Then and now

In 1969:

Leftists: Free speech on campus!

Conservatives: Ban speakers with communist sympathies.

In 2019:

Conservatives: Free speech on campus!

Leftists: Ban speakers with non-PC views.

(OK, I’m cheating a bit—conservatives don’t like anti-Israeli speech.)

In 1969:

Conservatives: Cut your hair and conform to society’s norms.

Leftists: I’ll wear my hair any way I choose.

In 2019:

Leftists: Stop braiding your hair and conform to your ethnic group’s norms.

Conservatives: I’ll wear my hair any way I choose.

It seems like leftists and conservatives are constantly disagreeing and constantly changing their views. Not so, they agree with each other and never change their views. Both conservatives and leftists agree that those with the most power should tell the rest of us how to live. The only thing that changes is the balance of power.



14 Responses to “Then and now”

  1. Gravatar of Tom M Tom M
    11. February 2019 at 10:00

    It’s not even ban people with non-pc views, it’s ban anyone who has an opinion that differs from mine…

    Also, colleges and universities rarely banned speakers with communism sympathies in the past and definitely have no problem with antisemitism today. It certainly isn’t being shut down on college campuses the way any conservative speaker is.

    These issues aren’t even close to symmetric, the left is quickly becoming the thought police. Comedians won’t even play at college campuses anymore out of fear of retribution from the SJW crowd.

    All of this will unfortunately lead to a field of terrible democrats for the upcoming election (all of which have endorsed the Green New Deal??!?!), which will likely lead to another four years of Trump.

    Hopefully Howard Schultz can pull off a miracle.

  2. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    11. February 2019 at 17:58

    Both Conservatives and Leftists agree that those with the greatest power should tell the rest of us how to live. The only thing that changes is the balance of power.

    Exactly. The only people who really criticize state coercion are libertarians. But this group remains a tiny minority even in the freest countries in the world.

  3. Gravatar of Matthias Goergens Matthias Goergens
    11. February 2019 at 18:48

    Compare also but perhaps less applicable these days.

  4. Gravatar of Matthias Goergens Matthias Goergens
    11. February 2019 at 18:52

    Christian, are you talking about Estonia or Iceland or so? Not quite sure which country would be the freest.

    Funny enough, Singapore’s mainstream policies are mostly what could pass for libertarian in Europe and America. Despite not winning any ‘freest country’ awards.

  5. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    11. February 2019 at 19:14


    Conservatives: I can marry any race I want!

    Leftists: White men should stop pursuing Asian women!

    I’m An Asian Woman Engaged To A White Man And, Honestly, I’m Struggling With That

  6. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    11. February 2019 at 20:58


    “It seems like leftists and conservatives are constantly disagreeing and constantly changing their views”

    It’s more about creating a set of prescriptions and taboos, which can be of any kind really, to visibly display group membership. For the nationalist it’s the anthem and the flag in the front yard, for the PC leftist it’s some kind of feminist credo, for some ethnic groups in Africa it used to be teeth filing. All of these are variants of a pledge of allegiance to a group, as visibly displayed as possible. The pledge can change in content, as long it’s hard to follow. The more absurd the contortion demanded from the follower, the greater the proof of loyalty.

    Christian List,

    agreed that libertarians are a tiny minority everywhere. Most people are livid about enforcing their personal group standards.


    I feel your pain. Married to an Asian woman here. But let me assure you, the “Asian Fetish” slur was common even back in 1990s California when I lived there. Again, enforcement of groups that their members believe ought to remain separate and “pure”.

  7. Gravatar of Bob Bob
    12. February 2019 at 07:06

    While I agree that the PC-ism on elite college campuses is out of control, but we are talking about a small subset of our society. I am much more concerned with the reaction to Colin Kaepernick. This is a very brave man who sacrificed his career to fight for a very just cause, and half the country seems to think it’s great that the NFL (which has an anti-trust exemption) is colluding to deny him opportunities to earn. And the president is actively supporting this effort. I agree with Scott’s premise that most people believe in restricting speech only when their side is in power. But I do want to make the point that folks on the right should not refer to adolescent college students as “snowflakes” if they themselves are “triggered” by an athlete not standing for the National Anthem.

  8. Gravatar of Justin Justin
    13. February 2019 at 13:49

    Reminded me of this Scott Alexander post:

    –“You are an Object-Level Thinker. You decide difficult cases by trying to find the solution that makes the side you like win and the side you dislike lose in that particular situation.”–

    –“You are a Meta-Level Thinker. You decide difficult cases by trying to find general principles that can be applied evenhandedly regardless of which side you like or dislike.”–

    I think a lot of people are object oriented thinkers. I also think that people are more receptive to arguments from their own side (e.g. when a Republican speaks against trade, some other Republicans listen).

  9. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    13. February 2019 at 16:54


    “I also think that people are more receptive to arguments from their own side (e.g. when a Republican speaks against trade, some other Republicans listen).”

    There is a whole well-developed theory around that, called cultural cognition:

    Summary, people will mostly only believe what comes from their own camp or group. The smarter they are, the better they will be at arguing against the other group’s beliefs. Related: smarter people will be better at defending their preconceived ideas, but not necessarily likelier to get closer to the truth. For this, see Sperber and Mercier’s “argumentative theory of reasoning”, e.g. here

  10. Gravatar of Phil H Phil H
    13. February 2019 at 19:46

    This is funny and apt, but I (a lefty millennial) still don’t think it is right. I may just be biased by not having experienced 1969, of course.

    1) On banning speakers – are the two kinds of “bans” alike at all? The bans on communists were top-down, imposed by university (and other government) authorities. The “bans” today are populist protests and rejections. I’m not sure if we should support leftie populism any more than right wing populism, but it’s in no way accurate to describe student protests as “the same as” institutional censorship.

    2) On haircuts – actual lefties really wanted to have long hair. The people who want to wear dreads and corn rows are not real conservatives (er, or Scotsmen, I claim!); their “cause” is being used cynically by people with political convictions.

    I dunno, obviously I’m biased, but I look at the boomer protesters of 1969, and I see people who actually believed the stuff they spouted. In the years since we have created a society of free love (hook up culture, gay marriage, rampant divorce) and non-violence (no smacking kids) and drug taking (legal marijuana) and disrespect for authority (flat Silicon Valley corporate culture) and lionisation of mediocre modern music. Those boomers weren’t fooling!

    Whereas I see the conservative “free speech” movement as entirely cynical. I don’t believe for a second that those people who are into “free speech” now wouldn’t throw all the abortion doctors in jail in a heartbeat.

    The comparisons are funny, but no more than a surface manifestation, maybe even a semi-conscious emulation as the fake insurgents of the right attempt to take on a shroud of populism.

  11. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    14. February 2019 at 07:19

    I tend to interpret everything as power, as it is hard to go wrong with that interpretation. Being about your age, I notice the same thing you said about various views. I also tend to think even more cynically than your statement on power. I tend to think we who argue with “the other side” are really the useful idiots of the politicians. Yet, I really don’t feel fully comfortable with this view——but neither am I fully uncomfortable.

  12. Gravatar of Steven Kopits Steven Kopits
    14. February 2019 at 10:30

    So, the question is, who is the incumbent and who is the insurgent? Who represents power, and who represents that challenge to power?

    Simple test. Look at the color of the party. Blue = establishment. Red = insurgent.

    What color was the left in 1969? What color it is now?

  13. Gravatar of Philip Crawford Philip Crawford
    15. February 2019 at 21:18

    fwiw, I became a radical centrist after reading one of Daniel Quinn’s books, I think maybe Story of B? In any case, he held up the mirror of how I wanted to use the government to force other people to live according to my desires, instead of searching out my tribe that lived according to my desires.

    I’m still searching, but am less desirous to force everyone to live how I would like the world to be.

  14. Gravatar of hockey fights hockey fights
    25. February 2019 at 05:58

    Great post.

Leave a Reply