Why I Rarely Talk Politics

As I hear people talk about politics I often judge that what the are forwarding is not some viable utopia that would benefit everyone.  What they are doing is expressing their own self-interest as political commentary.  I admit that my political preferences are my own self interests – so I usually keep my opinions to myself.

So, I consider myself to be politically conservative.  I feel that I would prefer smaller, more fiscally conservative government.  But hey, I’m a white guy with a good education and a decent job.  If I were in a completely different situation, my political opinions would likely be radically different from what they are.  This is a good sign that what I have is not a solid political philosophy, it is just self-interest.  It is therefore not usually valuable enough to share.

I would suggest trying something.  The next time you hear someone spreading their politics, or you think about spreading your own, evaluate the possibility that it is just forwarding self-interests and nothing more.

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21 Responses to “Why I Rarely Talk Politics”


  1. 1 JJ Rousseau June 27, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Ouch. So, how do you explain me. I am also a white guy with a good education and a decent job. I am not at all politically conservative.

    Chris H.

  2. 2 Daniel June 27, 2011 at 9:11 am

    I am also a white guy with a good education and a decent job and am not politically conservative.

  3. 3 Eric June 27, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Same here.

  4. 4 Matthew Chapman June 27, 2011 at 10:11 am

    JJ, Daniel, and Erik: OK, not politically conservative, but are you saying that you would prefer a larger, less fiscally conservative government?

    Can you say that you would prefer government policies which are contrary to your personal interest?

    For example, do you in favor of raising taxes on individuals within your income bracket, while lowering taxes on all brackets above and below you?

    if you have children in school, do you prefer increasing class size, and lowering pay and educational standards for teachers?

  5. 5 JJ Rousseau June 27, 2011 at 10:56 am

    “JJ, Daniel, and Erik: OK, not politically conservative, but are you saying that you would prefer a larger, less fiscally conservative government?”

    I do prefer a larger government. However, since I think we should increase revenue to pay for it…I might be somewhat fiscally conservative.

    “Can you say that you would prefer government policies which are contrary to your personal interest?”

    Well, I am a rich socialist.

    “For example, do you in favor of raising taxes on individuals within your income bracket, while lowering taxes on all brackets above and below you?”

    A stupid question, but I will address your point. I would be okay with raising taxes on everyone in my bracket and those above me.

    “if you have children in school, do you prefer increasing class size, and lowering pay and educational standards for teachers?”

    No, but I know many conservatives with children that essentially do (again, the question is crap because it has too many contested concepts in it).

  6. 6 JJ Rousseau June 27, 2011 at 11:02 am

    I think people like me are the real reason why Eric avoids politics. 😉

  7. 7 Clark June 27, 2011 at 11:44 am

    I’m not sure it’s because of just communicating self-interest. For instance I know Dan is concerned with our ethical responsibility as am I. Neither of those is about self-interest. Further I like (non-fiery) political discussions in order to challenge my own beliefs. I don’t want to believe things that aren’t true. I’ve noticed in a lot of political discussions that many people just hold to outright demonstrably false “facts.” Those of use who read a lot are less apt to hold those, but there certainly are positions or more obscure facts we’re ignorant of.

    I learn a lot from political discussions — especially those with people I disagree with. The tricky is avoiding the heated emotional discussions.

  8. 8 Clark June 27, 2011 at 11:49 am

    “if you have children in school, do you prefer increasing class size, and lowering pay and educational standards for teachers?”

    I think the correlation between class size and attainment is no longer thought to be as strong as it once was. Further there are pretty creative ways of dealing with this such as permanent teacher’s aid so that there are effectively two people in the classroom at any time helping the students. At my son’s school (a public school) they also encourage parents to act as teachers aid.

  9. 9 Eric Nielson June 27, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Chris/Dan/Eric:

    Perhaps there is more to your politics than your own self-interest.

  10. 10 Daniel June 27, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    Matthew,

    JJ, Daniel, and Erik: OK, not politically conservative, but are you saying that you would prefer a larger, less fiscally conservative government?

    I think “larger” government is in the eye of the beholder. I am constantly shocked at how much certain segments of our society resort to the state to push their own ideology (such as using regulation to stifle the use of abortion). How large a state should be is directly related to what purpose a state holds for an ideology. If one ideology runs on moral issues, it is going to use the state to its ends. This is a “large” government. And in terms of Republican history with “fiscally conservative governing” I dare you to show me in the last 40 years a “fiscally conservative government” run by conservative presidents. It doesn’t exist, Matthew. To denounce those on the left for their supposed desires for “larger governments” whilst supporting presidents and congressmen that massively increase the size of that same government is hypocritical. Where was the outrage at Paul Ryan for voting for the unfunded Medicare Part D in December 2003? Are we to take it that suddenly those on the right think anything he has to offer will make penance for that vote? Where is the consequence against those on the right who vote for something so ridiculously expensive as Medicare Part D? Those who voted for that unfunded bill suffered no consequences in the polls. Those who voted for that unfunded bill were largely conservative from “safe” districts, including Paul Ryan. I’d like to believe you guys on the right are for “smaller government,” but to this point, in the past 40 years or so, I just haven’t seen it put in actual practice. Something always seems to get in the way, whether ensuring seniors vote for your party in the 2004 election by giving them Medicare Part D, or two wars that you don’t ask your country to sacrifice for through higher taxes. Those two wars are unfunded. I didn’t want those wars. You guys on the right wanted them. Don’t talk to me about “smaller government” until you guys on the right ACTUALLY practice what you preach.

    Can you say that you would prefer government policies which are contrary to your personal interest?

    Dunno. I didn’t want the war in Iraq but it wasn’t up to me. Personally I’m not a big proponent of the Ayn Rand influenced “selfishness” that is so prevalent in today’s Right. We are a stronger country when we sacrifice self interest for the whole, and we are a weaker country when we sacrifice the whole for the self. But that’s just my view. I prefer that we work together for the cause than work separately for our own separate causes.

    For example, do you in favor of raising taxes on individuals within your income bracket, while lowering taxes on all brackets above and below you?

    Well my family happens to be in the top 10% income bracket. We’re not in such dire shape that taxes must be increased on everyone in order to solve our fiscal problems. In fact, if we just let Bush’s tax cuts expire, we’re suddenly in far greater shape. I also would not mind a millionaire’s tax for all income that exceeds $1,000,000. That’s about .5% of the earning population. The top 1% earn over $450,000, and even if they are taxed at a higher rate, they’ll do just fine. Furthermore, it won’t affect small businesses as 95% of all small businesses are owned by people earning less than $250,000. Those who make over $250,000 are in the top 5% or so.

    if you have children in school, do you prefer increasing class size, and lowering pay and educational standards for teachers?

    I have absolutely no problem paying higher taxes to better my child’s school. I prefer to live in a neighborhood that has high property taxes because I know those schools are going to do well.

  11. 11 Daniel June 27, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    oh, and I DO happen to live in a city that has high taxes and moved to a zoned school that ranks in the top 15 best elementary schools in New York City just so our daughter will get the best education the public system can offer.

  12. 12 JJ Rousseau June 27, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    Eric,

    I fear that I missed the irony of your post when I read it first thing this morning. My bad. Of course, self-interest and principle are always at play in our political consideration. However, it is rather complex for most of us. You are the best.

  13. 13 Eric Nielson June 27, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    Thanks Chris.

    I acknowledge that people and politics are incredibly complex. Who am I to say that my preferred way is the best? It seems good for me, so I don’t talk politics much.

    • 14 JJ Rousseau June 27, 2011 at 5:51 pm

      That is why we should try to find out the reasoning behind the politics (or morals) of others rather than just assuming. I am not good at this, but it is interesting when done well.

      I do like the contact sport aspect as well….:)

  14. 15 Daniel June 27, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    I also like the contact sport aspect. 🙂

  15. 16 TexasMomm September 29, 2011 at 8:29 am

    Sorry for posting again, this is an old post, so everyone will not read my comment which is prob a good thing :D.

    I don’t think being conservative is a “selfish” endeavor ;)… Not that it does not have issues, but I think there is a reason that conservatives have been linked with the Christian faith (and tend to side with Christians on most issues like being pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, supporting religious freedoms, and supporting freedom in general)

    (Book of Mormon | Alma 51:5 – 6)
    5 And it came to pass that those who were desirous that Pahoran should be dethroned from the judgment–seat were called aking–men, for they were desirous that the law should be altered in a manner to overthrow the free government and to establish a bking over the land.
    6 And those who were desirous that Pahoran should remain chief judge over the land took upon them the name of afreemen; and thus was the bdivision among them, for the freemen had sworn or ccovenanted to maintain their rights and the privileges of their religion by a free government.

    (Book of Mormon | Alma 46:13)
    13 And he fastened on his head–plate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins; and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren, so long as there should a band of Christians remain to possess the land—

    I see a smaller government as being more in-line with the freemen, and a larger government as being more in line with the king-men. I’m not an anarchist – gov is needed, and it is appropriate to clothe the poor etc. etc. but there is a vast difference between taking care of the poor, and doing something like enforcing health care on the rich and middle class too…

    There are several talks on the difference between the united order, and socialism if you are interested…
    random google:
    http://runwin.tripod.com/socialism.html

    I believe that this country (the US) was founded by God, that the original governing system was inspired by God, and find it sad to see the Constitution “hanging by a thread” as it were due to those who would have us become a socialistic nation.

    I’m not sure how many gadianton robbers walk the halls of congress, and will not pretend that the corruption there exists only in one party, but on the slim chance that someone might actually stand up for freedom, I’ll vote with that hope in mind… not for any selfish endeavor, but that my children might live within a free country.

  16. 17 Eric Nielson September 29, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Interesting thoughts. My reaction is to ask some questions. It seems that you link freedom with conservative – is this always the case? And what type of freedoms are we talking about? Would entirely unregulated capitalism lead to greater freedom for all – or just those who already have wealth?

    Again, not everyone’s politics are motivated by self interest, but the question to ask yourself is would your politics be the same if you were in dramatically different circumstances?

  17. 18 TexasMomm September 29, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    unregulated capitalism? I’m not an anarchist, and believe in bringing criminals to justice, if someone is stealing or being dishonest then persecute them. I’m also fine with anti-trust types of regulations and trade tariffs to maintain effective competition. I don’t believe in penalizing someone for being successful though. I believe in private ownership and entrepreneurship. You can’t easily go against the unwritten laws of nature – laws like “supply and demand”, and “survival of the fittest”. Destroying competitive markets, mandating prices, removing natural incentives… consider places like Venezuela: before Hugo Chavez there was freedom and wealth, but then Chavez nationalized industries, and what came of this? Consider how well China is doing now that is has opened its economy to capitalism. Political freedom and free markets go hand in hand. “Businessmen are the symbol of a free society – the symbol of America” – Any Rand.

    I’m all for providing the poor with the basic necessities in life, and for programs like the perpetual education fund – but all things in moderation, there is a difference between helping and enabling someone.

    (Old Testament | Proverbs 6:6 – 8)
    6 Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:
    7 Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,
    8 Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.

    freedom: the freedom to reap the just rewards of your work, freedom of speech (even when some do not agree with what you say), civil liberties, freedom to vote (rather than legislation from the bench), freedoms from obligations or duty (to not support organizations/people that you disagree with)…

    Gal 5:1 STAND fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

    From the liberty bell:
    Leviticus 25:10 Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.

    I love this design for the US Seal:

    “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God” – with a picture of the Israelites escaping the tyrannical pharaoh…

    ruled by God, or ruled by man… The British national anthem vs. “Our Country tis of thee” where the words of the British song were re-written from “God save the queen” to “Great God our King”… Our freedom was founded by people who wanted to be ruled by God rather than a King…

    It’s the original premortal war – force everyone to be the same, or give everyone freedom to reap their just rewards. Personal responsibility…

    I was once in dramatically different circumstances (not a member of the church, poor college student – a “white girl without an education, and without a job” – etc. etc. and I was still Republican 😀 – my conservative ideals are perhaps the only constant I have had in my life ;).

    so I hope you don’t mind my political fb posts! (LOL, I’ve been good about that recently ;).

  18. 19 Eric Nielson September 29, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    Who are you? Jamie?

    Anyway, perhaps you are one who does not base their beliefs simply on self interest. If so, good for you. If you would honestly have the same political beliefs if you were in completely different circumstances then that is a good sign.

    I am afraid some of my political opinions would change. For instance, I now understand the motives behind labor unions better than I did a few years ago. I am more sympathetic to their purposes. What has changed? My circumstances.

  19. 20 TexasMomm September 29, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    Yes, it’s your crazy sister-in-law spouting off again :D, I try to be a minimalist at heart, so the thought of being poor does not bother me too much. I lived out of a suitcase one summer, and strangely, enjoyed it – foot loose and fancy free (but I admit, this was before I had kids to worry about). There’s more to life than being rich and all that… a job is just a job… I hope I will always be idealistic in holding freedom to be more important than security….

    “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.” – Adams

    Only those who can govern themselves can be free from being governed.. as society decays (as it is prophesied to) larger gov will naturally evolve to try and control an increasingly immoral population… nevertheless, I’ll still try to be the idealist running around with my little “title of Liberty” flag 🙂


  1. 1 A Link to a Review of Connor Boyack’s ‘Latter Day Liberty’ « Small and Simple Trackback on December 7, 2011 at 9:35 am

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