Legislating Ideals

As redundant as this is going to sound, I think for all the similarities, I think there are vast differences between liberals and conservatives when it comes to dealing with reality.  I am not suggesting one side is delusional, but I am suggesting they deal with reality in fundamentally different ways.  My experience is liberals do not deal with, and adjust to the way things are, they feel the need to regulate toward the ideal.  Take this example:

(AP) — U.S. Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia has a simple solution for people who don’t like all the political advertisements unleashed by the court’s decision two years ago that ended limits on corporate contributions in political campaigns – change the channel or turn off the TV.


“I don’t care who is doing the speech – the more the merrier,” Scalia said. “People are not stupid. If they don’t like it, they’ll shut it off.”

Scalia was joined on stage by Justice Stephen Breyer, who voted on the losing side in the decision which has become known as “Citizens United,” for the group that successfully sued over federal campaign finance laws. Breyer didn’t directly criticize the ruling, instead pointing out how it is critical in the American system that people respect the decisions the judiciary makes.

Breyer also briefly summarized both sides of the argument concentrating on his own.

There are real problems when people want to spend lots of money on a candidate … they’ll drown out the people who don’t have a lot of money,” Breyer said.

Justice Breyer is operating under the (liberal) ideology that the Judiciary’s role is to level the playing field, rather than analyzing the facts of a case and determining whether party A is complying with the law.  It is not the Court’s job to determine what is fair or favorable.  It is not the Court’s job to level the playing field.  It is not the Court’s job to pick winners and losers in society.  It’s not anyone’s job for that matter, especially when campaign spending does not necessarily determine the outcome of an election.

He is not alone.  Many liberals in my experience believe very passionately that it is the government’s role to attempt to regulate toward ideal conditions.  But part of life is: not everyone is the same (See: Unequals Are Not Equal).  Some people are winners, some are losers, some are haves, some are have-nots.  The great thing about this country is, these lots are not fixed (See: Fair Enough?).  People are free to move in and out of these lots in life.  The journey might be easier or more difficult for some, and this is where liberals tend to want to regulate toward ideal.  They seem to want everyone to have the same ease of success as anyone else.  They routinely fail to take into account the human nature.  Not everyone has the same drive to succeed.  Some people are very comfortable in their poverty and only wish their income was more (See: Equal Outcome, Or Equal Opportunity?, Income inequality).


  1. I’m not sure that “regulating towards the ideal” is a bad thing. I guess it would depend on the circumstances.

    For instance, we don’t want people dumping waste in the alley behind their house, so we regulate against that ideal. We don’t want companies dumping waste in our streams, so we regulate towards that ideal. We don’t want discriminatory housing or lending practices, so we regulate towards that ideal.

    It’s sort of the point of gov’t, to a degree. Where I think the dividing line in “regulating towards the ideal” is harm. Gov’t has a role in regulating to prevent HARM towards innocent bystanders. Thus, we regulate the speed limit people can drive or how much alcohol people can drink before/while driving or how much pollution one can emit, because to NOT regulate that would allow harm to innocent bystanders. THAT regulating to an ideal is rational and reasonable.


    On the other hand, regulating personal opinions (ie, where no harm is likely to occur) IS a bad use of gov’t. Thus regulating marriage (who can and can’t marry) or regulating dancing or drinking/smoking/imbibing in general (ie, not while driving, just around the house) is to try to regulate personal preference and opinion (that smoking, drinking, whatever is bad), and that would be an unreasonable regulating towards an ideal.

    What do you think? Is “Harm” the reasonable dividing line between good and bad regulation?

  2. Terrance H. says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but that decision granted corporations the right of personhood.

    • T

      If we are talking about the same ruling, it granted corporations the right to free speech, the same as an individual. And donating money to political or activist organizations has been deemed speech. So, according to them, corporations are persons in that respect. I don’t think they should be considered persons, but should be allowed to donate as much and to whom they choose.

  3. Money talks for sure, but it’s up to people as to whether or not we will listen.

  4. No response to my questions, John? I’d think this could be an area where we find agreement. Regulating towards an ideal IS a good thing, if the ideal is to prevent harm.

    I think everyone should be able to agree to this, it’s sort of what our system of Gov’t is based upon. I guess maybe you didn’t answer because we do agree on this point, maybe?

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