May 15, 2003

Why is there a Left?

If the Right is Right, Why is there a Left Left?
May, 2003

"Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself."
-Milton Friedman In Capitalism and Freedom

This is the crucial difference between conservatives and liberals. Liberals believe in government control and limits on choice as means of guaranteeing a minimum level of financial prosperity for some. Conservatives believe this sacrifices moral and cultural strength for all. Conservatives believe that freedom and individual choice, in the absence of government coercion, are the key ingredients to financial, cultural, and moral prosperity. For example, conservatives oppose a liberal welfare state not because it squanders resources on those that are dependent, but because it creates dependency in the first place. It replaces individual responsibility and reward with rights and award.

Conservative philosophies are very common in the United States. At least half of the country would lean toward freedom and conservatism when contemplating the quote and commentary above. But why, conservatives ask, wouldn’t everyone agree with such logic?

Core Beliefs

There will always be people with fundamentally different core beliefs about freedom, responsibility, and human nature. People have different experiences, cultures, and educations. You can’t prove the true nature of humans.

Most Conservatives agree there will always be a role for government to provide, for example, economic safety nets. The question is, where should the line be drawn between safety and freedom? The correct place for that line can never be proven. But it seems that many believe the line should be drawn too far into area of liberal ideals.

Heart vs. Mind

Someone said that if you’re a young conservative, you have no heart, but if you’re an old liberal, you have no brain. [1] This assumes that, as people go through the learning process of life -- making friends, going to college, taking economics courses, listening to grandparents, working, raising children, reading books, etc. -- they are supposed to realize that liberal answers to questions, although seemingly more sensitive or caring when initially offered, are actually less justified by facts, logic, and thoughtful analysis. Therefore, things that feel right in the heart when young and ingenuous are actually found to be wrong when life’s long lessons are applied. If this pithy statement is true, as conservatives like to believe, then why are there old, educated liberals? This paper examines why conservatism can’t seem to reach the hearts and minds of everyone as they go through life, and shows that the existence of liberals over 20 years of age may be due to a variety of structural problems in our society and the way ideas are communicated.

Structural Political Barriers

Many people are liberal, or at least support liberal politicians, because they are protected by the structure created by liberal politics. The unholy alliance between unions and politicians is a good example. Union members are forced to pay dues that help elect democratic politicians. Democrats, therefore, support unions. Unions use their powerful leverage to force corporations into providing high wages. Union workers who quit the union and go to work in a non-union job face a lower income dictated by the market. How can a young autoworker ever break out this liberal lock on his political beliefs? Those deriving such benefits from the union labor structure supported by liberals are unlikely to become conservative. But it is possible. In 1984, the “Reagan Democrats”, largely Midwest union workers, voted for Reagan and his conservative philosophies despite being economically tied to the Democratic Party. They were shown a stark enough contrast between liberalism and conservatism to actually vote conservatively and risk destabilizing the liberal structure that supports them. But it doesn’t happen often. The structure is too fixed.

The Lure of Politics

“A Democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of Government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that Democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy.”
-Alexander Fraser Tytler on the decline and fall of the Athenian Republic

When political representatives form unholy alliances like the one between unions and politicians, this danger becomes apparent. By supporting liberal causes, politicians appear to help people, like the autoworker, but clearly this same support also helps them get elected and remain in power. Liberals claim that their noble goals are to help the poor and raise their standard of living. If this were true, and they were successful, the poor would become wealthy and, most likely, conservative. The structural ties between liberals and their political supporters perpetuate the liberals’ existence, and their existence defines their failure.

If, as Tytler states, “the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits,” it follows that to have a better chance of being elected, it makes sense to be a liberal. All politicians seek to channel government attention and spending to their constituents. But liberal politicians, because they are on the side of both government largess and government largeness, are clearly more susceptible to promising “the most benefits from the public treasury” to their constituents in order to maintain the most public power. Therefore, the existence of liberal politicians, even educated ones, can be explained by the fact that liberal policies provide a means of obtaining power, influence, and a pretty good job. Did Hillary Clinton run for Senate to help the good people of her home state, or did she find a home state with good people that could help her gain political power?


Institutions and long-standing structures perpetuate liberal beliefs. Perhaps because of the lack of underlying strength in the core of liberal philosophies, there is some inherent inflexibility when it comes to accepting conservative answers when the heart starts to give way to the brain. One Washington insider commented that liberals “seem to feel that people who don't accept whatever they say as true must be dumb, mean or pathologically misguided.” [2] In doing research for this paper, it became clear that there was much more writing from conservatives trying to understand liberals than the converse. Could this intolerance be due to the fact that for them, liberalism has become a sort of secular religion, so to change would require a difficult challenge to their faith?

Liberals build institutions. Institutions have a way of fighting for their lives just as a living organism does. Once the trough is there and people are feeding, it becomes impossible to take away. And institutions, like other living things, seek to expand their turf. Many of the “great society” ideas have been proven failures, but the programs are perpetuated even today. Liberals will continue to exist and will unlikely become conservative when their belief system is supported by indestructible institutions that also support them in other ways.


Many life experiences influence people to become more conservative. Having a child makes one more likely to be in favor of school choice. Pregnancy itself with its accompanying ultrasounds and fetal development books makes many people less supportive of abortion rights. The science, statistics, and hard math of economics courses are strong persuaders of the reality of concepts like “dead weight loss” and “market inefficiency” that argue powerfully for conservative theories against government involvement in society. But some people do not have the necessary amount of educational experiences for these lessons to sink in. So age does not necessarily make someone a conservative. The old liberal may still be relying only on the heart. There are many people that never go to college, have children, or have to struggle to work hard to survive. They have different life experiences. Hollywood entertainers come immediately to mind.


It is true that many popular actors, singers, and other entertainers are not college-educated. And the few that are usually studied performing arts rather than science, economics or politics. Entertainers live in world that requires them to create fantasy and pays them incredible amounts of money to do it. They don’t have the same struggles and real-life learning experiences that mold other people into rational, logical humans. They are therefore more likely to make political choices based less on thorough analysis. It’s amazing that they get involved in politics at all. There are entire cable channels dedicated to showing the personal fiascos of singers and Hollywood actors. It’s strange that they volunteer so much advice about how to run the country when so many of them can’t run their own lives.

Author Jack Wheeler suggests that the reason Hollywood actors are liberal is due to ‘liberal guilt.” He writes, “The vast amounts of money movie stars make is so grossly disproportionate to the effort it took them to make it that they feel it is unearned. So they apologize for it. The liberal's strategy is to apologize for his success in order to appease the envious. Liberalism is thus not a political ideology or set of beliefs. It is an envy-deflection device, a psychological strategy to avoid being envied.” [3]

Whether it’s envy deflection or lack of education, Hollywood actors are definitely more liberal, and also noisy about their liberal beliefs. Conservative thought requires analysis. Artists are not analytical. They think with the right side of the brain, and end up on the left, with simplistic answers to complex questions.


The education of liberals is further restricted by a lack of appropriate means to educate. It used to be that wisdom was passed from the old to the young – thus the shift from the heart to the brain. Unfortunately, in this age there is a glut of unreliable information available – Internet chat, dubious school teachers, biased university professors, MTV “news”, and the noise from the above-mentioned Hollywood liberals. People now learn less from parents, knowledgeable adults, and good books. Therefore, intelligence does not sink into the minds of some people today. They stumble through life making political choices based on their heart, and never reach the point where the brain kicks in.

Bias in the Media?

Most people agree the media is biased toward liberal philosophies. I have done extensive research on the reporting of AP and Reuters and have found clear liberal bias. CNN is often so blatantly liberal and anti-American that even left-of-center viewers cringe at the commentary. The New York Times often appears to have more in common with cold war editions of Pravda than mainstream US papers. During the 2000 election, many caught NPR commentators lamenting the fact that Bush was ahead in some states, then professing “hope” that Gore might actually have chance to win Florida. [4] There are many documented studies on bias in the media. [5]

The Conservative Catch-up Problem

But media bias is not what this is paper is about. Since bias is subjective, it is difficult for any study to prove that the media are biased. And it becomes increasingly hard to claim bias when Fox News has grown into the most popular news source, talk radio has united a large, but previously fragmented audience, and independent, conservative Internet sites (such as, have proliferated on the Web.

So let’s assume for argument’s sake that media bias isn’t to blame for the existence of so many liberals. I believe that there is actually a natural, structural liberal bias in any story before the story even gets to the media. The media may put a liberal spin on stories, but it can be shown that many stories are doomed to be spun in a liberal manner whether they are intentionally spun or not. This is because it is actually difficult to spin conservative philosophies in an attractive way.

I call this the “conservative catch-up” problem. For issues to be seen in a conservative light, some catching up is needed. Liberal perspectives on issues sound better at first glance. Conservative perspectives require more analysis, longer explanations, deeper thought, and longer-term perspectives. News stories, especially on television, are short and usually devoid of any analysis or long-term perspective. There is usually no time to catch up once a first impression has been made. That would require more than a sound bite on MTV or a bumper sticker. It requires an ability to look past what sounds “cool” and fully evaluate what is actually right or best in the long run.

Below are some examples of some issues and the longer-term, more complex answers required by conservatives to justify their viewpoint on them:

- Liberals: Government should provide more money for the homeless.
- Conservatives: Government should provide incentives to decrease dependency, rather than short-term fixes that actually result in continued dependency. Charitable individuals should feel free to provide more money for the homeless.

Workers rights
- Liberals: Support workers in unions to get a “fair” share of the pie.
- Conservatives: Support the free market’s ability to grow the pie for workers and everyone else too by sending accurate signals to businesses and efficiently allocating capital and resources.

- Liberals: We should strive for world peace now!
- Conservatives: Peace now would be great, but lasting future peace would be even better. Peace is achieved through strength, not through easy, conciliatory gestures to proven enemies. The costs and benefits of near-term peace must be weighed against those of long-term security, which can be gained, for example, by going to war against a dictator with years of documented proven efforts to produce WMDs, torture and murder his citizens, and support terrorism.

Affirmative Action
- Liberals: Support affirmative action efforts because it repairs past damages, corrects for imbalances in opportunity, and increases diversity.
- Conservatives: Although the goals of affirmative action may be noble, they don’t work in practice. In college admissions, for example, it helps groups that can’t claim past damages, while hurting others not in any way responsible for the damages. It fails to correct for imbalances in opportunity by focusing on race, rather than income, the most accurate indicator of educational opportunity. And it increases diversity only of appearances and color of skin, not of ideas, which is what an academic institution should be diversifying. [6]

Both liberals and conservatives agree on the need to solve social problems. [7] But the liberal solutions invariably appear to be more sincere, only because, without careful analysis, they sound better. They may be shortsighted, but they sound good. And when you’re an actor, a singer, a university student, a hip new author, a Senator on a talk show, or a debutant newscaster, you want to sound good. You want to sound cool. So, the reason conservatism doesn’t always seem cool isn’t because it’s wrong, but because it doesn’t sound cool. It’s rational and it’s logical, but it just doesn’t provide for cool cocktail or fraternity party conservation. For conservatives to educate young liberals, there is a lot of catching up to do from the starting point.

Even liberal academic theories can sound cooler. Why are there educated, Marxist professors? Because communist theories look great on paper: everyone is taken care of, capital is shared by the working class, etc. It looks good theoretically, but in reality, these theories have been shown to fail because they ignore the human elements of self-reliance, free agency, individuality, and the rewards for risk.

So maybe liberals don’t control the media. Maybe it’s just much easier for news to be spun with the liberal viewpoint because on the surface, liberal philosophies sound better and make more attractive headlines. A child always thinks candy before dinner sounds good, but maturity and education teach otherwise. So a story written by a journalist without rigorous analytical skills will be inherently biased toward liberal philosophies, even if the journalist isn’t biased. And any political opinion shared in a 30-second Academy Award acceptance speech by an uneducated actor is doomed to be a simplistic sound bite that only fits into the simplistic liberal viewpoint. The orchestra would start playing long before even the shortest summary of Friedrich von Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom.”

Of course, the problem isn’t always caused by innocent or misinformed agents of the media. Politicians have figured out the converse of this theory and exploit it wildly. It is so much cooler to fight against mean-sounding imaginary enemies than to stand up for sound economic policies like tax cuts or reduction in public spending.

The “rich” have long been a target of liberal politicians working the campaign trail. A recent letter I received from my Democratic representative in Congress arguing against a tax cut stated that, “proposing a plan which gives 82% of taxpayers an average tax cut of $31 while awarding the top 2% a tax break of $27,097 is unfair and fiscally irresponsible.” [8] At first glance that does sound terrible! It would be mean and “uncool” to think otherwise. But looking past the deceptive use of statistics and evaluating the data from the conservative viewpoint leads one to realize that the reason the dollar amount of the break received by the top 2% is so large is that the share they pay in taxes is even larger relative to their tax break. This proposed tax cut is actually a progressive tax cut. It gives the poor a larger benefit than the rich! But even though it helps the poor more (a supposed liberal ideal), it is a tax cut, and therefore takes money out of government and weakens the power structure liberals rely upon. And it provides for great sound bites that, on the surface, make the politician sound like she is doing her job. By avoiding deep analysis of the issue and relying on short-term perspectives, she sounds cooler, nicer, more caring, and coincidentally, more liberal.

It’s amazing any conservative ever gets elected who wants to:

- Reduce taxes on the rich (the ones that create jobs and grow the economy for everyone and, by the way, pay much higher percentage tax burdens currently)
- Support the building of killer nuclear weapons and missile defense systems (to ensure lasting peace through strength)
- Reform the social security system that seniors depend on (so that the government can provide for the hundreds of millions who will get nothing in the future if the current flawed system doesn’t get fixed)
- Weaken the unions that support working families (and that also cause inefficiencies in the economy, higher prices of goods for all, lower economic growth, lower national competitiveness, lower quality education, and lower self-esteem for employees)
- Cut funding for the department of education that supports our children’s schools (even though the department has done nothing meaningful throughout it’s existence, despite spending billions of tax-payers money).
- Fight against women’s right to choose (to end the life of a baby developing in the womb, to potentially suffer from pain and remorse, and further deteriorate society’s dwindling respect for human life and the power to create life, and morality in general)

How could anyone elect such a cruel politician that cares about the rich and nuclear weapons, but not working families, children, and women? They couldn’t, unless they understood the deeper, longer-term concepts described in the parenthesis in each bullet point.

Case Study

To summarize, let’s examine an issue that gets a lot of press and raises interesting questions about liberal motivations. This is the case of Augusta National Golf Club (ANGC) and the challenge against their right to maintain a male-only membership. The argument against ANGC is summarized on a special web site set up by the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO):

“While ANGC may be within the law in discriminating against women (Augusta’s claim has not been tested in court, and clubs making similar arguments have lost their cases), the NCWO believes the club has a moral obligation to open its doors to women. When a club such as Augusta holds a very public event and figuratively invites the world into its living room, and that event is broadcast on the public airwaves, it has by its own choice become a de facto public facility. We believe it has a moral obligation to abide by the standards of the public at large. And the public standards of America as a nation, and of its people, are clearly opposed to discrimination.” [9]

Is this justification supported by sincere analysis? Or is this a good example of the way irrational liberal causes creep into society because of the problems outlined in this paper.

Is it possible that this whole cause is motivated by the following?
- Political incentives – NCWO gets lots of attention, press, airtime, and potential increases in membership and power with this issue.
- Intransigence – Once an initial letter of protest was sent to ANGC, there was no turning back and the snowball could not be stopped, even when their legal and logical arguments are found to be flawed.
- Lack of education – NCWO seems to have serious deficiencies in their legal knowledge, and less serious, but important deficiencies in their understanding of the game of golf.
- Bias and noise in the media – Why would a self-respecting media source give this ridiculous story any airtime or print space (other than the fact that they really are biased )?[10] The answer is that it is just the type of issue that sounds good in a sound bite or headline. It attracts young students and Hollywood actors to marches. It sells papers.
- The conservative catch-up problem – It sounds cool (and nice, and caring) to say that greedy, wealthy corporate CEOs should not be allowed to have an expensive, exclusive private club of their own that discriminates against women. It’s hard to argue against that without a chance to discuss economic theories and constitutional law. But there is a clear argument against it.

There are several flaws in the NCWO’s arguments that shows that their cause is not based on a solid ground, but rather, on the typical flawed liberal political justifications mentioned above.

First of all, where is the poor group of women who want to join the club? Or, for that matter, where are the rich, successful women trying to join the club? Is Carly Fiorina, CEO of HP, supporting this cause and hoping to get into the club? Of course not. She has better things to do with her life. The NCWO is not representing a group of struggling women. They initiated this cause on their own, and without a base of support. It appears their only motivation is to benefit the leadership of their organization. [11]

Is there a legal justification for this cause? As the NCWO admits, there is not. There are no laws against male-only clubs because that would be unconstitutional. It goes against the document that is the foundation of the entire political and governmental structure of our country. To rule against the constitution in this matter would not secure freedom and rights for a small, imaginary group of women. On the contrary, it would restrict the rights and freedom of everyone else in the country.

There is no rational justification for this cause. This is not a case of a group of men who discriminate. The NCWO’s own website admits this. The site explains that the NCWO is confused because the companies these men lead have set some of the most aggressive anti-discrimination policies in the world. The more clear evidence of discrimination in this case is the NCWO’s apparent bias against rich men. The members of Augusta are not greedy, despicable criminals. They are some of the most accomplished, respected professionals in the world. They have worked hard to create wealth and value in this country and are enjoying the fruits of their work, sacrifice, risk, and success. One irony is that without the companies these men built, and the corporate policies they enforce, many women would be without jobs and without the resources to golf anywhere.

NCWO’s final desperate argument is “morality.” They claim it is immoral for a group of men to form a club that only admits men. Immoral? Well, they explain, it’s not immoral just because they have the club. It’s immoral because they host a tournament once a year at the club that happens to be on television. A private club on television is immoral. Is there a clear argument here? Anywhere? Since there is no clear basis for this cause, could there be other motivations?

It’s tough to be a conservative and fight for individual freedoms. It takes a lot of explaining that most people don’t have the time or intellectual curiosity to follow. Once an issue is out there, on the news, on the bumper stickers, on talk shows, sound bites, and in the chitchat of college students and Hollywood actors, it requires a lot of catching up to counter the momentum reached by a story like this.


Basic core belief will never change. Some people have life experiences that lead them to doubt the strength and ability of people to govern themselves and reap the rewards of personal responsibility. I believe conservative philosophies are correct philosophies and if implemented in society, will result in greater growth, wealth, morality, and happiness for all. I think that freedom and responsibility are more important than safety and control. But you can’t argue opinions. What you can argue, and show clear evidence of, is that the influence of and understanding of conservative philosophies suffers from misinformation, lack of education, structural impediments, and from the “conservative catch up problem” and resulting natural bias toward liberal viewpoints.

james @

[1] This quote is usually inaccurately attributed to Churchill. According to "Nice Guys Finish Seventh: False Phrases, Spurious Sayings, and Familiar Misquotations" by Ralph Keyes, 1992, the earliest known version of this quote is attributed to mid-nineteenth century historian and statesman François Guizot, but variations on this theme have been attributed (correctly and incorrectly) to Disraeli, Shaw, Churchill, and Bertrand Russell.
[2] Richard Bennett, former employee of the World Bank, US Senate, and other institutions inside Washington, D.C.
[3] Jack Wheeler, “ARISTOTLE AND THE TENTH COMMANDMENT – Envy, the key to success or failure of a nation”, 6/4/2001. In fact, Wheeler believes that envy and fear of envy explain most flawed political philosophies. “Nazism preached race-envy toward "rich exploitative Jews"; Communism preaches class-envy toward "rich exploitative bourgeois"; Moslem terrorism preaches culture-envy toward "the rich exploitative West." Liberal children of conservative wealthy businessmen are great examples of this. They assume a posture of liberal compassion as an envy-deflection device: "Please don't envy me for my family’s money -- look at all the liberal causes and government social programs I advocate!" Teddy Kennedy is the archetype of this phenomenon.”
[4] Yes, hope is in quotes. Upon hearing that the vote count in Florida was still uncertain, the liberal NPR reporter said, “So there is still hope for Gore to win”
[5] One of the most comprehensive surveys of the public's general opinion of the media was done in 1997 by the Pew Research Center for The People & The Press, formerly known as the Times Mirror Center for the People and the Press. This research compared poll results from the mid-1980s with the late-1990s, (using identical questions) and determined a growing percentage of the public realize the media are biased. This information was also reported in the MRC's April 1997 MediaWatch. Also see “Bias” by Bernard Goldberg, a clear, first-hand account of the lock the liberals have on the media.
[6] This clear analysis on the flaws of otherwise good intentions of affirmative action is from an article by Jaewon “Samuel” Kang and David Yau in The Stanford Daily, February 28th, 2003.
[7] More examples:
Kids vs. Taxes
It’s easier to sell a tax hike “for kid’s lunches” than a tax break “to put money back in rich people’s pockets” when in reality it puts money back in everyone’s pockets because you cut out the dead weight loss of government bureaucracy, leaving more wealth for all kids. Kids should get lunch from responsible parents. If the government really needs to provide a lunch that parents fail to provide, then some other inefficient government program needs to be cut. Taxes don’t need to be raised for it!
Business/Health Care
Liberals: Everybody needs a new prescription drug benefit, subsidized and regulated by the government!
Conservatives: Let’s give pharmaceutical companies the incentives they need to develop drugs that help people. And let’s give the taxpayers the funds they need to give these companies the proper market signals on which drugs they value and what should be produced, not let the government decide. May not sound nice, but it works out better for everyone.
Tolerance and morality
Liberal - Call it hate if not someone does not give total acceptance of any behavior.
Conservative – It’s not hate to support “moral” institutions or ideas that you believe are good for society as a whole (for example, the Boy Scouts’ desire to maintain an organization of heterosexual boys and leaders). It is not cool to talk in terms of evil, morality, and right and wrong. For example, James Q. Wilson writes in National Review, “Even now, when the dangers of drug abuse are well understood, many educated people still discuss the drug problem in almost every way except the right way. They talk about the 'costs' of drug use and the 'socioeconomic factors' that shape that use. They rarely speak plainly -- drug use is wrong because it is immoral, and it is immoral because it enslaves the mind and destroys the soul. It is as if it were a mark of sophistication for us to shun the language of morality in discussing the problems of mankind." (quoted by Thomas Sowell)
[8] From a letter from Anna Eshoo, US Representative from California's 14th Congressional District.
[9] National Council of Women’s Organizations from (parenthesis in original quote, not added)
[10] Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Steyn's reports that the New York Times has published 95 articles on the "controversy" over the Augusta National golf club's men-only admissions policy. The high number of stories about such an important issue compares to a interestingly low number of people that actually showed up to protest the event – at most 40.
[11] It recalls the H.L. Mencken quote, “One hears that the women of the United States are up in arms about this or that; the plain fact is that eight #!* women, meeting in a hotel parlor, have decided to kick up some dust.”

Posted by james at May 15, 2003 01:02 AM