May 08, 2003

Architects of castles in the air

Michael J. Totten writes on the difference between conservatives and liberals. Fine article, many truths, yadda yadda. There's just one problem: his concept of liberals as "builders" vs. conservatives as "preservers."

I don't have a problem with the latter: I also have this idea of the stereotypical conservative as being rather like the Old Took holed up in his increasingly shabby hobbit hole, "...a huge place, where the furniture has never been moved or changed for generations."1 But the idea of liberals as "builders" makes me want to laugh. Most liberals, or the people calling themselves such, certainly like to think of themselves as builders (they'd probably say "architects of the future" or something grand-sounding like that). But they are builders in the way my dad was handy around the house.

I will illustrate: we lived in an old (for Miami) house that my father was always tinkering with, "fixing" stuff. That was why the place I grew up in was always falling apart -- that and the termites. One day they decided to turn our little-used dining room into a bedroom for me. I wanted bookshelves, so my father bought some planks and nailed them to the wall. There was no fitting, no brackets, none of that stuff. After a few years, I was propping up the lower shelves with old encyclopedias, and every once in a while I had to hammer some of the shelves back in place. They sagged in the middle (where I had run out of old encyclopedias). And so on.

What liberals are is a high-caste version of the "idea man" of Madison Avenue fame. They sit around in taverns and classrooms making up grand schemes to improve the world, plans that work out great on paper but are easily defeated by the real world much as my bookshelves were defeated by gravity.

In the meantime, while the liberals are fucking up in grand style and the conservatives (like me) are huddling behind their piles of moldy books containing millions of facts that liberals are too busy to deal with, the bulk of humanity that is neither one nor the other -- the ordinary folk that all the liberals are so busy trying to "help" and all the conservatives are eyeing with suspicion -- are actually doing the stuff that needs to be done. Neither ideological group likes the ordinary people very much, because they aren't really interested in the Important Things, like politics and ideology and arguing over same. (I think this is why many conservatives, and most liberals, hate George W. Bush. He's one of the ordinary, not-interested-in-your-philosophy, do-stuff people who somehow made good and got put in charge. That's not supposed to happen.)

1. The Two Towers.

Posted by Andrea Harris at May 8, 2003 12:59 AM

I have to say that conservatives are builders, doers in my experience. Liberals get wars started, conservatives end them. Iraq is a problem, conservatives fix it. In my church liberals raise money and send it off to never-never land, conservatives go on work tours, do habitat for humanity, set up third world health care and libraries and schools.

Posted by: Will at May 8, 2003 at 10:35 AM

Totten's just making a common mistake, trying to understand present-day American political labels in terms of their classical definitions that might still have some relevance in Old Europe.

Posted by: Kevin McGehee at May 8, 2003 at 12:27 PM

Isn't it funny; liberals think of themselves as "builders". Well, I guess they have to do something with all the tax dollars they steal from us.

All the crap we pay for got started in the 60's when LBJ was President and Congress was controlled by the Dems. They pushed through LBJ's "Great Society" legislation. We are STILL paying for it and being told by the libs that we haven't spent enough money to make it really work. I don't know about you, but my working until LATE MAY just to pay off Washington makes me angry. Yeah, they "built" a way to take my money.

Posted by: BillH at May 8, 2003 at 11:10 PM

BillH: If you want to reduce the amount of taxes you pay, I think you should be more concerned with how the U.S. defense budget is 17 percent of the total. And how the current administration has managed to turn a national surplus into a $6.4 trillion debt. And who do you think will be paying for Bush's planned tax cuts on dividends? You will.

Posted by: Adam at May 9, 2003 at 10:45 AM


Why in the world should I be concerned about the defense budget being 17% of total Federal spending?

After all, the largest portion of governmental spending goes to entitlement programs and debt servicing, so if I want to worry about future deficits, it'll be in the areas of paying for the baby boomers. (We retired a fair bit of debt under Clinton, so debt servicing is actually less worrisome than, say, in the 1980s.)

More importantly, defense spending (i.e., the provision of defense) is necessary and a duty of the Federal government. And a good military, such as we saw in Iraq, is a VERY expensive thing. The only thing more expensive is a SECOND-rate military---b/c it's expensive AND useless.

Posted by: Dean at May 9, 2003 at 11:31 AM

Well, I agree with Adam about being concerned over defense being 17% of federal spending.

That's way too low.

Posted by: Kevin McGehee at May 9, 2003 at 06:32 PM

And I'll echo that -- 17%! Damn, is that all?

Posted by: Andrea Harris at May 9, 2003 at 09:33 PM