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.