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Jerry Shenk


Progressives Have Nothing To Fear

by Jerry Shenk
 

Americans are constantly barraged with liberal viewpoints from media and
entertainment sources, public and higher education. Attentive conservatives
are familiar with liberal orthodoxy and the language of the left.

But, exposed primarily to like-minded people and information and
entertainment outlets, indoctrinated left-wingers become highly-invested in
shared assumptions. Convinced that no reasonable person could disagree with
them, liberals are easily unsettled by conservative "apostasy."

Few liberals understand conservative language and thought, an ignorance
which produces misconception and frustration in many.

In 2012, NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt published a paper
which found that liberals are more likely than conservatives to hyperbolize
their differences: "Both liberals and conservatives exaggerated the
ideological extremity of moral concerns for the ingroup as well as the
outgroup. Liberals were least accurate about both groups."

It's human nature to distrust or fear unknown or poorly-understood things.
Generally, smart conservatives confidently oppose liberal positions based on
familiarity with and understanding of them, but, because of their
unfamiliarity with conservative views, many liberals instinctively fear them
- fears often manifested in defensive anger, condescension and contempt.

But, there's nothing to fear.

The first principles of conservative thought reside in America's founding
documents, but America's Founders had historical philosophical antecedents
in Confucius (551--479 BC), Cato the Elder (234--149 BC) and John Locke
(1632--1704).

Edmund Burke is the father of modern conservatism. Alexis de Tocqueville's 1840 book, "Democracy in America," recorded conservative values.

In the mid-20th Century, Russell Kirk described conservatism as the
"negation of ideology," an openness to reality "in all its complexities." In an ideological age, Kirk wrote, conservatism resists ideology.

William F. Buckley Jr. and Ronald Reagan popularized the interrelated
principles of fiscal and social responsibility and national security. If any
leg goes missing, three-legged stools cannot stand.

There is little in Twentieth Century modern liberalism to match the rich intellectual tradition of classical liberalism - today commonly called conservatism.

Mother Jones' Kevin Drum agreed that, although they imagine themselves to be
"open-minded," liberals generally have far less exposure to conservatives
than conservatives do to liberals.

Accordingly, liberal "understandings" of conservatives are usually
caricatures. Liberals reflexively disagree with conservatives, but have
little practical experience accurately describing with "what" they disagree
or expressing "why." For some, "SHUT UP!" is the fullest expression of
persuasive polemics.

But curious, genuinely open-minded liberals can overcome their innocence by
reading Burke, de Tocqueville, Kirk, Buckley and economists Friedrich August
Hayek, Ludwig von Mises and Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman. Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom" is condensed online. Friedman appears on YouTube.com.

Progressives should ask questions of informed conservatives, all of whom
speak at least rudimentary "liberal" - many are fluent.

If you are already on or contemplating a journey from left to right, don't
allow fear of an unfamiliar language to discourage you. Some brilliant
liberals have made the trip. Conservative intellectuals Dr. Charles
Krauthammer wrote books about their travels.

Above all, remember: "Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be
understood." - Marie Curie


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