For years I’ve had a problem with bleeding heart liberals. They tend to romanticize the plight of those on the bottom of society. Of course the right made the opposite mistake of demonizing these groups. The proper attitude is hard-headed utilitarian realism—neither victims nor villains. Now I’m noticing a disturbing new trend in moral exhibitionism—bleeding heart conservatives.
This new conservatism romanticizes the white working class. These conservatives used to mock bleeding heart liberals who claimed that minorities were “the victims of an unjust society”. They pointed out that poor people often made poor life choices. The new conservatives now claim that the white working class is not composed of people who made poor life choices—i.e., not studying hard in school or choosing to use opioids—but rather they are the “victims of neoliberal economic policies”. (Somehow they overlook the fact that the working class in countries that did not embrace neoliberal policies is doing even worse—logic is not their strong point.) The new bleeding heart conservatives engage in the same sort of romanticization of victims for which they used to mock the progressives.
I have an even lower opinion of bleeding heart conservatives than bleeding heart liberals. At least the liberals have compassion for other ethnic groups. Conservatives engage in the easiest form of compassion, which requires the least moral imagination, sympathy for one’s own ethnic group.
As a utilitarian I wish all groups well. But I only have so much ability to sympathize with people I’ve never met. Thus I focus most of my sympathy of those at the bottom, in places like eastern Congo and Aleppo. America’s poor are pretty well off in global terms, and America’s working class is among the global elite (and in crude material terms is far better off than the working class when I was young.) So while I support public policies that would help the American working class, it’s not high on my list of priorities. I’m much more focused on how TPP could impact Vietnam’s peasants.
My greatest contempt is for those policy prostitutes that we call “politicians.” People like Mike Pence, who had no empathy for the victims of heroin addiction until it hit the white working class in southern Indiana. Now Pence has abandoned his support for the free market:
. . . the free market has been sorting it out and America has been losing . . .
It seems that the opponents of the free market are now voting Republican, and the “leaders” of the GOP are giving up all their principles to become followers.
Commenters like to compare me to those campus snowflakes who need safe rooms. Actually, I was mocking campus PC culture when many of them were still in diapers. In fact they are often the real softies; they are the new bleeding hearts. I’ll keep looking at the world in a hard-headed realistic way, in the hope that in the long run, reason will produce a more humane society than we’d get from demagoguery on either the right or the left.
PS. I apologize for the “prostitute” slur; they are business people providing an honest service. Comparing them to politicians was very unfair.
PPS. Most of my commenters will fail to see the distinction that is very clear to Peter Suderman:
But the statement from Pence, who is the Trump administration’s closest link to conventional Republican politics, should be taken as a declaration of intent for the GOP as a political institution. Although Republicans have frequently and sometimes flagrantly acted in opposition to basic free market principles, the party has typically maintained a surface pretense of adhering to a pro-market understanding of the world. The GOP wasn’t exactly a free-market party, but it often pretended to be.
Even President George W. Bush, when announcing his administration’s response to the financial crisis, framed his lack of orthodoxy as an exception necessary to uphold the larger idea, saying that he has “abandoned free-market principles to save the free market system.” Even a break from free-market ideas had to be framed as a defense of free-market philosophy.
In announcing the Carrier deal, Pence has made it clear that the party has abandoned free-market principles, period. Under Trump, the GOP has dropped the pretense.
PPPS. Tyler linked to an article discussing 99 positive trends in the world today. Here’s one:
30. In 1990, more than 60% of people in East Asia lived in extreme poverty. As of 2016, that proportion has dropped to 3.5%. Vox
Even if all of the problems wrongly attributed to neoliberalism were true, it would still be a huge boon to humanity on this fact alone.