Tag Archives: Conservative

The Politics of Ben & Jerry’s

Life is full of contradictions and grey areas.  I am a big fan of Ben & Jerry’s, the company and the ice cream.  Back when I was fresh out of college, a group of friends and I serendipitously ended up meeting at the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury, VT the day after a Grateful Dead show.  The company made an impression on me.  They made an effort to be good to the environment and give back to society.  I always thought that if I ever had a company, I’d want to run it like Ben & Jerry.  I still feel that way today.

While on vacation last month, I stopped into a Ben & Jerry’s in upstate New York.  While sitting eating ice cream with my kids, I noticed a poster on the wall espousing the “progressive values” of the company.

The poster read. (as copied from the Ben & Jerry’s/Unilever Web Site)

Leading With Progressive Values Across Our Business

We have a progressive, nonpartisan social mission that seeks to meet human needs and eliminate injustices in our local, national and international communities by integrating these concerns into our day-to-day business activities. Our focus is on children and families, the environment and sustainable agriculture on family farms.

  1. Capitalism and the wealth it produces do not create opportunity for everyone equally. We recognize that the gap between the rich and the poor is wider than at anytime since the 1920’s. We strive to create economic opportunities for those who have been denied them and to advance new models of economic justice that are sustainable and replicable.
  2. By definition, the manufacturing of products creates waste. We strive to minimize our negative impact on the environment.
  3. The growing of food is overly reliant on the use of toxic chemicals and other methods that are unsustainable. We support sustainable and safe methods of food production that reduce environmental degradation, maintain the productivity of the land over time, and support the economic viability of family farms and rural communities.
  4. We seek and support nonviolent ways to achieve peace and justice. We believe government resources are more productively used in meeting human needs than in building and maintaining weapons systems.
  5. We strive to show a deep respect for human beings inside and outside our company and for the communities in which they live.

As I reflected on these words and how my politics have evolved over the years, I found myself in agreement with all of these statements.  With one big exception, the conclusion drawn from the first sentence – “Capitalism and the wealth it produces do not create opportunity for everyone equally”.

To be a progressive means to believe that capitalism creates inequality, and believe that this is a bad thing.  Further, that inequality needs to be corrected by government, or in this case, the actions of a corporation.  To be a conservative means that you also agree that capitalism creates inequality, but believe that it’s OK.  That the freedom to succeed or fail reigns supreme.  Local communities, charities, and limited government action should address any inequities that exist.  Libertarians are even more Darwinian and simply don’t care that capitalism creates inequality.

There it was.  It was truth.  Capitalism does create inequality.  On the wall of an ice cream shop in upstate New York.  Scrawled on a poster with a pink ice cream cone on it, was the essential difference between conservative and progressive philosophy.  Capitalism causes inequality.  And from a conservative perspective – that’s OK.

How could I support an organization that believes that capitalism creates a world that needs to be “corrected”? This is the challenge of partisanship.  The nuance. There are real choices for us in every election.  Fundamental differences.  But there is also tons of grey.

I respect conservative champions like George Will, but don’t believe that things are always black & white.  In his address to CPAC 2010, Mr. Will argued that the premise of the progressive agenda is government dependence.  I don’t believe that.  I think its kind of silly to even think that.  I believe that the progressive agenda truly mirrors much of what is contained in the Ben & Jerry’s value statement.  Progressives want to make the world a better place and believe that government is the ultimate tool to do so.  It’s not a conspiracy to consolidate power it’s just a huge difference of opinion.

At the same time, as conservatives, how can we not support a company or an agenda that champions reduction of waste, protection of the environment, respect for human beings, and non-violence?

Partisanship is complicated.  In many ways it muddies the water.  Then I remember Ben & Jerry’s.  And remember that capitalism and progressive values don’t always have to be enemies. And that I can eat good ice cream, wear tie-dye t-shirts with cows on them, and still be a conservative.

I will keep eating their ice cream, and I hope that more entrepreneurs start companies like Ben & Jerry’s.

What do you think?  Guest Blogger Jeff


The Way Forward – Reflections from a Conservative

As someone who was vehemently opposed to the Health Care Bill just passed by the House, it’s a time to reflect on the way forward.

It’s hard to swallow that our Congress passed legislation that a majority of America was against.  Its hard to swallow that my taxes will go up substantially in the coming years and I will have to work that much harder and longer to send my children to college.  And it’s hard to swallow that we are the only industrialized nation without healthcare for all its citizens.  All these things are hard to reconcile.

But what I really strive to understand is what I believe to be true vs. how much of the rhetorical cool-aid I drank?

What I believe.

I believe that the “doctors fix” will be passed, and should have been included in this bill.  Therefore, the cost of this bill will be at least $200B more than we were told.

I believe the IRS when they say that they will hire 16,000 new agents and staffers to administer their new role in policing healthcare.  These costs are not factored into this bill.

I believe that congress in the future will not have the courage or the discipline to say “no” to special interests, and implement the cuts that this bill, and all entitlement programs require.

I believe that you cannot call a social program a success, regardless of the good it does, if it is unfunded, if as a program it is bankrupt, and if politicians are so afraid of cutting it, that they would rather watch our country drown in debt.

I believe that there is no courage in Washington, or the ability to honestly communicate to the American people what the real State of the Union is.  Passing a bill that you have not even read because you’ve been trying to pass it for 50 years is not courage, its cowardly. Opposing it without providing alternatives other than talking points is just as cowardly.

I believe that until we have term limits on congress, and dramatic change in campaign financing, we will keep getting the same results out of government.  No real solutions, and more debt.

I believe fundamentally, that this administration and the democratic controlled congress has the goal of transforming our country into a social democracy, modeled on France, Germany, and the UK.

I believe that this is contrary to the fundamental principles and strengths of this country.

I believe there is a better way. Wealth re-distribution is NOT the way to achieve our common goals.

I believe that we need to seize the opportunity to transform this bill, and this debate over the coming years.  We need to propose ideas on their merits, which show how healthcare, social security, and a society of entitlement, can be transformed through market oriented innovation, and a culture of personal responsibility.

I believe that this can be the beginning of a process that gets it right, if we engage in meaningful constructive debate.

What do you believe?  It’s time to decide.

Guest Blogger – Jeff Hine


Government For the People, By the People

I receive breaking news from Politico.com (great website, btw). Yesterday I got the following alert:

Addressing the attempted Christmas Day terrorist attack from Hawaii, President Obama acknowledged failures in gathering intelligence that could have prevented it.   “When our government has information on a known extremist and that information is not shared and acted on as it should have been,” Obama said, “a systemic failure has occurred, and I consider that unacceptable.” The president blamed the incident on “a mix of human and systemic failures.”

I’ll go out on a limb and predict the following… the left will blame Bush, the right will blame government in general and/or Obama. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s have a real discussion…

Government is a necessary element to a free and stable society. Whether protecting the population from terrorist attacks or regulating the banking system, government needs to work. The most amazing thing is that despite the billions of dollars spent on agencies including Homeland Security and regulatory agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, we continue to see examples in which these bodies fail in their primary mission.

It strikes me that the tired old argument of more government vs. less government is just a red herring that needs to stop. The real discussion that our leaders should be how do we make our existing government work?

This is not politically sexy and can’t be solved by political zingers or by just throwing money at the problem. In fact, most of the changes that will need to be made will come from the agencies themselves and from dedicated career government workers who are trying to get a job done, but need to deal with a regular shifting of people and priorities that are politically decided when a new president is elected.

Bureaucracy has been demonized as a word and therefore becomes a political weapon against any politician that gets serious about government reform.

Idiotic and politically charged statements such as “government death panels” galvanize an already leery segment of the population that sees government as an overarching radical entity that is out to get the individual. This environment makes it tough to tackle real reform that is desperately needed.

Government is here to stay. It is necessary. The size and scope is debatable. However, it’s time for both sides of the political spectrum to come together and demand a common goal… government that is both efficient and effective.

Just my humble opinion – Glenn


Debatepedia.org is a Breath of Fresh Air


We at PoliTalk try to go beyond the typical left/right talking points and name calling that you find on many political discussion shows. When we find like minded people or information resources, we like to share them with our listeners. Today, we’d like to bring your attention to Debatepedia. It is a great web site that presents the different sides of a debate and provides information and resources that really helps the discerning political knowledge seeker find information. Information is presented without the one-sided filer that you get in many media outlets. Here is how they describe themselves:

Debatepedia is a wiki encyclopedia of debates, arguments, and supporting quotations. Its mission is to become “the Wikipedia of debates”. It is a place where we can all work together as editors, via the same wiki technology driving Wikipedia, to frame the arguments in public debates that we all need to think through.

These are debates in our neighborhoods, cities, states and provinces, nations, and in an increasingly interconnected world. These are debates that we care deeply about because they matter to our lives, our neighbor’s lives, and the lives of our children and the societies they inherit. Some of these debates are relevant to whether people live or die in wars or in our own societies. We need to take these debates seriously, and approach them with a fiercely critical eye. We need to fully weigh every pro and con within them, fully deliberate, take rational positions, and take action with conviction in our beliefs. Don’t be complacent in your beliefs! Understand why you believe what you do and be ready to defend yourself. Debatepedia helps you do this. It helps you frame all the arguments and all the scholarly quotes in debates you care about in a simple pro/con “logic tree” structure so that you can fully deliberate, take a stand, take action, and defend yourself.

Jeff and I had the pleasure of meeting Brooks Lindsay, the co-founder of Debatepedia during our last trip to Washington DC. We have been linking to the site ever since and are pleased to spread the word about this site. Check out their debate on healthcare reform. It is a great resource. Kudos to Brooks and team for creating such a great site!


Episode 34 – Is Gay the New Conservative?


Glenn and Jeff get very provocative this week, asking what it really means to be a “conservative.” They argue that a true conservative would actually embrace gay marriage. Politically, while unconventional, fiscal conservatives should back gay marriage in order to separate from their “conservative” brethren, and build a new party build on new conservative principles of limited government, fiscal discipline and social responsibility. Inexplicably, under the last “conservative” government, Medicare and Medicaid spending, the budget deficit, the national debt and federal spending per household all grew to their highest levels ever — all trendlines which should have been going down. Even the rate of growth of government, which one would expect to slow under conservatives, increased. With the party polling at its lowest levels in decades, it’s  time for them to take bold, and yes, even irrational steps. The definition of insanity is repeating the same mistakes and thinking you’re going to get a different result. We think the Republican Party, in its present form, has gone insane. You want the best of inside the beltway politics, listen to MSNBC’s Hardball. You want great political commentary? watch Ed Schultz, Keith Olberman or Rachel Maddow. But if you want Washington politics explained to Main Street, listen to PoliTalk — always entertaining and informative. It’s PoliTalk: your weekly political podcast.

Listen to the current installment of PoliTalk and get yourself informed, inspired, entertained and ready for the day… spread the word… tell two friends, and so on and so on…

You can get the PoliTalk Podcast from Podcast.com and iTunes.