Professor stupidmonkey wrote:
is why gbaji is a conservative, obviously. Science!
It has absolutely nothing to do with whether you are afraid or not afraid.
I'd argue fear is temporarily relevant.
Sure. To whether you react to the thing that is causing fear. My issue was with the study's assumption that conservative positions are associated with fear responses, but liberal positions are not. This is the starting premise, which they basically use in a circular fashion: (since people who form positions from fear are conservatives, and we got people who normally consider themselves liberal to form a position from fear, then we turned liberals into conservatives!). Um... Everyone reacts to things that have the potential to harm them. Everyone.
When a liberal fights to impose restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions, is he not reacting to the "fear" of climate change, and the potential harm it might do? Kinda hard to watch videos of floods, glaciers breaking apart, hurricanes blowing roofs off buildings, etc, all labeled as "things that might happen to us if we don't do something about this, like RIGHT NOW!!!", and not conclude that a fear methodology is being used to influence people.
We can say the same about a host of social issues. Fear of discrimination. Fear of poverty. Fear of hunger. Fear of homelessness. Fear of illness. Fear of social alienation. Fear that if you are the wrong skin color, you'll get shot by the cops. Fear that if you are a woman, you'll be sexually assaulted. Fear that if you are gay, you will be bashed. All of these causes are driven by fear. All of them use fear to get people to support a given position on those issues.
Yet it's the conservative "side" that is labeled as fear based? I just don't see it. I'm obviously biased here (and perfectly willing to admit it), but I see conservative positions as being far less based on fear than liberal ones. Or, more to the point, that we are more likely to set aside our fears and analyze the thing being proposed and determine if it's actually something to be worried about, whether the risk of harm merits the cost of action, etc.
I see a lot more "absolute" arguments coming from the right than from the left. A conservative will tend to argue cost versus benefit. A liberal will argue that someone has a "right" to something, or the absence of something is a "violation of <someone's> rights", and reject any talk of "cost" as some form of bias/bigotry. There's no end point to those latter forms of argument. There is no balance. And yeah, I think a lot of those forms of argument derive their support by fear than the ones we conservatives make. Or at least, fear is used to generate support for them.
I'll make an argument about the proposed tax changes by pointing out the conditions under which one might have to pay more in taxes, and conclude that it's unlikely to be people at the lower ends of the economic spectrum, and is not significant enough to outweigh the numerous benefits of the proposed changes in any case. A liberal will just proclaim it to be "Armageddon!", claim it'll hurt everyone, will cause funding to be cut down the line, etc. It's pretty clear that they want people to be afraid of what might happen if the tax law is changed, right? Why is that not "fear"?
Fear gets the headline because it's a good divider at the present time. How much you're worried about things like immigration and terrorism is a hot topic, and one of the main factors in how people are choosing to vote right now. Obviously (as you pointed out in your 9/11 example) this isn't always the case. If the vast majority of people feel one way or another on a topic it stops being a useful tool for politicians, as it can no longer divide "us" and "them" in a way that gets you more votes. *** marriage is a good recent example. It got a lot of press when people were more-or-less equally divided on the issue, but quickly sank away as the majority came to accept it.
Again though, I think fear exists or does not exist on its own. I don't think it's the underlying reason why people in society might disagree with each other about something. You are correct that when a closer consensus is reached, we tend to stop arguing as much about things. But I don't think that has to do with one side ceasing to "be afraid" of whatever is dividing them. We don't do this in most things we disagree over, right? If half of our group wants to see film A tonight, and the other half film B, we are more likely to have a long argument about it than if 9 out of 10 people want to see film A. That does not mean that in the first case, the two halves were "afraid" to watch the other film though.
And honestly, while I agree with you that fear is often used to rile people up about an issue, I don't think that it's what usually causes us to form our positions in the first place. Also, the use of fear as a means to raise an issue doesn't make the issue itself invalid, nor the position invalid, nor the choice of an individual in response invalid (or even "based on fear"). I have a position regarding immigration policy. It's not based on fear. It's based on a set of logical premises and arguments and conclusions. To dismiss my position on immigration by claiming that I'm "afraid of immigrants" is not only absurd, but often just a tactic to avoid discussing the actual position and argument(s) in support.
And I tend to find that to be cheap and not terribly useful. We can always just dismiss the other "sides" position by claiming they are reacting based on fear. It means nothing. So it's not useful as a means of making decisions.
There's a wide variety of ways that people can process information, arrange moral priorities, solve problems, assess sensibility and fairness, etc. The only ones that are politically relevant are the ones that are currently divisive. Things that are seen as more core "conservative" or "liberal" have likely just been divisive in that population for a longer period of time.
Yeah. But I think that most of the things that are divisive aren't themselves motivated by fear. Usually, people disagree because they have different objectives, or they disagree on the "rules". Fear may be used as a tool to convince people to side with you (although I agree that this is usually short lived), but it doesn't drive the difference in opinion/position in the first place.
My position on taxes, for example, flow from my opinions about economic principles themselves. I happen to believe that most people, if they have money, will tend to use it in ways that make them more money over time. Because of this, I happen to believe that the best approach is to create an economic system in which the best methods for those with money to increase it, will be to take actions that benefit other people along the way (like create successful businesses that create jobs for workers, and products for us to buy that improve our lives). And I happen to also believe that those people are the best equipped to make such decisions with that money and thus produce the most benefit for everyone else along the way.
If someone else believes that those with money will not use it in ways that benefit others, and who believes that their money would be better used in the hands of a government organization, charged with using it "for the public good", they will support things like higher taxes, greater regulation, etc, all designed to move money out of the hands of private citizens (who can't be trusted to use it well), and into the hands of government (who, presumably, can be trusted with it cause that's their job, right?).
Our disagreement in this case is pretty darn fundamental. And we could certainly use fear as a part of our argument. I could point to the fear of having your property seized and used without your consent, big government, abuse of power, etc. The other guy would point to the fear of monopolies, oligarchies, wealthy people flaunting the laws, doing whatever they want, lording it over the "little people", etc. But neither of us are forming our position based on fear, and I think it's frankly silly to argue that. We're starting with completely different assumptions about the world around us, and how people behave. That's something that can only change, gradually, over time, as we perhaps experiment with different policies, see how they affect things, make adjustments, etc. Eventually, we'll arrive at something that is usually not 100% one side or the other, but enough "in the middle" that both sides can accept it.
And once that happens, the division will die down. Well, somewhat anyway.