19 October 2007

Conservatives are Strict

This is a copy of a Letter to the Editor of The Leader I submitted last week. (Since they have not published it yet, I do not think they will. It was probably not sufficiently local and timely.)

Does it surprise you that President Bush vetoed a bill to continue supporting a successful program for children’s health care? It shouldn’t, because it is consistent with his strict moral view. This is a prime example of conservative morality in which the government acts like a strict authoritarian parent; this veto is their idea of “tough love.” Since they have judged some of the potential recipients of this program to be undeserving, they choose to deny many more children health care by withdrawing funds for the program.

The progressive or liberal moral world view holds that parents (and by metaphorical extension governments) are supposed to nurture their children and help them develop empathy and compassion as a guide to their behavior. Nurturing parents provide unconditional love and support for their children within a set of strong boundaries that teaches the child appropriate behavior. Nurturing parents know that children will misbehave, but the remedy is more support, not less.

Everyone along the moral continuum between conservative and progressive agree that the fundamental values of moral strength and moral nurturance are both important. The distinction between them is which value has priority.

Conservative morality puts moral strength on top. They show strength through “tough love” and then “nurture” according to their judgment of who deserves (or has earned) support.

Progressive morality puts nurturance on top. We show strength by finding ways to be compassionate while holding firm boundaries that ensure everyone gets mutual respect and shoulders a fair amount of social responsibility.

If you believe that all children deserve our unconditional support within a strong set of boundaries for appropriate behavior, then you should be thinking about the moral world view of the candidates you vote for.
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