I want to take a moment to shine a light on a strange political fractionalization of beliefs that exists on the right and left of the political spectrum.
Please understand that everything I say in the post does not apply to all people on the right or all people on the left; however, the research and evidence that I have done over my years in grad school and beyond have shown certain broad trends and tendencies that connect people who ideological identify as conservative or liberal.
What “generalization” am I referring to here? Simply this: there is a significant difference in the assumptions of human nature in government between those on the right and left (even if there are many inconsistencies). Those who consider themselves to be modern day “liberals” tend to have high expectations for government. In other words, those in government truly are out for our best interest. Therefore, it’s normal to expect government to help the poor, help the hungry, save the planet, solve the drug and crime “crisis”, fix the healthcare industry, eliminate poverty, better education, provide for the elderly, manage the economy, stop big business abuse, and on and on. If one thinks highly of those in government, she will naturally expect them to do better than what any charitable organization or private business would be expected to do.
How do you answer the following question: what motivates people to be in government? I’ve noticed that there’s a type of person who tends to answer this way: “They want to help people”, or “They want to make the country better”. This kind of answer requires a very specific and unique type of mindset, one that fully expects those with power to want to do only good with that power. This mindset assumes that the same abuse, corruption, fraud, mistreatment they despise in businesses and corporations somehow isn’t present in government. Instead, government is made up of people who are better than the corrupt abusive businesses and government must needs enter the picture to solve all of the world’s inequalities, abuses etc.
On the flip side of this ideological coin are those on the right side of the political spectrum. Many on the right demonstrate a more cynical perspective of government, government officials, government’s goodwill or government’s ability to fix most of the things I listed above.
Those on the right tend to want, more or less, for government to stay out of many of the above areas such as healthcare, business regulation, providing for the poor etc because government is made up of selfish, corrupt human beings and is only going to make things worse. Of course, the irony being that those on the right tend to support independent businesses with little to no regulation, assuming that while government is made up of corrupt individuals since all humanity is selfish and corrupt, those in businesses or even just individuals looking out for their own liberties, are somehow better or good enough to never abuse this liberty.
While, I just pointed out a slight kink in both sets of beliefs, I’m not using today’s article to talk about those kinks. Instead, the following ideological contradictions are what I’m hoping to highlight today:
- The left tends to expect much good from government, asking it to take on more and more responsibility for the general wellbeing of the citizenry. Give more power to government to help regulate the abusive power of the people while also helping those who are victims to this abuse. However, many on the left are incredibly wary of, critical of, and frustrated at one specific realm of government: law enforcement. In the law enforcement realm of government, the “left” tends to lose all sense of idealism regarding government’s goodwill towards men, and instead looks the oppression straight in the eyes, lamenting the power of government, it’s abuse of power and its tyranny over the liberties of the citizenry. Constant generalizations about how all police are corrupt, abusive, etc because of their power ring throughout this crowd. .
- Ok, now let’s take a look at the “right”. The right, again, tending to look more critically at government institutions like the presidency or Congress or even state governments (all the while, many times asking for more big government power in specific realms) seem to have a soft spot for one realm of government: law enforcement. The majority of those on the right idolize the police to the point that there’s a deliberate unwillingness to see any potential for abuse of power in this realm. In other words, while there’s an agreed skepticism about government in general for conservatives, such skepticism is immediately forgotten when applied to the realm of law enforcement.
Are you seeing the odd disconnect on both sides? One political ideology tends to believe in the general good will of government in all realms except for the police while the other tends to believe in the general selfish ambition of government in all realms except fo the police.
It’s boggles my mind.
This is clearly flawed reasoning. It’s inconsistent. If we believe that government is made up of, generally speaking, altruistic people then we must believe this to be true across all realms of government. Conversely, if we believe that government is made of, generally speaking, selfish, power hungry people, then we must believe this to be true across all realms of government.
If power corrupts, it corrupts everywhere no matter the realm. If we believe power corrupts the police and the police are bad because of it, then the same must be true of the rest of government. Likewise, if we believe power corrupts those in institutions like Congress, the Presidency or any other major government institution, then we must also believe it corrupts the police. If we say we believe government can’t be trusted but then trust one realm of government, or contrary, if we believe that government can be trusted but don’t trust one realm of government, we’re fooling ourselves.
Are you hearing me?
The point I’m trying to make is this: collectively, Americans agree on more than we think we do. Liberals cry that government (the police) are corrupt and abusive, violating the Constitution. Conservatives balk. Then Conservatives cry that government (Congress, the president, the bureaucracy) is corrupt, abusive, violating the Constitution, and liberals balk.
And the whole time we miss what we’re both agreeing on: that government is corrupt, abusive and violates the Constitution and this is a problem.
Why these weird blind spots?
It’s time we start fighting for consistency in our individual beliefs. The more we do so, the more we may find we common goal along with our fellow Americans: avoid abusive government power.
The way to avoid this? The Constitution.
The Liberty Belle