At the root, liberals and conservatives share a selfish impulse
By Peter Demarest
Peter Demarest is a marketing writer in the Twin Cities.
I think conservatives get a bad rap. A lot of people I know insist that one of conservatives' basic traits is that they are self-absorbed and selfish, that they only care what's in it for them. That's untrue and unfair, and selfishness is far from exclusive to conservatives.
Liberals like me are as self-centered as the most monetarily ambitious and privileged country-club elitist. We are, in reality, Scrooges in sheep's clothing. Every selfless act we do, every do-gooder social cause we support and every tax-and-spend politician we help elect is really all about us. The only difference between arch-liberals and arch-conservatives is the scope of our respective narcissism. Where conservatives may serve themselves, for instance, by voting to lower taxes, which helps buy the most luxurious houses, we liberals really are just serving ourselves by approving tax increases, which help finance the communities in which we live.
As I see it, we do this because what goes on in the world affects us and our place in it, both directly and indirectly. So we support liberal causes and values in our own self-interest. When our fair share of taxes is invested wisely, we can help invest in our communities, our states and our country. Good investments build a better future for us, our families and our neighbors with things such as a strong, modernized infrastructure, which allows for, among other things, a vibrant economy and safe transportation, and for such things as a robust public education system that creates smart, productive and wise citizens. Oh, and for stronger property values for our homes.
Give money and food for the poor? Absolutely. By helping the poor, we can help invigorate their lives. And when we do that, we feel good. We also help boost their contributions to our communities, our states and our country. That makes our world a stronger, healthier and better place to live. It also helps reduce the soul-sapping prevalence of poverty and the crime that goes with it.
Support rights of minorities? In a heartbeat. When minorities are treated with the same respect and allowed the same opportunities as those of us in the majority, then they can contribute their voices, their ideas, their talents and their energies to the good of our communities, our states and our country. Besides, if other liberals are like me, we just enjoy seeing the people around us happy and fulfilled.
To frame this another way, we all — conservatives and liberals alike — want to offer our families the support and investment that they need. A liberal's definition of family just extends farther.
Many liberal impulses aren't really different from conservative ones. We want to make our communities, our states, our country and our world better places for one primary reason. It makes our lives better because it brings us riches of a spiritual sort, the point of which is to make us happier and more fulfilled. And in that, liberals are no different from anyone else.