A different perspective

November 18, 2012

I have read a few articles and blog posts analyzing the recent election results, though not many.These analyses, whether written from the viewpoint of the liberals or conservatives, tend to identify one or two deciding factors, and to that extent are probably oversimplifying things. People voted the way they did for a lot of different reasons, from ideological convictions to emotional responses to campaign messages to outright ignorance about the people they were voting for (or against).

Much of it has to do with whether Republicans – some prominent ones anyway – put too much emphasis on social issues as opposed to economic issues. Both before and after the election, one of the most common arguments I heard (admittedly in contexts where most people were both social and economic conservatives) was that there is a much higher urgency to dealing with economic issues than social issues. This blog post is a good example of this viewpoint.

This blog post (from several years ago), written from the point of view of the Left, sees economic conservatism as not only distinct from but actually in opposition to social conservatism. I think this blogger is mistaken in believing that the goal of social conservatives “is to expand, enhance, and reinforce the private power of white Christian men over everyone else in whatever relationships they have, social or economic.” But the tension between economic and social conservatism does show up in some areas, such as whether or to what extent to regulate pornography, as argued by this blog post.

A lengthy article I read today at First Things, however, offers a much different perspective. According to Robert George, economic and social conservatism are both rooted in the same principles. A healthy society, he says, rests on respect for the human person, the institution of the family, and a fair and effective system of law and government. Typically discussions of economic issues focus only on the last one, but George argues that a healthy economy needs people of good moral character, which depends on the first two characteristics.

I’ll have to think more about the implications of his argument in terms of public policy, but it’s worth thinking about.

Articles worth reading

October 20, 2012

I hadn’t visited First Thoughts recently, between Internet problems, being busy with work and church, and not feeling well lately. But I stopped by this morning and found links to two excellent articles.

Putting Health in Perspective” addresses the issue of healthcare from the perspective of what priority we put on health compared to other aspects of life. All the debates about healthcare (so prominent in the current political climate), Yuval Levin points out, focus on how to make the system more efficient, but share the assumption that health is an overriding priority.

Our society – not just in the U.S. but modern Western society in general – values freedom from pain very highly. I remember, when I was young, reading about people who did not take aspirin for a headache unless it was very severe, and being astonished that anyone would put up with pain if there were an easy way to avoid it.

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Reading the newspaper – on paper

January 4, 2012

For the last several years, I have gotten my news – and analysis of the news – largely by means of the internet. I read articles and columns at the websites of newspapers and magazines, I visit blogs, and I scan the headlines of news stories listed by my ISP. But the past several days, I have been unable to do this due to technical difficulties.

This time the problem isn’t with my ISP, it’s with my home computer. After a few years of it getting increasingly slow and unreliable, it finally became unusable. (I will find out the diagnosis tomorrow; my guess is that it’s not worth fixing.) So today after work I nabbed the day’s copy of the Wall Street Journal from the lobby on my way out the door. (Unless someone claims it, it will just end up in the trash.)

I often read WSJ articles online, but as many are for subscribers only, my selection of articles to read is quite limited. Having participated in the Iowa caucus yesterday evening, I was particularly interested in reading news and analysis about it. I found a good deal of worthwhile reading, and started wondering how much I have missed out on by limiting myself to those articles I can read online.

The first one I read was “Iowa Voters Split On Electability, Core GOP Values.” It’s all about choosing between principles and pragmatism – something that I have struggled with a lot as I considered who to vote for in the caucus yesterday. Do I select the candidate whose views I share most closely, or the one with the best chance of actually getting the nomination, and possibly winning the election?

I used to opt for pragmatism, then decided in 2008 that pragmatism resulted in electing politicians who either shared few of the principles I considered important, or gave them lip service but disregarded them in practice. I might opt for pragmatism again in the 2012 election, but it depends who the eventual Republican candidate turns out to be.

After last night a lot of people are assuming it will be Mitt Romney. And a lot of people are hoping it will be – including the people I shared a table with at the caucus yesterday evening, and the employee in the computer store where I took my PC for troubleshooting. One reason given by many who favor Romney is that he has experience running a business, not just as a politician.

That has always made a lot of sense to me, but “The GOP’s Not-So-Great Communicators” challenges that assumption. “Running the federal government is nothing at all like running a business,” Peter Robinson says. “Presidents must instead govern by getting the rest of us to see things they way they see them.” Unfortunately, none of the current batch of Republican candidates is doing too great a job at that.

There was quite a bit more good reading, about the various candidates and their prospects after Iowa, about the election in general, and about other current issues that I hadn’t been thinking about all that much. As my internet session at the library is about to expire, I don’t have time to find links to each article or write about it. (I sure hope my computer can be fixed or they can sell me an inexpensive but good used computer!)

I don’t know whether I will consider getting my own subscription. But I just might want to nab that paper on my way out the door more often.

Propaganda masquerading as polling

December 10, 2011

I don’t usually answer the phone unless I know who’s calling. But one day recently I grabbed the phone after the third ring  because I thought it might be my husband and didn’t want to take the time to check caller ID (the answering machine cuts in on the fourth ring). It turned out to be a public opinion poll.

We’ve been getting a lot of those calls lately – something about living in Iowa with a presidential election coming next year. The few times I’ve taken these calls in the past few months (usually because I’m expecting a call and forget to check caller ID before answering), I’ve declined to participate, explaining that I really hadn’t been paying any attention to the candidates yet.

Now it’s getting close enough to caucus time that I am starting to pay a bit more attention. Besides, the woman on the phone seemed friendly, unlike some I have talked to on such calls who display no warmth or personality. Also, I wasn’t in the middle of anything except waiting for a cake to bake. And finally, I like to occasionally participate in a poll just to have an idea what questions people are being asked, so that when I see poll results I have an idea how meaningful they might be.

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