Do Conservatives consider potential for long-term stability ("final state") in advocating policy?

One thing I find frustratingly absent in policy debates in the US is this question: Is this really going to work, be stable, etc., in the long run? Liberals like me don’t bring up the point, and Conservatives don’t seem to think about it in the first place.

Couple examples. Gay marriage: Do you really think you’re going to hold off gay marriage in the long run? That gays will eventually give up? “Hey, yeah, we don’t need gay marriage.” Or maybe the Christian crusade against gaydom will eventually be victorious, and they will all be cured?

Same thing with health care: Do you really think that having 45 million uninsured is stable over the long run? That, say, in the year 2100, we can just have people going to the ER with heart attacks and cancer and no insurance coverage? Is this the way it’s going to be… forever?

Abortion. I’m actually not a huge fan of what abortion is and how it’s used, but I would ask Conservatives: Do you really think, in a country that has millions of abortions a year, that you could just say, “Stop it!” and people would obey, and, moreover, that society could absorb all those new babies without dire economic implications, and, further, that women and those that support them would be happy with medical tribunals putting them on trial for every abortion, miscarriage, etc., to make sure that each was “ethical”?

And I could say the same thing about Conservatives’ overall vision: Do you really think we’re going to return to our scrappy frontier days with no taxes and no social safety net, and that that’s really going to be the engine of prosperity and, unlike today, people will be doing well and things will be OK?

It’s totally fair to apply this question to Liberal policies, but I think that we can usually say, “Yes.” Yes, we are supporting Obamacare, not because it’s perfect, but the trend is toward greater socialization of medicine. In fact, we’re greatly behind the rest of the world in this regard.

Liberals seem to be about using government to solve problems. Conservatives seem to be about advocating a Platonic ideal of what ought to be (in their opinion) and not considering or caring whether it actually works or not.

Now, from Libertarians, I do hear the assertion that an Ayn Randian utopia would work over the long term. They’re dead wrong IMO, but they at least make the assertion.

But the Ted Cruz-style Conservatives, i.e., the Republicans who have the power the influence policy in this country, never seem to talk about the long. They only talk about what ought to be right now, as though it will work forever. Heck, at a job interview, you are likely to be asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years,” but I never hear Conservatives talk about a vision for the future of America at all.

What are your thoughts?

That your OP makes me fear for a straw shortage in the future.
It isn’t really worth much more refutation than that.


OK, so no. Thanks.

Hmmm. Let me offer my personal opinion. (Politically I’m libertarian, by the way.) I see it exactly the opposite way around. Liberals are the ones who seem to refuse to consider the long term.

For instance, in the two years that Obama was President and Democrats controlled Congress, the federal deficit soared to record highs. In the long term, the deficit may be slightly lower than the amounts we had in '09 and '10, but they are certainly going to remain high. Moreover, Medicare is scheduled to run out of money in 10-15 years (depending on which projection you use). Social Security will follow Medicare into bankruptcy not too long thereafter. Does anyone really think that we can continue piling up money at the current rate, while the two biggest government programs are heading into bankruptcy. Is this going to be stable in the long run?

Or let’s look at the state level. Liberal policies in California have sent spending through the roof in recent years. California has lurched from one financial disaster to another for years. Currently it has some of the highest state taxes in the nation while making drastic cuts to numerous government programs. Can this continue and be stable in the long term?

Or let’s look at the city level. Detroit, which has had strongly liberal politics for a long time, recently went bankrupt, having spent too much while driving away businesses and the middle class. Numerous other cities are following a similar path. Is this stable in the long term?

The state of California and the federal government are collaborating on building a high-speed train. Estimate cost is a hundred billions of dollars. Estimated time to completion is over two decades. Evidence of a large number of people who want to ride a high-speed train in California is rather thin. Is this a good example of liberals’ long-term planning?

Higher education prices have been soaring upwards far faster than inflation for decades. The government has responded by giving students more and more direct subsidies and subsidized loans. Is this a stable situation that can continue in the long term?

And of course, Obamacare plans to fine people if they don’t purchase insurance through his wonderful new exchanges. Currently the exchanges don’t let most people buy insurance. Can this keep going forever.

Thanks for your examples, and they are fair questions to ask about policy, but I don’t think they show what you say they do. Advocating a policy that won’t work in the long run is not the same as not thinking about the long run. Further, saying that Liberals are bad in this regard is not to assert that Republicans are good in this regard. Do you think they are? What of my examples?

I also think we’re talking about slightly different things. Your examples are all about money running out or not coming in. That’s a worthy thing to worry about, but you haven’t shown that Liberals don’t worry about it or don’t talk about it.

What I am talking about is Republicans seeming to think that certain societal conditions can or should last forever (no gay marriage, no socialized medicine), or that untenable ideas could work (making abortion illegal).

But let’s take a look at your examples:

Well, both side do argue about what will work in the long run in this regard. Here, actually, you give an example of Republicans talking about the long run. Yes, Republicans do often talk about things not working fiscally in the long run. So, in that sense, they are on a superficial and negative level talking about the future.

Nope. I remember the Terminator being governor for a long while, however, so is the current state of California exclusively Liberals’ fault? Also, do Liberals assert that California will be OK in the long run, or do they ignore the impending (current) disaster? I think not.

Has any Liberal ever said that Detroit’s current state was OK or stable over the long term?

Whether or not this train is a good idea would not seem to have much to do with political beliefs, even if estimates of its worth tend to fall along party lines.

Nope. But I don’t hear Liberals saying it is. I hear the opposite.

This would seem to be an example of a short-term problem, which of course Liberals recognize as a problem.

To play Devil’s advocate, maybe conservatives think the matter isn’t as pressing as the left would like to believe, so there’s no need to jump on the first idea that comes out the chute. They may concede that the status quo isn’t ideal or sustainable, but still believe that time has a way of working things out. Truth and wisdom will naturally emerge and instruct us if we just let things alone.

For instance, I can imagine a social conservative thinking that if we allow gay marriage, we’re accepting that gayness is normal, regular, every-day behavior. What if tomorrow researchers discover that gay parents make terrible parents and that their children are fifty percent more likely to be sexual deviants than straight couples? The truth was just waiting for us to find it. But nooooooooo, we had to “fix” a problem that didn’t even exist. Now we’ve got another one to deal with.

**ITR-**Obama has been reducing the deficit! The deficit spiked because of the Stimulus and Auto bailouts.

That’s a lot of long term thinking with people with irrational ideological beliefs.

I think you are conflating economic conservatives and social conservatives, which are not necessarily the same people even though at the moment they are in the same party.

Social conservatives do think about the long range future – the eternal future with God in heaven. They espouse policies that they feel are aligned with God’s plan for human beings and how they are supposed to live. You can’t ask a question like “do you really believe you can keep gay couples from getting married, forever?” To them the question sounds like “why don’t you give up, and let sin and evil and darkness take over the world?” So, you are arguing apples and hand grenades here.

Economics is different. Here, I still think that conservatives would say “absolutely yes, our policies are exactly what this country needs to get back on its feet and we have all the totally bogus statistics and studies to convince us of that, we’re sorry for your pathetic inability to grasp economic facts.”

In other words, in the social realm, you are trying to tell people their religion is wrong. And in the economic realm, uh, you’re still doing that.

I’m not a supporter of the Republican Party and I think they do a great many stupid things, including not considering the long-term viability of their options. The Iraq War is only the most obvious example. That’s why I don’t vote Republican.

That said, there are certainly some instances where the Republicans are more long-term-minded than the Democrats. For instance, a couple years back, Paul Ryan offered a budget plan that seriously dealt with the trajectory of long-term federal spending, income, and debt. Congressional Democrats attacked his plan, but they did not offer a serious alternative that actually deals with the impending bankruptcy of Medicare and Social Security and the fact that future deficits will soar without limits, unless we make some major changes.

Obviously the Democratic Party consists of many individuals. A few Democrats may think and write seriously about the long-term financial outlook of this country. But I make it a habit to routinely read some news and editorials from Democratic, Republican, and libertarian perspectives. At the moment, I see Democrats addressing the long-term finances of the government very rarely, while Republican and libertarian sources mention it often.

Conservatism as a coherent (or, at any rate, arguably coherent) political philosophy is all about long-term stability. One can argue about whether it would work in practice or not (I tend to think not, myself), but real, philosophical conservatives, guys like Shodan, I guess, care (I think they care quite a lot) about long term stability, and they have a broad-strokes plan for how to get it.

However, the policies and actions of the U.S. Republican party in recent decades have had very little to do with this philosophy or this plan. Instead, they have long been pushing an incoherent (and changing) collection of policies jury-rigged for the short term to appease and hold together a diverse set of constituents with divergent political beliefs and interests. As the OP suggests, many of these seem highly unlikely to promote long-term political stability, but rather the reverse, despite the fact that they often attempt to cover their incoherence with a fig leaf of conservative ideology. Even when conservatism really is part of teh issue, looking conservative (for the benefit of that small but significant minority of Republican supporters for whom conservative principles as such are truly important) often seems to take precedence over actually promoting a stable, conservative society.

In some ways, these days, the people who are really doing most to promote conservative goals are right wing and maybe even centrist Democrats, such as Obama, even though at heart, at least of them might be true liberals.

Incidentally, I am not saying Democratic party policies are any more a coherent reflection of liberal ideology than Republican policies are a coherent reflection of conservatism. One should not confuse political philosophies with the day to day policies and actions of political parties, especially ones acting within the context of a deeply corrupt and broken political system. As things stand, Democrats are doing a pretty poor job of promoting liberal goals, and (perhaps rather against the intentions of most of them) a slightly better (though not great) one of promoting conservative goals. Republicans, by contrast, are doing a horrible job of promoting any sort of coherent set of goals, even if it is the case (as it may or may not be) that most of them would, if given their druthers, prefer to be promoting the conservative goal of a long-term-stable society.

Most of the time, when I see Democrats talk about California, they write stuff like this. David Sirota is Salon declares California to be “friggin awesome”. This despite the fact that when he wrote that column, California was at or near the top in unemployment, poverty, and housing prices. In response, he mentions that California currently has a balanced budget, achieved by huge tax increases and huge budget cuts. He makes no mention of the state’s massive unfunded obligations: $127 billion according to the state itself, far higher according to other estimates. He’s impressed by Cali’s 2% economic growth in 2011. He doesn’t mention that the state is ranked as one of the worst for business, making long-term growth prospects bad.

So in short, it looks to me that liberals do generally ignore the California’s long-term fate. Once again, there may be individual exceptions, but broadly speaking that’s what it looks like.

Here is a testable theory. Democrats took over the executive and legislative branches in 2010 and as of 2012 now can pass budgets without getting any Republicans on board. We are not going to be rid of a Republican opposition entirely, but for obstruction purposes, the Republicans are powerless in the coming years in California. We can’t hold all factors still, but I’m willing to wager that California will do better economically than states controlled executive and legislative by Republicans in the next 10 years. Any suggestions on that state? We want to pick a solid Republican state that will stay that way. Alaska seems to be solid, but due to location, is a seasonal state. Arizona or Oklahoma. I’ll tell you guys what, in 10 years California will be doing better than any of those three solid Republican states. The stakes of this bet are bragging rights.

For full disclosure, I have been to all of these states except Oklahoma and live in California and wouldn’t live in those states. The only other state (other than CA) I would consider living in is Hawaii.

I would pick Texas for the Republican-controlled state. Of course there are many ways to measure which state is “doing better”. We could measure total job creation, job growth rates, or total economic growth during the 10-year period. Alternately we could look at unemployment rates, poverty rates, workforce participation, or the size of the middle class in 2023. We could also throw in indicators loosely related to economics, such as high school graduation rates or home ownership. I won’t swear that Texas will outperform California in every possible category, but if both states maintain their current political orientation I’d expect Texas to win by most measures.

Texas it is, but I didn’t pick it for you because it can go Democratic. But you get your choice.

First up, the world’s best rated car by Consumer Reports, the Tesla S. Built in California, not legal to buy in Texas.

So are violent alcoholics, yet they can marry just fine long as they’re straight.

This is mistaken, as shown here:

Now, if the Democrats ran record deficits in those years, it could have been justified as part of a long-term counter-cyclical fiscal policy. But in fact, the all-time record high deficit fiscal year was the one that was almost four months old when Obama was inaugurated.

Yes, and one of them is now the governor of California. See:

Jerry Brown’s a lot of things, but he’s no tax-and-spender


Calif. Comeback: Jerry Brown Leads a Turnaround

And yet in #4 of this thread you wrote:

As shown in my last link, this is inaccurate.

Actually, it’s legal to buy. It’s just not legal for Tesla stores to sell them from a lot. Sadly, this is the case in many states that are passing or have passed protectionist laws that restrict vehicle sales to dealerships only, which Tesla has refused thus far to participate in. I have far more issue with this sort of protectionism than what some people have with electric cars.

As for this thread’s OP, it’s not just “conservatives” or “liberals” or “D” or “R” that does this. All platforms are willing to sacrifice the future to push their agenda. Liberals/Ds will sometimes come to power and push their ideals hard, despite the future prospects. Conservative/Rs will sometimes come to power and push their ideals hard despite the prospects.

Most people participate in this line of thinking. Ask anyone what would happen if they were king for a day. Some people I know go “HOOKERS AND BLOW!” in the ultimate short-term self-interested thought. Some people I know go a bit further along the spectrum and go “I’d fix X by Y.” and can’t give you answers if you softball a few questions about long term prospects for that idea.

More broadly, you hear people all the time commenting on things like “Oh, we should help protect the environment!” or “We should help the poor!” and then don’t like the idea if it inconveniences them in any way. This sort of, dare I call it “shallow,” thinking is fairly mainstream in the US political make up these days. Soundbites are far more politically useful (both as catch phrases remembered by their supporters and catch phrases used to besmirch their opponents) than concrete remarks about what they want to do.

Personally, I consider myself socially liberal and fiscally/economically conservative. I’m willing to fund social programs but only if they are sustainably funded. And I don’t mean “A crash in 2007 ate all our money!” austerity kind of un-sustainable (If we have to borrow during horrible financial times as a government, then that’s what we should do), i mean stuff like Social Security being fixed to actually sustain payouts for the long term future, instead of doing enough of a fix to kick the can down the road every 10-20 years.

Lol, yep. Excellent points.

And great response, njtt.