What is a liberal? They like diversity, sometimes

This is the third installment in my intermittent series of articles that answer the question ‘what is a liberal?’ The previous two articles are these:

What is a liberal? They hide from reality
What is a liberal? They’ll say anything

So, what is diversity?

The condition of being different.

Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, 1977 edition

Diversity is a key value advocated by liberals. As they say on the party web site: ‘Diversity and inclusion are important values to the Democratic Party.’ In this post I’ll examine three types of diversity: diversity of opinion, policy diversity, and ethnic diversity.

Diversity of opinion is a good thing. Hearing and understanding different opinions and values is important to making good decisions.

Why would you not want to hear different opinions? The answer – when you think you know it all already. Why would you want to suppress opinions that represent different values? The answer – when you’re afraid your values can’t compete with other values. Liberals consistently demonize and suppress different opinions and contrary voices. Here are some examples

Fox news features openly conservative opinion and talk shows. Before Fox was launched in 1996, conservative opinion was not heard on national networks. Fox is loathed by liberals: ‘a thin-skinned schoolyard bully… the subject of well-deserved criticism due to its aversion to facts and a long record of strident bias’.

Rush Limbaugh hosts a nationally syndicated talk show, is the author of 2 New York Times best sellers, and is among the highest paid people in US broadcasting. Limbaugh is conservative, and another object of loathing by liberals. Jon Stewart called him a ‘quivering rage heap who is apparently desperately trying to extinguish any remaining molecule of humanity that might still reside in the Chernobyl-esque super-fund cleanup site that was his soul’.

Global warming The controversy over global warming began in 1988, with the testimony of James Hansen before Congressional committees. Controversy continues over whether global warming is occurring, its causes, effects, and what to do about it. Liberals love global warming because their proposed solutions require big increases in government control over all aspects of our lives. The latest problem for global warming advocates is that the temperature increase predicted by their models has stopped. For the details, see these two articles:

Climate Science Is Not Settled

Whatever Happened to Global Warming?

Liberals don’t admit global warming is open to debate. True to the pattern, they demean and try to silence those who disagree: ‘they’re just, they’re just literally lying’.

Intellectual freedom on campus College campuses in the US are dominated by liberals. Take the examples of Bowdoin and Princeton in the 2012 Presidential campaign. At Bowdoin, 100% of donations went to Obama. At Princeton, all but one faculty member and a janitor donated to Obama. Are diverse viewpoints heard and debated on university campuses? Sol Stern, a Berkeley Free Speech Movement radical in the 60s, said this:

Unlike our old liberal professors, who dealt respectfully with the ideas advanced by my generation of New Left students, today’s radical professors insist on ideological conformity and don’t take kindly to dissent by conservative students. Visits by speakers who might not toe the liberal line—recently including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Islamism critic Aayan Hirsi Ali —spark protests and letter-writing campaigns by students in tandem with their professors until the speaker withdraws or the invitation is canceled.

If Ann Coulter is invited to speak, campus officials question the maturity and judgment of the students responsible, and protests break out. On the other hand, Al Sharpton is welcome.

Diversity in policy is a good thing. If city government in Seattle wants to find effective policies addressing homelessness, they can look to the experience of Cleveland, Chicago or New York, and pick and choose among them. If state legislators in Olympia want to review different approaches to pension reform, they can look to the experience of Illinois, California or New Jersey.

The US constitution formalizes federalism, where the powers of the central government are specifically listed, and everything else is left to state and local government. Maybe it began with Theodore Roosevelt (a Republican), but the trend now is to kick everything upstairs, to increase the scope and authority of the central government.

Centralization reduces diversity. If the state of Oregon wants to choose its own approach to assisted suicide, Congress overrules Oregon. If cities like Seattle or Ferguson, MO have problems with city police, the federal government shows up to require methods approved in Washington, D.C. The legislation and court decisions that enable this are bipartisan, but the leaders of the push are liberals, and the effect is to enforce a deadening uniformity.

Ethnicity and race
Ethnic and racial diversity is a good thing. Treating individuals on merit, regardless of background, is a core American value and a key to the strength of our culture and economy.

There is a special relationship between liberals and African Americans that dates back to Lyndon Johnson and the voting rights act. I’m sure liberals believe this is about promoting diversity and equal rights, but it’s not. If it were, the goal would be to make black people self-sufficient, to move them off dependency on social welfare programs like ADC, Medicaid and unemployment. But government programs to do that do not exist. See the web site 100 Black Men of America. It supports ‘economic empowerment as a necessary step toward creating a just society, not only here in the United States, but for black people around the world’. The programs they list are all locally based, or private sector programs.

Liberals only support blacks that talk the party line. Black leaders with different opinions, like Allen West and Condoleezza Rice, are vilified and ostracized. See the following quote from a Washington Times story.

Black Democratic leaders in Maryland say that racially tinged attacks against Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele in his bid for the U.S. Senate are fair because he is a conservative Republican. Such attacks against the first black man to win a statewide election in Maryland include pelting him with Oreo cookies during a campaign appearance, calling him an “Uncle Tom” and depicting him as a black-faced minstrel on a liberal Web log.

The bottom line
Liberals want you to believe they support diversity, but they don’t.

  • Supporting diversity implies tolerance for differences, but liberals aren’t tolerant. If the opinion counters their party line, liberals shout it down, or ridicule and demonize the speaker.
  • Liberals support centralized government, and oppose states and local governments choosing diverse, locally-selected methods and goals.
  • Liberal support for minorities really goes no further than their self-interested dependency relationship with African Americans.

The 2008 crash: liberal story-telling, conservative story-telling

The 2008 crash continues as a source of debate, probably because after six years the recovery is still not complete. We differ on what caused the crash. There are liberal versions, there are conservative versions, both are wrong.

The liberal explanation
Liberals reflexively point to business as the source of any problem. They’ll tell you the 2008 crash was a case of Wall Street running wild, cheating Americans with trick mortgages and fraudulent mortgage-backed securities. For an authentic liberal narrative, see the conclusions of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission:

  1. We conclude this financial crisis was avoidable.
  2. We conclude widespread failures in financial regulation and supervision proved devastating to the stability of the nation’s financial markets.
  3. We conclude dramatic failures of corporate governance and risk management at many systemically important financial institutions were a key cause of this crisis.
  4. We conclude a combination of excessive borrowing, risky investments, and lack of transparency put the financial system on a collision course with crisis.
  5. We conclude the government was ill prepared for the crisis, and its inconsistent response added to the uncertainty and panic in the financial markets.
  6. We conclude there was a systemic breakdown in accountability and ethics.
  7. We conclude collapsing mortgage-lending standards and the mortgage securitization pipeline lit and spread the flame of contagion and crisis.
  8. We conclude over-the-counter derivatives contributed significantly to this crisis.
  9. We conclude the failures of credit rating agencies were essential cogs in the wheel of financial destruction.

The conservative explanation
Similarly, conservatives reflexively point to government as the source of any problem. Government pushed banks, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to insure or even buy mortgages for the poor, who basically ripped off the system.

A better explanation…
The problem with both the conservative and liberal explanations is that they focus on conditions specific to the US. The 2008 crash was global.

Housing bubbles emerged in numerous countries, like Ireland, with very different regulatory regimes and political cultures than ours. Financial firms collapsed all over the world. There is no way to explain all of this by citing U.S. economic policies

See this exhibit from the dissent to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission report:

Global housing crash

The 2008 crash was not due to the causes commonly identified by either liberals or conservatives. Many of these causes contributed to the crash, but they didn’t cause it. The financial deregulation and expansionist housing policies of the 1990s were bipartisan. Accountability, ethics, and greed played roles, but are not unique in any political persuasion or economic class.

What is the metric to determine the success of regulation? How do you improve accountability and ethics, and what to do about greed? All of these are great questions, but don’t point to causes of the 2008 crash, or ways to prevent the next crash.

For the best explanation, one that follows the money and takes into account the global roots of the crash, see the dissent to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission report:

  1. A credit bubble. China and the oil-producing states developed large capital surpluses, then loaned these savings to the US and Europe. Interest rates fell.
  2. A housing bubble, in the US and other countries.
  3. High-risk nontraditional mortgages amplified the housing bubble in the US.
  4. Mortgage securitization (CDOs) and erroneous credit ratings transformed bad mortgages into toxic financial assets, and fueled creation of more bad mortgages.
  5. Financial institutions made big bets on housing (concentrated correlated risk).
  6. Financial institutions over-leveraged (too little capital relative to the risks they were carrying on their balance sheets).
  7. The financial system was too vulnerable to contagion through interconnectedness (counter party credit risk).
  8. The financial system was too vulnerable to a common shock. Unrelated firms made the same investment, then failed at roughly the same time due to that investment failing.
  9. Global panic, evaporation of confidence and trust.
  10. The financial panic then caused a contraction in the real economy.

The bottom line
Liberals have their list of causes, focused on deregulation and misbehavior in the financial industry. Deregulation did occur, but liberals share the blame. See Senator Charles Schumer, and the legislative history in Congress. Misbehavior occurred. Presumably the guilty were prosecuted, but that’s another topic.
Conservatives blame government involvement in the housing market. The Community Reinvestment Act, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are distasteful to fans of small government, but they did not cause the crash.
The crash occurred across the globe. Root causes cannot be found in US government policy or US financial institutions.