The Liberal Advantage


When it comes to political battles, conservatives are at a natural disadvantage. By the very essence of their ideologies, liberalism is far more active than conservatism. For almost every issue, liberalism easily passes the “we have to do something” test.

As proponents of a powerful and active government, liberal solutions are visible and easily traceable. To solve a problem they might propose a new government agency, a new government program, impose new government requirements, or bills to outlaw whatever is perceived to cause the problem. With any of these options, liberal politicians can easily go to their constituents and show a one-step link between the problem and proposed solution.

Conservatives do not have it so easy. Conservative solutions often involve setting the proper conditions for individuals, businesses, charities, etc. to improve the situation by harnessing the free market and civil society. When a governing philosophy opposes government intervention, it is extremely difficult to pass the “do something” test. Even when the problem is caused by government interference, when the solution is to have the government do less it is easy for opponents to characterize removing the problem as not having a solution to the problem.

This scenario is currently playing out with the debate over repealing and replacing Obamacare. Republicans have plans to replace Obamacare, but a significant portion of them involve removing the government’s distorting influence. Obamacare’s mandates have caused premiums and deductibles to rise, and competition to wane as insurance companies leave the market due to onerous regulations. Removing those regulations is a plan to improve the healthcare system in America, but because it does not involve the government directly intruding itself into healthcare, it is easy for Democrats to argue Republicans have no plan.

This pattern repeats itself. Conservatives try to spur economic growth by reducing the taxes and regulations that harm businesses that may otherwise expand and hire new employees, but are accused of not having a jobs plan because they do not propose liberals chosen policies of direct government spending through stimulus bills. Conservatives want to lower the runaway costs of college by tying student loans to results or requiring colleges to provide students with estimated earning potential for each degree based on the school’s graduates, but are accused of not having a plan to help young graduates because they do not propose spending billions of other people’s tax dollars to forgive student loans voluntarily entered into.

The conservative policies are correct. The conservative policies will lead to better outcomes. But the conservative policies do not have that all important aspect of being direct and easily understood. With all of that considered, it is actually quite amazing conservatives win any political disputes.