Sunday, February 18, 2007

How positions and theories become unpopular

I was listening this am to a left-wing media junkie (note the loaded words) who was calling left-wing media "progressive". Now the funny thing is that progressive means liberal, means left-wing. So if you think that camp is bad, or has bad connotations, any term you place on it become derogatory as well. Simply changing names doesn't change the substance. A pig that smells still stinks if you call it "porcine" (a-k-a putting lipstick on it).

The substance of this post is to tell why this camp has lost credulity, while the "conservative" label has gone from derogatory to a point of pride.

Has to do with common sense.

Common sense is built on workability, on the measure of truth in the statement. Common sense is built from observing (sometimes painfully) how the real universe operates. Not everyone has the same experiences, so no two people share the same lessons.

Liberal thinking loses credibility when the results of this thinking doesn't hold up in the real world - in other words, you are penalized for thinking this way. People keep thinking any way they want to as long as they can survive that way. When people around you have the same opinions, they will support yours and so you won't have to change. When you and your new neighbor or co-worker don't see eye-to-eye on something, the conversations will be either interesting or dwell on subjects you can agree on, like the weather or sports.

The rub comes in when, like many people who go into business for themselves, you find that the real world has penalties you never dreamed of. Like Social Security and other taxes which nearly double the cost of having an employee - without the increased production from having two people at work. Like wannabe millionaires who find that high earned income produces very much higher taxes - so you might take home as much in a much-lower-stress job you had years ago. One person I met went to college to learn a profession which made a lot of money - dental hygienist. When she started working, she found out that she could work half the week and make the same amount of take-home pay. So her clinic hired two workers while she was able to surf and ski in sunny SoCal the rest of her week.

This leads businessmen to take the other road. John Edwards, ex-senator and presidential candidate, set up a corporation where the millions from his law winnings went. He had to pay no social security or medicare on his earnings, but simply could - as the single shareholder and Chairman of the Board - dole out the dividends as needed. Dividends are taxed at a much lower rate than earned income. Meanwhile, his corporation can invest its funds in other activies. The while currently Social Security taxes are only taken on the first $70,000 or so (this number may vary), the income tax rate on that level earnings would be in the range of 80 percent. If you make a million dollars, the feds (and most states) plan to take $800,000 of it.

The urban legend of another senator, who was involved in another's accidental death, wasn't personally sued by the family or taken to civil court - because he didn't personally own anything. Everything he had was a corporate handout, his clothes and food were on an expense account, his car and home were corporately owned. So the family only got a couple hundred dollars from the insurance company (and whose increased policy rates were paid by the family corporation) - and so the story goes.

The difference in these stories from that one you and I live daily is that these people continued to live in their own fanciful world, sheltered from the influences that the common person has in growing up and living. The first lawyer has a multi-million dollar estate with an indoor squash court and other amentities. The senator is surrounded by various paid-for services and is propped up in his belief system by his isolation from the real world. (And don't believe for a second that the Washington Beltway has any reality to it - it's closer to an amusement park.)

The entreprenuer above is different from the lawyer and the fabled senator. He has to make payroll. He has to make rent. His business has real expenses and overhead. If he's smart, he's set it up as a corporation and so can take different tax breaks. Most people don't. They run a business as a sole-proprietorship and so all their business expenses come off their income tax - hopefully. Of course, if they are ever sued, they can be taken for all they own. That's why corporations were created - to create a legal body (corpus) which would be liable instead of the investors.

Back to our story - where I have found the most shifts of view occurring is when people changed their economic scene. People moving to the suburbs suddenly have more real expenses and with their independence see more responsibility coming with their freedom. While utilities and trash were the responsibility of their apartment manager and the government, and their taxes suported these. As they wanted or needed to live in a city, they needed the services which made their survival possible. As they were heavily dependent on these services, they voted for people and supported issues which would protect that infrastructure. This is the land of government-knows-best.

Now the farmer and rural resident, for the most part, sees that the government isn't always there when you need them. Your crops are more a product of the weather and your hard work than any sort of government support. Subsidies are for high volume, but only if the prices are bad. Crop insurance has to be paid for. Prices of equipment, fertilizer, and herbicides/chemicals only go up year after year. It's a squeeze play. Large corporations have been buying up independent seed and fertilizer companies, as well as implement dealers. They give hefty discount to bigger purchasers - the larger landowners.

Small farmers simply have to find other markets and increase the value of their produce through more hard work - this time in marketing as well. They succeed only as fast as they can get into and out of niche markets ahead of the big corporation conglomerates.

You can see that the small farmers (who still farm more land cumulative than all the largest corporate farmers combined) won't necessarily have a favorable view of governments - which swing to the money of corporate lobbyists.

Corporations and small farmers have one thing in common - that they both want the cost of production to be as low as possible. However, the corporation's survival depends on getting "rid of the competition" by buying them out - so they can control a greater power of the price they are to recieve. What is good for the gander doesn't mean the goose gets a good deal, too.

Rural residents love the outdoors and freedoms that this entails. They pay an increasing price for the land and the house they own. But if they don't have county zoning, they can build almost anything they want. They can have big dogs and take them on long walks without seeing another being except for the birds, cows, and other occasional wildlife.

So you get a realization that on those country roads, you are more in control of your own destiny and life. Sure, when you get snowed in, you better have a four-wheel-drive big truck to get around with. If the power goes out, you'd better have a generator and a wood stove that doesn't depend on the energy grid. But the pay off is in terms of great-smelling fresh air with all the oxygen you can breathe, and the great sunsets and sunrises you can't see in any urban canyon.

And someone who wants to infringe on that can take a long hike on a one-way road.

This is a bit wide of what I started out talking about - the only thing I've talked about his how I have conservative values: low taxes, small government, few laws and restrictions.

I've lived in Los Angeles for over 20 years, moving back to the rural Missouri where I grew up. I've visited other cities and worked with many people from huge cities all over the globe. All I found in that big city were people that were sensible - who came from rural/suburban areas. They were sensible as they had lived in Alaska (for instance), or Florida, or Arizona. Those I disagreed with had some odd concepts - they came from Detroit's inner cities, or New York, or St. Louis, or Milano, or London. Those who lived independently were able to live more cooperatively with those around them. They had manners. Those who were the most obstructive, most obstreperous (even violent) came from larger cities. Sure, they all "got along" most of the time. But those from cities had lower flashpoints and were capable of more destructive and individuated behavior.

The life at my Missouri home was more pleasant, cordial, and helpful. Life in cities was gritty, cold, even cruel at times.

Just an empirical, informal study.

But it got me wondering. And the above is the result.
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