Elision (OR Time to find a new word?)

October 7, 2008

Marketplace is doing a series of interviews of “average americans” about the economy and politics this week… Today, there’s a story from Nebraska. On the whole, it’s about what you’d expect, the financial crisis is creating worry, and there’s uncertainty about the effectiveness of the bailout. This, from one of the interviewees, jumped out to me, though:

MELISSA: If this is an indication of change that suddenly business is more regulated, if this means more fiscal conservative behavior both on the part of the consumer, and on the part of business, and on the part of the government.

I think I know what she’s saying, but I’m really concerned about this concept of “conservative behavior” and how easily that can be (and sometime is, I’m afraid) elided to “conservative politics” … Conservative politics do not encourage regulation, thus removing rules which generally reign in high-risk business practices. Conservative politics also discourage policies that benefit the poor and middle class, indirectly encouraging them, as consumers, to take more risks (like credit card debt or sub-prime mortgages).

So, do we need to be more “conservative” in the sense that as individuals, organizations, and a country we should be a little more risk-averse? Absolutely. Does that mean that we should elect “fiscal conservatives”? No.

Sliding Scale (OR Characterizations, stereotypes, and insults)

May 23, 2008

First, via The Agonist, a reminder that neither Senator Clinton nor Senator Obama are the extremely liberal politicians the Republican Noise Machine (does this need an acronym to put it in the same class with the MSM?) is making them out to be.

Which brings to mind something I’ve been pondering recently…  I don’t have specific instances in mind, but I’ve been amused by how frequently Democrats are disparaged as “liberal”…  using a descriptor as an insult. OK, there’s nothing new about that…   There’s also nothing new about taking it a step further and referring to Democrat ideas as “socialist” (see socialized medicine). Obviously, socialism carries a much stronger stigma in this country, so it can be an effective slur, even if it is a significant exaggeration.

So, what amuses me is that Democrats don’t return the favor. Why aren’t Republican ideas called “anarchist”? Why does the spectrum stop a libertarian, which can’t really sound bad since it shares the same root as liberty?

But then, Andrew Sullivan points out stuff like this:


In the minority, our job is to [.] make the majority’s life miserable, grinding the House and Senate floors to a halt, and building a narrative of the Democrats as broken and incompetent[.]

This really seems to support the idea that Republicans are in government not to govern but to convince people that governance cannot work. Which makes it completely unsurprising that Republicans continually shy away from “good faith” negotiations. If you hold no faith in the value of government, how can you negotiate any government policy in “good faith”.