Tuesday, March 8, 2011

State Your Allegiance

If we get the culture right, the economy will be right eventually.
Representative Steve King (R-Ohio).
This sounds less like a viable economic plan than it does the sort of "motivated skepticism" that Peter Ditto and David Lopez talk about* - in this particular case the idea seems to be that Liberalism is simply such a destructive force that it must somehow be involved in the recent economic collapse and ongoing malaise. And so the nation becomes more and more polarized.

I've been re-reading The Two Americas recently, and this idea of motivated skepticism fits into the narrative perfectly. The loyalists in both camps are motivated to be skeptical of anything that can be shown to originate with the other party and to be unquestioningly supportive of anything that originates with their own. Not to say that this is all bad - after all, partisanship "is a useful way of organizing our thoughts on policies and politics." Even when it leads people to occasionally flip-flop on the issues. But, as Bouie points out, it helps for us to be honest with ourselves when we're being partisan.

For my part, I'm a non-Republican. I don't really consider myself a Democrat, but I have a tendency to associate Republicans with social, corporate and military policies that I don't care for, and this overwhelms my general alignment with them on fiscal issues. Given a Democrat and Republican both pitching policy arguments at me, I'm usually fairly convinced that neither is being particularly truthful, but I'm more likely to suspect the Republican of attempting to bait and switch me for the benefit of their loyalist constituency. Knowing this, and being willing to be up front about it, I know that I have to careful to examine my immediate reaction to be sure that I'm not simply following a reflex. But I guess I'm okay with being subjective about things. Maybe if more of us were, politicians could afford to confess to their own subjectivity.

* There was a link to a paper from an Ezra Klein column, but it's broken now.


Keifus said...

Yeah, I'm not prepared to give Steve King the slightest bit of credit, but I do think the economy follows culture to a degree. (I suppose both are expressions of human preference and behavior, if you get down to it.) Liberalism's concept of culture is, in fact, more openly about economic outcomes (equality, enfranchisement, and that sort of thing). Conservatism, which pushes a selective bunch of cultural values (perhaps summarized as suburban white America as depicted on TV in 1954, with a little added church for flavor) which, in my opinion, keeps its economic theory as closeted as its sexuality. Or rather, it's likely that the economic theory, if you can be so generous to call it that, is employed to preserve cultural advantage. Mr. Lopez's idea that Liberalism has been correlated with economic malaise seems unsupported by the historical evidence as well as the mission statement. At least when you are inclusive about the implicit for whom.

It's funny. Ten years ago, I was right with you here, which is probably why I tend to blather about it. This was back when I thought that adequate funding for no more policy goals than were really necessary (or agreed-on) was "fiscally conservative" . Or when I could convince myself that business management and finance actually added great value to the economy. Or before I considered that better chances to pursue happiness for more people is a worthwhile social/economic goal in its own right (which if not obtainable in an absolute sense, could certainly be better than it is now--note that this is the justification of conservative economics, which I don't think is supported). I'm rather strongly non-Republican (and also non-Democrat) on these scores too now. Does it mean I just switched over to the liberal paradigm? I don't think so, and I hope it's not just that, but who knows. Agreed on the truthfulness of both sides, of course.

Aaron said...

Whoops - I may have done Messrs. Ditto and Lopez a disservice. I didn't mean to imply that "motivated skepticism" postulated that liberalism and economic malaise went hand-in-hand, but that the correlation, in the minds of conservatives, was an example of the "motivated skepticism" phenomenon.