Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Macro Vs. Micro Ethics

One of things I chafe at is the conservative claim that liberals have no values or that our values are opposed to those of “Middle America.” The following is from an excellent piece on myths about Liberals and Conservatives on


Family Values Are Revered

Telling someone they are against "family values" is not far from telling them they’re bad parents. Most liberal parents (like most conservatives) spend most of their days thinking not about politics but about how to raise good kids. It’s probably not worthwhile to try to figure out who is better at it but these statistics ought to at least pour cold water on conservative self righteousness on this point: of the 10 states with the
highest divorce rates, ten of them voted for Bush. Of the 10 states with the lowest divorce rates, 9 of them voted for Kerry. And the state with the lowest divorce rate in the nation? Massachusetts.

Waldman does an excellent job of debunking a number of myths that liberals and conservatives have about each other. However, I would argue that liberals live out the very values that conservatives claim to cherish to a greater extent than conservatives. The difference is not who holds stronger values, the issue is whether I feel I have the right to impose those values on others using the force of law rather than by building a consensus. Liberals recognize that we are living in an increasingly pluralistic society. This does not mean that my morals or my family’s morals need to be compromised. It does mean that I must acknowledge and to some extent tolerate the values of others.

Conservative Christians, a group with whom I spend a great deal of time, are angered by the “Godless society” they live in and deep down are even angrier that they cannot make the case for imposing their morality on the rest of society. Culture War is not merely about the encroachment of a Godless Society, Culture War is over conservative Christianity’s failure to make a case for its values.

Moreover, conservatives are obsessed with personal conduct (divorce, abortion, homosexuality) while liberals lament more macro moral issues (hunger, war, injustice). Conservatives seem comfortable with the macro status quo but unsatisfied with the values held by individuals. Liberals take just the opposite view. For each group government seems to hold to key to solving the problem, be it micro ethics or macro morality and here in lies the rub. It is not so much a matter of which tool is to be used so much as a fundamental disagreement on the problems that need to be fixed.


At November 8, 2005 at 8:44 AM, Blogger NoTONoEagles said...

Help Mommy, there are Liberals! underneath my bed!!! (No, seriously, that's the name of the book...) Don't believe me? The dang thing's on Amazon, not some hippie-press bullcrap ;) Anyway, thought you might enjoy, pinko ;)


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