Leftism: Emotional Reactions as a Basis for Public Policy - Intercollegiate Studies Institute

Leftism: Emotional Reactions as a Basis for Public Policy

The gospel of Liberalism runs on emotional appeals. Consider several hot topics of our day: gay marriage, immigration, and welfare.

  1. The appeal of Gay Marriage comes from a gut reaction that it is nicer to give someone something they want because they want it. If two people love each other, who I am to get in the way? This appeal has shifted public opinion leftward without any serious evaluation of the merits of the question. “Love” makes us feel warm inside, so why not redefine a millennia old institution to suit our Disney-induced infatuation with romance? Never mind an analysis of the ontology of marriage, the social costs, and the proposed benefits bestowed upon our nation through this policy.
  2. Immigration: “People just want to work. They love their families and want to provide for them. What could motivate you to stop them? Probably racism.” This is about the level of depth that is commonly reached in liberal appeals for non-enforcement of immigration law. (Read libertarians for more well-reasoned arguments in favor of open borders).
  3. Welfare: “If you don’t support increases in welfare spending, you must want poor people to die on the streets!” This appeal is one of the most powerful. However, it assumes from the outset that government-enforced redistribution actually helps poor people. There is certainly justification for starvation prevention and other last resort measures, but to argue for the massive array of dependency-inducing programs we currently have on the basis of basic safety-net provision is utterly unfounded.

I am not claiming that the left has no good arguments; rather, I merely seek to point out a troubling fact: if you want to know the liberal position on a given issue, think of the most visceral emotions response.

If you don’t know the rational choice literature, you may have no idea what pernicious disincentives arise from welfare policy, for example. Therefore, you will side with those who claim to help the poor.

In confronting the challenges of our time, we must go deeper than our emotions, and rely on reason and experience.

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