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Progressive? What does that mean?

SmilinSilhouette

Registered Member
Thanks Sim for an excellent post!

I wonder then how does this ideal fit with the rule of law? It would seem that in order to make the "disadvantaged" more "equal" then "advantage" (wealth, majority status, ability, intelligence, etc.) must be taken away or discounted in order to improve "equality". I also wonder who is to determine this distribution and define what is equal?
 

Sim

Registered Member
Thanks Sim for an excellent post!
Thanks! You brought up a very interesting topic!

I wonder then how does this ideal fit with the rule of law? It would seem that in order to make the "disadvantaged" more "equal" then "advantage" (wealth, majority status, ability, intelligence, etc.) must be taken away or discounted in order to improve "equality".
I don't think the label "progressive" is clear-cut enough to give an easy answer. There are many different kinds of people who call themselves "progressive", or are called that way by others -- which all have different ideas about the specifics and even more different about the measures that should be taken to achieve these changes. Just like people with the label "conservative" have very different ideas about specific topics and measures. Some conservatives focus more on the economy, others more on morals and/or religion, and so on. So do "progressives".

I think the main difference of "progressives" compared to "conservatives" is that they focus less on preserving what they think are the good sides of the status quo (I have a conservative side too, because I am skeptical of too bold and extreme changes, like revolution or from-scratch-restarts of particular systems. That's because I am afraid that when you destroy too much of the old to replace it with something new, chances are that many good things of the old are lost, even when the old was far from perfect, and the new doesn't work out quite as well as intended. "A bird in the hand ..." -- that's why I rather prefer small-step reforms).

Instead, "progressives" are less cautious when it comes to a thorough change and instead don't focus on the risks of change, but the opportunities. Progressives say: "It's not good as it is, so let's change it for the better! Imagine the vision!" Conservatives say: "Ok, it's not perfect, but at least it does work! Better don't change a running system, imagine the chaos if it fails!"

I also wonder who is to determine this distribution and define what is equal?
That's another point: Conservatives are often more skeptical of collective action (through a democratic state) than progressives. Conservatives have an (in my opinion) often almost paranoid aversion to the state, even when it's a free, democratic state: Because they focus on the risks of using the state -- so much can go wrong.

Progressives don't love the state, but they don't hate it either (unless it directly contributes to discrimination). For them, the state (a democratic state!) is a useful tool for taking collective action to improve the status quo. Progressives often don't just focus on so called negative freedom (freedom from others and the state), but more on positive freedom (the freedom to contribute to the democratic decision-making and thus to take collective action).

Cons.: "The more the state leaves me alone, the better. I can just vote for the lesser evil".
Progs.: "Oh cool, we can have an election, and when enough people agree with us, we can get through a law that improves the status quo!"

So the answer to your question: It's the people, the community, that democratically decides, in accordance with the laws and the political process, through elections and petitions, what we all consider acceptable, which kind and scope of redistribution we want and which measures against discrimination we want to take.


EDIT -- Re: Your question regarding the rule of law, "taking away advantages": When you take away so much from someone to give it to someone else, that the one you take from is worse off than the other, it wouldn't contribute to equality. For example, discriminating whites wouldn't help liberating blacks. Or banning heterosexual marriage wouldn't liberate neither heterosexuals nor homosexuals. And if you take so much from someone he has less than the person you give it, that wouldn't emancipate anyone.

Taking away privileges for some in order to give disadvantaged more, on the other side, improves equality.
 
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SmilinSilhouette

Registered Member
Another awesome post Sim! This is EXACTLY what I had in mind when starting this thread and I hope more will join the conversation! You and I have made much progress in building a bridge and finding common ground. I find this the most rewarding part of debate and really appreciate your participation and friendship! We do not have to agree to share a mutual respect and admiration and I hope you feel the same way.

I do feel that many of us share certain core values and our disagreements usually relate to our feelings about how best to achieve our goals. I share the disdain of prejudice and bigotry and I believe in equality. Although my idea of equality is equality of opportunity, which I believe we have, for the most part.
 

Sim

Registered Member
Another awesome post Sim! This is EXACTLY what I had in mind when starting this thread and I hope more will join the conversation! You and I have made much progress in building a bridge and finding common ground. I find this the most rewarding part of debate and really appreciate your participation and friendship! We do not have to agree to share a mutual respect and admiration and I hope you feel the same way.
Indeed I do! And please don't take it the wrong way when I get heated sometimes. I just enjoy a good battle. But I always like to shake hands in respect after the match, promise! :lol:

I do feel that many of us share certain core values and our disagreements usually relate to our feelings about how best to achieve our goals. I share the disdain of prejudice and bigotry and I believe in equality.
Yes, in the end, I think we all share more common ground than we have differences. At least I think that of you: You believe in something, and you try to keep an open mind. I like that!

Although my idea of equality is equality of opportunity, which I believe we have, for the most part.
That's where it gets tricky, I guess: The question what constitutes genuine equality of opportunity is very difficult to answer. And that's probably where left and right side of the spectrum differ most.

It touches the basic question of what makes us the persons we are -- how much can we change our life and to which degree are we individually responsible, and how much are we restrained by outside factors we cannot control?

I've observed different emphasis on this question often is a major difference between progressives and conservatives too: Progressives often emphasize the outside factors that limit or improve our lives, for example social factors like upbringing, income of the family, environment, etc. When someone is poor, they often point to the social factors that make it hard for the person in question to escape this poverty. Conservatives, on the other side, put more emphasis on individual responsibility and effort -- when someone is poor, it's more or less his own fault, because he didn't try hard enough.

Needless to say that both sides contain truth. There are indeed outside factors we cannot escape that make us to the people we are, but not exclusively. Individual effort and ambition does play a role too, of course. How much depends on the individual example.

Think of social security. Many conservatives think it's encouraging laziness, and the recipients don't really deserve that money because their situation is their own fault. Progressives, on the other side, immediately think of the many possible reasons for someone failing, especially those the respective person cannot really be blamed for, and thus have a more positive attitude towards social security.

So where to draw the line? Is a 15 year old girl with an unwanted pregnancy really to blame for her troubles, because she had been aware of the risks of unprotected sex? How much is her environment to blame for not teaching her properly, or teaching her the wrong way? Is she to blame when she decides to have the child and take proper care and thus cannot finish school -- and thus gets no job? If her son later is bad in school, because his mother has no time to help him with his homeworks, because she has to work in 3 McJobs to make a living for him and her (she doesn't get a better job, because she had to quit school to have him), and if her son is neglected and starts showing aggressive behavior, thus may skip school too and easily get on the wrong track -- how much is each of them to blame? And do they deserve support from society? Should the mother get social security to have more time to raise her child? Should the state offer abortions in order not to bring her and her potential child in such a troubled situation in the first place? Should there be special programs for people in such a situation?

Misery loves company, and I think it is really damn difficult to clearly say how much depends on an individuals effort, how much on external factors, and how the blame should be distributed. But personally, I'd rather err on the side of expecting too few from people, than too much -- rather waste a little extra money on people like that, than risking to overextend these people.

Where would you draw the line? Is it really equality of opportunities when that minor mother in question legally is allowed to finish school -- but her situation doesn't really allow it? Or is it not genuine equality of opportunities until even an unwanted minor pregnancy won't substantially lower her chances to get a good job later?

Just an example ... there are many more like that.
 

SmilinSilhouette

Registered Member
Indeed I do! And please don't take it the wrong way when I get heated sometimes. I just enjoy a good battle. But I always like to shake hands in respect after the match, promise! :lol:
I don't take your opinions in the wrong way, my friend. I too share your passion and, although we rarely agree I respect your opinions and those of others here.

Yes, in the end, I think we all share more common ground than we have differences. At least I think that of you: You believe in something, and you try to keep an open mind. I like that!
I feel the same way about you.

That's where it gets tricky, I guess: The question what constitutes genuine equality of opportunity is very difficult to answer. And that's probably where left and right side of the spectrum differ most.

It touches the basic question of what makes us the persons we are -- how much can we change our life and to which degree are we individually responsible, and how much are we restrained by outside factors we cannot control?

I've observed different emphasis on this question often is a major difference between progressives and conservatives too: Progressives often emphasize the outside factors that limit or improve our lives, for example social factors like upbringing, income of the family, environment, etc. When someone is poor, they often point to the social factors that make it hard for the person in question to escape this poverty. Conservatives, on the other side, put more emphasis on individual responsibility and effort -- when someone is poor, it's more or less his own fault, because he didn't try hard enough.
Well, I don't share your opinion about fault. I think that many people are dealt a poor hand in life and it is not through any fault of their own. I don't agree that "conservatives" feel that poverty is because of "fault" but that the way out of povery is through self-determination.

Needless to say that both sides contain truth. There are indeed outside factors we cannot escape that make us to the people we are, but not exclusively. Individual effort and ambition does play a role too, of course. How much depends on the individual example.

Think of social security. Many conservatives think it's encouraging laziness, and the recipients don't really deserve that money because their situation is their own fault. Progressives, on the other side, immediately think of the many possible reasons for someone failing, especially those the respective person cannot really be blamed for, and thus have a more positive attitude towards social security.
I think that we use the term "social security" in a different way. In the US "social security" is a tax designed to provide a safety net for those that do not prepare for old age and retirement. It is a forced system that has been used by politicians as a slush fund to borrow from and fund other programs, and it is going broke. "Welfare" is what we call taxpayer funded support of the poor.

So where to draw the line? Is a 15 year old girl with an unwanted pregnancy really to blame for her troubles, because she had been aware of the risks of unprotected sex? How much is her environment to blame for not teaching her properly, or teaching her the wrong way? Is she to blame when she decides to have the child and take proper care and thus cannot finish school -- and thus gets no job? If her son later is bad in school, because his mother has no time to help him with his homeworks, because she has to work in 3 McJobs to make a living for him and her (she doesn't get a better job, because she had to quit school to have him), and if her son is neglected and starts showing aggressive behavior, thus may skip school too and easily get on the wrong track -- how much is each of them to blame? And do they deserve support from society? Should the mother get social security to have more time to raise her child? Should the state offer abortions in order not to bring her and her potential child in such a troubled situation in the first place? Should there be special programs for people in such a situation?

Misery loves company, and I think it is really damn difficult to clearly say how much depends on an individuals effort, how much on external factors, and how the blame should be distributed. But personally, I'd rather err on the side of expecting too few from people, than too much -- rather waste a little extra money on people like that, than risking to overextend these people.

Where would you draw the line? Is it really equality of opportunities when that minor mother in question legally is allowed to finish school -- but her situation doesn't really allow it? Or is it not genuine equality of opportunities until even an unwanted minor pregnancy won't substantially lower her chances to get a good job later?

Just an example ... there are many more like that.
I agree that we should give our fellow citizens a hand up. But I also believe that government should have a limited involvement in that regard. I believe that real charity is better handled privately, through the many charitable organizations that rely upon the willing to contribute to that end.

I recently read a paper by Cloward & Piven:
The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty | CommonDreams.org

I wonder if this is "mainstream" progressive thinking or is this an example of an extreme point of view?
 

Sim

Registered Member
Well, I don't share your opinion about fault. I think that many people are dealt a poor hand in life and it is not through any fault of their own. I don't agree that "conservatives" feel that poverty is because of "fault" but that the way out of povery is through self-determination.
You put it right in the perfect words -- my wording was a bit biased, essentially meaning the same, but giving it a negative touch. You said the same thing, but in a positive wording.

And I'll try to be neutral, so I'll let me inspire by your words: Progressives usually emphasize more external factors that should be changed or blamed for the problems of the individual, while conservatives emphasize the importance and power of self-determination.

I think that's a good basis to acknowledge that both views have their legitimacy and merits, because both views show one aspect of reality: Our success or failure always depends both on external factors we cannot influence, that hinder or further us, and also on our own effort and determination we invest -- how much each of these compounds plays into it is probably different to measure, and depends on the respective example.

And I think this is why people may differ so fundamentally in their worldview: It's almost impossible to objectively quantify the contribution of external factors and personal engagement or effort, which is why people use their personal experience as a vague yardstick. People who felt no matter how hard they try, they will often fail, will probably rather tend to emphasize the former, because it's closer to reality as they perceive it. Much like those who made the experience that hard work and effort pays off will rather emphasize that aspect. Also, psychological factors play a role too, probably: How much do feel people in power of their own fate, regardless of externally viable success? Some may under-estimate their own influence, others over-estimate it, despite similar results.

And the fascinating thing is, one is just as correct as the other -- because we hardly ever have all the information to objectively estimate the factors that lead to either success or failure.

And of course, it also leaves room for a middle ground: The two archetypes mentioned above are just extremes on a spectrum, while most people fall somewhere in between these extremes.

At any rate, the importance of self-determination is a fundamental idea of conservatism I really respect, although I often believe many conservatives over-estimate it. But it certainly contains a lot of truth, and any objective view on a particular problem requires looking at both sides of that medal.

I think that we use the term "social security" in a different way. In the US "social security" is a tax designed to provide a safety net for those that do not prepare for old age and retirement. It is a forced system that has been used by politicians as a slush fund to borrow from and fund other programs, and it is going broke. "Welfare" is what we call taxpayer funded support of the poor.
Thanks for pointing that out. I sometimes mix up the different terms in American discourse. I meant to say "government-supported programs for re-distribution with the goal of easing social problems of the poor or needy in general".

In Germany, the literal translation of "social security" does not mean a particular program, but is often used to describe the concept of "being free from having to fear poverty": Welfare nets that keep you from falling too deep in case of failure or bad luck, in general. The term has an emotional connotation, much like the term "safety". I didn't realize until now how hard to properly translate it is.

I agree that we should give our fellow citizens a hand up. But I also believe that government should have a limited involvement in that regard. I believe that real charity is better handled privately, through the many charitable organizations that rely upon the willing to contribute to that end.
Your opinion is typical for many Americans, especially rather conservative or libertarian-leaning, I guess. It's definitely much different than in Germany and probably much of Western Europe, and maybe less so among American progressives:

You guys are more skeptical of government and state, and generally trust private actors more, because they are the lesser evil compared to a government that will screw you over. It's exactly the opposite here: Most people in Germany, even most right-of-center people, consider the state the lesser evil compared to the capacity of private actors to screw you over.

And again, much like in the example above, I think it's looking at the same medal from different sides again: It's hard to say which view is favorable, because indeed, both state and private actors may do many bad things. But which is worse?

We all know the bad things about government ... inefficient bureaucracy wasting our money, the principal-agent-problem, abuse of power, corruption. The problem with private actors, something most people in Germany probably think of immediately, is that they follow their own agenda, which very often is perceived as incompatible with your interests: Private charity? You will only get it when you join their church, and many want something in return. They will only provide it when it pays off for them, so some will get rich on the backs of those in need. Yadda yadda.

Maybe this difference in worldview stems from historical differences: While in the past, America was very wide and free, with lots of land for everybody and the state was far, people became used to doing private business, and it was the government that was, as it grew, increasingly perceived as an intruder into a system of private actors that works well. And when you have wide lands you can farm on, with a thin population where you hardly meet other people if you don't want to, you don't need much regulation. Why should anybody regulate how to live, when you hardly meet people anyway?

In Europe/Germany, on the other hand, you had overpopulated ghetto cities full of industrial workers on little space, hardly any land, and people were thus strictly forced into authoritarian structures: First as vassalls for their landlords, later as workers in mines or factories. They were used to authority and thus government, because so many people on sparse space cannot work properly without major bloodshed and chaos, if there is no authority to regulate it. So for Germans, freedom did not mean less government, but a fairer government -- regulation itself was not questioned, but it was questioned how these rules would have to be made, and that everybody has a fair say in it.

Maybe that's why Germans/Europeans focus more on the Hobbessian idea of the Leviathan -- a power that's above all the individuals to make sure they don't slaughter or rob each other, an ordering force, while Americans have more Locke in mind, with the paradigm of individual freedom not so much from other individuals, but from the state. Simply because you are more in need of regulation and order, the more people live together on sparse space.

Maybe that explains the similarities between European ideology and progressives in the large American cities as well.

At any rate, I think both sides are on to something. Some under-estimate the dangers and shortcomings of government and state, others the capacity of private actors to really harm each other.

(But that all is just a wild stream of thoughts, of course. ;) )

I recently read a paper by Cloward & Piven:
The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty | CommonDreams.org

I wonder if this is "mainstream" progressive thinking or is this an example of an extreme point of view?
It's interesting. I haven't read all details, but taken a good glance at it (at some point, you have an idea about the article and it gets repetitive).

I can just speak for myself, but I'd say it is rather extreme and goes far beyond what I'd consider supportable, because it focuses way too much on encouraging people to get welfare, instead of focusing on the question what can be done to encourage them to make a living without dependency on redistributed money.

Also, while I believe those in need deserve generous support, I also believe strong incentives must remain to encourage people to get a good education and job, rather than incentives that make permanent welfare attractive compared to work -- welfare should be temporary, the main goal should remain to bring people into work. So it should always be more profitable to work, than to live off welfare.

Such kind of welfare abuse -- yes, I call it "abuse" when people who can work, and are offered a job, refuse to do so and find ways to get welfare instead -- must be minimized. Welfare is not an end in itself, but is supposed to be support for those who actually need it (ill, sick, handicapped, or otherwise afflicted people) and as a safety net that keeps those who are failing, for example due to losing a job, from falling too deep, as a temporary support until they get back on their feet again. People should not have to pay away the savings for their childrens' college or their retirement pensions, just because they temporarily don't find a job. And it should serve as a tool to ease hard times for many people, like a recession, when jobs are sparse and unemployment high. (It's beneficial from a pragmatic point of view as well: People who get welfare are less likely to make money by criminal activities.)

But to make sure those who really deserve that money get it, and those who don't really need it don't abuse the system, of course it is self-evident and absolutely legitimate to ask something in return: For example, they should prove that they are applying for jobs but were rejected, or else their welfare gets cut. People who cannot work must get a confirmation by doctors.

There will always be some who manage to abuse the system. That's inevitable, there is no system that cannot be abused. But I think that's worth it, and the rules should be designed in a way that if there is an error, it will rather err in favor of those really in need -- rather should one person be able to abuse the system, than one really needy person is denied support. Our societies are so wealthy, we can easily afford that (just think of military spending -- when the public has enough money to buy dozens of rockets and plains for a few million each, it shouldn't really be difficult to find enough money for the needy, right?).

So my impression is that this article reflects a rather extreme "progressive" point of view, which doesn't take wonder, since it's from the 60s. From what I've read, left-leaning people back then, in Germany even more than in the US, often flirted with rather utopic and sometimes extremist ideas. So the article was written in that climate, when even radical socialists and communists, Black Power groups and hippies shook up society.

In Germany at least, there didn't remain much of that extremism -- once the then young people grew older, they brought fresh air into society, but in the end, the system changed them more, than they changed the system. Many of them are probably still left-of-center and "progressive", but very tame and moderated, compared to their adolescent idealism.

I can only assume it's similar in the US. The Reagan years changed much, and even most progressives of today are much less radical than the ideas in that article.
 

SmilinSilhouette

Registered Member
Maybe this difference in worldview stems from historical differences: While in the past, America was very wide and free, with lots of land for everybody and the state was far, people became used to doing private business, and it was the government that was, as it grew, increasingly perceived as an intruder into a system of private actors that works well. And when you have wide lands you can farm on, with a thin population where you hardly meet other people if you don't want to, you don't need much regulation. Why should anybody regulate how to live, when you hardly meet people anyway?
I think it speaks more to the founding of the US and what brought many to American in the hopes of a better life. Many of the pilgrims came to the new world to escape religious persecution. Many of the founders of our representative republic formed their views based on the hatred of the class structure of european society with kings and a ruling class that ran roughshod over the population with little regard for the plebes as they felt it was their god given right to rule over them with arrogance, superiority, and a sense of entitlement. That is why our constitution limits the authority of government to only the areas that unite us: National defense, interstate commerce, law and order.

So my impression is that this article reflects a rather extreme "progressive" point of view, which doesn't take wonder, since it's from the 60s. From what I've read, left-leaning people back then, in Germany even more than in the US, often flirted with rather utopic and sometimes extremist ideas. So the article was written in that climate, when even radical socialists and communists, Black Power groups and hippies shook up society.
I'm glad to hear that although I wonder if most "progressives" share your view.

So in what other areas do progressive ideals present themselves? We have discussed the poverty or inequality of economic standing is quite a bit of detail, I wonder is that the main thrust of the progressive movement or are there other spheres of the ideal? How does the progressive view the constitution as a limit on federal government and democracy? Are there other areas of major ideology or is it centered around economic issues mostly? What about the area of business? private property? How about environmentalism? Are there views about these areas that unite progressives or are these merely ancillary issues?
 

Sim

Registered Member
I think it speaks more to the founding of the US and what brought many to American in the hopes of a better life. Many of the pilgrims came to the new world to escape religious persecution. Many of the founders of our representative republic formed their views based on the hatred of the class structure of european society with kings and a ruling class that ran roughshod over the population with little regard for the plebes as they felt it was their god given right to rule over them with arrogance, superiority, and a sense of entitlement. That is why our constitution limits the authority of government to only the areas that unite us: National defense, interstate commerce, law and order.
True, but this situation does not exist anymore in most European countries either. Kings and their monarchies have been toppled in most countries and replaced by free republics, or at least the role of the monarchs was reduced to mere figureheads. Elected officials and parliaments rule now and civil rights are guaranteed, much like in the US. Legal discrimination or oppression of ethnic and religious minorities no longer is a problem in most of Europe (when I say "most of Europe", I usually refer to established republics in Western Europe, which are unified in the EU, which has strict human rights and republican standards for its members. Naturally, outside of the EU, there are some exceptions, and there are still some -- minor, I believe -- problems, especially in very young formerly socialist democracies. It's only natural you can't realize everything you wrote on the paper in not even two decades).

Yet we have this difference: Although our political and economic systems are very similar, we often have a different view for the role of government/state and private actors.

I'm glad to hear that although I wonder if most "progressives" share your view.
Probably that really depends on the individual. After all, "progressive" is just a catch-term, a label that describes a bunch of people who may differ very much on different topics. Much like the term "conservative" as well (for example, you may find very strict Christian people calling themselves "conservative" who focus on morals and social rules and don't really care about big government, as long as it serves Christian ends, who have almost nothing it common at all with more libertarian-leaning people calling themselves "conservative" as well, who may be pro-choice, don't care about gay rights, but focus on conservative economic policies. You got the same variety among "progressives").

So in what other areas do progressive ideals present themselves? We have discussed the poverty or inequality of economic standing is quite a bit of detail, I wonder is that the main thrust of the progressive movement or are there other spheres of the ideal?
As I said before, I think very important, maybe even more important than economic questions for many progressives, are the questions of gender and race equality.

Many conservatives often think in more collective terms when judging people. Now that's hard to explain without using words that are prone to misunderstanding, but I hope you get my meaning without feeling attacked: I mean many conservatives have an easier time lumping people together and judge entire groups of people, based on cultural, religious and ethnic attributes. For example, conservatives usually agree to such generalizations in higher numbers than progressives: "Muslims do this and that", "blacks do this and that", "Mexicans are like this and that" and so on. I don't mean to say they are all extreme in these regards, most are not, but as a rule of thumb, conservatives buy into the idea that collective cultural or ethnic identity shapes people a lot much more often than progressives do. Maybe that is because they look on themselves and find that their respective identity (as Christian, American, German, white, and so on) matters a lot for them -- they are very proud to be part of a larger group of fellows, be it fellow Christians, fellow Americans, fellow Germans, fellow Irish-Americans, and so on. So they naturally assume that applies to all people.

Progressives, on the other hand, more often put emphasis on the individual and will rather assume that the differences between individuals even within the same ethnic or cultural group will always be bigger than the similarities, and that individuals of very different cultural or ethnic groups often have more in common, than you have in common with much of your peers. A different type of progressives (the more classic materialistic leftists, in contrast the the modern individualist progressives) put more emphasis on groups, though, but not based on culture, but on social class, income and material situation.

Of course this is just a generalization. But I think it's a tendency:

Conservatives will rather subscribe claims like "Christians have more in common with other Christians, than with Muslims", or "white English speaking Americans have more in common with other white English speaking Americans, than with non-English speaking black Americans or French, German and Italian people".

Traditional materialistic progressives will rather subscribe claims like "poor and unskilled white English speaking Americans have more in common with unskilled black, Spanish speaking Americans, than with highly skilled, rich English speaking Americans" or "people are ultimately more divided by class than by race or nationality", and more modern, individualistic progressives will rather subscribe claims like "any individual American has more in common with many French, Arabic, German, African, etc people, than with most other Americans" (based on ideology, worldview, preferences).

So I think many conservatives over-estimate cultural, ethnic or religious impact on individuals and under-estimate the individual, which may, in some cases, lead to broad over-generalizations (you can see that well these days when it comes to Muslims), and in extreme cases to racism, xenophobia or islamophobic hatred.

On the other side, many progressives often commit the opposite mistake of under-estimating the importance of cultural and ethnic identity: They don't realize how much they themselves are influenced by their cultural and ethnic background (an example: Many German progressives say "I don't believe in nationalism, it's silly to be proud on my nation, because it wasn't my choice". A conservative non-German will usually reply: "That is sooo typically German, what you just said!" ;) ).

How does the progressive view the constitution as a limit on federal government and democracy?
I think I said that above: I think progressives emphasize the role of government as creative force more than conservatives, who often dislike government in general.

But maybe that isn't even true. It's just different sides of big, bloated government each side has no problem with: Progressives are ok with big government when it serves the purpose of aiding the poor, like in case of public education, welfare and similar things, but they are very skeptical of government when it comes to regulating individual life and freedom, like rules of desired sexual behavior, racial or ethnic discrimination (racial profiling!) or religious morals, and they usually are skeptic of military and war (much like conservatives may say "taxes are government sanctioned theft", they say "war is government sanctioned murder").

Conservatives, on the other hand, are very skeptical of big government when it serves the purpose of wealth redistribution, because they complain about inefficiency and injustice (productive people being forced to give their well earned money for others), they reject big government on the field of economic regulation, but they are more often absolutely ok with a huge, big, fat bloated government on the field of military and war, the waste of taxpayer money on weapons and at least in many cases, they are also less sensible of big government when it comes to law-and-order ideas (tough harsh punishments for criminals, expanding police power and so on, in the name of security).

This different emphasis on perceived good and bad sides of government is probably directly related to the views outlined above: Conservatives believe more in ethnic and cultural identity, which is why they more often buy "us-vs.-them"-dichtonomies which are the basis for military action they thus consider more often legitimate. Progressives, on the other side, don't believe so strongly in ethnic, cultural or national identity, they know they disagree with many fellow citizens strongly, but will likely agree with many people in the country that's being attacked, and thus they are less likely to support war and military action (also also, appeals to their national pride to support a national war will be bought less often by progressives).

Are there other areas of major ideology or is it centered around economic issues mostly? What about the area of business? private property?
I think conservatives emphasize the importance and sanctity of private property stronger than progressives. Again, that's just stereotyping for the sake of outlining differences, most people will not be that extreme, but maybe you can say that conservatives say "I have worked for it, so it's mine, and first comes my effort, my family, then my nation -- why should I share with people who did not put effort into anything, who don't belong to my family, or my nation?" As said above: Emphasis on self-determination and the fruits of effort, and on a heritage-based and cultural, national identity.

Progressives will more likely say "when I'm rich, that was just good luck on my side, and my friends are more important than my family or even my nation -- so why not give some of it to people who really need it, like handicapped, or starving people in Africa?" -- More emphasis on external factors for aquiring wealth (when it was not so much effort, but luck that made you rich, you don't have a moral right on your possessions), and less stronger bonds to national, ethnic or cultural identities.

How about environmentalism? Are there views about these areas that unite progressives or are these merely ancillary issues?
Environmentalism is an interesting thing. I think for a while, it were mostly progressives that brought environmental issues on the table, but that has changed a lot since the 60s. At least in Germany, it today is a concern people with the most different ideas on other issues share. In the past, you got tree-hugging hippies, and hardly anybody else cared, but after Chenobyl, the problems with dependence on oil imports and now the oil spill, many more people have become environmentalist.

Think of Angela Merkel's conservative-libertarian government, that wants to continue the expansion of regenerative energies to replace fossil fuels, their determination to react on climate change. Or Republicans in the US like Arnold Schwarzenegger in California, with his emission trading program.

You now got Christians that demand protecting the environment and animals, because "God's creation is sacred and must be preserved", or interventionist neo-cons who claim "we must end our dependence on oil asap, because that makes ugly islamofascist thugs in the Middle East stronger".

So I think environmentalism no longer is a primarily progressive thing, but has entered the mainstream to some extent.
 

SmilinSilhouette

Registered Member
Probably that really depends on the individual. After all, "progressive" is just a catch-term, a label that describes a bunch of people who may differ very much on different topics. Much like the term "conservative" as well (for example, you may find very strict Christian people calling themselves "conservative" who focus on morals and social rules and don't really care about big government, as long as it serves Christian ends, who have almost nothing it common at all with more libertarian-leaning people calling themselves "conservative" as well, who may be pro-choice, don't care about gay rights, but focus on conservative economic policies. You got the same variety among "progressives").
While I agree that there are "christian conservatives" that have a greater focus on morals and social rules I think that they do care about big government as it is one of the primary things that all conservatives share: the view that the US constitution limits federal government. I also think that their focus on morality is more to the judeo-christian foundation of the US and freedom of religion as opposed to freedom from religion.

As I said before, I think very important, maybe even more important than economic questions for many progressives, are the questions of gender and race equality.
I think many conservatives and libertarians share that view.

Many conservatives often think in more collective terms when judging people. Now that's hard to explain without using words that are prone to misunderstanding, but I hope you get my meaning without feeling attacked: I mean many conservatives have an easier time lumping people together and judge entire groups of people, based on cultural, religious and ethnic attributes. For example, conservatives usually agree to such generalizations in higher numbers than progressives: "Muslims do this and that", "blacks do this and that", "Mexicans are like this and that" and so on. I don't mean to say they are all extreme in these regards, most are not, but as a rule of thumb, conservatives buy into the idea that collective cultural or ethnic identity shapes people a lot much more often than progressives do. Maybe that is because they look on themselves and find that their respective identity (as Christian, American, German, white, and so on) matters a lot for them -- they are very proud to be part of a larger group of fellows, be it fellow Christians, fellow Americans, fellow Germans, fellow Irish-Americans, and so on. So they naturally assume that applies to all people.
Now this is where I vehemently disagree. Bigotry, racism, and prejudice are NOT something that conservatives hold in common, it is the smear that those opposed to conservatives like to perpetuate. This is the one smear that makes us angry and, while I understand that is a commonly held belief by those who do not consider themselves conservative, it is NOT accurate. Of course any group will contain extremists that hold objectionable views it is unfair to paint us all that way.

Progressives, on the other hand, more often put emphasis on the individual and will rather assume that the differences between individuals even within the same ethnic or cultural group will always be bigger than the similarities, and that individuals of very different cultural or ethnic groups often have more in common, than you have in common with much of your peers. A different type of progressives (the more classic materialistic leftists, in contrast the the modern individualist progressives) put more emphasis on groups, though, but not based on culture, but on social class, income and material situation.

Of course this is just a generalization. But I think it's a tendency:
Another thing that I think we share.

Conservatives will rather subscribe claims like "Christians have more in common with other Christians, than with Muslims", or "white English speaking Americans have more in common with other white English speaking Americans, than with non-English speaking black Americans or French, German and Italian people".
I don't know about that as most Americans each have their own unique ethnic background and find that enriching and a value to our society: the melting pot. We cherish our both our individual heritage and the commonality of the many differences blending to be American.

Traditional materialistic progressives will rather subscribe claims like "poor and unskilled white English speaking Americans have more in common with unskilled black, Spanish speaking Americans, than with highly skilled, rich English speaking Americans" or "people are ultimately more divided by class than by race or nationality", and more modern, individualistic progressives will rather subscribe claims like "any individual American has more in common with many French, Arabic, German, African, etc people, than with most other Americans" (based on ideology, worldview, preferences).
Another thing I think we share.

So I think many conservatives over-estimate cultural, ethnic or religious impact on individuals and under-estimate the individual, which may, in some cases, lead to broad over-generalizations (you can see that well these days when it comes to Muslims), and in extreme cases to racism, xenophobia or islamophobic hatred.
Again, I disagree. I feel those are more of the smears used to discredit anyone that claims to be conservative.

On the other side, many progressives often commit the opposite mistake of under-estimating the importance of cultural and ethnic identity: They don't realize how much they themselves are influenced by their cultural and ethnic background (an example: Many German progressives say "I don't believe in nationalism, it's silly to be proud on my nation, because it wasn't my choice". A conservative non-German will usually reply: "That is sooo typically German, what you just said!" ;) ).
I'll have to take your word on that.

I think I said that above: I think progressives emphasize the role of government as creative force more than conservatives, who often dislike government in general.
I don't think conservatives dislike government in general, that is when it remains within it's constitutional limits. It is the over-reaching that most conservatives find objectionable.

But maybe that isn't even true. It's just different sides of big, bloated government each side has no problem with: Progressives are ok with big government when it serves the purpose of aiding the poor, like in case of public education, welfare and similar things, but they are very skeptical of government when it comes to regulating individual life and freedom, like rules of desired sexual behavior, racial or ethnic discrimination (racial profiling!) or religious morals, and they usually are skeptic of military and war (much like conservatives may say "taxes are government sanctioned theft", they say "war is government sanctioned murder").

Conservatives, on the other hand, are very skeptical of big government when it serves the purpose of wealth redistribution, because they complain about inefficiency and injustice (productive people being forced to give their well earned money for others), they reject big government on the field of economic regulation, but they are more often absolutely ok with a huge, big, fat bloated government on the field of military and war, the waste of taxpayer money on weapons and at least in many cases, they are also less sensible of big government when it comes to law-and-order ideas (tough harsh punishments for criminals, expanding police power and so on, in the name of security).
I would agree that conservatives share a dislike for big government interference in individual freedom and liberty. When it comes to military, national defense, etc. I believe that conservatives feel that is one of the enumerated powers of federal government and where they split from libertarians who believe in strong limits on war powers.

This different emphasis on perceived good and bad sides of government is probably directly related to the views outlined above: Conservatives believe more in ethnic and cultural identity, which is why they more often buy "us-vs.-them"-dichtonomies which are the basis for military action they thus consider more often legitimate. Progressives, on the other side, don't believe so strongly in ethnic, cultural or national identity, they know they disagree with many fellow citizens strongly, but will likely agree with many people in the country that's being attacked, and thus they are less likely to support war and military action (also also, appeals to their national pride to support a national war will be bought less often by progressives).
Again I disagree, and find those differences not in the us vs them mentality but the belief that a strong national defense is a primary responsibility of the federal government.

I think conservatives emphasize the importance and sanctity of private property stronger than progressives. Again, that's just stereotyping for the sake of outlining differences, most people will not be that extreme, but maybe you can say that conservatives say "I have worked for it, so it's mine, and first comes my effort, my family, then my nation -- why should I share with people who did not put effort into anything, who don't belong to my family, or my nation?" As said above: Emphasis on self-determination and the fruits of effort, and on a heritage-based and cultural, national identity.

Progressives will more likely say "when I'm rich, that was just good luck on my side, and my friends are more important than my family or even my nation -- so why not give some of it to people who really need it, like handicapped, or starving people in Africa?" -- More emphasis on external factors for aquiring wealth (when it was not so much effort, but luck that made you rich, you don't have a moral right on your possessions), and less stronger bonds to national, ethnic or cultural identities.
So is that difference in the role of government to decide who should have what and how much should be contributed to the "greater good"?


Environmentalism is an interesting thing. I think for a while, it were mostly progressives that brought environmental issues on the table, but that has changed a lot since the 60s. At least in Germany, it today is a concern people with the most different ideas on other issues share. In the past, you got tree-hugging hippies, and hardly anybody else cared, but after Chenobyl, the problems with dependence on oil imports and now the oil spill, many more people have become environmentalist.

Think of Angela Merkel's conservative-libertarian government, that wants to continue the expansion of regenerative energies to replace fossil fuels, their determination to react on climate change. Or Republicans in the US like Arnold Schwarzenegger in California, with his emission trading program.

You now got Christians that demand protecting the environment and animals, because "God's creation is sacred and must be preserved", or interventionist neo-cons who claim "we must end our dependence on oil asap, because that makes ugly islamofascist thugs in the Middle East stronger".

So I think environmentalism no longer is a primarily progressive thing, but has entered the mainstream to some extent.
I think of myself as a conservationist when it comes to the environment. I love the outdoors and believe in protection of our natural environment to a great extent. But I also believe in reasonable limits to that as well. I support the Clean Water Act for example, but I don't believe that we should cripple our economy because some field mouse may be disturbed. I think that it is wrong for the EPA to institute regulation that will drive up the costs of every form of energy and will have the greatest negative impact on the poorest in our country, based on pseudo-science and unproven theory.

You did touch on my next question and that is in regards to national security and the military. It would seem an issue of great importance to "progressives" and I wonder if there is a generally held belief in that regard?
 
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Sim

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While I agree that there are "christian conservatives" that have a greater focus on morals and social rules I think that they do care about big government as it is one of the primary things that all conservatives share: the view that the US constitution limits federal government. I also think that their focus on morality is more to the judeo-christian foundation of the US and freedom of religion as opposed to freedom from religion.
Yes, certainly, in most cases. I was just outlining archetypes or stereotypes that are extreme and "pure" in their views -- in reality, by far most people don't match that extreme, but are somewhere closer to the center. This is not a dichtonomy with two opposite poles, but a continuum: You find many different degrees of how strongly certain believes are held, which are emphasized more than others. Also, you often find different degrees of coherence in people's worldview -- they may hold opinions on one topic that contradicts opinions they hold on another (and all this applies to both conservatives and progressives, of course).

My point just is, there are certain religious conservatives, who don't have a problem with a big government that, for example, bans gay marriage or abortion, meddles into education by skipping sex education and evolution from curricula and introducing intelligent design, creationism or abstinence campaigns. And think of social programs in the name of a Christian "compassionate conservatism" à la "no child left behind".

Those conservatives probably don't have that much in common, and may often strongly disagree with secular or even atheist conservatives who may be pro-choice, pro-gay rights and strictly refuse the idea government should legislate Christian values and morals or drugs, yet consider themselves conservatives as well, because they oppose too extensive welfare and support conservative economic policies. (When you go a little further on that line, you seen cross into "libertarian" territory, I guess).

Again, as I said, most people don't exactly match these two extremes I just mentioned, but are somewhere in the middle, or a mix of both. It's a continuum with many shades.

I think many conservatives and libertarians share that view.
That's true, especially in case of libertarians, who make an interesting mix of conservative and progressive ideas: Culturally, I think they are closer to progressives, regarding their emphasis on individualism, yet they share the conservative's view on effort and self-determination.

And I do believe that many conservatives indeed share the goal of gender and race equality -- but some, probably more extreme, add many "buts". Again, I want to say this is an extreme stereotype, and most conservatives probably are closer to the center: Think of Christian conservatives, who emphasize strong family values. I guess you will agree that they are more likely to accept, endorse and live traditional gender roles which are defined differently than in case of libertarians or progressives: The husband goes to work and makes money, the woman is housewife and raises the kids. When there is a disagreement, the husband and father has the last word, because he is traditionally head of the family.

Of course you will hardly find conservatives anymore who believe women who make careers should have no right to do so, or who support legal discrimination against different gender roles. But you still find quite a few who frown sometimes about different kinds of lifestyle, and who voluntarily chose this kind of arrangement and consider it the best way to fulfilment. And many of them would certainly be opposed to quotas to raise the number of women in leading positions, or affirmative action for women (that in applications, women with the same qualification are preferred).

The same for ethnic minorities, for example blacks: Conservatives are more likely to be fine with mere legal equality -- as long as laws don't make a difference between blacks and whites, that is more than enough. But measures that go beyond it, for the purpose of creating real equality, to balance still existing racist prejudices, like affirmative action, are often opposed.

Also, you should keep in mind that the meaning of "conservative" changes with time: "Conservatives are progressives who are 30 years behind". In the 50s and 60s, it was still a widespread conservative opinion that "races shouldn't be mixed" and many conservatives opposed an end to segregation, which progressives pushed forward. Racial equality was often condemned as "socialism" by conservatives. The same with gender roles and women rights. And today, you see the same with gay rights: It's still very common among many conservatives to uphold legal and social discrimination of homosexuals. Probably, in a few decades, conservatives will just as naturally embrace equal legal rights for homosexuals. Some conservatives already do that today, but most don't.

Now this is where I vehemently disagree. Bigotry, racism, and prejudice are NOT something that conservatives hold in common, it is the smear that those opposed to conservatives like to perpetuate. This is the one smear that makes us angry and, while I understand that is a commonly held belief by those who do not consider themselves conservative, it is NOT accurate. Of course any group will contain extremists that hold objectionable views it is unfair to paint us all that way.
Ok, apparently, I was not successful putting it in words that aren't offending. That was not my intention. I don't believe conservatives in general are bigoted, racist and hold prejudices. Just when you take conservative ideology to the very extreme, you got that, but most conservatives don't do that.

But I do think conservatives in general tend to take their national, religious or cultural identity more serious than progressives, who put more emphasis on the individual. That isn't a bad thing. It just becomes a bad thing when taken to the extreme.

I think you will agree that someone who is a very strong patriot, loves to wave the flag and strongly identifies with everything his nation has achieved, is more likely to hold conservative views than progressive views. The same for someone who is very proud or delighted to be connected to the community of Christians, and when asked to describe his personality, he will answer "First of all, I am a Christian".

When it comes in moderation, this isn't a bad thing, as I said. Patriotism and religious convictions aren't necessarily a bad thing. When you still see the bad sides, and don't look down on others, being proud of the own nation's achievements is nice and fine. But this medal has a bad flipside: When you overshoot the mark, patriotism easily makes blind for the problems, shortcomings and mistakes of the own nation (some patriots hold a way too cosy view of their own nation, believe in good myths, but completely ignore or even violently reject the dark sides of the own past, when confronted with them. They don't want to hear anything about slavery or war crimes, and feel personally attacked when someone blames their nation for it, no matter how justified). That then makes blind for existing problems, and in extreme cases, those who point to problems are even accused of "treason" or at least their patriotism is questioned, which serves as a smear. This is when patriotism taken to the extreme really gets ugly.

Also, the way from pride in the own nation can easily turn into looking down on others: Many scientific studies have proven that this line is very thin and is often crossed (Wilhelm Heitmeyer, for example, did interesting studies on that field): Pride on America easily becomes disregard for non-Americans, or for people who don't share your enthusiasm for the nation.

The same for Christian believes: Most Christians don't take it to the extreme and then it's a good thing, but some do, and they soon look down on atheists, secular people, other religions and denominations or people their religion doesn't approve of, like homosexuals.

I think you will agree when I say that conservatives generally tend to put more emphasis on these kinds of national, religious or cultural identity than progressives do. For them, being part of a particular nation, religious community or culture is more important that for progressives, and they identify much more with their community. In most cases, that doesn't lead to bigotry, racism or other kinds of chauvinism, but the spectrum is open to that end, and some people end up there. Of course, that doesn't mean all conservatives are bigoted chauvinists, they are definitely not.

But I think they are quicker at subscribing attributes to entire national, cultural or religious groups in general. In many cases, that makes perfect sense, but some overshoot the mark when doing so.

Another thing that I think we share.
You believe too that you have more in common with many people of different race, nationality and religion, than with most people who share your nationality, race and religion?

And you think you have more in common with people who speak a different language, have a different race and religion, but share your socio-economic status?

If that's the case, you may very well be not a conservative, without even realizing that. :lol:

I don't know about that as most Americans each have their own unique ethnic background and find that enriching and a value to our society: the melting pot. We cherish our both our individual heritage and the commonality of the many differences blending to be American.
Yes. American nationalism is much less making reference on culture or even race, than many other nationalisms in other countries, but on values, lifestyle and history.

But I still believe that the degree to which you take pride in your nationality differs, depending whether you are conservative or progressive: The club may be open for others to join who do their part to fit in, but when you think of that as very important, when you share myths that emphasize the good sides and downplay (or even outright ignore or deny) the bad sides, you are more likely conservative than progressive.

Another thing I think we share.
You really believe people are ultimately more divided by class than by nationality, religion or culture?

Wow -- I see it now: You are a progressive! :lol:

I don't think conservatives dislike government in general, that is when it remains within it's constitutional limits. It is the over-reaching that most conservatives find objectionable.
I think it's more like that: You interpret the Constitution in a manner to serve what you want it to mean, depending whether you are conservative or progressive. And of course each side claims to have the true, only correct interpretation. :cool:

But I don't really want to meddle into the debate about the Constitutions. Americans should debate that. In most other countries, you don't have that kind of debate, because either the Constitution is held in much lower esteem, and/or it is more flexible or unambigous than in America.

I would agree that conservatives share a dislike for big government interference in individual freedom and liberty.
But less so than progressives, when you think of the things I mentioned above: "Compassionate conservatism" social programs, legislating Christian morals to strengthen family values and keep homosexuals discriminated, legislating morals by attacking sex education and evolution in schools.

Of course not all conservatives support these kinds of government interference in individual freedom and liberty -- but those who do are usually conservative, rather than progressive.

When it comes to military, national defense, etc. I believe that conservatives feel that is one of the enumerated powers of federal government and where they split from libertarians who believe in strong limits on war powers.
Yes. And that is exactly why I think certain conservatives use empty words when they claim they are in favor of "small government": Probably without even realizing it, they don't see that military and national defense is a field of very big government and thus, they should actually oppose it too, like genuine libertarians do. But when they think of the military, the connection to "government" probably doesn't even enter their minds -- although it is. On that field, progressives are much more in favor of "small government" than most conservatives. Also when it comes to police power, like anti-terror-laws, wiretapping and the like -- government could hardly ever be bigger and more intrusive than here, yet some fail to see that and still claim to be in favor of "small government".

That is schizophrenic. You cannot claim to support "small government", yet support it when government expands executive power that allows the police or secret service to extralegally arrest people at free will, without proper checks, to spy on citizens ... but I think I should stop here before I get too emotional again.

At any rate, I think many of those who claim to be in favor of "small government" don't even realize how absurd this claim is, as long as they have to problems with governments that start wars that cost hundreds of billions (much more than welfare ever costs) or giving secret services a power they hardly even enjoyed in the worst totalitarian dictatorships in history. It's really a joke.

The only people who can coherently and justifiedly claim to support "small government" are genuine libertarians, who oppose both too extensive welfare and economic regulation, and excessive executive powers on the field of national defense and military.

Again I disagree, and find those differences not in the us vs them mentality but the belief that a strong national defense is a primary responsibility of the federal government.
But there is a connection: The stronger you believe in your nation, and the more you focus on its good sides and play down its bad sides, the more likely you will support a war your nation starts.

I think you agree that support for wars is generally stronger among conservatives than among progressives, and that pointing to the own mistakes or even crimes is more common among progressives than among conservatives (regardless of who is right; probably both are, in most cases, to some extent).

So is that difference in the role of government to decide who should have what and how much should be contributed to the "greater good"?
Indirectly yes, I believe. When you don't think that strongly you have a moral right on your possessions, you are more likely to support programs for redistribution. And to do that, you usually need government.

I think of myself as a conservationist when it comes to the environment. I love the outdoors and believe in protection of our natural environment to a great extent. But I also believe in reasonable limits to that as well. I support the Clean Water Act for example, but I don't believe that we should cripple our economy because some field mouse may be disturbed. I think that it is wrong for the EPA to institute regulation that will drive up the costs of every form of energy and will have the greatest negative impact on the poorest in our country, based on pseudo-science and unproven theory.
I won't start a debate about global warming now (which, when you take a look at scientific publications, you will find is unanimously considered proven fact within the scientific community, and those denying it usually are not scientists, but vocal pundits with few expert qualifications), but I think apart from that, you are pretty much on the mainstream.

And we have something in common: I too believe in reasonable consideration of environmental and economic interests. Sometimes it's worth to cut off a few trees and doesn't really cause that much damage.

You did touch on my next question and that is in regards to national security and the military. It would seem an issue of great importance to "progressives" and I wonder if there is a generally held belief in that regard?
Tough question.

At any rate, I believe you can't say progressives in general hold this view or another, but they have very different views on national security and the military, much like conservatives differ on legislating Christian morals. You got very different people on the progressive here, from genuine radical pacifists ("better red than dead!") to idealistic interventionists ("never again Auschwitz -- let's liberate them!").

You got a similar devide on the conservative side too: Here you got more pragmatist ideas, like for example Reagan or George Bush sr., who prefer classic "Realpolitik", and idealistic interventionists among the neo-cons ("let's spread our values by the sword!").

But as a general tendency, I'd say progressives are more likely to be skeptical of war and it takes more to convince them, than conservatives.

That's because, as explained above, conservatives are more likely to focus on the good sides of the own nation, while progressives are more likely to focus on the flaws -- and when you see yourself as the good guy, you are more likely to support your war, than when you don't really believe your nation is that good after all.

Both can be equally bad, depending on the situation. Had the pacifists dominated America in the 1940s, that would have been devastating. But in other cases, maybe a bit more pacifism would have prevented America from getting a lot of trouble and saved many lives and much money.
 
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