Monday, April 30, 2012

On Doing Right and Doing Wrong

Just the other day, my son hurt his little sister.  They were playing in his room; he was bouncing off the walls, and she was sitting playing with one of his toys.  Everything was great.  Suddenly, she started crying in that "ouch, why did you just hit me?" cry.  So I walked into the room and the first thing my son said was, "I didn't mean to!"

My five year old is a liberal.  Now, that's to be expected; he's too young to fully comprehend the facts of life, though we're teaching him as quickly as he'll learn.  The fact is though, he believes money comes from Mom and Dad (we're working on that), he believes that his intent matters more than the results of his actions (we're working on that, too), and he believes that everything should be "fair," (yep, we're working on that, too).  He's a Liberal.

So I explained to him that it didn't matter that he "didn't mean to," it mattered that he he had hurt his sister.  I think it's time for us to address the fact that this how liberals view right and wrong.  To them, there is only one factor in whether your actions were good or not- your intent.  If your motives are pure, they'll claim, then the results are secondary, at most.  If you want to end poverty, but your actions increase it... well, that doesn't matter because you meant well.  If a formerly fairly Westernized society (Egypt) starts moving quickly to becoming an Islamist state, well, that's okay because our support of their rebellion was well meaning.  And so it goes.

However, Conservatives believe there are two factors to consider.  Motive is one of them, yes.  The other is the result.  Consider this:


If your Motive is good, but the results bad, you have done a bad thing.  If your motive is bad, but your results good- you've still done a bad thing, or, at least, you shouldn't be credited with the good results.  If your motive is bad and the results are bad, you've done a bad thing.  Only if both your motive and your results are good have you done a good thing.

This is why Conservatives are not merely "Results Oriented."  We're perfectly willing to use people's bad motives to a good result, because we're realists and realize that most people are at least a little bit selfish.  Denying that helps no one.  However, we don't believe that someone acting on a bad motive deserves any particular credit for the good that arises.  Similarly, we don't believe that people who act with disastrous results should be lauded for their high motives.

In the end, this means that doing good is much, much harder than doing wrong.  It requires deliberative thought and planning.  It's no good to say you want to end poverty, if your policies simply increase it and/or have other bad side effects.  You must plan your policy in such a way that you achieve the planned result.

This is but one more reason Conservatives oppose so many Liberal policies.  It's not because we necessarily have different motives, but that we put equal emphasis on motivation and result.  Only when both are good has laudable action occurred.  Policy must reflect this paradigm, and must be crafted accordingly.

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