I’m sitting with a few of my friends at our local go-to restaurant, and eventually our conversation devolves to a brutal smattering of political arguments. Each of us drills the rest of the table, analyzing, over-analyzing, and running in circles, as usual. Then one of my friends sits back, arm draped across his chair, and says with a smirk:
“Actually, I’m morally liberal, fiscally conservative.” He’s a smart, nice, good-looking white guy.
“What?” I say, eyebrows furrowed, my previous train of thought crashing. He says it again, this time more slowly, emphatically.
“I’m morally liberal, fiscally conservative.” Still leaning back, he raises his eyebrows, looking expectantly at me, asking, ya get me?
“What are you talking about?” I genuinely do not understand the words coming out of his mouth. His mouth creases into a straight line and he sighs through his nose, rolling his eyes.
“I believe I can retain my ability to keep my well-deserved money as a hard-working American while supporting an overall more liberal, Democratic mentality.”
“That’s not a thing.”
“Yes, it is.”
“So who do you vote for?” And then he goes off on how our current system only supports two very specific mindsets, diminishing the character of the individual, so on and so on.
But hold on – what is this? Morally liberal, fiscally conservative? It sounds like its own political party. MLFC? I guess that works. Beyond just my friend, a large number of people have emerged across the nation following the MLFC mindset. And while you cannot find them on your ballot for the next election, they reside in Facebook comments and blog arguments.
As the name suggests, MLFC is an amalgam between Democrats and Republicans. Like other political parties, the MLFC mindset attempts to tear down socio-economic barriers with practical solutions; but unfortunately, like other political parties, its ideas, from conception to implementation, are problematic.
Politicians have struggled with just how to maximize a country’s human capital for as long as governmental systems have existed. Naturally, policies that hope to do so come with trade-offs, most ostensibly fiscal ones. Both political parties and individuals must balance how they intend to structure their ideological base with actual, realistic policy solutions. So let’s talk about MLFC.
One of the most striking examples of the disconnect within MLFC logic appears in their ideas about welfare. The morally liberal would demand increased welfare, pushing to lessen the economic divide with increases in economic opportunity. The fiscally conservative would retaliate against this fiscal trade-off, or at the very least be extremely apprehensive. So how does this work together in the MLFC approach? Well, it doesn’t. Here, MLFC logic skips a step. The “morally liberal” element of MLFC becomes a feel-good cop out for the middle and upper classes to display their empathy towards lower income individuals while supporting policies most beneficial to themselves. This approach absolves them of their guilt in conversation while doing absolutely nothing about the economic divide in practice. Anyone who espouses their political beliefs as MLFC has yet to acknowledge their own cognitive dissonance between their possession of money and hopes for social well-being, and the trade-offs necessary to achieve the goals of the “morally liberal” part of their ideology.
Generally speaking, MLFCs reconcile their desires to both advocate for a better world and retain the most of their own money by simply separating them. This method ignores the fundamental connection between the two.
Say I did branch out into the larger realm of civil rights in “moral liberalism.” Still, we are talking about a power structure. Fiscally conservative policies do not mitigate the same questions rising from “economic opportunity” as their liberal counterparts. Racial rights are not solely about language, perception, and stereotyping; they are about redefining the power structure, which would require some fiscal trade-offs. The same is true about gay rights. Gay rights are not just about marriage; they are about the ability for a same-sexual household to pursue the same economic benefits as a heterosexual one, which again is a fiscal problem as well as a moral one.
So let me ask again: MLFCs, who do you vote for? No legislation exists to implement a moral liberalism except those fiscal liberal policies that correlate directly with the corresponding moral ideology, and the same idea for moral conservatism. So policies that fit most with the practical application of MLFC are conservative fiscal policies. If you vote for a conservative fiscal policy, you are by definition contradicting your own moral liberalism. If you acknowledge the extant socio-economic power structure and support “morally liberal” methods to change it, you cannot simultaneously support the corresponding conservative fiscal policies.
As frustrating as falling into a category – like Republican or Democrat – can be (as each contain a constraining set of philosophies that a person may not completely agree with), at least Republicans and Democrats are consistent with their philosophies, from the fundamental moral base to proposed implementation. A moral base grounds the fiscal policies; these ideas are largely inseparable. Moreover, the fiscal policies are an extension of the moral base.
This thought process – the cognitive dissonance that dictates MLFC logic, predominates upper and upper-middle class thinking. It is incredibly difficult to avoid this kind of thinking; once a person falls into the trap of MLFC logic, it’s very difficult for them to climb out of it.
But how do we remove this dissonance? Is it even possible?