World Views

by Duane Bristow
2015

The Conservative World View

We live in a world of order created and controlled by a grand designer. We were created by this designer to love, honor, fear and obey him. He is jealous of our love and he can be cruel but he is not to be questioned. The world and our lives unfold according to a plan known only by the grand designer for his purposes which we are not able to or supposed to understand although we can try by entreaties to this designer to get him to make small changes in his plan usually for our benefit.

We should always be thankful and grateful to the designer for any good things that happen to us and accepting of the bad things that happen because we know they happen either because of the forces of evil opposed to the grand designer or because of a higher purpose of the grand designer which we are too lowly to understand or because they are a way the grand designer has of testing our love, loyalty and obedience or because the grand designer is punishing us for our sins and our unworthy nature.

In the same way that the grand designer is a higher authority, to be obeyed and not questioned, especially when we find that our lives are difficult, so too are there authority figures among us who are to be accorded the same love, honor, fear and unquestioning obedience. These include kings, nobles, political leaders, business leaders, religious leaders and, in families, the father.

We live in a world of violence, competition, conflict, and danger. We must be afraid of strangers and those in authority because what they might decide to do to us is uncertain and beyond our control. We believe that the world should be just, moral and fair. When we are faced with events that are none of these we must explain them in terms of our world view.

We have evolved to do what we perceive as in our best interests. Sometimes these things are not just, moral, or fair to others. It then is the task of our mind to bend our world view to justify what we do. Besides our belief that the world should be fair, we also believe that it should not harm us or cause us to suffer. We expect liberty, loyalty, respect for authority and sanctity. We want, at once, to be rugged individualists and to be loyal to our social groups.

We are all by nature, imperfect sinners, unworthy of the love of the grand designer. However, if we spend our lives worshipping, obeying, honoring and fearing him we may be favored with his love and our salvation which may be expressed as a feeling of peace with the designer or as a way to cheat death by obtaining an afterlife.

We believe that "tough love" is necessary; that those who are subordinate to us must never be given things but must earn their way on their own even if that leads to their failure or destruction. We are born into a world of order with a place to fill. This is our obligation. We do not feel, as liberals do, that we can decide on our own meaning to life and our relationships but we must fulfill those niches for which we were created.

Since we live in an ordered moral world, it follows that those who suffer misfortune or live in poverty must do so because of a defect in their character that is of their own doing. It must, then, also be true that the rich or more powerful people are favored by the grand designer because of their superior character.

Since the world is following the plan of the grand designer, it follows that the world has always and will always be as it should be and it is not for us humans to tamper with that grand plan.

The truth of our view of the world seems so obvious that we are intolerant of those who may not have a similar world view to us and we are confident in our efforts to get everyone to accept our views. We fear for the future of those who do not.

Here are some words and phrases used over and over in conservative discourse: character, virtue, discipline, tough it out, get tough, tough love, strong, self-reliance, individual responsibility, backbone, standards, authority, heritage, competition, earn, hard work, enterprise, property rights, reward, freedom, intrusion, interference, meddling, punishment, human nature, traditional, common sense, dependency, self-indulgent, elite, quotas, hero, breakdown, corrupt, decay, rot, degenerate, deviant, lifestyle, patriot, God, safety, war, compete, order, clean, faith.

Children in conservative families are raised in a strict authoritarian environment and they are expected to be of exemplary moral character and to get an education which will insure a good job and economic success.

The Liberal World View

Humans live in a capricious world in which their very existence is a highly unlikely event. It is a world in which they know their continued existence is precarious and at some point will cease. Liberals tend to feel that luck has much to do with what happens to a person in life and that, if bad things happen to their neighbor, it could, just as easily, have happened to them. Therefore they have more empathy for the less fortunate. They feel that the world leans more toward chaos than toward order.

The world is ever changing and evolving and it makes sense for us humans to try to guide that change in ways that we think will be most beneficial to mankind preserving the small part of the universe on which we can survive. To that end it is necessary to use the mind and logic and critical thinking and science to try to determine ways that we can control our own destiny.

We realize that others may have alternate views of the world and, in general, we are tolerant of the possibility that their views may have some validity. However, we are impatient when they ignore or reject obvious facts in favor of their faith in fantasies.

Liberals, in their speeches and writings, choose different topics, different words, and different modes of inference than conservatives. Liberals talk about: social forces, social responsibility, free expression, human rights, equal rights, concern, care, help, health, nutrition, basic human dignity, oppression, diversity, deprivation, alienation, big corporations, corporate welfare, ecology, ecosystem, biodiversity, pollution, share, inclusive, cooperate, luck, education and so on. Conservatives tend not to dwell on these topics, or to use these words as part of their normal political discourse.

Children in liberal families are raised in a more relaxed democratic environment in which they are expected to find their own way in life leading to a more generalized education to make them a more versatile thinker and leading to a life of happiness more so than necessarily economic success.

A Conservative Statement:

In an interview with moderator, Chuck Todd, on NBCs "Meet the Press" on Sunday morning, December 20, 2015, Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan said, "I believe the president has succeeded in transforming this country in a direction that it was never supposed to go in the first place."

To me, admittedly a liberal in my political views, this statement summarizes the difference between the liberal and the conservative point of view. Ryan's statement implies that there is, in the universe, an overall plan or blue print for the way things are supposed to go.

He did not say, as I would have expected, that the president's polices were inefficient or unworkable or bad for the world or for the American people. These would have been arguments in the context of the liberal view that the job of a politician is to develop policies that are efficient and workable to make the world, or at least the nation, a better place to live. Instead, I think he slipped, by exposing his true world view. That is that there is a way things are "supposed to go" and that is it wrong or evil to vary from this path.

Since Obama became president at a time when the economy was collapsing and there was double digit unemployment and America had troops in two ongoing wars overseas and homosexuals had no right to marry, and a large number of people had no health insurance and there were many other, of what liberals would call, problems in the world and Obama tried to, and to some extent was successful, in changing these things then, I assume, that Ryan means that the situation that Obama inherited is the direction the country was "supposed to go in the first place."

He must either believe that things are as they were meant to be or that they are meant to change along a predefined path. If you argue that things are as they were meant to be then, since the world is as Obama transformed it, this must be how it was meant to be. Therefore Ryan's belief must be that there is a predefined path. That begs the question of who defined that path. Unless Ryan is arrogant enough to believe that he would be the path designer, then he must believe that it was already designed in the past by some higher power. If he believes that President Obama was able to thwart the designs of this higher power, then does he believe that other men also have this power and therefore the higher power is essentially impotent? If so, then how does he know that the world Obama inherited was on the path it was supposed to follow? I guess he knows, in some mysterious way, what that path is.

I think this lends credence to my argument above about the fundamental difference in world views between conservatives and liberals.

Conservative thoughts on critical thinking and sex education:

Here's what the Republican Party of Texas wrote into its 2012 platform as part of the section on education:

"Knowledge-Based Education - We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student's fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority."

They also included this statement:

"We recognize parental responsibility and authority regarding sex education. We believe that parents must be given an opportunity to review the material prior to giving their consent. We oppose any sex education other than abstinence until marriage."


Here is Stephen Colbert's satirical comment:

.The minds of our young people are being poisoned by knowledge... I have long praised the Texas Board of Education for their valiant work rewriting our nation's history textbooks. But now I believe they've got some stiff competition from the Texas GOP, who recently put a plank in their 2012 party platformn regarding children's education which says, and I quote, 'We oppose the teaching of critical thinking skills.' Amen brother. For too long we have blindly accepted the idea of not blindly accepting ideas.

And you know who I blame? I blame Galileo.... For centuries we had a perfectly good explanation for the order of the universe. Bible says the sun goes around the Earth, making us the center of the universe. And you know what? Everyone was happy. And then numnuts over here gets a telescope for Christmas, uses his precious critical thinking skills and suddenly the Earth goes around the sun, blah blah blah and now we have lesbians.

I'm here to tell you now the Texas GOP is on to you, critical thinking skills! They know that you have quote the purpose of challenging the students' fixed beliefs, and a good teacher's job is to maintain whatever fixed beliefs a student has when they enter first grade.

Frankly folks, I am embarrassed that we conservatives did not think of this sooner.... Sure, we discredited the liberal activism of the 60s and the socialist policies of the New Deal... But folks, all of that is just child's play compared to the Texas GOP, who with this one plank of their platform have called for the repeal of the Enlightenment.

And as if to illustrate what is possible once you are freed from the shackles of critical thinking... The Texas GOP, when asked about this position, explained it as an oversight and should not have included the words 'critical thinking skills.'

Now, when they were drafting the platform, somebody had to say 'no critical thinking skills.' Somebody else had to type those words and then the Texas GOP had to approve those words. Do you really think that would have been possible if anybody had been thinking critically? But thank God no one was. And if they get their way, nobody will be...


University of Virginia cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham argues that critical thinking cannot be taught in a 2007 article.

First Willingham defines critical thinking this way: "Critical thinking consists of seeing both sides of an issue, being open to new evidence that disconfirms your ideas, reasoning dispassionately, demanding that claims be backed by evidence, deducing and inferring conclusions from available facts, solving problems, and so forth. Then too, there are specific types of critical thinking that are characteristic of different subject matter: That's what we mean when we refer to 'thinking like a scientist" or 'thinking like a historian.'"

Later in the article he writes: "After more than 20 years of lamentation, exhortation, and little improvement, maybe it's time to ask a fundamental question: Can critical thinking actually be taught? Decades of cognitive research point to a disappointing answer: not really. People who have sought to teach critical thinking have assumed that it is a skill, like riding a bicycle, and that, like other skills, once you learn it, you can apply it in any situation. Research from cognitive science shows that thinking is not that sort of skill."

True Believers:

Many of today's conservatives are fascist, xenophobic, bigoted, paranoid, divorced from reality, true believers. They are not swayed by facts but insist on believing their version of reality regardless of facts with complete faith in those they see as their leaders no matter how big the lies they are expected to believe. They think their leaders are infallible, unique possessors of "truth", and believe them when they preach fear of "others" and promise safety, purity and redemption promoting discrimination and even violence against those "others". Believers are encouraged to follow their leaders and are told that independent critical thought is apt to damage their faith. They believe that all issues are a choice between absolute good and absolute evil so compromise is discouraged but evil must be defeated. Anyone opposing them is thought to be, not only evil, but inferior to the superior and morally better believer. The existence of the believer is validated by their membership in a group of others like themselves. They are basically ignorant, faith based people who are lead by egotistical, power hungry demagogues. This description of them will not make these people question their beliefs but will instead confirm their paranoia that others are against them and are to be feared and hated.

Some liberals are also true believers similar to the above description.

Five Political World Views in the United States:

Neoliberal Globalism:
Support for businesses and corporations and a global military dominance. Believe in the superiority of the anglo-american version of capitalism and American exceptionalism. Believe that governments should provide basic public services through contracts with private for-profit businesses.
Social democratic liberalism:
Believe that capitalism is inherently unstable without intelligent government regulation and intervention. Think that government should provide an economic safety net for the unemployed, the sick the elderly, and those in poverty. Think public economic policy should be used to encourage full employment and high levels of private sector production. Think that private enterprise should coexist with socialized sectors of the economy such as social security and public schools.
Populist nationalism:
Believe that the country should be for white or european christians. Restrict immigration. Are generally isolationists.
Libertarian Isolationism:
Believe that self-aggrandizing crony capitalists have turned the country into a militarized, authoritarian empire. Believe the government is ruled by an oligarchy which exaggerated threats from others outside the country in order to regiment American society and divert resources to the bloated "military-industrial complex." Favors international isolationism with a small military, a decentralized government and an economy based on small businesses and small farms.
Green Malthusianism:
Environmentalists alarmed about population growth promoting a return to nature. They are concerned about global warming, pollution, resource depletion and species extinction.

Social Democracy

Social democracy is a political ideology that supports economic and social interventions to promote social justice within the framework of a capitalist economy, and a policy regime involving welfare state provisions, collective bargaining arrangements, regulation of the economy in the general interest, redistribution of income and wealth, and a commitment to representative democracy. Social democracy thus aims to create the conditions for capitalism to lead to greater egalitarian, democratic and solidaristic outcomes; and is often associated with the set of socioeconomic policies that became prominent in Western and Northern Europe - particularly the Nordic model in the Nordic countries - during the latter half of the 20th century.

Social democracy originated as a political ideology that advocated a peaceful, evolutionary transition from capitalism to socialism using established political processes in contrast to the revolutionary approach to transition associated with Orthodox Marxism. However, in the post-war era, contemporary social democracy separated from the socialist movement altogether and emerged as a distinct political identity that advocated reforming rather than replacing capitalism. In this period, social democrats embraced a mixed economy based on the predominance of private property, with only a minority of essential utilities and public services under public ownership. As a result, social democracy became associated with Keynesian economics, state interventionism, and the welfare state, while abandoning the prior goal of abolishing the capitalist system (private property, factor markets and wage labor) and substituting it for a qualitatively different socialist economic system.

Modern social democracy is characterized by a commitment to policies aimed at curbing inequality, poverty, and the oppression of underprivileged groups; including support for universally-accessible public services like education, health care, workers' compensation, child care and care for the elderly. The social democratic movement also has strong connections with trade unions and the labour movement, and is supportive of collective bargaining rights for workers as well as measures to extend democratic decision-making beyond politics into the economic sphere in the form of co-determination for employees and other economic stakeholders

Conservatives vs. Liberals

Egotistical and greedy, short term thinkers vs. kindness and sharing and empathy and more concern for the long term welfare of humanity and the universe.

Belief in an ordered world often based on religious beliefs vs. belief in a capricious world that leans more toward chaos than toward order.

Belief that the world is designed for a purpose vs. belief that the world evolved to be the way it is by mostly random chance.

Ethnocentrists vs. cultural relativists.

The world is mostly as it should be vs. we can improve the world but we must do it carefully with wisdom.

People are mostly "whining takers" supported by "strong, intelligent, makers" vs. "We are all in the same boat and must help each other."


Politicians get elected by promising the poor and the rich that they will protect each from the other.

From "Debt - The First 5,000 Years" by David Graeber

How did we get here? My own suspicion is that we are looking at the final effects of the militarization of American capitalism itself. In fact, it could well be said that the last thirty years have seen the construction of a vast bureaucratic apparatus for the creation and maintenance of hopelessness, a giant machine designed, first and foremost, to destroy any sense of possible alternative futures. At its root is a veritable obsession on the part of the rulers of the world-in response to the upheavals of the 196os and 197os-with ensuring that social movements cannot be seen to grow, flourish, or propose alternatives; that those who challenge existing power arrangements can never, under any circumstances, be perceived to win. To do so requires creating a vast apparatus of armies, prisons, police, various forms of private security firms and police and military intelligence apparatus, and propaganda engines of every conceivable variety, most of which do not attack alternatives directly so much as create a pervasive climate of fear, jingoistic conformity, and simple despair that renders any thought of changing the world seem an idle fantasy. Maintaining this apparatus seems even more important, to exponents of the "free market," even than maintaining any sort of viable market economy. How else can one explain what happened in the former Soviet Union? One would ordinarily have imagined that the end of the Cold War would have led to the dismantling of the army and the KGB and rebuilding the factories, but in fact what happened was precisely the other way around . This is just an extreme example of what has been happening everywhere. Economically, the apparatus is pure dead weight; all the guns, surveillance cameras, and propaganda engines are extraordinarily expensive and really produce nothing, and no doubt it's yet another element dragging the entire capitalist system down-along with producing the illusion of an endless capitalist future that laid the groundwork for the endless bubbles to begin with. Finance capital became the buying and selling of chunks of that future, and economic freedom, for most of us, was reduced to the right to buy a small piece of one's own permanent subordination.

Things people have in the past and some still do believe now:

Why Do Intelligent, Well-Educated People Still Believe Nonsense?

See Moral Politics How Liberals and Conservatives Think by George Lakoff