Q & A: Why do I have a hard time understanding liberal arguments on a lot of issues?

Mike Rightmire, Molecular Biotechnologist and Bioinformaticist, wrote such a brilliant answer to this question I feel a strong need to share it with others.  Take it away Mike!

I’ve found one of the major differences between conservative and liberal viewpoints is: that liberals often (not always) try to drive legislation based on how humans tend to react to stimuli, whereas conservatives (often but not always) tend to drive legislation based on how they feel humans SHOULD respond to stimuli.

For example: trickle down. It makes sense that if a person growing a business gets to keep more of their money (lower taxes) they would invest that money in the business (making more jobs) so they can make more money.

That makes total sense!!

The problem is; the evidence suggests they don’t (or at least not after a certain point. Once a person has reached a “certain level” of wealth, speculation tends to be more profitable than trying to sell/ manufacture more widgets. Speculation does not create jobs…just wealth.)


“Liberals” (I hate these labels) generally (but not always) identify this issue, and change tactics. Conservatives (as implied by the very name) KNOW that this SHOULD work…so they must be doing it wrong…and tend to double down.

This is the same issue with most social problems…

Harder prison terms SHOULD deter criminals (they would deter “ME!”). But they don’t.

Making drugs illegal should stop drug use. But it doesn’t.

Killing terrorists should stop terrorists. But it doesn’t.

Teaching kids to stay abstinent until marriage should reduce unwanted pregnancies. But it doesn’t.

So, the question you must ask yourself is;

Am I having a problem understanding the liberal viewpoint, because I’m clinging to an unexamined fallacy(ies) about human nature.

A SECOND DIFFERENCE is an emotional one. I call it, “WHY SHOULD I?”

This is the harder one. In my (apparently liberal leaning) attitude I have discovered that what’s “fair” – when addressing humanity – is immaterial.

For example, healthcare. Conservatives (rightly so) believe people should take care of themselves. As well they should. But some don’t or can’t. And never will. So, the conservative say, “Well…WHY SHOULD I have to pay for them?!”

The answer is; it doesn’t matter. You will anyway.

You will either pay to house, feed, clothe, and heal them. Or you will pay to clean up the bodies, clean up the crime, clean up the parks (where they sleep and defecate), pay for the prisons, etc.

A liberal says, “Paying to house and feed them is cheaper. Let’s do that.”

A conservative says, “BUT IT’S NOT FAIR. So let them suffer.”
Liberal: “But why let them suffer?”
Conservative: “So they’ll learn.”

But sociologists and psychologists tell us, that they don’t learn from this.

So, the next question you have to ask yourself is; why is it better to let people suffer, even though it costs you more, than pay for something you “shouldn’t have to” pay for?

=== EDIT ===
A very reasonable comment was made, about how (perhaps) conservatives have a more “… ingrained and perhaps more rigid sense of right vs wrong.”

This was my response…which I think is a useful addition to the original post…


“… [conservatives have a more] ingrained and perhaps more ridged sense of right vs wrong.”

Or perhaps simply a more inflexible one. Whether it’s “wrong” to be unable to work, even when that inability appears as just “laziness” is a point of discussion.

As a molecular biologist who studied neuroscience heavily, I have come to the realization that the drives and morals that allow me to “function” are less a matter of my personal superiority as an individual, and more to do with luck (good genes, proper nutrition growing up – leading to proper brain development, good parents, good schools, etc.)

I think this is another point of difference between “conservatives” or “liberals” (or moderate or any two humans on the planet regardless of “classification”)…

The experiences that shape our world.

My studies have shown me, personally, that who we “choose to be” drives a much smaller portion of our personalities than we like to believe (or are willing to accept).

While I have worked very hard (as have most people) to cultivate those parts of me that are “good”, and correct those parts of me that are “bad”…the very fact that I’m psychologically capable of doing this, and even have a definition of “good” and “bad” personality traits, was entirely beyond my control.

Point being that I have run into many people (frequently conservatives) who are under the (IMHO) *delusion* that they are self-determined (or, at least, predominantly self-determined). So, when they see “a bum”, they believe they simply choose to be this way – so they deserve to suffer.

I do not think this is such a simple matter. As a result, I’m much more accepting of the (very Biblical) statement that, “There will always be poor (and lazy, and incompetent)…” so, simply dealing with that unalienable fact in the most pragmatic and humane way is simply reality.

And complaining about “Why should I have to”…just seems egocentric.