Re: MD liberals, conservatives & suffering

From: Wim Nusselder (
Date: Fri Aug 22 2003 - 22:31:06 BST

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    Dear Steve & August & Horse,

    Steve wrote 20 Aug 2003 20:22:28 -0400:
    'I'm glad you're back.'

    Only for continuing some old discussions, as I wrote. I'm still too much in
    a holiday mood to read more than what's explicitly addressed to me.

    Steve replied to my:
    'Not being an American, I have no idea about the best way to distinguish
    liberals and conservatives in the USA.'
    'Both major parties are far from libertarian.'

    So libertarianism isn't the way to distinguish them. You seem to identify
    liberals with democrats and conservatives with republicans... Is that
    From this side of the ocean I get the impression that the differences
    between individual democratic or republican politicians are often bigger
    than those between an average democratic and an average republican
    politician. From a Dutch point of view the democratic and republican parties
    would hardly qualify as 'political party', because they don't have (as far
    as I know) a common (written) programme telling their supporters what to
    expect when they vote them in power. Wasn't some would-be president even
    asking his listeners to read his lips to learn his true intentions...?
    Politics in the Netherlands has progressed a bit further: if politicians in
    power do something different than what's in their party's programme, they
    are publicly pilloried for it. (It's only a small step forward of course.
    Only having parties who only get minorities behind them, governments always
    rest on coalitions of several parties who can defend deviations from party
    programmes with the need to compromise in order to form the coalition.)

    I proposed to 'ignore the bickering of liberals and conservatives and
    concentrate on the question whether suffering is a part of inorganic,
    biological, social and/or intellectual patterns of value and if so, which

    Steve replied:
    'I bet this will merely spur a new way to bicker, but I'll try it. I would
    say that liberals tend to focus on fulfilling material (inorganic and
    biological) needs while conservatives focus on improving social quality for
    the suffering.'

    Well, obviously 'suffering' can be defined on all four levels as lack of
    some quality: lack of sufficiently stable and/or versatile patterns of value
    of their respective kinds and/or lack of freedom from them. (I'm not really
    sure about the inorganic level though, but it's probably the least relevant
    anyway.) Dividing lines can be drawn both between those adhering to
    definitions of 'suffering' on different levels AND between those adhering to
    definitions in terms of lack of static quality on the one hand and those
    adhering to definitions in terms of lack of dynamic quality (lack of freedom
    to move on to higher static quality) on the other hand. I don't feel able to
    draw clear dividing lines of these kinds between the average liberal
    (democrat?) and the average conservative (republican?), although by their
    'banners' 'conservatives' should be expected to define 'suffering' as lack
    of old-time patterns of value while 'liberals' should be expected to define
    'suffering' as old-time patterns of value preventing them to move on to
    newer ones. In real life it is very easy however to catch a professed
    'conservative' (say Platt) hallowing all kinds of 'freedom from'.
    August (21 Aug 2003 10:48:09 -0700) quite rightly draws our attention to a
    further complication: Do we want to distinguish them by what they SAY
    (supposedly what their listeners want to hear), by what they DO once in
    power or by the (hidden, 'true?') INTENTIONS which WE can (can we?) divine
    behind their words and/or deeds.

    In short: distinguishing liberals and conservatives by the way they somehow
    'relate' to suffering seems a hopeless venture to me. By proposing to
    'ignore the bickering of liberals and conservatives' I in fact proposed to
    forget about the whole question of how to distinguish them and to limit
    ourselves to OUR (MoQ-inspired) answers to 'why is Joe Anybody suffering?'
    and 'what are we going to do about it?'

    With friendly greetings,


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