Friday, June 24, 2005

A theory of everything

I've been thinking about this for weeks, years actually, but it's seemed to wonky to post. Now that Kelo has come out in the disgusting way that it did, it seems as good a time as any.

My theory is there is a central characteristic view that divides Democrats and Republicans. It's not merely a constellation of issues (gun control, lower taxes, universal health care) and it's not just one ad hoc issue (e.g., abortion). It's one issue, but it's more fundamental, and it has explanatory power.

But what is it? My nominees have been:

1) whether you believe (which is to say, what is your "best answer") government is inherently good, or inherently bad;
2) whether you believe in individualism or collectivism;
3) whether you believe in property or not.

I think I incline toward (2), but I'm volatile on the topic. I think property (and by that I mean strong property rights, not the Sunstein version, where you have strong property rights up until the point they decide it's good to take them away) is just an offshoot of (2). And (1) is just a specific restatement of the more general (2).

UPDATE: Anonymous writes: [B]oth conservatives and liberals believe in individualism or collectivism, when it suits them. . . . I'm sure down deep both sides are consistent in some way, but they seem to keep changing on the surface.

Columbus Guy responds: Anonymous is more generous than I am. I'm not sure they're consistent deep down; I'd rather suspect not. But anonymous makes a good point; the conservative case for morals laws is a hard one, which, while not quite the same as saying it's a weak one, does present problems in terms of systematic justifications.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The trouble is both conservatives and liberals believe in individualism or collectivism, when it suits them. Liberals favor, or used to favor, individual rights when it comes to civil liberties, whereas conservatives had no trouble with everyone being judged by the same moral standard in the bedroom. Meanwhile, conservatives tend to prefer individual rights over heavy regulation when it came to private property.

I'm sure down deep both sides are consistent in some way, but they seem to keep changing on the surface.

7:49 AM, June 24, 2005  
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