Stories that make me think I might be a Conservative

The Desert

Paul, Andy and Mike had just met. They were all out backpacking when they met in the North-East of Australia. They had decided to rent a car as a group and drive to the North-West of Australia. They agreed to make a stop at a few sites along the way and at one stop Andy and Mike got a little bored, so they started a water fight.

The rules were simple enough: whoever was wettest by the time the water bottles were empty was the loser. Paul advised against the game. “We’re in the desert, water is literally our most scarce commodity. Treat it with a little more respect.”

“God, Paul, you’re so boring. We’re just having a little fun.” Mike said, and Andy agreed. “I just don’t think you’re being sensible. If anything goes wrong, we’ll want all the water we can get.” But Andy and Mike ignored Paul and continued playing. Paul swigged from his water bottle and put it in the glove box of the car. “I win!” Mike exclaimed “can we go now? It’s boring here”.

“Yup. We’re all ready to go.” Paul said and they piled in the car and set off. 15 miles later, at just-before-3 in the afternoon, the car ran out of petrol. They were 80 miles from civilisation and had just under 1.5 litres of water left, between them: Paul’s share.


At the pub

10 mates have been going to the pub on a Thursday afternoon for a quick round at lunch for the last few years. They’ve been going it since they were at college together. And the there was a rule that had followed them since their early days: pay what fraction you can, so long as the whole bill is paid. When they were at college, this was an about-equal payment. There was some give and some take from month to month depending on who had exams or missed a shift of evening work or had to buy a coursebook, but generally it was all about even. Now, they all had jobs.

There was a gardener, a plasterer, a barber… basically 9 of them had about-equal, about-average pay. The 10th was a financial consultant, he earned a lot more than the other friends. But rules were rules, and the financial consultant paid about 80% of the round, where the rest paid just over 2% each. Or, to put it another way, their regular round (a beer each) cost £20 so the financial consultant paid £16 and the rest paid about 40p each.

One Thursday the bar tender comes up to the friends just as they are about to leave and says “I’ve over-charged you. Tax on beer went down” and the bar tender places £2 on a variety of coins on the table. The financial consultant grabs £1.60, puts his coat on and starts to leave. “Woah there!” the gardener halts the financial consultant, “that should be 20p each. Why are you walking off with £1.60?”

The financial consultant smirked and continued towards the door before the stares of his friends made him very aware the gardener was serious, and his friends agreed. “Come now, for 3 years I’ve paid for more than half the beer, I’ve been putting nearly all the money in the pot. Proportionately, that is my money” the financial consultant explained.

“Yeah, but you can afford it” the painter argued.
“And I’ve got kids to feed” the bricklayer added.

The financial consultant pocketed his money and next Thursday he went for a drink in a different pub. And his 9 friends had to pay £1.90 for their beer.


The Dark Object

Claire, Abi and Robin are all siblings. Claire is the oldest and Robin is the youngest. One day all three children were out playing in Baiter park, which adjoins a shallow natural harbour. Abi and Claire were playing on the small beach beside the harbour and Robin was on the grass. Abi pointed into the harbour and said calmly “what’s that?” All of a sudden Claire shrieked “Ewwwwww. Gross gross gross!” and was pointing at what Abi had seen: something dark a few feet away in the harbour. Claire hated anything an 8-year-old girl might consider ‘icky’ and a wet unidentified dark object no bigger than a child’s shoe was enough to send her into histrionic wailing. Abi stared at the dark object and asked (as 6-year-olds do) “What is it?”

Neither of them knew. Claire’s wailing subsided intermittently to show her curiosity. Both the girls stood on the narrow beach pondering what it was. Abi said she was going to get it. “No! Yuck. You’re digusting. Don’t go in there. You’ll be smelly” Claire went on warning her sister against going in after the yucky, dark object. However, Abi took the risk. She took off her shoes and waded a few feet in and pulled up the dark object.

As the water cascaded off it, a Velcro seal became apparent and tugging at it Abi discovered she was holding a lost wallet. It opened and was empty: no ID, no coins. As she thumbed through the separate pockets she found a £20 note. From the narrow beach Claire saw Abi holding the £20 note and was excited that they had found money. When Abi refused to share the £20 because not only had she waded out to it, but she is also the one who saw it first, Claire ran to their mum and their mum made Abi share the £20 with Claire and her brother, Robin.

Claire and Robin spent their share on sweets, where Abi bought herself an inflatable ring so that she could float out into the harbour. Once Claire and Robin had finished their sweets, they also wanted a ride on the inflatable ring. Abi refused; she had already shared her £20, they had not shared her sweets and the inflatable ring was rightly hers. Claire and Robin told their mother and their mother made them take turns in the ring: Abi was forced to share.

4 thoughts on “Stories that make me think I might be a Conservative”

    1. I thought about writing an explanation, but everything I wrote just seemed a little facile. They’re all stories of redistribution of wealth.
      Two of them are true stories (with the names changed) and the third is (clearly) false; it’s an analogy my very conservative boss recited yesterday.
      The last one kind of resonates with me, but the point is that the conservative view to these–to not redistribute wealth–seems the right one.

      1. I disagree that the first one reflects conservative values. Psychopathic values, maybe. Who would keep the water for themselves in that scenerio?

  1. Conservatives frequently use personal anecdotes, as if political and economic theories are embedded in personal experience. They aren’t. Personal experiences such as these involve problems of ‘fair play’ and psychology. Economic theories involve stability of the system and, politically, perhaps higher order values such as justice (for instance, providing for those who have lost limbs in defense of their country).

    Distribution of wealth begins with the assumption that a nation’s wealth, while it begins in local production, accrues into a national resource, which then provides the conditions necessary for increased local production. In this cycle, it is necessary to float all boats (or as many as possible), in order to keep the fleet intact (so to speak). This doesn’t deny that some may be sailing yachts while others paddle along on rafts; but should the yachts begin to sink, the rafts remain available. Thus it is really in the interests of the yachts to keep the rafts afloat. This would be true even should the yachts be unhappy or the rafts be ‘lazy’ or ‘stupid’ or ‘deserving of their fate.’

    It is really unfair of the state to impose a speed limit on me, since I’m such a safe driver. And I don’t know why the state allows rich people to drive the same roads I do, since surely they can afford to build their own. My boss is a bully – always telling me what to do and threatening me with unemployment if I don’t comply – I really ought to be able to punch him in the nose every now and then.

    For every anecdote that implies conservative values, a counter anecdote can be provided that can imply liberal, even socialist values. (For instance, any military organization is socialistic by nature – try to assert your independence in a foxhole; you might be ‘right’ to do so, but your life depends on hierarchical discipline and reliance on others.)

    Life is unfair. That means that any hope for a perfect economics or social structure is doomed. But we can use our social connectiveness – including our government – for continued improvement and reduction of threat and suffering. And we do – we always do. The only question is how, and to what greater interest.

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