Tuesday, March 15, 2011

You Don't Agree Because You Have Differing Time Horizons

FLG noticed this post, another from Bleeding Heart Libertarians, as a shared item over at Notes From Babel, which asks "Why We Don't Agree?" And by "we" the author means bleeding heart libertarians and progressives.

The author argues that since the goals are the same, then presumably the question is merely an empirical one as to what the best course of action is. The author attributes the disagreement in the face of an empirical question to the symbolic nature of political positions. Progressive stand by policies that symbolize social justice while actually undermining it.

The author then sums up thusly:
I do not know how to get around this problem, but, for whatever is worth, I find symbolic behavior morally objectionable, because the speaker cares about the values he expresses more than about those persons he says he wants to help.

Unsurprisingly, FLG thinks there's an easy way to get around this and it's time horizons. Take this example:
Supporting the minimum wage is an act that stands for a value such as concern for the poor.

Now, FLG isn't arguing in support of minimum wage increases or any other progressive economic policy prescription.  But why must it be symbolic? 

Supporting the minimum wage isn't necessarily about donning some symbolic affectation.  The simple, direct, proximate, static result of a a minimum wage increase is a raise for the lowest paid people.  The idea that this comes at the loss of jobs, whether they be existing or potential jobs, comes only in the future.  If a person is either ignorant of the potential future costs of the minimum wage increase or values the present at the expense of the future, then they can justify their support of the policy without it being about symbolism.

BTW, for those of you who have been following the evolution of FLG's time horizons theory, you know that he argues that liberals have short-time horizons and that this is related to their being more empirical.  Conversely, conservatives have longer time horizons and are consequently more theoretical. 

However, FLG would like to add to this the power versus authority dynamic.   Liberals are concerned with power, which is often an instantaneous and fleeting thing that can shift from moment to moment. Conservatives are more concerned with authority, which takes longer to develop and acquire.  Plus, when compared there's a tangible, maybe even quantifiable aspect to power.  Authority is more vague and harder to gauge precisely.

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