In a previous post, I mentioned some major differences between Democrats and Republicans. I think what it mainly comes down to is negative and positive rights. In this post, I want to mention another main difference but this goes straight to the heart of politics. In fact, I think it’s source could go to philosophy.
William James made a distinction between “tender-minded” and “tough-minded” people. What are the differences?
Rationalistic (going by “Principles”) Empiricist (going by “facts”)
I want to concentrate on the last two in each category. In philosophy, there was an ongoing debate between the rationalists and empiricists. That debate is still going on today but in different realms. For example, in psychology, the debate is about nature (rationalism) or nurture (empiricism). I’m sure you can find similiar attitudes like this in sociology or anthropology.
In politics, I think it follows the same thing. In America, the Democrats are following the Empiricist tradition (the “tough-minded”) whereas the Republicans are following the Rationalistic tradition (the “tender-minded”). Now this doesn’t mean that they follow them exact. After all, James said that no one follows this exactly. But I think it’s close. Most conservatives are religious, for example; and I think Democrats have a more materialistic view of the world instead of following ideals.
When it comes to free will vs. fate, I think the debate shows head-on. For example, when it comes to redistribution, the Republicans will often say that it’s wrong because first of all, it’s taking away someone’s property (through taxes) to give to someone else. This someone else didn’t work for that money and it’s unfair that I should be working so that the other person can benefit. Second of all, because it’s not my fault that he’s in poverty, it is therefore his fault. He choose to be in poverty and now he’s reaping in the benefits because I’m working whereas he isn’t. Thus, he had the free will to get out of that situation.
Democrats, on the other hand, will say something more fatalistic. The reason why we should redistribute is because the other person just had bad luck: It wasn’t his fault that he was born in the ghetto, and no matter how hard he tries, there’s no way he can pull himself out by himself. He needs some external help. Likewise, Paris Hilton didn’t do anything to become rich; it was just good luck. Thus, the environment has had an influence on where we’ll be in life. No one chooses to be rich or poor when they’re born; rather, it was just a matter of luck, chance, they were fated to be that way. Well, we shouldn’t blame someone because of luck or fate, so we should help them out.
This isn’t to suggest that one’s right or the other is wrong; but I think the rationalist/empiricist debate isn’t over because it has spilled into other terrotories, and as we can see, into politics.
I’ve thought about something else too. When it comes to abortions through accidental pregnancies, Republicans are against it because of a free will response. It’s the idea that the couple freely engaged in sexual activity and they knew the consequences of the act. They knew the risks of pregnancy (even with contraceptives) and so part of the idea of free will is to accept the consequences of the act.
With Democrats, their claim is that accidental pregnancies (even with contraceptives) wasn’t something that was freely made out. The initial plan was to gain the pleasure and the intention was not to produce a baby. And so there was no free plan to produce a child. It just happened to be bad luck or in other words, it was fated to produce a child. But surely they can’t be blamed because of bad luck. Thus, to rectify the bad luck (because luck isn’t someone’s fault), abortions are permitted.
So again, we can draw the rationalism/empiricism debate going to abortion.
I’ve thought of another example. The rationalists look on a whole time scale (rationalism or holism) whereas the empiricists look at time as a cross section (individualism).
Take abortion again. The Republicans say that the fetus through the whole gestation is a person or will become a person. They see it as a time issue and we must take it as time as a whole.
Democrats only look at cross sections of time. What is the time right now? With the fetus, it isn’t a person, so it’s ok to abort.
Nozick was a libertarian and he was criticizing Rawls for not taking time into consideration. If we look at time at a whole, then any form of redistribution is going to be unjust. He gives the Wilt Chamberlain example which I won’t explain here. Rawls, other the other hand, says that we can form our rules of justice outside the periphery of time.
One more example. Capital punishment could be seen this way too. The Republicans would be in the rationalistic camp and so they’re more likely to suggest that free will should be taken seriously. Thus, if someone committed a capital crime, it was that person’s fault because they freely choose to commit the crime or not. Empiricists say it’s not his fault entirely because of the upbringing. Remember, empiricists usually look on notions of fate. For example, the convicted rapist Matias Reye had a horrible childhood. When he was 2 years old, his mother sold him to his father for $400. At age 7, two older boys sexually abused him and threw him in a river. By age 17, he was living alone on the street of New York, scratching for money as an East Harlem delicatessen clerk and sleeping in a van outside of the store. Thus, Democrats are more likely to be opposed the death penalty because of the situation and environment.
I’ve thought of perhaps another difference.
Republicans think that there’s too much government in our lives. This can be in the form of taxes, our liberties, or our freedoms. Thus, the solution is to take out the government and make it limited.
Democrats think that there’s too little government in our lives. This can be seen by not enough protection (either physical or economic), by taken advantaged and exploited by corporations or businesses, and because there should be some sort of responsibility of taking care of the community.
Perhaps Democrats see society as one giant family and we have to take care of each other in order to survive and that means we have certain obligations to each other. Think of your own family. It’s something similar to that. Republicans, on the other hand, suggest that even though society is important, it’s the individual that carries more importance. Again, think of your family vs. another unfamiliar family. You’d rather take care of your family first. So with this, maybe Republicans are exclusive when it comes to social problems whereas Democrats are more inclusive.