Monday’s Mtg, Part II: Conservative Versus Liberal Principles

Well, this meeting may test our commitment to the moniker, “Civilized Conversation.”  Yet, I believe we have to face politics honestly, and the rightward drift of the Republican Party is, IMO, the most important development in our polt=itical system in decades.  Conservatives have adopted both a more conservative set of policy preferences and a philosophy of total opposition and politics-as-warfare.   Whether this is truly conservative (versus radical) is a matter of debate (see first link).  Liberal priorities have not changed very much, but the Democratic Party has moved somewhat leftward in recent years, after decades of moving towards the center.  They, too have adopted a more partisan and combative tone and operating style.  So,  what’s the point in comparing the principles of two such polar opposite philosophies?

I think the value is in exploring what political and social principles lie behind conservatism and liberalism.  As we’ve discussed many times, many of the values are inherently in opposition.  But, surely not all of them.  Even if they are, there is still value in understanding why the other side believes what it believes.

This group does not need a long lecture from me on what conservative and liberal (or, at least, Republican and Democratic) policy priorities are.  If after all these years of listening to me, you can’t tick off the top five goals the GOP has pursued in recent years (lower taxes on the wealthy, privatizing government health care programs, abortion restrictions, etc.) or those of liberals (universal health care, strengthening labor unions’ power, public investment, et. al.), then I probably should just give up show business.  But, I will briefly list a few for the purpose of illustrating the different political and social values (and assumptions about how the world works) that might lie behind them.  We may find the two sides have somewhat more in common than it seems, and we may even find that the other side is more different from us than, you know, evil or something.

Reminder:  Let’s make sure to be on our best behavior at our new location.


  1. What have been the policy priorities of liberals and conservatives in recent years?  Which ones have they valued most when tradeoffs had to be be made?
  2. Why these priorities?  What political and social values are behind these preferences? What assumptions do liberals and conservatives make about:
    • What the country’s problems are and what is causing them?
    • The value, proper role, and limitations of private markets?
    • The value, role, and limitations of government?
    • The responsibilities that Americans have to one another?
    • The necessity of political compromise and respect for democratic institutions and norms?
  3. Is there any common ground, at least among regular people, if not among the most political active/elites?
  4. How can [insert your side] appeal to the other side by appealing to their values and assumptions, regardless of whether you share them?

LINKS –  Less civil than usual, but I don’t know what else to do.

See you at Coco’s 10430 Friars.


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