This paragraph is based strictly on my personal experience, and yours may differ, but about half my friends consider themselves left of center and the other half consider themselves right of center. And — again in my personal experience — I am frequently struck, in conversations about politics and policy, with the way my left-of-center friends consistently focus on “what’s good for people like us” (with an occasional dollop of “what’s deliciously bad for people we dislike”), while the right-of-center friends consistently focus on “what’s good for people who are much worse off than us”. (Okay, “consistently” is an overstatement, but I stand by the broad sentiment.) This tends to reinforce my view that there is a lot more political goodness to the right of the center than there is to the left ...We will soon see some more examples, from the Biden administration.
I think I know these people well enough, and talk with them often enough, and deeply enough, to believe they mean what they say. And by and large (and again, with of course striking exceptions in both directions), my lefty friends seem to have the view that one should vote in ways that will advance one’s own interests while my righty friends seem to have the view that one should vote in ways that advance the common good, usually interpreted to put special emphasis on the good of the least fortunate.
A quick example or two that I’m choosing not because they’re the best but because they’re the first that come to mind: A few years ago we had a tax reform bill that changed the deductibility of local taxes and mortgage interest. My lefty friends (by and large) calculated the effect on their own taxes and either liked or disliked the bill accordingly. My righty friends (by and large) lived in states where they were clearly going to be big losers from this reform — but supported it enthusiastically because they thought it was good policy.
Or: My sexually alternative lefty friends tend to think that people who dont want to bake birthday cakes for them should be forced to do so anyway, because they believe they’ll be better off in such a world. My sexually alternative righty friends are generally annoyed and offended by the fact that some people dont want to bake birthday cakes for them, but tend to support their right to make that decision, because they believe that freedom of choice doesnt mean very much unless you extend it to people you don’t like.
Or take things like “free college” and other huge transfers to the middle class My middle class lefty friends tend to like those policies, unabashedly because they stand to gain from them. My middle class righty friends who stand to benefit equally tend to oppose those programs, partly because they are squeamish about taking from the rich and partly because they think that if you must take from the rich, you should give not to the middle class but to the poor.
Thursday, November 12, 2020
Difference between Right and Left
Economics professor Steve Landsburg writes: