Friday, January 09, 2009

Defective Defect Analysis

Over at American Thinker, Paul Carlson seeks to explain the differences between conservatives and liberals in terms of defect analysis (aka root cause analysis). While his explanations of "common cause" variations and "special cause" variations are sound, I think that he unfairly stereotypes both camps:
The concepts of common and special cause also work in understanding why politicians do what they do. Liberals tend to assume that all social problems are "common," to be addressed by redesigning the whole system. They always call for some new congressional or regulatory or judicial action to impose a blanket "solution" that seldom works. Domestically, such blunt measures usually create new problems, and exacerbate others. Internationally, vague ideas about "America's image abroad" lead to naïve assumptions that a new President will make this country beloved everywhere.

Conservatives tend to assume that all social problems are "special," best handled by a specific tweak addressing that singular case. Thus the best way to fight crime is to prosecute each criminal, even though this does not address the reasons why new criminals will pop up. Internationally, terrorists are best dealt with militarily, often via pinpoint strikes, while PR specialists can worry about America's image later.
Both camps understand that creating rules and regulations by which society is to be governed is an expression of political power. But the philosophical distinction becomes whether more or less legislation and regulation will generally help or exacerbate the problem.

Liberals these days tend to favor more regulation and bigger government, lest the country veer away from the straight and narrow path to utopia. When you're part of the best and brightest, the elite, it's seductive to think that you have better answers than the masses -- or the current administration -- ergo, getting a government post allows you to serve society by being in a position to put your bright ideas into action.

Unfortunately, the do-gooder instinct tends to infantilize the recipient/victim, smothering rather than encouraging growth and development. Consider how much monetary aid has been sent to various African nations since WWII, and how little progress there is to show for it. Martin Durkin contends that aid has destroyed the society in Africa. Furthermore,

There are many on the left – most people on the left I’m sure, who genuinely want to help Africans (and indeed poor people generally). The difficulty is, their desire to help people comes second to their emotional commitment to socialism. The left and the greens are utterly wedded to their anti-capitalist ideology. They refuse to listen to arguments, no matter how cogent or well supported, that contradict their political prejudices. You can tell a green that their opposition to the use of DDT has resulted in the needless deaths of literally millions of people from malaria. What’s their reaction? The greens still support the ban on DDT.

In the end, their subjective self-righteousness counts for nothing. It doesn’t matter what they think they’re doing. It matters what they’re actually doing. So, yes, I think we need to confront people on the left with the consequences of their policies. They are killing people. They have blood on their hands.

Aid we should distinguish from charity of course. There are many people who, with the help of charity from individuals, are doing wonderful work in Africa. But these are sticking plasters when what is needed is surgery. [Emphasis added.]

It's not a proclivity toward considering all problems to be "common cause" variations that lead liberals toward a nanny state, but their prevailing worldview that favors socialism as the fundamental construct of how society should be ordered. That paradigm drives the solution set they consider for any given problem.

I disagree that "[c]onservatives tend to assume that all social problems are 'special'." Rather, many social problems have their root in counterproductive programs, rules, and societal norms that require a different approach than liberals typically endorse.

Ronald Reagan, in his first Inaugural address, illustrated the conservative approach to dealing with the financial mess he inherited from the Carter administration:
In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we've been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden. The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price.
Rules are necessary, for without them you have anarchy. But Conservatives and Libertarians prefer less government and less micro-managing legislation and regulation because they understand that our country and her imperfect citizens create a complex society that defies central planning and control.

Related posts:
T-2 Days and Counting: Voting God's Politics
When Social Justice is Counterproductive