[politics] The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice

I’m not convinced that the universe actually does bend towards justice, but there’s been a reasonable approximation of that here in the West since the Enlightenment. Other cultures, other paths, but that’s the one I’m familiar with.

When you look at the moral arc of the history of the United States, something almost startling very rapidly becomes clear.

When it came to slavery, conservatives were on the wrong side of history.

When it came to Jim Crow, conservatives were on the wrong side of history.

When it came to women’s suffrage, conservatives were on the wrong side of history.

When it came to child labor, conservatives were on the wrong side of history.

When it came to workplace safety, paid time off, and forty-hour work weeks, conservatives were on the wrong side of history.

When it came to the Great Depression, conservatives were on the wrong side of history.

When it came to the New Deal, conservatives were on the wrong side of history.

When it came to entering World War II to fight fascism, conservatives were on the wrong side of history.

When it came to racial integration, conservatives were on the wrong side of history.

When it came to interracial marriage, conservatives were on the wrong side of history.

When it came to the minimum wage, and every effort since to raise the minimum wage, conservatives were on the wrong side of history.

When it came to women’s economic independence and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, conservatives were on the wrong side of history.

When it came to women’s safety on issues such as marital rape, conservatives were on the wrong side of history.

When it came to making healthcare accessible to as many citizens as possible, conservatives were on the wrong side of history.

Every single one of those issues was promoted by progressive reformers. Every single one of those issues was opposed by the conservatives of the day. Viciously so in many cases. Violently so in some.

Given the track record of conservatives over the past two centuries, why should we believe them now about gay marriage? Or equal pay for equal work? Or income inequality?

Why should we believe conservatives on any issue of social justice?

They’ve been on the wrong side of history every time.

17 thoughts on “[politics] The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice

  1. Jay, this is just silly. Really, it is. You could have saved yourself some writing and merely written, “My side is sparkly and precious and perfect *ALL* the time, while the other side is terrible and poopy and mean *ALL* the time!”

    In point of fact “conservative” and “liberal” as we know them in America in 2014, these things did not exist prior to about 1960. And perhaps not even then, as yesterday’s “liberals” become today’s “conservatives”, etc.

    I would also paraphrase the character Sarek from Star Trek when I say that “liberal justice is a unique point of view”. As it tends to include things like “economic justice” which no government or nation, however well intended, has managed to attain. Oh, some have tried. (USSR for starters) And the results were horrific totalitarianism, followed by bankruptcy.

    If I do a straw poll of my conservative friends, and ask them to name the single thing which defines “conservative” in their minds, 7 times out of 10 the words LIBERTY and FREEDOM are used.

    And history is most definitely not on a bending trajectory towards freedom, because the actual trajectory (across time) is almost always towards authoritarianism. Be it the theological authoritarianism of the sort seen in Islamic lands today, or the economic and social authoritarianism of socialist-statist nations.

    Freedom must be fought for and kept.

    Again, show me a “liberal” from history and I will show you someone who flunks at least one, or probably several, of today’s liberal litmus tests. Meanwhile, show me a “conservative” from the same period, and (s)he is liable to pass one or more of those same litmus tests.

    I find the monochrome absolutist nature of this post unbecoming of a man of your intellectual caliber, Jay. Seriously.

    1. Jay says:

      You do realize there is a long and continuous tradition of progressive activism from which today’s liberal community has evolved? And it extends all the way back to abolition and women’s suffrage? People of a conservative bent have opposed every one of these reforms, with very familiar arguments from Biblical authority, arguing that they will cost too much, endanger the family, undermine morality, and so forth. I’m not identifying current political parties with these historical trends, but it is absolutely true that a continuously evolving Englightenment-driven progressive worldview has been responsible for these changes, and that the conservatives of every era have opposed them, almost always with similar arguments, almost always wrong.

      Intellectually simplified? Yes, for rhetorical purposes. But with much more historical integrity than you are willing to credit.

      1. Jonna says:

        So….for matters of clarification, when you’ve had a chance to bounce back from surgery (and I’ll add my hope that you come through it well, and the recovery and knowledge they gain can help you in your battle), would you be willing provide a definition of what you view as “conservative?” Because your brush seems so broad as to be “anyone who is not progressive.” I distinctly recall that it was the Republicans in the senate ending the Democrat filibuster of the Civil Rights act..and specifically Senator Everett Dirksen, who was conservative…..and a larger percentage of the Republican Party voted for its passage than the Democrats–so perhaps understanding what you mean, more specifically would help me understand. If you’ve defined the term in a blog post previous to this last year, I would have missed it, as I just recently started following you.

        1. Jay says:

          Yes, I need to do a better job of clarifying what I was original trying to make a rhetorical point about. Thank you for asking!

    2. Jay says:

      To put that last comment in somewhat simpler terms, the conservative arguments against gay marriage are quite similar to the conservative arguments against interracial marriage, racial integration, much of labor reform, women’s suffrage, and slavery. If it walks a like a duck…

  2. Robert Mullins says:

    It must take a selective memory, or ability to research with blinders on, to always find yourself on the right side of history.
    Seems to me there must be the intellectual code to follow for liberals is that conservatives are “always” wrong – making all positions from the right unworthy of discussion?

    1. Jay says:

      Actually, I’m making a very specific point about the evolution of social justice.

  3. Caias Ward says:

    Robert, when were the conservatives right regarding a big-ticked item? Examples?

    1. Robert Mullins says:

      Calas … What exactly is the “fair share” of someone’s income that he’s earned that he should be able to keep?

      1. wintermute says:

        Wouldn’t that depend on how much assistance they got from society in earning their money? If there were a strong police and justice system that meant they didn’t need to spend as much on private security; if there were a good transport infrastructure that made it easy for them to bring their goods to market; if there were a strong educational system that gave them the foundation on which they earned their money… all these things would affect how much it would be reasonable for someone to re-invest in society.

        I don’t think it could be meaningful to provide a single number.

  4. Meghan Muriel says:

    Justice for marital rape?

    PLEASE, point it out so I can get some justice!

    Even for non-marital rape, with a rape-kit (hard evidence) and the whole 9-yards, it’s extremely hard to “prove” rape in any western court of law. All the abuser has to do is blame his own crime on his victim–something abusers notoriously do. It’s part of the experience of rape, actually, and its sheer domestic terrorism. Why does this happen? Well, because currently, western justice is set up to aid and abet the perpetrators–because, you know, abusers have “rights” too. You, the victim, are obviously faking it, or lying, or wanted it, or have ulterior motives, or any other egregious thing the abuser knows he can throw out there to get away with his crime–which double-victimizes the victim. In other words, if you thought the rape was bad, what happens after is far worse. Instead of the law upholding justice, it enables the assailant/abuser to further punish the victim. After you’re raped, you’re then gang raped by the legal system. You’re scrutinized under a microscope, you have your character, integrity, and sanity examined, and you have your soul exposed under cross-eximination. THAT is what progressive western justice is for rape. At least Shiria Law outright tells its victims what to expect through the legal system, not this insidious business of “progressive” western society.

    And if you think regular rape is hard to prove, marital rape is virtually impossible to prove. Marital rape is also worse than rape by a stranger, because it’s your own husband, the person you loved most in the world, betraying you. Sheer torture. To prove it is impossible–because obviously you married the guy, he’s your *husband,” you owe him sex, and the whole 9-yards, ON-TOP of the usual arguments of ulterior motives, etc., etc.

    All this in the face of the statistics! Statistics show that 1 in 4 women in western society experience domestic violence and/or sexual assault sometime in their adult lives. It’s endemic. 95% of abusers are men, and of the 5% of women perps, virtually all of them aren’t original perpetrators (i.e. the man hits first; the woman simply hit back). In other words, it a man problem that needs to be handled and corrected BY men. But none of that matters with the way our system is currently set up. Having already personally been processed through the civilian and federal system alike, and between several states, concerning this very issue, please, please do show me where “justice” for marital rape can be found. Not only in practice, but as the resounding victory the above sweeping post is claiming it to be.

    As for “women’s rights,” I find it extremely anti-progressive, as a woman, for liberals to tout that if a woman doesn’t have the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy, then she’s obviously “suppressed.” She’s a second-class citizen, and can’t do whatever she wants with her own body. This Catch 22 really boggles my mind. So, wait, “human rights” are for certain groups, like women, illegal aliens, and the LGTB community . . . but not for unborn babies? Conveniently, the unborn aren’t human? That’s a total pick-and-choose. We’re talking murder here. Babies are genetically human from the moment of conception. They’re certainly not aardvarks! And considering that at the rate a human body exchanges cells throughout the life of a person, you’re actually in a “new body” ever 7 years–obviously you’re still you! You’re still you whether you’re one cell at the moment of conception, with all the building blocks you’ll ever need in life, or 99-years-old and on your deathbed.

    In other words, liberals are de-humanizing unborn babies in order to humanize me as a woman, and I find that kind of hypocrisy very hard to swallow. Instead, I see the abortion-issue side of the women’s rights issue as the political vote-creating agenda that it is.

    I’m very passionate about these topics, and am convicted to give testimony when I see statements like the above post. And I also know that I can 100% like and respect the poster, but utterly disagree with the post.

  5. Rick York says:

    For Messrs Torgerson and Mullins,

    Instead of accusing Jay of excessive partisanship, could either or both of you please refute one or more of his specific points?

    1. Robert Mullins says:

      Why is it that liberals will argue a lifetime that man came from apes or spend all of their lives trying to prove that God does not exist but can’t realize that spending two dollars when you only have one is inherently wrong.

      1. Frank Barrett says:

        Robert, what does “liberal” have to do with having one dollar and spending two. In the last few decades Reagon and Bush Jr were the biggest deficit spenders. Clinton actually achieved a surplus and Obama is reducing the deficit.

      2. Shorter Robert Mullins: Why is it that liberals keep making straw man arguments that they don’t really make except in my conservative fantasies.

      3. Yglorba says:

        There’s nothing morally wrong about borrowing. In fact, it’s a vital part of how business (and capitalism) work. If you can earn 10% return on money you borrow at 5% interest, you should do so — and part of the advantage of capitalism is that it makes that possible, allowing people with clever ideas but insufficient resources to collect capital by going into debt.

        (With governments it’s even more complicated, because a government’s goal is not necessarily to profit directly, but to implement the popular will. Regardless, debt is not itself inherently a bad thing.)

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