Making an Ass out of U and Me

Over at Transterrestrial Musings, Rand Simberg makes an excellent point bouncing off my earlier post about Mike Huckabee and his conservatism, or lack thereof. Regarding a Huckabee quote in which he said that it was disgusting for corporations to give their executives bonuses while workers are taking pay cuts, Simberg said:

The assumption is that the purpose of a corporation is not to reward its owners (a base foundation of capitalism), but to provide well-paid jobs for employees. Now one can argue (though not convincingly, at least to me) that that should be the purpose of a corporation, but to do so is one of the farthest things from economic conservatism.

When it comes down to it, the differences between conservatives and liberals are all about assumptions, and I don’t just mean the conservative assumption that liberals are dumb and the liberal assumption that conservatives are evil. The two sides believe different things because they’re coming at subjects from entirely different directions. In the case of corporations, a conservative would assume, very dryly and rationally, that they exist as a legal entity in order to provide a profit for their shareholders. A liberal would assume, not so dryly and completely irrationally, that they exist to provide jobs and health care for workers, and profit is just something unpleasant that comes out in the process, like car exhaust.

A false assumption can result from ignorance, and I think that often liberals believe liberal things because they are profoundly undereducated in the ways of economics and business. (I’ll never forget when a company I was working for went public, and one of my very liberal co-workers told me she thought that they should take the proceeds from the stock offering and divide them equally among the employees. I laughed, and then I stared at her when she didn’t laugh. It took me a minute to realize she was serious. She was very nice, and seemed comfortable in her little world, so I didn’t point out that, not only would her plan quickly lead to the demise of the company we worked for, but it would also cause us all to be hauled off to jail by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Otherwise, good idea.) But more often than not, I think false assumptions about details result from false assumptions about the big picture.

What I mean by that is this: there are people who believe that the natural order of things is to have peace and happiness and prosperity, and the only reason it’s ever any different is because evil men conspire to take it from us. The people who believe this will be liberals, and this overarching assumption will guide their assumptions about everything else.

On the other hand, there are people who believe that the natural state of man is fear, chaos, and want, and the only reason that is ever any different is because great people take bold action to change it. People who are guided by this fundamental assumption will act as conservatives.

So, getting back to Mike Huckabee and anyone else whose political leanings are in doubt, if you really want to know what policies they support, check those assumptions. Do they think happiness just falls out of the sky, or do they think it’s something that has to be achieved? That’ll tell you.

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