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Among the many opinions about the differences between Conservatives and Liberals, some point to the difference of blaming internal or external causes. “If you were to ask people about the cause of someone’s problems and sufferings (such as homelessness), you will hear two very different explanations.”

If you are a conservative, they point out, you will blame internal causes such as a lack of work ethic, family or religious values, sense of shame, or some other personal weakness.

If you are a liberal, your explanation will likely focus on external causes such as lack of education, oppression, social injustice, or some other influence outside of their control.

The essential conservative point is that interior causes can and MUST be addressed individually. Every person bears an inescapable personal responsibility to work continuously on their internal weaknesses and faults. It is not “success” if someone dragged you to the finish line.
You may seek guidance or it may come unsolicited, but you must walk the walk. A door may be opened to you, but you must enter. Your mother, teacher, minister, psychologist, or warden may point the way, but you have look where they point, set a destination, and keep on faithfully through every obstacle.

Liberals completely accept and internalize this core conservative value. They have individually embraced and fully assimilated the idea that you cause your own suffering and bear your own responsibility to master it. They believe in personal choice and responsibility so fervently that they take it for granted and assume that everybody understands it intuitively.

However, liberals do not believe that a personal failure is the end of the road. They are not comfortable going back to grazing while a predator munches on a weaker or slower neighbor’s carcass. If a member of the herd can be rescued from a hole, if sentries can give an alarm, or if circumstances can be improved, liberals believe that the community should work together to take these actions.

This leaves liberals to work with what remains – external factors. It is not that liberals believe that external factors are the EXCLUSIVE cause of problems and suffering. It is that liberals see external factors as something that they, as a community, have the collective ability and moral responsibility to address. This is called government.

Benjamin Franklin is quoted: “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” Liberals would rather persuade and rehabilitate you than punish you or whip you into submission.

Liberals believe in people’s responsibility to raise themselves up. In fact, they have faith that most people can, and will, better themselves if their burdens are temporarily lightened. But, they would rather offer opportunities such as education, social equality, or a safety net than leave a suffering neighbor torn and bleeding by the roadside.

If we are to ever find a practical approach to building consistently robust, productive, and satisfying communities, we must come to terms with both internal and external problems.

If we blind ourselves to the stereotypical perspectives of either conservatives or liberals we will fall to the tyranny of incomplete solutions to our many problems; we will constantly engage in endless destructive battles of “either/or” when the reality is found in “and/both.”

Originally posted to ChumForThought on Tue May 22, 2012 at 06:21 AM PDT.

Also republished by Psychology of Conservatives and Liberals.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Personally, I think instinct-driven people (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    are people who can't accurately connect cause and effect.  They do not know how and why things happen.  Perhaps it's because they have a poor sense of time and do not perceive events as being linearly connected.

    That individuals are "captains of their own ships," serves as a comfort to people who fear that perhaps their ship is about to think.  Independence is, ironically, a security blanket.  But, since the instinct-driven are entirely responsive to events and don't think ahead, it doesn't really matter.  What will be, will be.
    "Nobody could have expected," is an assertion by a person to whom expectation is a foreign concept. The instinct-driven fear lots of things; they don't have rational expectations. In a sense, they exist in an ineffable present where past, present and future are all one.
    It does all depend on "what the meaning of is is."

    People who can't anticipate the future, naturally prefer things to remain the same.  Creatures of habit do the same thing over and over again.  It's their moving from place to place that makes the outcomes different. Creatures of habit are not likely to change their behavior, only their location. Which is why beavers are easy to trap.

    People to Wall Street: "LET OUR MONEY GO"

    by hannah on Tue May 22, 2012 at 06:55:05 AM PDT

  •  In other words, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DBunn, Wee Mama, SuWho, rubyduby7

    Republicans are more likely to make dispositional attributions whereas Libs are more likely to make situational attributions.

    There's a lot of work by Bob Altemeyer on what he calls "right-wing authoritarian" personalities.  It's pretty interesting reading.  John Jost has also done some interesting work on politics and personality.


    Republicans chap my ass


    by Marc in KS on Tue May 22, 2012 at 06:56:45 AM PDT

  •  Very interesting (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    native, FloridaSNMOM

    I hadn't thought about that before.  That's a helpful way to articulate different (but not necessarily opposite) points of view.   It's always great to discover more tools for productive discussion.  Thanks!

  •  more proof that what RWAs cannot deal with (4+ / 0-)

    is complexity. Everything to them is "either/or". A prime illustration is the RWer on a sports forum I frequent who once said (about immigration reform) "Most problems have simple solutions. This one is simply a problem of law enforcement. Chain, cuff and transport. Arrest them, take them to the border, and tip them over, all in the same day. Problem solved. Next?"

    Whenever I hear the phrase "there are two kinds of people . . ." it's a signal I'm dealing with someone who doesn't think things through, who is unwilling or unable to hash out the implications of their assertions.

    Some of them actually think that if you're currently unemployed you fall into one of only two camps. Either you live up to their ideal, which is not letting one blade of grass grow under your feet. You get up at 4am and start pounding the pavement, approaching every business to see if there are any openings and also knock on every door in the community and ask if you can mow their yard, or do any cleaning or maintenance work on their house. You take one 30-minute lunch break but that's it. You do this at least until 7pm.

    Anything short of this is stealing from taxpayers. You might as well sit on your ass all day scarfing Haggen Daz watching Lifetime or TV land. Such is the life of luxury of someone on food stamps and/or unemployment insurance while the rest of us bust our asses for peanuts.

    There actually are people who think this way.

    liberal bias = failure to validate or sufficiently flatter the conservative narrative on any given subject

    by RockyMtnLib on Tue May 22, 2012 at 08:01:49 AM PDT

    •  Either/Or Black/White (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      One of the points I dwell on is that our psycho-social development proceeds through a predictable series of stages. Each stage accommodates the ability to deal successfully with greater levels of complexity and abstraction.

      Thus, beginning to be uncomfortable with dogmatic polarization on issues can move a conservative to become uncomfortable enough to struggle with nuances and, perhaps, transcend their current way of thinking.

      This is why my early fundamentalist Christian faith insisted that we not read material published by others and that we avoid going to college. We needed to be kept close to our absolutes. They knew that they could lose us if we started to independently examine other ideas.

      I do not see conservative/liberal as polar opposites, but as broad, even overlapping, areas that we can experience if we continue to challenge ourselves and mature.

      •  Sounds a lot like my story (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        David Satterlee

        I followed the RW way in my fundy days because I viewed it  as my "Christian duty" to do so. Even during those days I hated non-thinking dogmatism - such a contradiction. In '94 my mom, dad and I were at a church group gathering where we discussed the ballot and issues in that election. One lady kept saying "tell me how to vote" - and even then that drove me batty.

        During that period I also hated bad arguments used to support a position - even ones I agreed with. That's why I cringed during one Sunday School when a discussion about persecution of Christians was defined broadly as anyone who disagreed with the Christian faith.

        liberal bias = failure to validate or sufficiently flatter the conservative narrative on any given subject

        by RockyMtnLib on Wed May 23, 2012 at 10:00:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  External cause/internal cause (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FloridaSNMOM, rubyduby7

    You are absolutely right, that every personal situation involves both of these. And that the liberal mindset is more apt to recognize both internal and external factors as being causative, while conservatives tend to focus exclusively on the internal. It's an interesting line of thought, thanks for bringing it up.

    I wonder why that is.

    It must be admitted that some liberals, orienting toward Marxist thinking, tend to focus exclusively on external factors. This leads to the either/or fallacy that you mention.

    Related to this is the false dichotomy of whether humanity is essentially good, or essentially evil.

    "Here's another nice mess you've gotten me into." - Oliver Hardy

    by native on Tue May 22, 2012 at 10:02:57 AM PDT

    •  Born selfish vs. Born innocent (0+ / 0-)

      Some believe that humanity was created perfect but that we are fallen from grace, imperfect and thus inherently evil.

      Others believe that we are born pure and unmarked, like a clean slate, open to be molded exclusively by our environment.

      To me, it looks like we are born with the capacity to develop language and social skills. Even an infant quickly learns that fussing often brings attention and comfort.

      Beyond that, our emotions protect and guide us for our own general welfare. They're not always strictly right in every situation, but they'll do for a start.

      Beyond that, our ability to reason allows us to learn how to deal with ever-increasing complexity in our world and relationships.

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