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Sender: Michael Briand
Subject: Re: Conservatives
Date: Sun, Apr 27, 2014
Msg: 100954

As my friend Lawry Chickering has long argued, freedom and order (to which the idea of responsibility is related) are values in constant tension, both within society and within each of us. As individuals, we assign them relatively greater or lesser priority, depending on the arena of life activity in which the tension becomes manifest. Empirically, we can generalize how libertarians, conservatives, liberals, progressives, and others tend to prioritize the two values. What interests me, though, is what lies at the root of different perspectives. There are many candidates for consideration, including level of comfort with hierarchical social structure, aversion to risk, where the boundary is drawn between in-group and out-group, how much responsibility one bears for consequences and circumstances not the direct result of one's actions, assumptions about human nature, and so forth.

Yes, atomistic assumptions are probably more common, or at least more apparent, on the libertarian right, less so on the conservative right (conservative in the sense that Burke, Oakeshott, and others viewed the relationship between individual and society). But the tendency to see things (and people) atomistically (as discrete and even independent entities) rather than organically (as necessarily existing in mutually dependent relationship) pervades the modern outlook. It does so because atomism was the metaphysical view that underlay early science and its analytical reductionism. Hence even liberalism tends toward an atomistic perspective (though this has been challenged by pragmatism and by so-called post-modern critiques). Nevertheless, it is probably accurate to say that the political left is more inclined to emphasize the connectedness and mutual influence of all things, and the political right is more inclined to emphasize the discreteness and independence of all things.

I'm not sure there's a single point of entry into constructive discussion of the differences between partisans of left and right. For me the important question is how deep we're willing to go into the sources of those differences; how candid we can allow ourselves to be about those sources; and how able we are to understand, appreciate, and acknowledge the "not unreasonableness" of each other's views.


Michael Briand Chico, CA

From: millershed@EARTHLINK.NET Sent: Friday, April 25, 2014 4:14 PM To: TRANSPARTISAN@LISTS.THATAWAY.ORG Subject: Re: [TRANSPARTISAN] Conservatives

I think we also have to talk about responsibilities, but I'm not sure we can do so without talking about freedoms, since the two must strike a balance.

Atomistic individualism feels like a more right wing, libertarian thing, while subjective values individualism feels like more of a scientific materialist/moral relativistic (and therefore more left wing) thing to me. Am I understanding these properly? I agree with you, Michael, that both feel destructive--because they hinder our ability to find agreement on what is helpful and what is harmful in our society and to work together on strengthening the former and alleviating the latter. If I am right, and each end of the spectrum owns a piece of this dysfunction, might that suggest any promising basis for reevaluation of these ideas and for forging a relationship to--as Stephen says--define and assume together our mutual responsibilities?

John Miller Green Tea Party

-----Original Message----- From: Steven H Johnson Sent: Apr 25, 2014 4:49 PM To: TRANSPARTISAN@LISTS.THATAWAY.ORG Subject: Re: [TRANSPARTISAN] Conservatives

Hi Michael, everyone -

So - if I have an impassioned sense of civic identity - then a conversation about government is also a conversation about personal identity. "My sense of identity leads me to favor limited government." "My sense of identity leads me to favor an activist government." When we put those two ideas on the table, are we really talking about government? Or - indirectly - are we actually talking about the personal identities we prefer?

Let me suggest a different starting point. What if we start with "the question of shared responsibilities"? "As citizens, do we have shared responsibilities? Do we have shared responsibilities for the well-being of our communities? Of our society? Of our nation?"

This approach leads directly to questions of corruption and integrity. Do we have shared responsibilities for the integrity of commerce? Do we have shared responsibilities for the integrity of politics? For the integrity of government? I think the shared responsibility question has real potential as a starting point for transpartisan conversation..

And - once we've opened that door - then we might find ourselves weighing two approaches to individualism. How do we feel about individualism at the expense of responsibility? How do we feel about individualism from within a framework of accepting responsibility?

I think "shared responsibility" is a promising place to start.

To switch to a self-introduction (well, an indirect one), I offer today's Washington Post online story about my wife Martha Johnson and her exit from running the General Services Administration two years ago.


Steve Johnson

On Apr 25, 2014, at 4:13 PM, Michael Briand wrote:

Rick and Michael S. have directed our attention to "limiting government" as a point of contention between left and right. I would like to probe this observation a little more deeply. In this recent blog piece (!page3/cee5), I try to surface problems with the concept of individualism as one source of this conflict. Whether or not you find the piece illuminating, or even accurate, I'd like to suggest that it serves as an example of how transpartisanship requires that we begin to peel back the many layers of our disagreements to get at what's underneath, and at each level to practice the "mutual comprehension" (empathy) without which we will never accomplish more than mutually unsatisfactory compromise.


Michael Michael Briand Chico, CA


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