Why are progressives so inconsistent?

Progressives are so inconsistent, man. I mean how can you you argue that immigration doesn’t lower domestic wages, but also think that minimum wages don’t decrease employment? How can you oppose redlining blacks but support redlining gun stores? How you gonna be against both religious fundamentalism and go on the offense against Islamophobia? Not that conservatives are any better. They support the death penalty while calling themselves pro-life.

Yet what if all those positions are actually perfectly consistent?

What is consistency?

Two things don’t have to be exactly alike to be consistent. There are plenty of differences between the people I date, for instance. So how do I decide whether I’m consistent in the people I date?

I could look at their race. I date inconsistently when it comes to race.

I could look at their height. I date inconsistently when it comes to height.

I could look at their intellect. I consistently date people who are smarter than me.

I could look at their sex skills. I consistently date people who are good at sex.

Deciding whether two things are consistent requires first deciding what axis I’m going to use to compare them. Any two things have countless potential threads between them. There are many qualities they share and could share.

I decide whether two things are consistent or not based upon the chosen axis.

Consistency isn’t the what, it’s the why.

Consistency requires rejecting the premise.

So how is it consistent to oppose redlining the fuck out of black people but support redlining gun stores?

First let’s talk about the accusation that the two are inconsistent. It relies on believing that the axis for evaluating consistency is supporting redlining. It requires that you believe that it’s inconsistent to redline one thing and not another.

But what if you reject that premise?

What if you decide redlining isn’t the thread to evaluate the two policies’ consistency on? Perhaps you don’t mind redlining itself, only its application in this instance. If you don’t have a problem with redlining per se, just with redlining on the basis of race, then why would you care whether two policies are both redlining?

Without agreeing on the thread that matters it’s impossible to evaluate whether two things are consistent.

If I discount the importance of redlining, I can find consistency elsewhere or I can reject the comparison.

If you make it broad enough, you can find consistency anywhere. So if you don’t care about redlining but you do care about the well-being of people of color, you’re being perfectly consistent to support redlining one and not the other.

Let’s say I eat apples but not oranges. If eating every piece of fruit I encounter is the axis for consistency, then I’m being inconsistent. But if the rubric for consistency is eating every fruit I encounter that is delicious then if I don’t find oranges delicious I’m being consistent.

Opposing religious fundamentalism and Islamophobia is a little different. This is actually a case of false equivalence. Seeing the two as consistent or not requires that you see Islam as consistent with religious fundamentalism. It’s not. Islam, like Christianity, is a religion practiced worldwide with a minority practicing several fundamentalist versions. There is nothing contradictory about opposing the practice of religious fundamentalism and opposing bigotry towards people who practice the religion as a whole.

One common thread is that both ideas are aimed at fighting bigotry. But to show that they can’t be called inconsistent only requires showing that one is not the other.

The difference

What most people call inconsistency is actually disagreeing about the relevant axis. I say this axis matters, you say this one does. We’re both right. Because whether something matters is subjective.

But when we say the other is being inconsistent we’re saying they have to agree with us on what matters between two things. It’s like saying I have to like red and blue because they’re both colors. Yes, they’re both colors. But “is it a color?” is not the question I ask myself to decide whether I like something.

Talking past each other

Liberals and conservatives frequently talk past each other when they bitch about consistency.

Find anything you care about, the Constitution, property rights, ending bigotry, and you can find two policies that oppose each other on that axis. You can probably find someone you disagree with who supports them both. And you’ll call them inconsistent. Not because there’s any flaw with their thinking, not because there’s any reason they can’t care about the things they care about and support both, but because they care about different things than you do.

Calling someone inconsistent is essentially saying, “Your priorities are different!” Except more hostile and dumb. So probably stop doing that. Instead, if you think redlining or bigotry is the important thing about a policy, make the fucking case directly for why someone should see things your way.


  1. dino

    “I mean how can you you argue that immigration doesn’t lower domestic wages, but also think that minimum wages don’t decrease employment? ”
    Easy, by reading the link below. This area is not so settled as libertarians wish to believe, but when you stick your fingers in your ears and scream at all contrary evidence like libertarians do all the time it leads to this absurd sense of certainty about everything in direct violation of one of their deities mantra of intellectual humility.


    • Lucas

      I’m reading the pdf you sent me. I am wondering how they are defining “teenage employment”? Are they defining it as the labor participation rate for teenagers or are they going on the “Out of work, want a job, have actively sought work in the last four weeks and are available to start work in the next two weeks.” definition?

  2. JonC

    Just to be clear, by progressives you also mean leftists/liberals right? I never saw much difference between progressives and liberals except progressives are more extreme and condescending. Yeah they really have a hard time being consistent.

    How consistent do you think conservatives are? Libertarians I’ve heard are the only truly consistent people.

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