|Available in paperback from Amazon.com.||Letter to a Conservative Nation argues that conservatives are more selfish than liberals. What distinguishes liberal and conservative views on poverty and education? On taxes and regulation? On pollution and climate change? On the rights of women, gays and lesbians, or animals? On drugs? On war? Letter to a Conservative Nation explains why selfishness is the organizing principle of the conservative worldview.
We all act in our own self-interest, but conservatives and liberals view self-interest differently. Liberals include other people in their self-interest calculus because they believe the fate of others is inextricably linked to their own wellbeing. Conservatives, by contrast, have a narrow conception of self-interest that excludes other people from consideration – especially those who are very different from themselves. The common term we use to describe a person who does not factor others into his or her own interests is selfish.
Of course conservatives care about their friends and families just as much as anyone else. But with their narrower conception of self-interest, conservatives are far more likely than liberals to view strangers or people with whom they have little in common as other – even as the enemy – and to therefore fail to respect or empathize with them fully. They are more likely to condemn others for perceived wrongdoings based on these differences. They are more likely to impute hostility or other negative intentions into the actions of others (“Obama wants to kill grandma, and use indoctrination camps to turn America into a Muslim socialist dictatorship”). They are more likely to attribute their own successes to skill (“we built this”), but blame their own failures on “the government”. They are more likely to attribute the success of others to luck, but the failures of others to laziness or some other character flaw (“47% of the country are takers”). They are more likely to cherrypick facts to support their preferred narrative (as in the case of climate change denial). They are more likely to ignore evidence in the present in favor of an idealized past (“we want our country back”). They are more likely to fear and resist any change that might cut into their own advantage, even if it would greatly benefit others (as in the case of gay marriage). And finally, they inevitably commit more acts of hypocrisy because none of the examples above can be reconciled in a coherent manner.
Conservatives live in a self-centered fantasy world where tax cuts pay for themselves, where wealth trickles down from rich to poor, where abstinence-only education prevents teen pregnancy, where climate change is a hoax, and where the most vulnerable and powerless groups – undocumented immigrants and ethnic minorities – are blamed as scapegoats for the problems of “real Americans”. But social and technological progress are squeezing the room for selfishness out of our increasingly interconnected and interdependent world. Conservativism, Letter to a Conservative Nation argues, is therefore inherently unsustainable, and cannot form the basis of a successful society in the 21st Century.
Book excerpts (pdf format):