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Dec 14, 2015
Presented by
Dennis Prager

When setting public policy, what's more important: intentions or results? Feeling good or doing good? When it comes to being guided by the heart or by the mind, the Left and Right are very different.

Dennis Prager's Left-Right Differences Series Part 2: Does it Feel Good or Does it Do Good? How do Conservatives and Liberals differ?

The difference between progressives and conservatives is progressives ask if a policy feels good, while conservatives ask if it does good. 

  • As Dennis Prager argues, one of the key differences between what drives the policies of progressives vs. conservatives is the question, “Does it feel good, or does it do good?” The left is usually more concerned with how a policy feels. Conservatives are usually more concerned with the practical effects—does the policy actually work? A few examples: the left’s embrace of the minimum wage, affirmative action, and anti-war sentiment—all of which feel good but often have deleterious effects on the people they’re supposedly designed to help.View Source
  • Related reading: Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph – Dennis PragerView Source
  • Related reading: Economics In One Lesson – Henry HazlittView Source
  • Related reading: Affirmative Action Around the World – Thomas SowellView Source

Why does the left keep pushing to raise the minimum wage? It feels good to call for a higher wage, even if it actually hurts workers.  

  • In January 1987, the New York Times editorial board came out against the minimum wage, arguing that the ideal minimum wage was $0.00 because, as the vast majority of economists agreed, it priced workers out of the labor market.View Source
  • The Times editorial board reversed its position in February 2014 and came out in support of an increase. What changed? The Times followed the trend of the left, supporting what feels good rather than what actually does good.View Source
  • Decades of statistics show the minimum wage actually hurts those it’s supposed to help. The people most hurt by minimum wage hikes are young, low-skilled workers—exactly the people who need work in order to learn valuable skills. Overall, raising the minimum wage creates higher unemployment and decreases national income.View Source
  • Even moderate minimum wage hikes have negative effects on unemployment.View Source
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 64.4 percent of minimum wage workers were part-time. Why? Because the minimum wage is too high.View Source
  • Read Dennis Prager on one of the key differences between what drives the policies of the Left vs. the Right: “Does it feel good, or does it do good?”View Source
  • Related reading: Economics In One Lesson – Henry HazlittView Source

Despite evidence that affirmative action causes higher dropout rates among minorities, the left continues to support it. Why? It feels good.

  • Studies show that affirmative action can harm minority students by putting many of them into academic situations for which they are not prepared. These same students could have thrived and succeeded had they ended up in academic environments for which they were better prepared.View Source
  • These “mismatch” effects appear to be particularly strong among students in STEM fields.View Source
  • Read Dennis Prager on one of the key differences between what drives the policies of the Left vs. the Right: “Does it feel good, or does it do good?”View Source
  • Related reading: Affirmative Action Around the World – Thomas SowellView Source

Is peace the answer? Not when facing Hitler or ISIS. The pacifism of the Left is not only naïve—it can lead to even more atrocities. 

  • World War II is a clear example of the importance of taking up arms to stop evil. If the West had sought to simply pacify Adolf Hitler, only more evil would have occurred.View Source
  • Today, Western elites, universities, and even major US companies are making it harder to fight radical Islam because of naïve and reckless pacifism.View Source
  • Pacifists in the US supported the withdrawal from Iraq, which created the vacuum filled by the radical terrorist group ISIS, which President Obama famously dismissed as the “jayvee team.”View Source
  • Another example is the weak response of the West’s left-leaning leaders to Russia’s annexation of Crimea or their invasion of the Ukraine.View Source
  • The Iran nuclear deal is another example of the West attempting to pacify an evil regime only to make them an even more powerful and influential enemy.View Source
  • Related reading: Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph – Dennis PragerView Source

The left tries to avoid the use of force at nearly any cost in international relations. Why? It feels good to call for peace—yet do nothing.

  • World War II is a clear example of the importance of taking up arms to stop evil.View Source
  • Today, Western elites, universities, and even major US companies are making it harder to fight radical Islam because of naïve and reckless pacifism.View Source
  • Pacifists in the US supported the withdrawal from Iraq, which created the vacuum filled by the radical terrorist group ISIS, which President Obama famously dismissed as the “jayvee team.”View Source
  • Another example is the weak response of the West’s left-leaning leaders to Russia’s annexation of Crimea or their invasion of the Ukraine.View Source
  • The Iran nuclear deal is another example of the West attempting to pacify an evil regime only to make them an even more powerful and influential enemy.View Source
  • Related reading: Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph – Dennis PragerView Source

The U.S. military has done far more for global peace than have peace activists.

  • World War II is a clear example of the importance of taking up arms to stop evil. If the West had sought to simply pacify Adolf Hitler, only more evil would have occurred.View Source
  • Today, Western elites, universities, and even major US companies are making it harder to fight radical Islam because of naïve and reckless pacifism.View Source
  • Pacifists in the US supported the withdrawal from Iraq, which created the vacuum filled by the radical terrorist group ISIS, which President Obama famously dismissed as the “jayvee team.”View Source
  • Another example is the weak response of the West’s left-leaning leaders to Russia’s annexation of Crimea or their invasion of the Ukraine.View Source
  • The Iran nuclear deal is another example of the West attempting to pacify an evil regime only to make them an even more powerful and influential enemy.View Source
  • Related reading: Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph – Dennis PragerView Source

Peace activists didn’t liberate the Nazi concentration camps. Armed soldiers did.

  • World War II is a clear example of the importance of taking up arms to stop evil. If the West had sought to simply pacify Adolf Hitler, only more evil would have occurred.View Source
  • Today, Western elites, universities, and even major US companies are making it harder to fight radical Islam because of naïve and reckless pacifism.View Source
  • Pacifists in the US supported the withdrawal from Iraq, which created the vacuum filled by the radical terrorist group ISIS, which President Obama famously dismissed as the “jayvee team.”View Source
  • Another example is the weak response of the West’s left-leaning leaders to Russia’s annexation of Crimea or their invasion of the Ukraine.View Source
  • The Iran nuclear deal is another example of the West attempting to pacify an evil regime only to make them an even more powerful and influential enemy.View Source
  • Related reading: Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph – Dennis PragerView Source

A fundamental difference between Left and Right concerns how each assesses public policies. The Right asks, “Does it do good?” The Left is more likely to ask a different question.

Take the minimum wage, for example. In 1987, the New York Times editorialized against any minimum wage. The title of the editorial said it all -- “The Right Minimum Wage: $0.00.”  

“There's a virtual consensus among economists,” wrote the Times editorial, “that the minimum wage is an idea whose time has passed. Raising the minimum wage by a substantial amount would price working people out of the job market…Why did the New York Times editorialize against the minimum wage? Because it asked the question: “Does it do good?”

But 27 years later, the New York Times editorial page wrote the very opposite of what it had written in 1987, and called for a major increase in the minimum wage. In that time, the Times editorial page had moved further and further left and was now preoccupied not with the question, "does it do good?" -- but with the question, "does it feel good?" And it feels good to raise poor people’s minimum wage.

A second example is affirmative action. Study after study -- and, more importantly, common sense and facts -- has shown the negative effects that race-based affirmative action has had on many black students. Lowering college admissions standards for black applicants has ensured a number of awful results.

Just to cite one, more black students fail to graduate college. Why? Because too many have been admitted to a college that demands more academic rigor than they are prepared for. Rather than attend a school that matches their academic skills, a school where they might thrive, they too often fail at the more demanding school that lowered its standards to admit them.

It's clear that supporters of race-based affirmative action ask, "Does it feel good?” rather than, “Does it do good?”

A third example is pacifism and other forms of “peace activism.”

Many people on the Left have a soft spot for pacifism -- the belief that killing another human being is always wrong. Not all leftists are pacifists, but pacifism almost always emanates from the Left, and just about all leftists support “peace activism,” “peace studies,” and whatever else contains the word “peace.”

The Right, on the other hand, while just as desirous of peace as the Left -- what conservative parent wants their child to die in battle? -- knows that pacifism and most “peace activists” increase the chances of war, not peace.

Nothing guarantees the triumph of evil like refusing to fight it. Great evil is therefore never defeated by peace activists, but by superior military might. The Allied victory in World War II is an obvious example. And violent Islamists today need to be killed before they behead, enslave, and torture more innocents.

Supporters of pacifism, peace studies, American nuclear disarmament, and American military withdrawal from countries in which it has fought do not ask, “Does it do good?" Because it almost never does good.

Did the total withdrawal of America from Iraq do good? Of course not. It led to the rise of Islamic State with its mass murder and torture.  Did the American withdrawal from Vietnam do good? No. It led to the violent Communist takeover of South Vietnam. On the other hand, because American troops did not leave South Korea, Japan, and Germany, those countries have become three of the most prosperous and free countries in the world.

So, then, why do liberals support a higher minimum wage if it doesn’t do good? Because it makes them feel good about themselves: We liberals, unlike conservatives, care about the poor.

Why do liberals support race-based affirmative action? For the same reason. It makes liberals feel good about themselves. They appear to be righting the wrongs of historical racism.

And, the same holds true for left-wing peace activism. It’s nice to think of oneself as a peace activist.

All this helps to explain why young people are so much more likely to be liberal than conservative. They haven’t lived long enough to really know what does good. But they do know what feels good.

As society moves further and further to the left, so does the preoccupation with feeling good over doing good. The world is getting worse and worse, but many people are feeling better and better about themselves while it does.

I'm Dennis Prager.

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