Category Archives: Values are always THE most important concept

An Honest Conservative’s Response

Some of you may be following along and know that I’ve recently done a presentation on some of the concepts I try to talk about on this blog. One of my principles in modern political discourse is that people will relate to and follow along with values more easily than policies or programs, so values is where you need to begin connecting with your audience.
For the presentation, the room was full and I had several interesting conversations following the program. One was with Mike Butrum, the Government Affairs Director of the Asheville Board of Realtors, a self proclaimed conservative. His response relates to the discussion from last week, Authority Rules (or does it?). He offered me some constructive criticism, see if you agree with some of these excerpts…

Rest assured, I was very much intrigued by the subject matter and by your presentation. The political discourse  certainly needs a more “Civil Tongue” for sure. I think there is real substance within the presentation. I also think you are open minded in as much as you asked for feedback so I’m taking the time to offer some from my perspective. Keep in mind, I’ve always thought it doesn’t matter as much what as person says  but more important what they hear. I also fully subscribe to the notion that what a person says is generally not the way it’s heard. With that said, let me try to explain what I heard.

I do not agree at all that conservatives see authority as a basis for structure in their lives or in their discourse. I think conservatives value freedoms and private rights. It’s been my personal belief that too much authority is  wrong particularly in the executive branch of government.. Now, if the prescribed answer to this is, I don’t realize how progressive I am, then I have a bridge for you to buy in Brooklyn. That’s demeaning. If it’s possible to spin freedoms and private rights  into some form of authority then I would be all ears. We have sufficient and proper authority and it’s called the Constitution of the United States. Of course the debate over this document that the Constitution is not and is not designed to be a living document is one worth having. The founding fathers purposely made it difficult to change the document but it can be changed and it has been 27 times. To allow a temporary executive to change the document on a whim would merely allow another temporary occupant to change it again.

He does not like emotion in the political discussion and decision making process:

…I was in a war and unlike today, I did not volunteer. My daughters husband has volunteered and has made 13 appearances in Afghanistan and Iraq as a member of the U S Army Special Forces Aviation Unit. He volunteered, took his chances defended America and is proud of his service and so is his family. To be against the war is to be against the warriors mission.  He help bring down a dictator, an enormous task and incredibly worthwhile to the world and especially to the people of Iraq was necessary and important. If the current administration doesn’t totally demean the efforts of hundreds of thousands of veterans, we will give another country the taste of freedom and the ability to join with all other free nations to develop their economies that end up helping all that participate especially America. It’s not emotion that works. It’s common sense. Unfortunately, common sense is not very common. Have American’s become so complacent that we no longer have an obligation to others that need our help? Do we offer them our cold shoulder? How many lives have been lost due to complacency?  Is it because we feel that we need to pay more attention to our own problems. After 16 trillion dollars of debt, mostly given to Americans, how much is enough?

Emotion in political discourse is bad. Passion is good. Crying and laughing to me are emotions. If you laugh at the supposed ignorance of the other side in the political debate, that’s wrong. If you cry because your candidate lost, that’s wrong. Passion on the other hand allows for a vigorous debate without resorting to degrading your opponent. Passion will allow for a person to live with their losses and offer compassion to the other side all the while critiquing there efforts and trying to improve their arguments. As I stated in our brief discussion before I left on Wednesday night, bad manners are innate. Good manners are a learned trait.

Allow me to point out a classic example that occurred that night. I sat down in the front of the room(I’m somewhat hard of hearing) and I was drinking a beer which I sat down on the table in front of my chair. I stood up to engage a friend in conversation in front of the table. A lady came and sat down in the seat next to the one I was occupying. She placed her bag on by seat. I noticed this and politely said that’s by beverage and my seat. She said nothing. During my conversation, a gentleman sat down at my seat and spilled my beer. He asked if he had done that. I stated, that was my beer. I went on to say that apparently, I’ve lost my beer and my seat. Neither said anything and I went to the back of the room where I missed some of your presentation due to the bad acoustics. My point is, and this is real not fained, although no one has a lock on bad manners, liberals are the worst. I advocate on behalf of the REALTOR Association before city council, county commission, state legislature and at times our congressmen. I take no political side in these discussions. I advocate for the REALTORS and let the chip fall way they may. Liberals are not generally nice people in the debate. No sense of manners or even half truths. Anything goes. I’ve always wonder where does their sense of decorum go when they debate politics. They despise conservatives with a visceral hatred. Is it a sense of entitlement? Is it because their mothers never taught them manners? Are the just bad to the bone? What is it? It’s virtually impossible to have a meaningful discussion with zealots and disciples from either political party.

At this point some people would point out that conservatives do the same thing and I would agree. However, the contempt that progressive liberals have for their opponents can only be learned and having the opportunity to have hired hundreds of young people in my career, I have come to the conclusion that colleges and universities are the grounds on which these emotions have been spawned. Extremely disappointing. In my day, we would enter college with a mind full of mush but come out thinking for ourselves. Today, and for the past three decades and more, student’s come out truly believing that liberal concepts and anti capitalism is the better way. They loose love of country in the process. They loose a need to join a church, they raise environmentalism to the level of a form of religion. But there is hope. To me it’s like potty training a baby. Babies are adamant against this necessary basic need at first but they finally get it. At least most do. Some remain committed to the cause their entire lives never understanding the simple concept that dumping where they live is harmful and has no redeeming value. Interestingly, after the 60’s anti government movement, most of the combatant’s turned their significant aptitudes toward accomplishing something. In the process the finally “Got It”. Capitalism is what has made America what it is. Warts and all. A democratic Republic. Most of these people flourished in the process.

Without capitalism, America cannot and will not work. America is unique. American’s believe that you have to do and pay your way. We are teaching people that this is no longer necessary. If anyone has the slightest doubt about this concept, just look where we are headed. If you have the slightest doubt that the direction of the country could be wrong, you have an obligation to do something about it. America and Americans have been given this power. It’s called the vote.   I know some people hate America  but so far, in all of humane mankind, America represents the best hope. I have traveled the world many times over. I can assure you, the most downtrodden people in America, live a higher standard of life then most of the people in the world. If the bleeding hearts really were serious about helping the most needy, then join Mother Theresa’s church, go to India and make an effort. If environmentalism is your calling then go to Russia to the yards where they have parked their old nuclear fleet, dip one cup of water and dispose of it properly, you would do more good then anything going on in America.

Lastly, as I stated when we spoke on Wednesday, I would suggest that you consider doing this worthwhile presentation with a conservative offering a point counterpoint message. Rehearse so that both of you find something you can compromise on. Something of substance. Doing this will allow you make the same presentation without pandering to the audience. The audience will always discount a pandering message. It would also give the presentation substance and credibility. Singing to the choir is not very fulfilling. …

I appreciate the thought put into the feedback, and permission from Mike to reprint. I know that we are not going to totally agree, but we have to be able to talk to each other.

I am especially interested in the challenge to the idea that authority is not the driving value for conservatives – that freedom and private rights are a higher priority. Conservatives definitely have a social conservative bent (faction?, branch?) that is not about freedom. GLBT rights would be a non issue if conservatives embraced their freedom of expression and freedom to live under the same protections and benefits as the rest of us. In a local school district, religious conservatives have pushed the idea of “religious freedom” a la religious literature and representation in school so far that kids will find freedom from religion to be difficult. Encouraging small town monopolies – like Wal-Mart – actually lessen the options and quality of life for folks in the surrounding area. Polluting industries that go unchecked and unregulated reduce the freedom that health gives us.

These are the values worth exploring, what do you think?

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The REAL Reason Conservatives Win Even While Progressive Ideas are Favored

The following piece was written by Joe Brewer, a visionary and progressive activist practiced in political framing and thinking with values first. It makes some great points, drawing on deep human history. Thanks Joe, and pay special attention to his lines in bold.

The REAL Reason Conservatives Always Win

by on June 22, 2012 in Political Mind, Progressive Infrastructure, Social Movements

Have you ever wondered why it is that Progressives repeatedly lose ground in American politics?  We almost always have the facts on our side.  The experts agree with us.  Hell, a lot of us are the experts.  And yet history clearly shows that Conservatives have the best political game in town.  They dominate political discourse, establishing which frames shape the most important issues of the day.  Their values associated with rugged individualism, mass consumption, and a contempt for civil society are blasted at the American public through massive media outlets that they have acquired and built up over the last several decades.  And when the global economy melts down as a direct result of their economic and fiscal policies, who gets blamed?  In a word, liberals.

What’s going on here?  Why is it that Conservatives are so good at winning and Progressives produce a lackluster resistance at best?  The answer comes from a fundamental insight from evolutionary biology.  Stated simply, it goes like this: Continue reading

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A 1%er’s Opinion

The 1% – are they really that much different than the rest of us? Income disparity is obviously a huge issue in this country but at least one 1%er feels proud, justified, and like everyone else – especially art history majors – are doing it wrong. Edward Conrad -a Bain Capital retiree – is not just a 1%er but an .1%er, his wealth is estimated to be in the hundreds of millions and he is ready to evangelize his theory of economics in his soon-to-be-published new book, ““Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong”. He sat down with Adam Davidson at the New York Times to explain. From the article:

In a competitive market, all that’s left are the truly hard puzzles. And they require extraordinary resources. While we often hear about the greatest successes — penicillin, the iPhone — we rarely hear about the countless failures and the people and companies who financed them.

A central problem with the U.S. economy, he told me, is finding a way to get more people to look for solutions despite these terrible odds of success. Conard’s solution is simple. Society benefits if the successful risk takers get a lot of money.

Conrad sees tons of solution to problems and not enough investors willing to take risks like he did and does:

“It’s not like the current payoff is motivating everybody to take risks,” he said. “We need twice as many people. When I look around, I see a world of unrealized opportunities for improvements, an abundance of talented people able to take the risks necessary to make improvements but a shortage of people and investors willing to take those risks. That doesn’t indicate to me that risk takers, as a whole, are overpaid. Quite the opposite.” The wealth concentrated at the top should be twice as large, he said. That way, the art-history majors would feel compelled to try to join them.

Conrad tries to give cover to 1%ers, claiming that they are benefactors for rest of us – measuring in dollars. He claims that for every $1 invested by a risk taker, the public reaps up to $20 in returns! He uses the example of the tapered in part of the soda can at the top and how it saves everyone so much money:

“It saves a fraction of a penny on every can,” he said. “There are a lot of soda cans in the world. That means the economy can produce more cans with the same amount of resources. It makes every American who buys a soda can a little bit richer because their paycheck buys more.”

It might be hard to get excited about milligrams of aluminum, but Conard says that we live longer, healthier and richer lives because of countless microimprovements like that one.

Conrad has a point that there are limitless potential “improvements” and investments, but he doesn’t measure anything except in terms of the market. He may be an admitted devotee to “The Market” as God/moral guidance as was described in Monday’s post, True Religion of the Free Market, his characterizations certainly fit into that pattern. He does not consider for a second that soda is not healthy and that consuming more creates more problems, or that creating more cans adds to the waste stream. In fact, these are the trickle down jobs he would likely point to in that scenario – more work for dentists! more work for nutritionists! more diet pills and programs can be sold! more psychologists will be hired to help people deal with obesity!, more XXL clothes to be made! more doctors will be needed for the host of issues that addiction to high fructose corn syrup can create.

Conrad acts self righteous about the fact that folks like he are willing to take risks that benefit society and society owes the 1%ers even more. He does not mention the costs to society for all of the industriousness of business. He doesn’t recognize that the rest of us have no choice but to assume the health, financial, environmental, and security risks that are created by industry.

Conrad even applied a market based formula to choosing his wife complete with evaluating demographic data, calculating probabilities in geography, calibrating the quality of women available, selecting and ending up with your best statistical probability.

The author notes that Conrad has a mean streak at times even during the interview. He disparages the table of twenty-something strangers that were socializing at a cafe at 2:30pm:

“What are they doing, sitting here, having a coffee at 2:30?” he asked. “I’m sure those guys are college-educated.” Conard, who occasionally flashed a mean streak during our talks, started calling the group “art-history majors,” his derisive term for pretty much anyone who was lucky enough to be born with the talent and opportunity to join the risk-taking, innovation-hunting mechanism but who chose instead a less competitive life.

He is also irritated with Warren Buffet and sees his charitable contributions as arrogant and meddlesome in his view of proper economics:

During one conversation, he expressed anger over the praise that Warren Buffett has received for pledging billions of his fortune to charity. It was no sacrifice, Conard argued; Buffett still has plenty left over to lead his normal quality of life. By taking billions out of productive investment, he was depriving the middle class of the potential of its 20-to-1 benefits. If anyone was sacrificing, it was those people. “Quit taking a victory lap,” he said, referring to Buffett. “That money was for the middle class.”

Many more interesting tidbits like this sprinkle the article. It is assumed that he wants to help his former Bain Capital partner with his election campaign, but some of the statements are so outrageous that he may do just the opposite by affiliating himself. Take this gem:

“God didn’t create the universe so that talented people would be happy,” he said. “It’s not beautiful. It’s hard work. It’s responsibility and deadlines, working till 11 o’clock at night when you want to watch your baby and be with your wife. It’s not serenity and beauty.”

What Conrad does not figure into any of his equations is humanity. He seems to have very little empathy and obviously puts making money as a top priority. He doesn’t seem to understand that people are not obligated to create wealth for others – those “art history majors” have every right to do what they enjoy, and building community with a group of friends not only has value in the warm fuzzy category, but it could even be argued that it builds security – financial or otherwise. When you’re down and out, who will lend you a hand, come help you with car troubles, or give you a ride to work. Conrad doesn’t recognize the value of community at all. Perhaps because his community – Bain Capital – endorses a community of like minds that are focused on money over time with friends, family, serenity, beauty, love, caring, discovery, health or peace. Like other financial “conservatives” (what does that even mean anymore?) Conrad is supremely obedient to the value of authority and his authority is “The Market”.

In my personal opinion, I feel a bit sad for Conrad. I wonder if he’s seen joy in a child’s eyes after discovering something, or if he can enjoy a simple walk in the woods? Does he ever go dancing with his friends, offer a shoulder to cry on, or have one offered to him if he needed it? Making and modifying widgets will eventually fill this planet with garbage (if they’re not biodegradable), production is not always the answer to prosperity and value is not inherent simply because large dollar figures are being exchanged.  I’ll close with this quote from Adam Davidson, Conrad’s interviewer after spending some time with him:

This constant calculation — even of the incalculable — can be both fascinating and absurd. The world Conard describes too often feels grim and soulless, one in which art and romance and the nonrenumerative satisfactions of a simpler life are invisible. And that, I realized, really is Conard’s world.

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Nation or Salvation?

Saving souls and governing democratically don’t mix – at least both cannot exist as a top priority in one’s mind as a governing leader. Either saving souls is more important or the principles of democracy are, because the concept of “salvation” in the Christian church is not a democratic notion. Salvation means submitting to not only God, but to the long list of rules that salvation centered religions have pushed as a requirement for salvation.

Mormonism is the center of curiosity today because it is Mitt Romney’s religion and he just semi-officially became “the contender” for President on behalf of the Republican party. If you’re not in Utah, Mormons aren’t very evident in daily American life, they aren’t as numerous, loud, or show stealing as evangelicals tend to be. If we are going to be governed by a man who believes as Mormons do, we have a need to know what Mormons believe. Continue reading

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Snake in the Brain

The human brain is pretty amazing. We have the capacity to write beautiful sonatas, engineer skyscrapers, and achieve flight. In such higher level thinking we must be conceptual and rely on an extensive network of pre-existing neural pathways, their beginnings started with our first breath. Whether our cleverness is about natural born talents or acquired knowledge, the finer achievements in human history are a product of thoughts that went way beyond finding food, heat, water, security, reproduction and sex. The part of the brain that impels us to meet those most basic needs – voluntary or involuntary – is called the “reptilian brain”. As sophisticated as our higher level deliberations may be, our reptilian brains are always in charge. One reason why media, campaigns, and messaging in general – especially Republican created- works on us is because it speaks to our reptilian brain. Democrats tend to appeal to higher level thinking and lose the battle for the mind.

Continue reading

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