Friday, April 03, 2009

Why liberal, why conservative?

I have a hypothesis that the American political system basically reflects an institutional split within the private, or corporate, sector. Republicans are like owners, Democrats are like managers.


1. Republicans as "owners"

Owners tend to be conservative because they are primarily concerned about the bottom line. Their ethos is "individualist" in the mold of the American pioneers. In this sense, they view success as resulting from innate qualities -- fortitude, dedication, work ethic -- as opposed to university or specialized training. Subsequently, they view government as valid only insofar as it defends ownership rights; they do not want anyone else telling them how to run their enterprise.

The Republican Party appeals to voters -- mostly working class -- by inviting them to share in these "values," in large part by conflating industrial or financial ownership with owning a home or car -- in other words, fostering a unitary conception of "private property." This prompts the very people who suffer most from their dependency on wage-work to rally to the defense of their own exploitation whenever the government makes an appearance on the scene: if the rights of "property" are not sacred in the workplace, then surely they will not be honored in the home! Even the most pitiful attempt at industry regulation is portrayed as "creeping socialism" -- not as a public attempt to address public concerns, but as a totalitarian move to confiscate your PlayStation and your rifle for the communal/egalitarian/altruistic/politically correct good of all. In such nonsense the heady careers of many right-wing "personalities" are moored, and the Republican Party continues to induce many of its worst victims to pull the lever on its behalf.

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