when we look into “cultural marxism” literature for supportive evidence, what we find are bizarre declarations like “Jews and homosexuals having prominent positions in the media is proof that Cultural Marxism is succeeding in the U.S.A.” Um…not really. It’s just proof that prejudice, tribalism and insecurities around race and sexual orientation are relaxing a bit - just as they tend to do in most affluent, well-educated advanced societies. We could just as easily blame marijuana for these developments…and of course be just as mistaken.

Regarding “successful socialism,” in all mixed economies, including here in the U.S., some socialized sectors work well, and some don’t. The USPS was surprisingly efficient, cost effective and popular for most of its existence…until Congress made it pre-fund its retirement program 70 years in advance. After that debacle, USPS threatened to operate in the red for the first time in its history, and since then has lost both prestige and profitability as it desperately cuts services. IMO the retirement pre-funding was a deliberate sabotage of one of the most successful and longstanding “socialist” institutions in the U.S. AmTrak hasn’t done so well. Medicare is a mixed bag. K-12 education in the U.S. has been all over the place and has been yanked hither and thither by what have often been ill-advised top-down policy decisions. Federal monetary policy itself (and ironically Milton Friedman’s “monetarism” in particular) can also be viewed as “socialist” in that it represents central economic controls (rather than relying solely on the market) - and here again, sometimes it has been helpful, and sometimes it has seemed ineffective. Fisheries and BLM have been pretty inconsistent, likely also because they get jerked around by DC politics and pocket-lining clientism - while also being glacially slow to respond to necessary change.

Interesting stuff to be sure.


Why are Quora liberals so hostile towards conservatives?

Hmmm. Well let’s start by identifying some conservative opinions, positions, values and perspectives that are frequently promoted on Quora:

1. Capitalism is the best thing that ever happened to the world and is the most efficient way to promote individual freedoms.

2. Christianity is vastly superior to other religions and is the best way to worship God.

3. The Founding Fathers grounded their creation of U.S. government and laws in a Judeo-Christian framework.

4. The United States is the greatest country on Earth.

5. We should always support our military regardless of what they are asked to do.

6. Government always makes the wrong choices in the most inefficient ways and cannot be trusted.

7. Any amount of taxes is too much and represents a form of authorized theft.

8. Donald Trump would make a good president.

9. Abortion is always wrong.

10. Gay marriage is always wrong.

11. Socialism is always bad.

12. Terrorism is a direct consequence of Islamic beliefs.

13. Ronald Reagan was an excellent U.S. president and accomplished a tremendous amount of good for the U.S. and the world.

14. The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is an essential mechanism for ensuring individual freedoms.

15. Everything that is upsetting and disappointing about American society - and every failure of the U.S. in any context - has been caused by liberal social and economic policies.

16. Economic stagnation and lack of mobility among white Americans is a direct result of social and trade policies that favor foreigners and immigrants.

17. Anyone who doesn’t agree with the above points either a) is ignorant of the facts; b) has been brainwashed by liberal media; c) is part of an atheist-communist conspiracy that is out to ruin America; or d) all of the above.

Of course we can’t say that ALL conservatives share these views, but we can easily say that each of these views have been consistently promoted by conservative-leaning folks of one type or another.

Now let’s say, for the sake of argument, that some of these viewpoints have a valid basis, but that some of them may not. A persisting problem I have encountered with conservatives (nearly all that I have discussed these issues with, on Quora or elsewhere) is that they won’t budge on any of their convictions. Not one bit; there simply is no room for compromise. On some issues, this may be an intellectually honest and well-researched position - but on all of them? Very rarely do conservatives have sound reasoning or good research to support all of their positions. And, when confronted with contradictory reasoning, research or evidence, instead of being open to an alternative or more nuanced perspective, conservatives will often either become hostile and condescendingly dismissive, or shut down the conversation and run away, or insist on their black-and-white position even more loudly, stridently and vehemently (though still without providing any supportive evidence). In other words, conservatives tend to be highly resistant to alternative narratives - even when they can’t support or defend a particular viewpoint.

Add to this that much of the language and examples conservatives rely upon to “prove” the validity of their position is exactly the same…everywhere. In other words, there is a strong tendency to offer what sounds like scripted or parroted propaganda, rather than well-thought-out or individually considered opinions. I have sometimes done research on phrases and examples that conservatives use and found the same language repeated all over the Internet. Often the language has originally sourced from conservative talk-show hosts, conservative news outlets like Fox or The National Review, Ayn Rand quotes, or opinion papers from the CATO or Mises Institutes - but somehow every conservative advocate of a given position is using exactly the same language in their arguments. In other words, there is a strong sense that conservative thought - even for conservatives who seem to be quite bright and articulate - is generated by a narrow array of trusted sources, and then propagates in a phenomenon of lock-step conformance.

Personally, I disagree with nearly every one of the positions listed above, and have engaged conservatives around them all. In fact I think many of those sentiments and beliefs have done - and continue to do - tremendous damage to humanity and the world. And so on the one hand I feel hostility towards those positions because of their horrific impact on the well-being of millions of people and the natural environments in which we live. I strongly believe the perpetuation of some of these ideas is extremely destructive — and furthermore that continued investment in them certainly won’t solve the most pressing challenges of our time. So the hostility I have sometimes felt developing around conservatives is due to a seemingly blind conformance and eager contribution to what I see as willful harm and destruction - and indeed even the suffering of conservative-leaning folks themselves. This hostility can then be amplified when I attempt to engage conservatives on these issues, and they can offer no factual basis for their convictions. (BTW, this observation has been confirmed by psychology research illustrating that conservatives tend to tolerate much higher cognitive dissonance on the one hand, and are more prone to confirmation bias on the other.)

In conclusion, I would never claim that progressives or liberals don’t suffer from some of the same failings. Many of these patterns of behavior and beliefs are just conditions of being human - of wanting to belong to a group, of fearing those outside that group, of wanting to be sure of one’s place and purpose in the world, of fearing change, and so on. But what puts the final nail in the hostility-coffin for me is how conservatives will go about ensuring their agenda and beliefs are perpetuated. At the extreme end of the spectrum are bombing abortion clinics, instigating wars with other countries (nation-building, etc.), initiating hate speech against minorities and social outliers, generating extraordinary lies and hurtful propaganda about anyone who opposes them, and turning a blind eye to everything from the destruction of ecosystems and entire species to the suffering of the poor - all to enrich a select few or maintain ideological purity. But even short of these extremes, conservatives also tend to be fairly deceptive, manipulative, nasty and conniving - corrupting our media, our democratic process, and our government to promote a conservative agenda, and persuading a majority of rank-and-file conservatives to vote, spend and advocate against their own best interests. And then there is the constant stream of conservative trolls in otherwise honest and caring online discussions - including Quora. Some of the most aggressive and vocal participants in Quora discussions are conservative-leaning fanatics whose unsupportable pedantic rants are often almost as long as this post I am writing now (ha).

At the same time, conservative perspectives DO have something to offer our conversations - and progressive-minded folks should, I think, spend time trying to understand those perspectives on the rare occasions when they are well-supported, and where conservatives are trying to participate in an open and honest conversation with a modicum of empathy and compassion. Unfortunately, with the increasing political polarization in the U.S. and elsewhere, that occurrence is becoming exceedingly rare.

My 2 cents.

From Quora:

Of Pot, Guns & Trump: The Origins of Irrational, Destructively Conformist Groupthink

Obviously this short post won’t persuade anyone currently in the thrall of active lemming events, as these collective memes are highly resistant to contrary evidence. In fact we could say that one of the chief characteristics of such movements is their promotion of habitual confirmation bias and an extremely high tolerance for cognitive dissonance. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Probably the easiest way to appreciate parallels between the way pot fanatics, gun fanatics and Trump supporters think is to chart out some of their more exaggerated claims. And by “exaggerated” I simply mean without sufficient basis in fact to be embraced as accurate; that have too little supportive evidence to reveal any causal relationships; and that are essentially non-rational ideas living mainly in the imagination of their proponents. Some examples:

I could of course spend a few hundred pages documenting why the beliefs of each group are “inaccurate,” and perhaps I will expand this into an essay at a later time to do just that. However, there is a much easier approach, which is to challenge proponents of pot, guns and Trump to produce supportive evidence for their claims. I have done this on countless occasions, with invariably reliable results: they can’t. Instead, I will hear statements like these in response – often using exactly the same wording – from each group:

“Well the government suppresses all the good data about this. They don’t want anyone to know the truth.”

“I know there’s really good research that proves what I’m saying – I just can’t remember what it is right now.”

“I don’t trust those kinds of academic studies. They get proven wrong all the time.”

“If you’d seen what I have seen, you’d know what I’m saying is true.”

“You don’t understand what’s at stake here. This is much bigger than facts.”

“The proof is all over the Internet. You just have to look.”

“Everybody knows this is true. I’m surprised that you don’t.”

And so on. And even when a seemingly reasonable piece of favorable research surfaces (such as John Lott’s work on crime stats and gun ownership), it quickly turns out that the research methodology is flawed, and that countless other studies have come to different conclusions using the same data.

So what is happening here? From the perspective of Integral Lifework, explanations are fairly easy to hypothesize. Human beings want to have more personal agency; long for acceptance and community; are understandably overwhelmed by modern complexity and seemingly contradictory information all around them; are angered at being used and manipulated by forces beyond their control; feel out-of-sync with the rapid pace of change around them; and often make impulsive emotional decisions in reaction to all of these antagonistic variables. It’s perfectly understandable. In response to the many demands, pressures, stresses and inequities of the modern world, well-meaning folks will rely on purely emotional reasoning to react or choose a course, then seek solace and support in like-minded communities. And, thanks to mass media, the Internet, and a proliferation of propaganda fueled by both self-serving enterprises (gun manufacturers, pot growers or Trump himself) and fanatic adherents, it has become relatively easy to energize and maintain blindly conformist mass-movements…as long as you keep things emotionally charged and the facts a bit fuzzy.

I should interject here that it isn’t entirely fair to label this kind of reflexive-groupthink-adherence as “idiotic” or “ignorant.” This observation is an understandable one – and one I myself have sometimes slipped into out of exasperation - but it’s a bit unfair. Why? Because it is much more likely that the aversion to critical thinking among these groups issues from genuine insecurity, anxiety and ongoing suffering. As human beings, we need community, we need a purpose, we need to feel useful and connected and important. In fact, these are essential dimensions of nourishment in the Integral Lifework model. And when we suddenly find ourselves part of a movement that energizes our being in these dimensions (and perhaps for the first time), it is very difficult to step back, take a breath, and critically assess the validity of our trajectory. And this is especially true when our fundamental needs have not been met for years or decades – when we have been deprived, distracted and anesthetized away from taking good care of ourselves by a mainly consumerist, externalizing and infantilizing model of well-being.

What is the solution? Alas, in the short term, we’ll probably just have to ride each of these populist waves to their unpleasant conclusion. History seems to indicate that only when folks are allowed to obtain what they think they want, then realize it isn’t providing the expected result, will they become open to alternative approaches. And even then, we humans have a tendency to commit ourselves to one ill-considered path after another until we eventually find our way. Personally I believe we will have to move away from capitalist orientations entirely, with the consumerist model fully exhausted, before civil society can grapple with constructive alternatives to enduring human problems.

In the long term, I still believe there is hope…if we can survive into an era when reflexive groupthink fueled by fear and insecurity infects smaller and smaller numbers of people, until it passes away entirely. In the meantime, we can promote more nuanced and multidimensional avenues of healing for personal confusion, anxiety and suffering. In fact, as humans are meaning-making, self-justifying organisms that relish imitating each other and joining in communal activities, alternatives to more caustic memes must be perpetually generated. Something is required to fill the void. That’s what Integral Lifework practice tries to advocate, albeit one person at a time. But as long as capitalism prevails, lowest-common-denominator mass marketing will continue to promote self-serving, ultimately destructive habits of consumption, where large numbers of people will keep lavishing their personal power, money and passion on ineffective or counterproductive attempts to lessen their fear and pain – options like pot, guns and Trump.

My 2 cents.

How Can We Best Address 'The Gun Problem' in the U.S.?

From an email exchange around gun control....

I have been trying to piece together the contributing vectors of a bigger picture for large scale consequences - somewhat unique to modernity - that you've touched upon. Causality is a tricky issue with so many moving parts, but here is where I am at this point...still working out all the details....

Here are the (relatively) new variables that I believe contribute to these often unmanageable or unanticipated outcomes:

1) Superagency. Individuals - mainly through knowledge diffusion and technology availability - can have far more disruptive power at their disposal than previous generations. And by disruptive I mean both creative and destructive power. This is what makes terrorism on the scales we've seen it possible, makes rapid introduction and adoption of disruptive innovations possible (Elon Musk comes to mind), and is equally responsible for self-amplifying economic instability (runaway computer trades, for example). Combined with increased population, this helps exacerbate the potential for rapid change and disruption on scales that could never have been anticipated.

2) Complexity & Interdependence. Although human systems have always tended toward complexity, that complexity is now being amplified and abstracted exponentially. You would think this would have a counterbalancing influence on superagency, but in fact I think it feeds into it due to equally amplified interdependency: the "breaks in the chain" you allude to now go both ways, as it is now equally quite difficult to predict outcomes of complex systems or to sustain existing trajectories. It is fairly simple to disrupt complex systems (be it a power grid or a global economy) because their components are so intimately interconnected; it is equally simple (compared to the past) to create cascading social change (Arab Spring via social media) and explosive economic productivity (Chinese free enterprise zones) on very large scales in terms of both local and global population impacts.

3) Delayed Understanding and/or Willful Ignorance. There is a significant delay - both culturally and individually - in both comprehending and adapting to variables #1 and #2. This results in very human but ultimately misinformed attributions of causality for both constructive and destructive trends and events. In essence, we want to understand what is going on around us, but we don't, so we make stuff up or cling to oversimplifications. We then (increasingly, I think) deploy confirmation bias to align all emergent events with an existing (but woefully incomplete) causality matrix. Over time, when confronted with ever more complexity, interdependence and superagency, this incomplete attribution (and consequently inadequate strategic and tactical reactions) gets further and further out of sync with what is actually happening, even as our reactions becomes more entrenched and reflexive.

4) Change Pressure. This is mainly a characteristic of capitalistic efficiencies, in that innovation has tremendous commercialistic force behind it, along with massive resources to enable its reification. The speed with which a new drug, gadget, entertainment trend, etc. can be "brought to market" and replicated is...well...astounding. And, built into an increasingly global consumerism is an inherent "newer is better" mindset, so that the production/consumption cycle is frenetically amplified.

Now you might say that variable #3 isn't new...this is a normal human response that has led to things like scapegoating, fear and prejudice throughout human history. You might also say that variable #4 isn't really new either - the lemming effect likely predates capitalism. But I actually think it's quite different now, mainly because of variables #1 and #2. In other words, those with delayed understanding and/or willful ignorance can still have an extraordinary impact on the course of human events because they ALSO have superagency within complex and interdependent environments; and, likewise, change pressure is both facilitated by superagency and culturally cemented with interdependent complexity. In a nutshell, we could say that, as a species, we just haven't caught up with our own power yet; we haven't developed sufficiently (individually or culturally) to grok the entirety of the world we have built for ourselves or navigate skillfully. And, until we do, both horrific and wonderful things will happen that outpace our collective ability to manage or anticipate.

With this said, I think the only way we can remedy this situation is to attenuate ALL of the four variables in play. That is, diffuse superagency, simplify complexity and relax interdependence, increase understanding and entice curiosity, and reduce change pressure. I have a few ideas about how to accomplish these things that involve encouraging moral development and a more multidimensional understanding of the world...however, that is for the longer strategy. In the short run, I really believe that, without addressing all four variables concurrently in pretty aggressive ways, it's going to get a lot worse for all of us before it gets better.

Briefly, regarding gun control, I think some ways this approach could play out in the short run might be:

1) Diffuse Superagency: Reverse the ubiquity of powerful weapons - and the ability to fabricate them - amid the civilian population. Perhaps this could be done via a voluntary buyback program as long as item #3 below is fully implemented at the same time? And part of this would also need to rely on #4, so that companies' incentives to excite more demand and lobby against regulation is reined in a bit.

2) Simplify Complexity & Relax Interdependence: This is a longer term goal, but in the short run we could encourage more subsidiarity regarding all weapons laws, with strict enforcement of containment between communities. For example, allowing a State (or city) to pass their own local laws regarding firearms, to be respected by all visitors, with federal laws focusing on interstate and international commerce. I would of course also advocate the use of the pilot principle to test such a framework.

3) Increase Understanding & Entice Curiosity: Aggressively develop non-lethal alternatives to firearms that can fulfill 2nd Amendment considerations - and then educate people about their advantages. At the same time, collect more comprehensive firearms statistics (in explicit contradiction to the NRA's lobbying efforts...) to better understand causal relationships between crime and all weapons (both lethal and non-lethal).

4) Reduce Change Pressure: Adhere to the precautionary principle (from a regulatory and policy perspective) regarding the lethality and availability of all new weapons in the marketplace. In addition, hold companies accountable (monetarily and criminally) for exacerbating superagency by marketing high-lethality weapons to civilians.

My 2 cents.

How has the Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County vs. Holder impacted voter turnout among minorities?

In answer to Quora question "How has the Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County vs. Holder impacted voter turnout among minorities?"

It's horrific. In several states it immediately inspired legislation that makes it much harder for the poor, the elderly and minorities to vote - and much harder for them to challenge voting restrictions moving forward. And of course we should remember that Section 5 was designed specifically for historic abuses in these very states. In very real terms, this demonstrates how important it is to avoid appointing activist ideologues to SCOTUS. For a thorough overview of the consequences, check out these links:

'Shelby County': One Year Later

Voting Rights Act: After Supreme Court Ruling, 2016 Election Could Endanger Black, Latino Rights

Also check out this Harvard study on the impact of voter ID cards on the poor:

And of course most of the voting restrictions in these states were created to counter totally non-existent "voter fraud." There is zero evidence to support the existence such voter fraud on a large scale (we're talking fractions of one percent of total votes in even the most egregious cases) - so this is just about conservative fear-mongering and the ongoing march of ALEC to control the election process (see Flurry of Voter ID laws tied to conservative group ALEC).

My 2 cents.

Comment from Bruce McKinney: "But did the ruling reduce voter turnout among minorities? The primary election is over. It can be compared to previous elections. What was the result?"

Bruce unfortunately that metric won't help us. Turnout simply has too many input variables (type of election, voter interest in current candidates, state of the economy, major issues in the news at that moment, number of voting locations, hours of those locations, etc.) to reflect impact of a change in law. In particular, the number of folks who show up to vote, but who can't do so for various reasons (long lines, unadvertised changing of voting locations, arbitrary changing of voting hours, misinformation about voting days, removal of folks from voting register, etc.) isn't consistently measured in turnout stats - and a LOT of this is going on right now all over the country. In fact there seems to be a concerted effort to disrupt voting access in just these ways. What we can measure are things like complaints or lawsuits...which have increased considerably...but of course those too have external factors involved, so they can't really be relied upon either. However, it's really clear what's happening if you look closely: take North Carolina's changes to voter registration rules - they are now out of compliance with other aspects of the NVRA (not just Section 5), but the obstructive changes happened immediately after the SCOTUS ruling. Now...are there metrics that clearly show that NC has disrupted countless people's ability to vote? But that doesn't make the impact of their efforts any less deleterious - or their intent any less obvious. It's pretty clear what they are trying to least to me within a broader context. As to that context, I recommend perusing this paper:

My 2 cents.

What are the most egregious examples of Obama's lack of transparency?

In answer to Quora question: "What are the most egregious examples of Obama's lack of transparency?"

Thanks for the A2A Joel. IMO this criticism of Obama is probably the most valid, and unfortunately also the most egregious. The fact that Obama campaigned on increasing government transparency is just salt in the wound. Here are some examples:

After a brief initial relaxation in FOIA denials, the Obama administration consistently escalated denial and foot-dragging on FOIA requests over time. In fact right now the FOIA performance has been 50% worse than the Bush administration.

The most aggressive prosecution of "whistleblowers" of any administration - often utilizing the Espionage Act to silence revelations of corruption, waste, illegality or mismanagement that has nothing to do with national security.

The secret expansion of the Drone assassination program and inclusion of U.S. citizens as targets.

Increased restrictions/managing of Press Corps coverage of the President (anywhere) and denying access to Executive Branch officials except on background.

* Shielding the CIA from investigation into torture and detainee abuse using the state secrets privilege.

In part I think this is a legacy of the expansion of Executive power under the Patriot Act; the U.S. remains in a perpetual state of war, giving POTUS additional authority to, in this case at least, violate Constitutional protections and circumvent the War Powers Act. (For more info on this do some combined searches of the Patriot Act, AUMF, and Article II of the Constitution.) Obama's secret use of power is likely a potent example of absolute power corrupting absolutely as the original checks and balances provisioned by the U.S. Constitution have been increasingly obliterated in a post-9/11 world.

My 2 cents.

What are some actual reasons why people think Donald Trump would be a bad president, not including his appearance/wealth?

In answer to Quora question: "What are some actual reasons why people think Donald Trump would be a bad president, not including his appearance/wealth?"

It's simple: Trump lacks the appropriate skills and qualifications. For example:

1) His view of reality is not factually grounded. It is not possible to make good decisions if 75% of what he says is a misrepresentation or distortion of fact (see 75 percent of Donald Trump's statements have been lies, fact-checkers prove), even if he only believes 50% of what comes out of his mouth.

2) He's a bully. In his rhetoric, demeanor, stated policy choices, etc. Trump clearly enjoys putting other people down and keeping them there in both the workplace and on the campaign trail.

3) He is ignorant. We've had ignorant presidents before (Ford, Reagan, George W. Bush, etc.) but Trump's significant lack of knowledge puts him in a special category. Just do a search on "Trump ignorant" to see how many people - foreign and domestic - observe this quality in him.

4) He's an authoritarian quasi-fascist. The main tenets of his ideology (as far as it can be identified at all) are nationalism/exceptionalism, racism, sexism, hatred, egotism and a boastful arrogance powered by the Dunning Kruger effect. Frankly he doesn't appear bright or educated enough to fully comprehend fascism, let alone operationalize it, but he promotes all of its least attractive qualities.

5) We've seen this type of leadership before in recent history, and it didn't end well. Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Hirohito and their ilk have all shared many of Trump's traits. Should we perhaps learn from this...?

Examples of Trump's behavior in these areas are...well, all over the Internet.

Comment from Michael Williams: "T Collins - you seem educated, well-informed. So my question is this - and take it as a voter wanting to learn more - do you seriously think Stalin, Hitler, etc comparisons are legitimate and fair? I listen to the man talk everyday, and to me, he seems like a populist. Is that a foreshadow sign of authoritarian governing? It's not like his ideas are exact opposite from every candidate...I am losing the place where he is so different on the issues. I understand his demeanor is strong, but isn't that what we want in a meeting with Putin? Ol Jeb cant even talk without a stutter. Look forward to your response...I just want to become more educated."

How someone comports themselves in front of a camera has very little to do with how they would lead, and charismatic rhetoric won't work well in addressing the real complexities of global statesmanship. We can examine Trump's many failed businesses, his strong propensity to lie, his neofascist rhetoric (racism, nationalism, populism, hate-speech, encouragement of violence, etc.), and the fact that his own office is filled with pictures of himself (even on his desk), and quickly recognize the same megalomania and narcissism that infected other quite dangerous leaders in the past - to wit Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini. In this sense, the comparison is quite fair. And this sort of populist bullying is not new in the U.S. either - don't forget Senator McCarthy. My point is we have seen all this before. History is quite clearly on the verge of repeating itself. And yes, I agree that Putin is also a megalomaniac, but I don't think that warrants a neofascist response - containment need not be aggressive or totalitarian to be firm.

As a liberal, what annoys you about some other liberals/progressives?

Well I’m definitely liberal. Here are some beefs I have with my left-leaning cohorts:

Hypocrisy. Say they love the planet but consume conspicuously and drive all over town to find just the right organic produce. Say they advocate worker’s rights but won’t boycott a company who uses slave labor but makes a product they want. Say they are anti-bankster but don’t use a credit union. Say they are tolerant but reflexively criticize or villainize certain groups (evangelical Christians, for example). Say they care about the poor but won’t open their homes or hearts to them. Say they despise the greed of Wall Street while working hard to increase their personal wealth and diversify their stock portfolios.

Blind - or numb - to the causal chain that underlies most issues liberals care about. At the root of nearly every problem that liberals want to solve are crony capitalism, individualism, materialism, coopting of democracy by corporations, and the worshipful enshrinement of private property. But instead of addressing these issues head-on, liberals tend to promote bandaids that may temporarily ease the pain of a fundamentally destructive system, but never really change it.

Confusing what sounds or feels like a caring action (but is actually codependent or enabling) with what is effectively compassionate and constructive. Usually this is expressed by abstracting personal and civic responsibility. For example, middle class whites giving money to civil rights organizations instead of making close friendships with people of color and actually sharing social capital. Or liberals only engaging politically by voting for a candidate or initiative every few years that is only superficially pandering to them, while ignoring day-to-day interaction with their community or local governments that could really make a difference. Or giving money to a homeless person instead of spending time with them, sharing a meal, and getting to know their situation.

Apathy, Ignorance, Smugness, or Childish Immaturity? In this last election 7 Million Dems who voted in 2008 didn’t vote. And according to a recent PEW study, nearly half of the folks who didn’t vote in 2016 are content with that fact. Even if they didn’t vote “on principle,” not finding Hillary Clinton “likable” or “trustworthy” is a pathetic excuse for allowing an insane, narcissistic, erratic, ignorant, foolish, intellectually crippled blowhard to become POTUS. It boggles the mind.

My 2 cents.

From Quora:

How can conservatives and progressives differ so on fundamental questions of right and wrong?

Some thoughtful answers in this thread. Here’s what I would add as an abbreviated overview, in the format of Characteristic: Conservative ← → Progressive.

Moral Judgements: Traditional, Conditioned, Confident and Unquestioned, Authoritative, Reflexive, Tribalistic, Egoic, Projectively Oriented (Self-to-Other), Permanent, Rigid ← → Considered, Tentative and Conditional, Dynamic, Altruistic, Inclusively Oriented (Others-to-Self), Temporary, Intuitive, Flexible

Values Emphasis: Group Belonging/Acceptance/Dependence, Individual Safety and Sovereignty, Negative Liberty, Personal Power and Responsibility, Winning ← → Emotional Independence (Individuation), Collective Safety and Opportunity, Positive Liberty, Collective Power and Responsibility, Sharing

Primary Beneficiaries of Ethos: Established Privileged Class and Individuals Who Share Same Values ← → All Classes and Values Orientations Collectively

Dominant Drivers: Fear, Anger, Aggression, Conflict, Hurt, Acquisitiveness, Grief, Disconnectedness, Perpetuating Us vs. Them ← → Compassion, Acceptance, Harmony, Generosity, Joy, Connectedness, Perpetuating Togetherness

Cognitive Evaluation Patterns: Black-and-White Categorizations, Fact-Resistant, High Tolerance for Cognitive Dissonance, Doubt-Resistant, Belief-Centric, Pessimistic ← → Nuance and Gray Area Categorizations (Ambiguity), Fluid Evidence-Based Revisions, Suspended Conclusions, Doubt-Susceptible, Belief-Skeptical, Optimistic

Dialogical Extremes: Legalistic, Callous, Pedantic, Autocratic ← → Wishy-Washy, Bleeding Heart, Endless Dialogue, Analysis Paralysis

There is more along these lines, but as you can see it is almost as if we are talking about to different species of human being. And in fact that may not be out of the realm of possibility. We may be observing genetic predispositions that predictably express as “conservative” or “progressive” phenotypes over time. That is, actual differences in the types of intelligence or perception available, different access to empathy, abstract reasoning capacity, tolerance for complexity, ability to grow and mature in various dimensions of self, etc. And if these differences really are this fundamental, then the ability to compromise or synergize may be limited.

However, I think something else is in play…namely, that a lot of effort - and money - has been thrown into exploiting conservative characteristics to serve corporate political and socioeconomic agendas. The reason we see so many conservatives thinking, spending, speaking and voting in lock-step is because their susceptibility to groupthink has been consistently and pervasively manipulated for many decades. This has created a unified front of bizarre, factually frail, often conspiracy-driven attitudes and beliefs that energize conservatives to act against their own best interests, but for the clear benefit of corporatocracy.

Meanwhile the progressives are not unified, are unclear about their political and economic priorities, and are unable to act as swiftly or decisively as conservatives to consolidate power.

My 2 cents.

From Quora question:

If political ideologies are unrealistically Utopian then shouldn't we ditch them for something practical?

In answer to Quora question "If political ideologies are unrealistically Utopian then shouldn't we ditch them for something practical?"

Thanks for the A2A Arion.

This question creates an interesting tension. For the person who believes a particular "Utopian" proposal is achievable, "practical" solutions may seem cynical or overly compromising. For the person who is focused on short-term achievements within an existing system or context, viewing themselves as a Pragmatist, "Utopian" is dismissed as "pie-in-the-sky." For the person who believes they know what the Utopian is aiming for, and what the Pragmatist is aiming for, but has a plan to achieve those desired ends through moderating a different central assumption or tacitly accepted factor, proposing a seemingly unrelated approach that hasn't yet be considered - well, both the Utopian and the Pragmatist may take issue with this seemingly irrelevant approach (let's call this Outlier), and dismiss the Outlier as either not understanding the problem, or not appreciating the best mechanisms for resolution. Then of course we have the Radical, who is committed to disrupting and perhaps even destroying the status quo, because they view the ideas and efforts of Utopians, Pragmatists and Outliers as equally weak and ineffective.

Throughout history, we have also seen various combinations of these perspectives in a given person or movement - or phases of development in cultural or institutional changes that seem to parallel these positions. But really, it is incredibly difficult to persuade any of these positions that the other positions are attractive, possible or viable...and that amplifies polarization and gridlock in any polity. So what is the way out? One way out is facilitated by another type of person: the Political Genius. This is someone who can weave together disparate perspectives to create a working solution, a solution that appeals to each perspective as having the potential to satisfy their ideology in some way, but which is actually not aimed to satisfy them but something entirely unanticipated (by anyone but the Political Genius) - in other words, it aims for a much more surprising outcome that falls squarely into an entirely different, often undisclosed ideological bucket. And these Political Geniuses are understandably rare - and are usually not seen as Geniuses at all, except by those who have cultivated a particular lens of historical and contextual appreciation. Another way out is spontaneous popular uprising that operates entirely outside of the established system at first, but whose ideas are integrated into existing civic institutions. We saw this happen to a limited degree with the Occupy and Tea Party movements. Lastly, another way out is either self-induced or externally-imposed calamity, which forces everyone to reconsider their positions in light of a harsher reality with more limited choices.

From a global perspective, we seem to be approaching the point where, if a new Political Genius or popular uprising does not nudge the status quo into a amore sustainable trajectory, humanity will encounter the mandatory adjustments induced by global calamity. And of course this same inevitability seems to be echoed in smaller scale in many countries, cities and communities. Now IMO there are other mechanisms that can help create ongoing flexibility, so that neither calamity nor uprising nor special Political Genius are required to facilitate change. Among these are a combination of scientific inquiry, direct democracy, moral development, multidimensional education, and more egalitarian and participatory economics. But are these ideals Utopian, Outlier or Pragmatic? I consider them to be Pragmatic, but a Tea Party person might see them as Utopian, and a Statist Progressive might see them as Outlier...and so on. Thus we come full circle to the need for a Political Genius, popular uprising or disruptive calamity to set us on a different least until these other mechanisms of advanced civil society can be fully operationalized.

My 2 cents.

Why do some Americans want the US to become socialist?

Quora answer to "Why do some Americans want the US to become socialist?"

First a correction to your primary assumption: *the U.S. already IS socialist*. The U.S. Military, our highway system, our national park system, the U.S. Postal Service, Medicare, etc. are all examples of socialized enterprises. A primary aspect of socialism is simply public ownership of services and production. The other aspect is public management of the economy, and the U.S. has that as well through its many regulatory agencies, the Federal Reserve, its federal monetary policies and so on. That is why the U.S. economy is described as a "Mixed economy (," because it contains elements of both socialism and market capitalism. So that's one important point: you might want to rephrase your question as "Why do some Americans want the U.S. to become more socialist?"

The second important point is that there are many, many different kinds of socialism. When I have conversations with conservatives who aren't very well educated on this topic, they will often lump communism and State socialism into the same category as libertarian socialism and democratic socialism. *But these are all distinctly different things*. It would be like saying that Switzerland has the same political economy as Cuba - and of course that's just silly. In the same vein, most folks would probably never say that "China is capitalist," right? But in reality they are the largest example on the planet of mixing "State capitalism" with "Marxism-Leninism" to create a form of market socialism. But a well-educated person would never say that China is an example of "democratic socialism" either, because this (along with many other forms of successful socialism) aims to be both democratic and egalitarian (see Socialism ( for a good overview)...which China certainly is not.

So to answer the question as I've reframed it, the reason some Americans want the U.S. to become more socialist is because they observe other countries that are more socialist thriving with high standards of living and quality of life - just as other answers have pointed out. I have lived in a more socialist country in Europe and I really miss some of the benefits that country offered. **But there is also a distinctly "American" reason for wanting additional socialism in the U.S.**, and that is because America has always championed a government by the people, for the people. That was whole point of the American Revolution, right? But America has become a cronyist, clientist State capitalist plutocracy, with wealthy individuals, corporations and other special interests manipulating the democratic process, the legislative process, and the judicial system. The American people no longer have a substantive say in their own government or the rule of law. So one thing socialist systems like those in Switzerland can offer is more public control over the economy, more public control over goods and services, and even more public control over the legislative process. There can still be the advantages of a competitive marketplace, just without the corporate behemoths pulling all the strings and monopolizing whole industries. This is really a fantastic way to return democratic power to the people - through direct democracy and subjection of nearly all enterprises to public decision-making.

Right now the American people - and especially the poor and working class - must suffer the tyranny of those with the most wealth. But under distributed forms of socialism with more direct democracy (libertarian socialism, democratic socialism, community-centric socialism, a self-managed economy, etc.), all Americans will be able to participate. And isn't that what American democracy is supposed to be all about...?

My 2 cents.

What are the differences between conservatism in the United States and various countries of Europe?

Quora answer to "What are the differences between conservatism in the United States and various countries of Europe?"

Conservatism exists everywhere, and shares many similar characteristics (emphasis on free market solutions, reduced taxation, socially conservative, etc.) to its representations in the U.S. There are significant variations, however, in each culture that make each manifestation of conservatism unique, so beyond some broad generalizations the differences can be substantial; you would need to do a careful analysis of the evolution of conservatism in each country to fully appreciate the nuances. It would be incorrect, however, to say that the U.S. is "more conservative" than any European country. Some examples below.

CDU/CSU of Germany (currently has the most influence in Germany): Christian Democratic Union of Germany

Conservative Party of Norway (currently has the most influence in Norway): Conservative Party (Norway)

Conservative Prarty of the UK (currently has the most influence in Parliament): Conservative Party (UK)

See also: Conservative parties in Europe

That said, what has been upsetting the center-right apple cart in the U.S. over the past two decades has been the increasing capture of the Republican party by either far-right neoconservatives or far-right Tea Partiers. Although quite often the more extreme elements of these groups are in the minority, it is the rise (and relentless rhetoric) of these minorities that has made the U.S. conservative political spectrum seem more than a bit radical (or batshit crazy, as the case may be) to the rest of the world. There have been times when far-right elements have engineered similar upsets in European countries in recent history, but the far-right dominance of the Republican political narrative seems to have no end in sight, thanks to folks like Trump, Ryan, Cruz and their ilk. Also consider the commandeering of the U.S. House of Representatives by relatively small group of Tea Partiers, who have been both strikingly outside of the mainstream, and enduring in their chokehold. I suspect the reason this right-wing extremism appears from the outside to be more pervasive in the U.S.A. is because of how our political parties and government are structured; if we had more parties and a parliament, for example, there would be much more diverse representation and less ability for extremists to hold everyone else hostage (threatening government shutdowns, insisting on a majority-of-the-majority to authorize legislation in the House, and so on).

My 2 cents.

Is the United States morally good?

From Quora answer to: "Is the United States morally good?"

No, the United States government is not morally good. Though I'm sure many people working in our government aspire to do good - even some of the politicians - they are constrained by the following corruptive pressures, all of which could loosely fall under the heading "the coopting of democracy by special interests:"

1. **Distorted political campaigns** - huge (in the billions, as I'm sure you're aware) amounts of money spent by very few individuals to influence election outcomes and the political priorities of parties and candidates.

2. **Rampant clientism and cronyism** - the quid pro quo of backroom deals resulting from "access" granted the wealthiest supporters, sometimes to the point of their being appointed to influential government positions.

3. **Plutocratic legislation** - legislation at all levels of government written by corporations (rather than legislators) to protect their own interests.

4. **Weakened or corrupted regulatory and judicial power** - the ability to countervail the agendas of special interests or their influence has been diluted by the appointment of ideologically sympathetic judges, by the evisceration of existing protective laws, and by active lobbying that discourages regulatory enforcement.

Now if these special interests (in largest part plutocrats) had the promotion of our collective well-being as their core agenda, then the answer to your question might be "yes, it's good!" But they don't. In our current State capitalist system, these elites have demonstrated time and again that they are much more interested in engineering the best possible means of enriching themselves. And, as history documents, this has meant exploiting, enslaving and putting workers at risk; consuming natural resources until they are depleted; caustically polluting water, air, food and other necessities of life; and creating an ever-larger gulf between the rich and the poor. Greed is not good, it is incredibly destructive. But this is how capitalism has always worked, and despite decades of reforms driven by a few courageous leaders, grassroots activism and widespread civil unrest, the tyranny of commercialistic plutocracy keeps marching on.

So even though the U.S. Constitution is a pretty darn "morally good" Constitution, and democracy has proven itself to be a "morally good" system when it functions properly, and we have many folks in our government who aspire to be "morally good," all of this has been undermined by relatively few callous, self-serving, egotistical power-mongers who thrive unchecked within corporate capitalism. It is much easier to destroy than to create. And, as a result, in the course of amassing ludicrously huge amounts of money in unethical ways, the plutocrats have created generations of poor people, people with lung cancer, obese children with Type II Diabetes, people addicted to prescription drugs, poorly educated people, people who vote against their own best interests, a domestic populace armed with increasingly lethal weapons, astounding levels of consumer debt, sweat shops and prison factories all around the globe, a few wars to expand resource and labor availability, foreign populations increasingly radicalized by what they view as U.S. imperialism...and of course climate change. The special interests did it all, and none of it has been "morally good." Well, except for the fact that I can get almost anything I could want delivered to my home in two days using Amazon Prime; I guess that was worth sacrificing the Constitution, democracy, and the well-being of all humanity.

My 2 cents.

(P.S. If you are interested in some source material that supports what I've said, I'd be happy to provide it. Just be specific about what you would like to know.)

How reflective of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are currently the rights of US citizens?

In answer to Quora question: "The United States of America: How reflective of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are currently the rights of US citizens?"

Thanks for the A2A. What makes your question a bit difficult to answer is the question of intent behind certain provisions of the U.S. the Constitution, and the question of interpretation and codification by State legislatures and our judiciary in the intervening decades, and how all of this has manifested in various locations around the U.S. I suppose to generalize in the laziest possible way, we might say that, in practice (i.e. the reality on-the-ground):

1) Poor people and people of color don't have the same Constitutional rights as rich white people do in the U.S.

2) Gun laws all around the U.S. frequently reflect different interpretations of the U.S. Constitution.

3) Constitutional protections against unjustified searches and seizures are viewed quite differently by law enforcement in different parts of the U.S.

4) There is an ongoing debate across the U.S. (and as a frequent component of court cases challenging new and existing laws) regarding the power individual States retain vs. the power the Federal Government can exercise, and what the Constitution stipulates in this regard.

5) In the U.S., equal protection under the law is usually directly proportionate to one's affluence and social position.

6) Hard-won rights supported by the Constitution can be taken away quite easily - for example, the Supreme Court's overturning of voter protection laws in the Southern U.S.

7) Freedom of religion has been pretty well respected as a fundamental cultural value - as long as it doesn't conflict with other individual and collective rights.

8)The Patriot Act has done tremendous damage to Constitutional protections in the U.S., and continues to erode Constitutional standards in all levels of law, and in all branches of government.

9) The 8th Amendment has been routinely trampled into the mud by law enforcement, our judiciary and our prison system. It's a travesty really.

10) 9th Amendment expansions are frequently challenged by conservatives and Constitutional "originalists" who can't see past the end of their ideological nose. (For example, abortion rights.)

My 2 cents.

Tonight's Debate Shows How Out-of-Touch Democratic Party Is Right Now

Let's do some simple math:

1) The DNC has decided to have CNN host the first Democratic debate.

2) Only 70% of U.S. households have cable subscriptions, and that number is falling quickly - especially among younger viewers - to standalone broadband streaming services; according to the research firm SNL Kegan, the "cord-cutters" and "cord-nevers" are a rapidly growing demographic.

3) Cable subscriptions are even less common among minorities and the voting poor.

4) CNNGo, CNN's TV Anywhere service, is only available to cable subscribers, and has not yet followed standalone streaming subscription models (a la HBO, CBS, etc.). But, even if it were available as a standalone, this would require a computer or other streaming device, again eliminating the voting poor from the equation.

So, essentially, the DNC has clearly and loudly decided that young people, minorities and the poor don't need to see this debate, even though these groups are essential demographics in the Democratic party's voting base (see

I have the distinct sense that, like their current frontrunner Hilary Clinton, the DNC is happy to emphasize quid-pro-quo arrangements with Corporate America. In fact, perhaps it is the DNC's tacit support of Hilary that led to their choice to have CNN be the exclusive broadcaster of this first debate. After all, they wouldn't want Bernie Sanders, so popular among young people with less access to CNN, to fuel his positive momentum.

As of this writing, it appears that six of the ten Republican debates, along with four of the Democratic debates, will be freely available via broadcast television. But if either party wanted to provide "a bigger tent," then all of the debates should have been freely accessible to everyone in the U.S.. For Democrats, this was a lost opportunity to demonstrate a meaningful difference in their promotion of a more liberal democracy. So...shame on the DNC says I.

(For additional data regarding U.S. media access, see, and

What are the weakest positions/arguments held by moderate to liberal Democrats?

In answer to Quora question: "What are the weakest positions/arguments held by moderate to liberal Democrats?"

I am still a registered Democrat because I am a political pragmatist and the Democratic party has some of the very few politicians and policy positions I can admire, and I have to be registered to vote in the primaries here in California. At my core, however, I am a libertarian-socialist. That said, some of the arguments/positions I find troubling among liberal Dems include:

1) Political Correctness and its corollaries of cultural sensitivity and aggressive feminism. All of these are predicated on the presumption that anyone in a "position of privilege" in society is obligated to self-oppress in order to compensate for that privilege. In the U.S. it is mainly white males who find themselves at the blunt end of such expectations. Although I do believe in compassionate, empathic understanding of alternative experiences and perspectives, and that power dynamics in a given situation need to be understood and appreciated, personally I think the PC movement created classic codependent "walking on eggshells" behavior that predictably self-defeats in its attempts to engineer cultural change. Why? Because it doesn't authentically empower anyone, it only synthetically and dishonestly disempowers those considered to be in the position of privilege, creating a false vacuum for those who feel disempowered or disenfranchised to fill. But the privileged still hold all the power, as they are the ones conceding it; they are just exercising that power through a kind of condescending permissiveness. Sure, language and attitudes can be violent and oppressive in horrific ways...but self-editing and self-oppression can be just as violent, without having any substantive effect on the power dynamics of a given relationship.

2) The anti-vaccination movement has been a surprise to me. This appears to evidence the kind of herd mentality we usually see more prominently on the conservative end of the political spectrum, and I am frankly bewildered by it. As I think another comment touched upon, the science just doesn't back up the linkage of vaccinations and autism, and the known risks (lower herd immunity) far outweigh the speculated benefits (lower probability of autism spectrum disorders). It is much more likely that upticks in autism statistics are the result of other environmental and genetic factors and increased awareness and diagnosis of autism itself. However a few comments here equate the vaccination paranoia with a desire for GMO labeling, and that is a conflation that simply isn't warranted. There is plentiful data to support limitation on the use of GMOs and the wisdom of informing consumers about the genetic manipulation of their food. Only a few researchers paid by big agriculture have represented GMOs as completely safe...they are just getting a lot of airtime.

3) Blindness to the shortcomings of various candidates. This has always been true across the political spectrum but Dems have tended - until quite recently I think - to be openly critical of their own, something most Republicans seem careful to avoid. This began with Obama and seems to be spilling over onto Hilary Clinton. Both of them have done a number of really awful things, things that contradict their own expressed values and longstanding values of the Democrat political platform, and Dems seem increasingly to be turning a blind eye to those shortcomings. Is this a case of supporting "the lesser evil" in the eyes of voting Democrats in order to win elections? I dunno. But I find it pretty distasteful.
My 2 cents.

What policies created the current large U.S. public debt?

Answer to Quora question: "What policies created the current large U.S. public debt?"

I think to fully understand U.S. debt we have to understand a certain kind of psychology that David Durham touched upon - albeit quite humorously - in his answer.

Imagine that you have a popular government program that actually funds itself, but that by doing so this program deeply offends a fundamental belief about how the world works, a belief that cries out "No big government!" at every opportunity, and uses the same big hammer of lower taxes to operationalize this belief. What is a person to do about such a successful, self-funding program? Why it needs to be gutted of course. It needs to be made so dysfunctional or controversial that it either loses popularity or can no longer fund itself...or both. And when U.S. Postal service was forced to pre-fund its employees' pensions 75 years in advance (see the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which was passed without a recorded vote), the impact was predictable. Since that time, the Postal Service has not only struggled to stay comfortably in the black (as it had in the past), but also has eliminated popular but less profitable products and services, and been unable to maintain the customer service level that previous generations have so admired. In fact, in 2012 the USPS experienced its first ever default on a treasury payment.

We see the same psychology behind attempts to roll back Obamacare (which, even by conservative estimates, is clearly projected to help reduce the federal deficit) and countless other government programs. It doesn't matter if those programs benefit all Americans while reducing federal spending, because such success represents an ideological threat to the "no big government/we want lower taxes" camp.

But who are these dastardly naysayers...? Since Republicans are often the loudest and most transparent proponents of this ideology, it would be easy to make this a partisan issue. But Democrats are not innocent here, they are just less vocal. For example, that 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act had plentiful Democratic support for its first (failed) vote in 2005. So who or what is really behind this idealogical movement...?

It's pretty simple really: just follow the money. The parties that benefit most from the hamstringing of government - either those agencies that regulate commerce, or programs that compete with free market alternatives - are the largest multinational corporations. From the perspective of these megaconglomerates, a strong U.S. government is a pesky barrier to profit that must be brought to heal. And, in the best case scenario, the U.S. government should be making money for these corporations, not just staying out of the way. Thus pork barrel projects and excessive military spending do, strangely, go hand-in-hand with an insistence on lower taxes and smaller government, revealing the true motivation behind all of these habits. In contradiction to the battle-cry of libertarian freedom, all of this is really just carefully orchestrated propaganda intended to bend "big government" to capitalism's will, and create a reliable flow of cash into the pockets of folks who have essentially become plutocrats. It is these same influences, after all, who are increasingly successful at manipulating the U.S. political process with Dark money. In support of this overall view, I recommend you watch these: The Billionaires’ Tea Party, Hidden Wars Documentary and United States of ALEC | Moyers & Company |

In specific answer to your question, crippling deficits and accumulation of huge debt are the natural consequence of the "no big government/we want lower taxes" meme. Just as the Postal Service will continue on its downward spiral, so will the the U.S. Government as a whole, becoming more dysfunctional, gridlocked, incompetent and unpopular, to the point when a majority of Americans have lost confidence in the whole affair. Oh wait...that's already happened! Which is exactly what benefits the plutocrats the most, so that they can continue the manipulation without entirely undermining the rule of law that sustains commerce, or losing the lovely cash machine of federal overspending. They are counting on the U.S. government to be "too big to fail," but just weak enough to be easily controlled. Of course many folks at the top of the capitalist food chain would like you to believe that big government inherently causes its own inefficiencies, when in reality many of its greatest failures (including the current paralyzation of Congress) are deliberately orchestrated. Are organizations like the Bilderberg Group behind this orchestration, or is this government-debilitating strategy just the natural habit of commercialism and huge concentrations of wealth? Time will tell. But the point is that there is a specific agenda driving every policy decision that leads to larger U.S. deficits and debt, and that most Democrats and Republicans at all levels of government are just pawns in the game.

My 2 cents.

Why does the media concentrate on conservative political donors?

Answer to Quora question: Why does the media concentrate on conservative political donors?

Because the conservatives spend a lot lot more. Billions more. But they do it through what is called "dark money." See below. I also agree with Scott D. Feldstein that the nefarious intent is a lot more explicit, and efforts are specifically tailored to get people to vote against their own best interests. I copied the following quote from a similar discussion at: T Collins Logan's answer to Why do so many Americans believe limiting corporate election financing violates freedom? I recommend you read that post as well for additional context.

"In 2014, some 71% of all spending was "dark money;" that is, the donors were undisclosed (thanks to Citizens United and other activist rulings.), see Undisclosed spending in elections threaten American democracy. A lot of this involves groups funded by both sides, but the vast majority are conservative, and that has been true for some time (88% of dark money in 2010 was from conservative orgs, 85% in 2012, and in 2014 it was about 2:1 in favor of conservative orgs, so the liberal orgs are slowly catching up). For more info see Ad Spending Tops $1 Billion; Dark Money Groups Buy Significant Share. And guess who was behind the lion's share of conservative organizations flooding these elections with dark money? The Koch brothers (see Record spending in 2014 midterm elections result of 'dark money' from unidentified donors). We're talking $400 Million here from the Koch orgs in 2014...which of course dwarfs Steyer's measly $73 Million. But the real point IMO - and circling back on the main theme of my post - is that when you read through these articles, everyone is concerned about the same thing: too much big money in politics, whether undisclosed or not, and regardless of political leaning. And so yes, to directly answer your question: we need to curtail this trend in ALL political campaigns, and from ALL ends of the political spectrum. Otherwise this is effectively the end of a democracy that represents anyone but the plutocrats."

Why does the media concentrate on conservative political donors?

Answer to Quora question: Why does the media concentrate on conservative political donors?

Because the conservatives spend a lot lot more. Billions more. But they do it through what is called "dark money." See below. I also agree with Scott D. Feldstein that the nefarious intent is a lot more explicit, and efforts are specifically tailored to get people to vote against their own best interests. I copied the following quote from a similar discussion at: T Collins Logan's answer to Why do so many Americans believe limiting corporate election financing violates freedom? I recommend you read that post as well for additional context.

"In 2014, some 71% of all spending was "dark money;" that is, the donors were undisclosed (thanks to Citizens United and other activist rulings.), see Undisclosed spending in elections threaten American democracy. A lot of this involves groups funded by both sides, but the vast majority are conservative, and that has been true for some time (88% of dark money in 2010 was from conservative orgs, 85% in 2012, and in 2014 it was about 2:1 in favor of conservative orgs, so the liberal orgs are slowly catching up). For more info see Ad Spending Tops $1 Billion; Dark Money Groups Buy Significant Share. And guess who was behind the lion's share of conservative organizations flooding these elections with dark money? The Koch brothers (see Record spending in 2014 midterm elections result of 'dark money' from unidentified donors). We're talking $400 Million here from the Koch orgs in 2014...which of course dwarfs Steyer's measly $73 Million. But the real point IMO - and circling back on the main theme of my post - is that when you read through these articles, everyone is concerned about the same thing: too much big money in politics, whether undisclosed or not, and regardless of political leaning. And so yes, to directly answer your question: we need to curtail this trend in ALL political campaigns, and from ALL ends of the political spectrum. Otherwise this is effectively the end of a democracy that represents anyone but the plutocrats.

Why do conservatives oppose environmental causes?

From Quora discussion: "Why do conservatives oppose environmental causes?"

Only a few decades ago, you couldn't generalize about this topic as you have in your question. There were, for example, a lot of conservative hunting groups lobbying Congress, happy to be in league with various "liberal" conservation movement organizations, to preserve wilderness. There were Nixon's extensive efforts as Tom Buczkowski mentioned. And further back you may recall that it was the conservative railroad industry that teamed up with "liberal" folks like John Muir to secure our National Park system. More recently, though, you will see phrases like "Green is the new Red" bantered about by both conservative and progressive pundits. There's a lot more vitriol and polarization than ever before. It seems the natural antagonism between those who wish to prioritize profit in unsustainable ways, and those who wish to preserve natural resources for future generations, is heading for a climax. And I think this is actually a fairly predictable development, for one simple reason: natural resources that were once easily obtained are becoming less plentiful and harder to procure, while at the same time the environmental damage of unregulated (or poorly regulated) industry is reaching a scope that was never imagined. To put it another way: at the same time that profits a naturally constrained by resource scarcity, the negative externalities of current and historical industrial activities are threatening to undermine new avenues of profit. [Think petrochemical companies vs. Colony Collapse Disorder (bees); fertilizer companies vs. massive fish die-offs in the ever-expanding "Dead Zone" in the Gulf (Mississippi Delta, etc.); timber companies vs. soil depletion (can't grow trees); mining companies vs. toxic runoff and silt clogging (decimated fisheries); pharmaceutical companies vs. medical efficacy (drugs that do more harm than good, or don't perform as well as placebo); fracking vs. toxic aquifers, etc.]

So it makes perfect sense that this has become a more aggressive ideological battle, and one on a much grander scale, than it has ever been before. It is in this context that Exxon-Mobile (and other Big Oil) spent millions to promote skepticism about climate science - until they were called out on it and the CEO resigned. It shouldn't surprise us at all that there is a sort of panicked groupthink that reflexively pushes back on scientific consensus, environmental concerns, corporate whistleblowers, outcomes resulting in human disease or loss of life, or other obvious negative externalities, because the engines of industry need to keep running full speed ahead, the coffers need to remain full, and the shareholders happy...and all of this is becoming a lot more difficult. Remember when the Tobacco industry insisted that a) tobacco wasn't hazardous to human health, b) adamantly denied that their companies had carefully researched how to create a more addictive product, and c) declared that nicotine wasn't addictive at all? Yeah. They even lied to Congress about it - right before all those internal documents were leaked revealing their hypocrisy. As you suggest in your question, that is indeed the psychology of profits over people, profits over the environment, profits over the future for our kids, and profits over all forms of sanity. But because the stakes are now so high - because the tensions between profitability and environmental concerns are so great - the rhetoric is that much more hyperbolic, and the lies and distortions that much more pronounced.

As an may be interested in reading about the Precautionary principle. It makes sound, reasonable, agreeable sense in every regard except one: it slows down capitalism. Slightly. And why is that bad...? And that there is the crux of the issue, IMO.

If we can all agree that I know what to do with my own money (needs), then why does the Democratic Party think this principle changes on a national scale?

From Quora discussion: "If we can all agree that I know what to do with my own money (needs), then why does the Democratic Party think this principle changes on a national scale?"

I'm not sure why you are singling out Dems, since Congressional deficit spending has been leapfrogging over itself for decades, regardless of which party has had the majority (let's hear it for "pork barrel!"). But to the heart of your question, I would simply ask:

- When was the last time you had a group of 100 or more U.S. veterans over to your house for dinner...and then provided them medical no charge?
- Are you an expert in developing immunizations for lethal viruses, and do you have a lab in your basement to work on those? How's that going?
- Can you deliver some legal documents for me, from a California address to a Florida address, in less than four days, for 49 cents?
- Can you explain, in detailed economic terms, how an unregulated banking system could avoid boom/bust cycles?
- When was the last time you negotiated an international trade deal (G8 or otherwise)?
- Do you know how to pilot an aircraft carrier? Can you do that single-handedly?
- Do you own a Roadtec RX500 Cold Planer Milling Machine, and if so would you mind if I borrow it to resurface my street?
- And of course: what is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow...?

I actually sympathize with the sentiment behind your question: I feel there should be a lot more direct democracy in the U.S., a lot more citizens councils (selected by civic lottery) making decisions in specialized areas of government, and lot fewer self-selected megalomaniacs in any positions of power who don't really represent the electorate's interests. But it is specifically the scope, complexity and specialized knowledge of collective decision-making that has necessitated representative democracy in the U.S. since its inception. In fact we would do better to call it "technocracy" as that scope, specialization and complexity continues to increase exponentially. But this trend also requires that we have smarter, more educated, and wiser "technocrats" to help us make good collective decisions. A salient example of this is research into basic science. When Congress voted down funding for a new particle accelerator back in 1993 (see Superconducting Super Collider), they effectively eliminated U.S. research from this essential area of physics. Now American physicists court the folks at CERN. So much for American exceptionalism. But the point is that if we had a panel of preeminent U.S. scientists who were selected by lottery to both inform the public and advise Congress on such decisions, and whose recommendations had more political weight than the voices of the largest donors to election campaigns, then I suspect the outcome would have been quite different.

Do governments have a moral obligation to use tax dollars to assist poor people?

From Quora discussion: "Do governments have a moral obligation to use tax dollars to assist poor people?"

In an ideal world, any form of government would champion consensus morality, and enable a rule of law that reflects that consensus. That is the whole point of government, after all, and the attraction of democracy is that it is intended to broaden that consensus. You can quickly identify some of the moral fundamentals in the formation of U.S. federal government in our Constitution's preamble:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

To understand what terms like "blessings of liberty," "domestic tranquility" and "general welfare" actually mean (in a moral sense), you need only study the Constitution further...well, and study the full unfolding of U.S. history since then! But speaking to your question (again, in the U.S.), we read further in the Constitution:

Section 1, Article 8: "The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States..." Section 8 then goes on to enumerate the scope of government tax spending, such as in regulating commerce, establishing post offices and roads, printing money, promoting "the progress of science and useful arts" through trademarks and copyrights, maintaining a military and waging war, and so on.

So the U.S. government, from its inception, has been (morally) empowered to collect taxes and "provide for the general welfare of the United States" in various ways. That is, it was intended to have this moral authority imbued by a consensus of "We the People." Again, though, how has the meaning of these terms (liberty, welfare, tranquility) evolved in this context...?

There has been understandable debate over how narrow or broad of an interpretation the U.S. Congress has in its discretion to define general welfare, liberty and domestic tranquility, and to tax and spend accordingly at the federal level. You can read about some of this debate at these links: General Welfare clause and General Welfare. However, by following the development of both the Constitution itself (via the Amendment process), court rulings over many decades, and the elaboration of specific rights in State constitutions, what constitutes the expression of these moral imperatives in U.S. law has become more and more refined. It is exceptionally clear, for example, that the federal government has a critical role in championing civil liberties (our individual rights to practice religion, have free speech, own a rifle, not be searched without a warrant, to have speedy trials by a jury of our peers, to not be subject to cruel or unusual punishments, etc.). And of particular importance is the 9th Amendment, which states that the previously defined Bill of Rights "shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." In other words, we have a lot more rights not enumerated in the Constitution. This is, in fact, how all Americans were secured the right to use contraceptives (Griswold v. Connecticut) and have access to assisted abortions (Roe v. Wade).

In keeping with the spirit of Article V and the 9th Amendment, we have additional amendments that secured additional rights (again at the federal level), such as freedom from slavery or involuntary servitude (13th), the right to due process and equal protection under the law (14th), and the right to vote regardless of race, skin color, previous servitude, gender, ability to pay a tax, or being 18-20 years old (15th, 19th, 24th & 26th). And all of these obviously contribute to liberty, domestic tranquility and providing for the general welfare. However, some state constitutions go a lot further, and are very clear about the inclusion of assisting the poor, providing education, and promoting public health as part of the moral scope of their governance and taxation (see 'To Promote the General Welfare' | ACS). New York's Constitution is particularly transparent when it reads in Article XVII that “the aid, care and support of the needy are public concerns and shall be provided by the state."

As you can see, the use of tax dollars to "assist poor people" is an ever-evolving issue. The 24th Amendment and the subsequent Voting Rights Act were specifically targeted to assist the poor in voting - an instance which irrefutably supports the use of taxes to fulfill moral obligations to the underprivileged. The 13th Amendment certainly targeted the poor as well, as did the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment. And how can the 5th/14th Amendments' Due Process clause be fulfilled (i.e. no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law) without poor folks being appointed a public defender? Again, here taxes are being spent (predominantly) on poor people. But of course the extent of governmental powers to proceed in this fashion is still a hotly debated topic. At one end of the spectrum are those whose romantic, unrealistic ideals of anarchy or unfettered capitalism resist any authoritative form of government, and at the other end we have folks who unrealistically romanticize the extent to which government can act for the public good. In reality, our current "mixed" political economy (see Mixed economy) is somewhere in the middle, struggling to balance variations of these interests and ideologies. But the point is that, until the U.S. Constitution is specifically amended to limit the government's moral obligation to promote the general welfare, liberty and domestic tranquility through taxation, that is precisely what government is intended to do. The only substantive debate in the political mainstream regarding this obligation has been what should occur at the state level vs. what should occur at the federal level.

I hope this was helpful.

Why are more liberals not libertarians?

From Quora response to "Why are more liberals not libertarians?"

I think it would be helpful to clarify your terms. Both progressives and neoliberals can be classified as "liberal," but with very different political orientations. Left-libertarians and right-libertarians are both "libertarian," but they are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of economic models and vision of what the anarchistic endgame looks like. After reading through all 108 answers here, I was surprised that so few folks who answered your question actually clarified these variations, which are pretty essential. Sure, it is easy to conflate "libertarian" with anarcho-capitalist, since the Koch brothers and their ilk have done an excellent job reframing the Tea Party movement in that light. And it's easy to assume anyone who self-identifies as a liberal is NOT a "classic liberal," but left-leaning on issues of social justice. However, IMO it is absolutely essential to differentiate and use the appropriate terms for the ideologies being discussed. That said, kudos to the half dozen folks who did elaborate on these nuances in their answers. :-)

With this said, I am definitely both a "progressive" and a "left-libertarian." It's quite easy to be both, because on the one hand a progressive prioritizes improving the quality of human existence for all people, however that may be accomplished (see Progressivism) and on the other some form of transitional libertarian socialism (see Libertarian socialism ) seems like an excellent direction to take from where we are now to reify progressive values. The details of how to get there is - as with any new vision - where the real debate begins. I have some ideas I proposed in a recent book (you can download a free copy here: Political Economy and the Unitive Principle : T.Collins Logan : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive), and Noam Chomsky is also of course a great source for this brand of libertarianism.

So the real issue here as I see it may be that not many people have informed themselves about what the terms "libertarian" and "liberal" really represent.

My 2 cents.

Why do so many Americans believe limiting corporate election financing violates freedom?

From Quora response to "Why do so many Americans believe limiting corporate election financing violates freedom?"

To understand why so many Americans believe things that are actually counter to their own best interests, I recommend watching The Billionaires' Tea Party (2011) (this a link to the full film). Like so many corporate-driven agendas, this is really just another example of wealthy individuals deluging folks with carefully tailored propaganda that energizes tribal groupthink in favor of plutocracy. Here's the substance of the underlying challenge, to my mind: wealth, influence and cultural privilege have always tended to distort the democratic process. This is why, for example, wealthy white folks in the South used complicated voting requirements to discourage or entirely disable poor black folks from voting - they were simply afraid of losing their position of power, wealth and privilege in southern society. In very much the same way, rich white men today are trying to use the courts and the political process to protect their position in society, and the Koch brothers (see the film referenced above) are the poster kids for this ongoing manipulation.

More specifically regarding your question, however, I recommend researching how "corporate personhood" came into being, and how, really, it has no basis in the U.S. Constitution (see Corporate Personhood Challenged - Top 25 of 2004 for a concise summary). But the issue can be described even more simply than that. Let's say you and I are attending an auction. This auction, however, is about buying free speech. Various items are brought up to the auction block: 72 hours of primetime TV advertising is one; 82% of talk show host's on-air interviewing time is another; 4,000 inches of major newspaper op-eds is another; 65% of major network election news coverage is another; and so on. Each time you and I try to bid for the items, we are outbid by the corporations in attendance. We keep bidding for these essential elements of any election campaign, but we just can't match the multi-million-dollar bids from the corporate bidders with whom we, as individuals, are competing. And the thing is, these are "winner-take-all" situations; there is no sharing here, because whoever bids the highest gets ALL of these items, and therefore ALL of the tools to reach and persuade the public.

So this really isn't about "fair and equal" representation, it's about having any representation at all. For when corporate interests control the election process so completely that politicians feel they must represent those corporate interests instead of the electorate, democracy is essentially destroyed. What happens then is...well...things like ALEC - see Bill Moyers expose ALEC here:

So IMO this isn't about fairness or freedom in the abstract, it's about the fundamental functioning of democracy.

My 2 cents.

Comment from James Cribbs:

With regards to the Koch Brothers, you might want to see how they stack up against others.

2014 Top Donors to Outside Spending Groups

The funny thing here is that no one can even come close to Thomas Steyer, who supports liberals exclusively. The Koch brothers gave a total of $7,000,000 in the 2014 cycle. Steyer gave over $73,000,000.

The questions is, since you are willing to call out the Koch Brothers, are you also willing to call out Steyer and all the others on the list?

My Response:

You make a good point, James, as there are folks like Steyer, Bloomberg, Eychaner, etc. on the left who donate a LOT of money to political campaigns. They donated enough, in fact, to offset 17 of the top 25 donors in 2014 who were solidly Republican (see Top Individual Contributors: All Federal Contributions) Here's the rub though: in 2014, some 71% of all spending was "dark money;" that is, the donors were undisclosed (thanks to Citizens United and other activist rulings.), see Undisclosed spending in elections threaten American democracy. A lot of this involves groups funded by both sides, but the vast majority are conservative, and that has been true for some time (88% of dark money in 2010 was from conservative orgs, 85% in 2012, and in 2014 it was about 2:1 in favor of conservative orgs, so the liberal orgs are slowly catching up). For more info see Ad Spending Tops $1 Billion; Dark Money Groups Buy Significant Share. And guess who was behind the lion's share of conservative organizations flooding these elections with dark money? The Koch brothers (see Record spending in 2014 midterm elections result of 'dark money' from unidentified donors). We're talking $400 Million here from the Koch orgs...which of course dwarfs Steyer's measly $73 Million. But James the real point IMO - and circling back on the main theme of my post - is that when you read through these articles, everyone is concerned about the same thing: too much big money in politics, whether undisclosed or not, and regardless of political leaning. And so yes, to directly answer your question: we need to curtail this trend in ALL political campaigns, and from ALL ends of the political spectrum. Otherwise this is effectively the end of a democracy that represents anyone but the plutocrats.


Rand Paul's "Implied Threat of Force"

From discussion on Karen Molenarr Terrell's Facebook post:

There is just as much of "an implied threat of force" to sacrifice individual and collective well-being on the altar of negative liberty. It is a much greater (and more destructive) "entitlement" to demand freedom without any constructive reciprocation to society via mutually beneficial social contract. Prosocial traits evolved to support collective thriving - our species could not have survived at all without them - but since those who gravitate towards right-wing Libertarian ideologies tend to lack these prosocial instincts, they dismiss or deny their importance. Yet it is the non-rational desire for the well-being of others - not rational self-interest - that has always sustained social cohesion and inspired humanity to its greatest achievements. It was not until the postmodern, highly commercialized, technological era that the illusion of self-sufficiency fully undermined this commonsensical understanding of reality. And as more and more people have felt isolated and disconnected (even though they are actually still quite dependent on each other), the Randian (objectivist) perspective has grown in popularity.

And of course pro-capitalist sentiments dovetail perfectly with this I/Me/Mine mentality, because the ideal consumer is one who believes they can empower themselves alone through consumption and materialism, rather than thriving through cooperation, collaboration and more collective or egalitarian goals and values (which are the natural antagonists of commercialism). And yet, since this isolation, independence and self-sufficiency is a profound deception - since we are, on the contrary, all increasingly interdependent - acting from that deception and imposing it on all expectations, conditions and institutions in society, just as these right-wing Libertarians do, is actually an extreme form of violence. It is no different than a cult leader holding his followers hostage to his egoic whims, or McCarthy excoriating gay people, or the Catholic Church burning witches at the stake. To disable democratic will and mutually beneficial social contract in favor of individual freedom that is unencumbered with the collective good returns us to the Dark Ages of human civilization. It is as caustically egocentric as it is ignorant of human history and evolution. But as with any meme, once an ideology becomes infected with tribalism and intolerance, it is extremely difficult to counter, even with the greatest compassion. So this ignorant, arrogant, egocentric Randian (objectivist) fad may just have to run its course. Hold on to your horses.