Saturday, May 5, 2012

Can the Left and the Right Engage In Meaningful Dialogue?

by: Les Carpenter
Rational Nation USA
Liberty -vs- Tyranny

On one of my prior posts a commenter expressed wonder at why I attempt to engage with liberals and endure their insults. This particular visitor also made generalized statements about liberals that were mostly hyperbole and in this bloggers opinion part of the problem. The same problem the left is often guilty of.

The visitors complete comment.

First of all I believe that the post above me was written by a nut. But the title of his or her post is interesting. Interesting enough for me to elaborate on. (Editor’s note:  The visitors opening, “First of all the post above me” is in reference to a liberals comment that was lacking in any salient points and was essentially a ramble of incoherent gibberish.)

The liberals for some reason other live in la-la land and have some utopian dream. Yes the Blame Bush game that is played by the progressive blogs we read is nothing less than disgusting, and hateful. They *hate* America and everything that this country stands for. After reading the blogs that the progressives write and the language that they use I have nothing but distaste for them all. Why the author of this blog continues to post on their blogs and be insulted time after time is way beyond me.  How anyone can say that ObamaCare is not a communist version of universal health care is just lunacy. I see the people on the left constantly holding their hands out. I see the people on the left wanting to silence anything that we real Americans cherish. And frankly, I'm fed up with it all.

I, as the visitor in question does, believe ObamaCare is a huge mistake that will ultimately break the bank, or put us all in the poor house if implemented as written.  I also believe liberals (more than conservatives) are idealistic and see the unattainable utopia as possible. The mechanism liberals believe can make the utopian society possible is Leviathan government. Classical liberals, true conservatives, and libertarians reject this notion.

Where the visitor gets into total hyperbole is when he states that; liberals hate America and everything it stands for, people on the left are constantly holding their hands out, people on the left wanting to silence anything that we real Americans cherish. Those statements are by their very nature divisive, argumentative without facts to support them, and serve no constructive or productive purpose.

I choose the post format to bring the visitors comments to the front page of Rational Nation USA at the suggestion of the Left Coast Rebel.  I am responding to the specific statement  made by the visitor commenter that follows.

"Why the author of this blog continues to post on their blogs and be insulted time after time is way beyond me.”

A) While I happen to be a "classical liberal" and advocate for Objectivism (Ayn Rand's philosophy) I do not hold that all liberals are haters of America. Nor do I believe all liberals are stupid and irrational. If I believed that I suppose I would have high disregard for the founding fathers as they were not only liberal and scientific they were the radicals of their time.  

B) It is comfortable to run only in circles you totally agree with, yes. But what exactly is to be gained by doing so. Some of the most brilliant political minds were liberals.  John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, James Madison, Thomas Paine, I could go on.  My point is that it is quite likely  they all  would all be rolling over in their graves (were that possible) at the Patriot Act, our interventionist foreign policy, crony capitalism, judicial activism, the lack of observing the 1'st amendment, and the list goes on. All of which republicans in particular and many conservatives are quite guilty of supporting and advocating.

C) The present day Republican Party is as much a danger to our individual liberties and civil rights as the issues you are rightly concerned with in regards to progressives and the progressive agenda. The trick is to identify those progressives that have the ability and desire to be reasonable, rational, and objective. We don't have to agree with all they believe to be the right solutions to our problems, nor do they with all of ours. But we should at last listen to and give sincere consideration to all views. Consider this... no one lives in a vacuum, at some level we need to begin working together to find solutions that work, without destroying our republic. It can be done.

D) I am more concerned with seeing conservatives, libertarians, and classical liberals work to put forth ideas that can work to help resolve the problems of 21st century America.  We must be  mindful  we are a diverse nation with ideas as diverse as our population. (Bear in mind I am referring to the legal inhabitants of our nation, those who are here illegally should have no say in our affairs, either state or national.)

E) I am a fiscal conservative and a social libertarian. As much as this nation must  begin a process to get our fiscal house in order I realize  we cannot cure every social ill by forever increasing entitlements and expanding the role of government.  I realize as well we can no longer be the world’s policemen, nor should we . Balance is what is needed. Sadly balance is what is lacking.

Yes we need to be concerned with self reliance, with living within our means, with finding a way to control our borders, ending corporate welfare and crony capitalism, we must find a way to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and we must do it by working together as Americans. It must be through the teamwork of individuals, business, and government in partnership, not with the government serving as regulatory overlords; choking off businesses and individual entrepreneurial endeavors via an antiquated tax system.

We need to return to capitalism; a true capitalism which grows the middle class. Something the Republican Party has failed to do. While I do not believe the Democratic Party, nor its present standard bearer has the answers (it's why I'm voting libertarian) I know as certainly as I am writing  the Republicans don't either.

So in summary, while I'll always advocate for classical liberal principles, capitalism, Objectivism, social libertarianism, fiscal restraint, and sensible social programs I will do it by considering and engaging with others that don't think just like me.

We the People need to back away from our current path,  find proper workable solutions to our national problems, and find the will to make hard choices together, or we will surely enter the abyss.  Together.

In closing,

I remain a fiercely independent thinking classical liberal, independent conservative, social libertarian, and most of all a proud American that has no problem taking issue with either side of the political debate when I believe them to be in error or irrational. However, the bottom line is until both the left and the right begins talking with each other rather than at each other not much if anything will change.

Just my opinion. I welcome yours.


  1. I think that if you put Tom Coburn and Kent Conrad in a room together, the 2 of them would probably be able to hammer out a budget that the vast majority of the American public would at least be able to live with. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of Republicans like Coburn and even fewer Democrats like Conrad. And, so, no, I don't expect a whole hell of a lot to change down in D.C, either.

    1. I believe you just may be correct. On all points. It is indeed disheartening methinks.

  2. A. Einstein was a socialist. Or at least he wrote an op-ed supporting it.
    B. Earlier this week I had a conversation (or attempted to) with a man who believes there was no national debt when Bush took office.

    Pretty hard to have a rational conversation with someone who is so lacking in facts.

    1. Einstein was a brilliant scientist and somewhat left leaning. It is for that reason I included him on my short list.

      Yes jac, it is indeed difficult to have a rational discussion with one like you've described. But, you keep trying. Facts usually get accepted by rational people when they are understood. If one refuses to acknowledge reality and or objective reasoning I guess you just move on.

  3. I fully appreciate the thinking individual that is willing to listen and look at the facts. I know I have been wrong in my beliefs at times and had to adjust, so I welcome all comers if they are willing to be open and respectfully. We are all created equal and should have equal rights under the law, but that means that you get to force your stupidity on anyone regardless of how right you think you are.

    1. Remember Sandy, mo one can force their stupidity on another. As individuals we have free will should we choose to exercise it. In that scenario it becomes our choice whether to allow ourselves to accept stupidity or not.

    2. The sad part is that there are plenty of people willing to codify their stupidity into law, which is what I was referring too. The fact that the far right or left can force me by the weight of the government to follow their stupidity is what bugs me the most. The left seeks to bankrupt the country and the right seeks to control our minds and actions. I can't think of any worse stupidity.

    3. sorry re-read the comment and it should have said that "doesn't mean that you.."

    4. Agreed. That is specifically why those on both side must activate and marginalize, if not cut out the extremes that make up the ideological fringes. Rarely is rational thought to be found in the extremists of either the left or the right. It is the extremes that are responsible for creating the existing political climate. It is We the People that have let it happen. Either through ignorance, laziness, or the combination of both. Whichever it is the end results, as we are witnessing today will be the same.

  4. The reference was to the yearly budget Conservative Girl.

    Two sides are too entrenched Les. In a way I think had Mcain won in 2008 thngs would be so bad now that real change would be happening. Stimulus and QE'ing are what's keeping economy afloat now.

    1. This is precisely a large part of my concern. You highlighted it well via your comment.

    2. I'm trying to imagine how a McCain presidency would have been materially different than what we have now... We'd be in the same boat, government stealing money from citizens via rampant printing, while the treasury backfills the pockets of the financiers, favored cronys getting stimulated while the rest of us get the shaft...

      No, I think a crash and well-deserved bankruptcies are what needed to happen in 2008, but dirty Hank Paulson and his gang of pirates convinced Bush to bail out wall street at the expense of main street, and Obama has picked it up and ran with it, only the rhetoric has changed.

    3. That may be the fact, but it isn't what this man believes. He truly doesn't understand the difference between the debt, the deficit, and the budget.

      He also believes that no voter fraud happens in this country, ever. Even though we live in VA. The state where Gingrich wasn't allowed on the primary ballot for voter fraud.

      Totally ignorant, and seemed happy to stay that way.

  5. Very well stated Les. Although our philosophies diverge slightly, I too attempt to take a principles-based approach, but it seems so often liberals want to engage in political team sport, "oh, yeah? Well Bush did this, or the rethuglicans did that."

    While it is useful to examine the actions of politicians, it's kinda like arguing over which is better, a poke in the eye with a sharp stick or a ball bat to your kneecap...

    It can be tiring engaging with those on the left, and I know they get exasperated with us as well. While such discussions bear little fruit, I harbor the hope that maybe we are laying a groundwork for productive dialog. I don't know... I do know that their longing for the strong man and grand government "solutions" is disturbing. Hayek warned us about a government constantly on war footing, be it actual wars or merely a militant government on the march to cure all societal ills.

    I think at this point meaningful dialog is damned near impossible, at least without some agree-upon premises stipulated up front, and we can't even get there.

    The federal government is trying to do too much that it was never designed to do. It needs to get back to the enumerated powers and leave the rest to the states and the people.

    The federal government did not build this nation and our economic might; the people did. Yes, government played an important role in providing infrastructure, a legal system, etc, but it is not the engine that drives progress; We the people do, each of us making free decisions every day and exercising sovereignty over our own lives while respecting the rights of others to do the same. We've lost that.

    1. Silver, a wonderfully reasoned and thoughtful comment. I too fear this nation may be be so divided meaningful and constructive dialogue in politics may be impossible. It is my belief those that truly desire change must continue the tiring work that may lead to real change with positive results.

      Your last paragraph is classic. Well said.

  6. There are those who try to frame the government as the enemy because certain laws or whatever that protect one group, or the whole such as environmental protection laws, interfere with their goals or profit motives.

    Government is not the enemy. The special interests that control it are.

    As for the enumerated powers, when the Constitution was written there were no railroads. Lincoln oversaw building of the transcontinental railroad. Was that unconstitutional? The Eisenhower highway system? The atom bomb?

    These things became because of government ativism SF. lack of government leads to financial crisis like we had in 2008. The savings and loan scandal of the 80's.

    1. And just who is responsible for allowing special interest to gain this influence?... Another blank.

      The founders, being the rational thinkers and many who possessed scientific minds certainly knew science would change he landscape. the structure they put in place allowed for these changes without destroying the basis of our republic.

      Government has a purpose, it does provide structure and it should have a hand in maintaining our national infrastructure. It should not become the agency on which we become dependent on for our existence.

      Government is only as good and effective as the people whom we elect to sit in the seat of power and make decision that us all, and our liberties.

      The two party government of late has done a damn poor job at that they were elected to do. All the partisan BS only serves to perpetuate a continuation towards the abyss.

      At least that's how I've come to view it. Both party's are equally guilty OF TIME, IMO.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. I think the intellectual divide between right and left today is based on a fallacy - that power and liberty are mutually exclusive states. May I suggest the wonderful quick read, "Power vs Liberty: Madison, Hamilton, Wilson, and Jefferson." All the current political strains we see today, liberalism, progressivism, libertarianism, conservatism, (I'm sorry, but I do not see "classical liberalism" in much of today's thought at all, even from you, Les), are based on this notion that power and liberty are at odds, be that power of private wealth or governmental, or the that liberty of private behavior or business.

    Though the lines are all over the place, the lines are still between power and liberty. Here I think we have a simplistic and divisive conundrum. If we see the balance as a mixture of both, rather than one or the other, we can find more common ground between all of us. But as long we hold this simplistic and divisive misbegotten belief that power and liberty are always at odds, we will always be at odds.


    1. I would state it slightly differently. It's all about power. When government has it all, it's totalitarian and there is no liberty. When Government has no power, it is anarchy, and people have absolute liberty, but that ends in people violating one another's liberty.

      So we must achieve a balance. Government can't invent power; it must come from the people. The more power a government has, the less liberty the people have. The founders understood this well and their writings are filled with such comparisons.

      It's a balancing act, and big fat government is just about to tip the whole damned thing over.

    2. I agree partially JMJ. The difficulty lies in determining what exactly the "mixture" should look like. You would probably view a larger portion being government control (power) while I would view the the mixture should be more heavily liberty leaning.

      We must have governmental controls and we must protect individual liberties and civil rights as well. Furthermore, we must have a balance as I stated in the post. Again, the challenge is defining the balance that We the People accept as reasonable. Based on rational reasoned thought and not emotional feelings.

  9. To have a meaningful dialogue with a political opponent one must understand what their goals are and be willing to help them achieve that goal. without this understanding nothing can be achieved.

    Any dialogue with the goal to convince an opponent that they are wrong and you are right only results in a meaningless dialogue because neither party will achieve their goal.

    and when one side cannot convince they will justfy the use of force to impose their goals. the reason: they believe that the goal is what is important not the means of achieving it.

    when a person understands the implication of this there can be no compromise. it becomes a either/or proposition.

    This is one of the most important lessons of the Revolutionary war as well as the War between the States.

    1. help me understand your statements accurately. If I read them correctly you are in essence advocating:

      1} understanding the opponents goals.
      2) Recognizing that the dialogue may end in stalemate.
      3) Accepting that when this happens the inevitability of armed conflict (force) is to be accepted.
      4) That finding no compromise is acceptable and that war as n alternative is justifiable.

      Okay, If I have understood correctly I accept the premise you put forth as a possible ultimate outcome.

      My question then is this... Do you, and I mean you specifically and personally believe we as a nation and peole arrived at this juncture in the year 2012 or do you believe it still possible to find rational non violent means to resolve our differences of opinion.

  10. only one correction in your conclusion, Les. "one side" will believe that the use of force is justified to resolve the issue. the other side may try to use non violent means to resolve the issue. one non violent means would be the severing of the relationship between the two parties.
    the colonies attempted to resolve the issues between them and the crown by severing their relationship with the Crown by the declaration of Independence.
    the southern States attempted to resolve the issues they had with the northern States by severing their relationship by the use of secession from the Union.

    in both situations the response was the use of force by the other side.

    is my comment more clear now or have I missed something else?

    1. Griper, Thank you for clarifying your position. Your clarification is as I believed it would be.

      In the pure philosophical sense I have no argument with your response. Other than to comment that there must exist a structure by which a nation and society has the mechanism to exert effective and reasonable control over the populae. The United States Constitution provides for just such limited, objective, and rational control.

      The challenge is in overcoming the differences in interpretation. Something that, as you point out may not be possible.

    2. Griper, Thank you for clarifying your position. It is as I believed it to be.

      In the philosophical sense I have no issues with what you state here. The challenge lies in reconciling the different interpretations of what the government should do.

      I believe we have the best blueprint to answer these questions in the United States Constitution. It provides the framework for how a proper ethical government should function. most will agree with this statement. Because our society and the demands of that society is ever growing/changing the question is, and herein lies the rub, what should the role of our government be in a ever more complex and demanding world.

      I think I know the proper answer and so do you. But as we live in a democratic republic the final say rests in the majority opinion of the voting population does it not?

  11. as to your question to me, Les, I can only say this.

    as long as one side feel justified in the use of force by the federal government over the lives of the people while the other side feels it is unjustified there can be no agreement.

    we are a nation divided and to paraphrase Mr. Lincoln we cannot survive as a house divided in the use of force by the federal government.

    and the cause of this division is the dual interpretation of the federal Constitution. to resolve the differences will require that one side or the other submit to the interpretation of the other side.

    And this is one thing that the left is not willing to do because it is only by their interpretation that allows them to pursue their goals by the use of federal government force. the right considers that as an abuse of constitutional powers by their interpretation.

    thus the only non-violent means to resolve this issue and remain united is for the right to submit to the interpretation of the left.

    Obama is the best example of this with his promise to unite this nation again. and his actions as President on domestic issues reveals exactly how he intended on doing this.

    1. Lincoln actually said I believe... "A house divided against itself cannot stand." He of course was correct. The fact he chose to use force to preserve the union in reality made him perhaps the first great statist President of the United States. I fully understand your statements and reasoning.

      I refer you back to my next to last paragraph of my prior comment.

      I agree there are those on the left unwilling to concede your points just as there are those on the right unwilling to concede to the lefts point of view.

      So in your analysis yes he only non violent resolution is for one to concede to the other. Or find a workable compromise.

      I again refer you back to the next to last paragraph in my prior comment. I am interested in your understanding and response to that particular paragraph.

      Nothing like a sticky wicket so to speak huh Griper?

  12. "But as we live in a democratic republic the final say rests in the majority opinion of the voting population does it not?"

    if those be the words you refer to, Les, then the answer is no. if the answer was as you imply we would need no constitution and we would still be a nation divided as we are now.

    besides, if what you say is true then any law that was passed by virtue of the vote of the majority of the people would be constitutional.

    absolute rule by majority only results in tyranny of the minority by the majority.

    it is this that the right seeks to prevent by their interpretation.

    it is this that the interpretation of the left will lead to.
    and they will justify this rule by declaring that the majority knows what is best for the minority.

  13. Griper, in a democratic republic the people elect representatives by majority vote to represent them in congress and make decisions resulting in passing legislation onto law. The question of a laws constitutionality when ot is brought into question is determined by the courts with the ultimate determination resting with the SCOTUS of it gets that far.

    I know all about the tyranny of the majority that results when there is no protection codified in law to protect the rights of the minority. Bill of Rights.

    Are you arguing for the sake of arguing Griper? Or do you have a salient point you wish me to consider?

    One of the reasons we have a republc is because the founders recognized the dangers in a true democracy. Regardless of your inference that is what I meant it is not. I never have nor will I ever.

    So Griper the ball is in your court. I am interested in precisely how you think the situation should be addressed and the precise outcome you think desirable as well as constitutional. Or, we can keep spinning our wheels.

  14. Les,
    I was not arguing only trying to give you an answer to the questions asked of me by you.
    if i was trying to mmake a point it would be in answer to this question,
    "Can the left and the right engage in meaningful dialogue?"
    my response would be no and i gave the reasons why i said no. there can be no meaningful dialogue without unity of the meaning of the Constitution and willingness to abide by that meaning by both sides.

    1. Status Quo. Create the paradigm that eternally perpetuates the existing system thus insuring the more things change the more they stay the same.

      The two party system working precisely as modern puppet masters wish.

  15. the two party system is not the problem, Les. if you look back on history you'll see the same problems with every government created that we are experiencing today. and that problem can be summed up into this one question,

    "who should have the power and authority to make the decision on any particular issue, the central government or the individual?"

    Our federal Constitution adds a third party to that question,

    "who should have the power and authority to make the decision on any particular issue, the central government, the State government or the individual?"

    now, governmental power and authority can be divided up into two catagories, foreign policy and domestic policies. every person is in agreement as to where power and authority belongs in regards to foreign issues, the central government.

    the problem lies in the disagreement in regards to domestic issues and this is where the left rules because they are more united and of one thought in their ideology of rule. it is the right that is more disunited in their ideologies of rule.

    this disunity of thought in regards to the Constitution did not always exist between the two political parties. so the question now becomes,
    "when did this disunity begin and why?"

    if you seek a meaningful dialogue with the left, Les it must begin in the seeking the answers to that question. it is the answers to this question that one side or the other dares not seek an answer to.

    1. Griper, I suppose you are right. I also suspect that the left may make the same or similar observations.

  16. As long as we allow career politicians there will be little success of meaningful dialog between the two parties. The Federalists are charged with protecting us and delivering the mail. All else should be States Rights. Most politicians are only interested in keeping their power base so they can keep their job, there are a couple of exceptions but very few.
    Term limits and citizen legislators will be the only effective way to regain a balance in the country.

    1. Dude, I went to check out your blog and was disappointed to see that you didn't have one. I think that a smart and reasonable fellow like you should really start one. Just a suggestion.

  17. "this disunity of thought in regards to the Constitution did not always exist between the two political parties. so the question now becomes"
    There was disunity about the Constitution, the day it was signed. There was disunity about the Constitution every time a Constitutional issue came up. There was disunity about the Constitution, which started a Civil War.
    We are more clear about the Constitution today, than over 200 years ago. We have 200 years of court decisions, that have defined the Constitution. Yes, there are still Constitutional issues yet to be determined; and farther into the future as American society changes. Founding fathers (who were later President)found disunity among the parties (even their own party) when acting based on the Constitution.

  18. Les,

    "I agree partially JMJ. The difficulty lies in determining what exactly the "mixture" should look like. You would probably view a larger portion being government control (power) while I would view the the mixture should be more heavily liberty leaning.

    We must have governmental controls and we must protect individual liberties and civil rights as well. Furthermore, we must have a balance as I stated in the post. Again, the challenge is defining the balance that We the People accept as reasonable. Based on rational reasoned thought and not emotional feelings."

    You are terribly mistaken in thinking I would prefer more or less government regulating this or that.

    I couldn't give a rat's feces about that.

    I, like every other civilized, thinking man, want effective and accountable government so as to accommodate as prosperous a life for we Americans as possible. That's all.

    I am not a communist. The vast majority of we liberals are not communists.


    1. Well jmj you have out done yourself this time.



      Perhaps you should have another jmj and chill. Try to put words in my mouth I did not say or imply again and your comment WILL be deleted.

  19. Les, I'm trying to have a "meaningful dialogue" with the left (Jerry and wd, specifically) on health-care right now and I can't even make a speck of progress. It seems that if isn't single-payer or something else that doesn't involve a massive infusion of hard federal power, they simply aren't interested. Thankfully, not everybody on the left side is that dogmatic (Ron Wyden, Alice Rivlin, and Kent Conrad are 3 that come to mind)

    1. Have you read the entire comment stream on this post?

      What I find almost amusing is the fact that the problem we have is manifested in both the left and the right.

      Intelligent individuals unable to find solutions based on objective reasoning. What they fail to recognize it that sooner or later compromise is the only avenue to correcting the ship of state and resolving our fiscal mess.

      Even I, a advocate of Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism and rational self interest realize that while tirelessly trying to change minds through reasoned dialogue at the end of the dy nothing gets accomplished without compromise and at least measured agreement.

      Writing on this blog as well as LCR and the now defunct Conservative Firestorm has lead me to believe as the Griper stated it will be impossible for he differing views to reconcile differences and save this nation as we've heretofore known it.

      As I make the above statement I cast no aspersions upon one side that I do not cast upon the other. Both are now and have in the past been guilty of helping to create our problems and in continuing to perpetuate them.

      If there is one thing I've learned from blogging it is this. You will be applauded by those whose views you agree with, you will be vilified by those whose views you disagree with, and when you honestly evaluate situations using your own mind and experiences you will be vilified by both because you refuse to carry water for anyone or either side. I believe it was you who said something to the effect of... few bloggers have the chutzpah to challenge both the left and right. Or something to that effect.

      Well Will welcome to the small group of bloggers who do. And thanks for lending your unique and reasoned voice to the pages of RN USA both in post and comment form.

  20. I concur, Les. There has indeed been a whole hell of a lot of dogmatism coming from the right, too; the moral majority, supply-side gurus, neoconservatives, and now the tea-party minority in Congress. I, though, and for some strange reason, just happen to attract the loonies on the left.

  21. I'm late to the discussion here but have to say one thing: great post, Les, one of your best.


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