Difference Between Liberals And Conservatives

Richard A. Posner, Professor of Law at the University Of Chicago and federal judge, in his discussion on social security explains the differences between liberals and conservatives:

liberals think that the average person is good but dumb, conservatives that he or she is “bad” (in the sense of self-interested) but smart. Liberals trust the intellectual elite (because they are good) to guide the masses (because they cannot guide themselves); conservatives distrust the elite (because the elite are bad and therefore dangerous) and think the masses can guide themselves. So in the social security debate, liberals oppose private accounts because they do not think the average person competent to manage money for retirement but think government can be trusted to manage it; conservatives support private accounts because they give the opposite of the liberals’ answers to the goodness and competence questions.

He elaborates on how these different views of the world collide with each other in the social security debate:

The basic contrast that I have suggested (something of a caricature, I admit) between the liberal and conservative world views has a further implication for the social security debate. Beleving that people are good and therefore never, or at least very rarely, deserve to be poor, liberals favor redistribution of wealth from rich to poor, which a self-financed retirement system would be incapable of bringing about because everyone would be paying for his own retirement rather than for the retirement of others. Conservatives recognize that people can be unlucky, and also (because in the conservative view people are “bad”) that the elderly may free ride on their children, and on these grounds support public welfare for the indigent elderly.

Which brings us right back around to the part of social security that conservatives don’t like.

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