Monday, August 2, 2010

Why Organizations Turn Left

I was asked the other day why all organizations turn liberal. Everything from charities to churches to professional organizations to governments all seem to drift to the left. Why is that? The reason is actually quite simple: liberals are motivated to push these organizations to the left, and no one stops them.

As we all know, liberals are happy to impose their own views on others. Liberals do not believe that others can in good faith hold views that are different from their own, and they have no qualms about using whatever authority they are given to impose their views on others.

Consequently, liberals at colleges use their positions to impose liberal speech codes and to require attendance at liberal classes (and ban conservative classes). . . for the "good" of the students. Liberals who run charitable organizations look to steer their funds to "real" (read: liberal) causes and disdain "hateful" (read: conservative) charities. Liberals in corporate marketing departments look to steer corporate support toward liberal community projects to improve the corporate image and demand liberal policies toward gays and minorities to be a "good corporate citizen." Liberal newspaper editors and reporters slant their news to fit their views. And so on. They even prefer to hire other liberals, amplifying the problem. Thus, once liberals get authority, they will work diligently to shift the organization to the left.

Now I’m not saying this is always a conscious decision to subvert an organization, but I will say that liberals make no effort to separate their politics from the rest of their lives, and they see no reason why their work-decisions should not take their political views into account. Thus, for example, the liberal corporate charity officer is unlikely to see the NRA as a worthy organization or cause for corporate giving because they don’t agree with the message, but they have no similar qualms about anti-gun groups. Thus, intentionally or not, they will slowly steer the organization to the left.

By comparison, conservatives rarely look to change the purpose of organizations they join or to impose their political views as policy, nor do they normally suspect that the ideas put forward by their liberal colleagues are merely stepping stones to greater liberalism. Thus, this change tends to be in one direction only.

And in this, the natural ally of the liberal is incrementalism. Liberals rarely demand huge single leaps into liberal-land for their organizations because those are easily opposed and shot down. Instead, they simply look to swing every issue they encounter toward liberalism. This is liberalism by a thousand cuts, as each decision slowly moves the organization further and further left and plants the seeds for more steps to the left.

Indeed, the dirty open-secret of how the government has expanded is not that Congress got together one day and created vast new duties for the government (with the exceptions of Roosevelt and Johnson). What happened is that step by step, the government was asked to address a million small desires. And satisfying those desires has create a patchwork government that is chaotic, way too large, freedom suppressing, and very liberal.

The same holds true for other types of groups.

Sloppy thinking by the public also plays a role in letting this happen. When a problem arises, the public expects a solution. Liberalism is very good at offering what appear to be immediate solutions to problems, because it doesn’t worry about long term consequences. Conservative solutions, by comparison, often seem more harsh. Thus, even a conservative leaning public will often accept liberal solutions because they claim to provide immediate relief. The same dynamic is true within organizations, where short term solutions are often preferred because it stops the whining.

Now I said above that most liberals aren't trying to consciously change their organizations, they just follow their liberal instincts. This is true. . . but not always. Sometimes (many times), liberals set out to consciously high jack organizations.

Activists often seek out organizations that they want to change (like churches or the Boy Scouts) or that they think they can use to promote their own desires. These activists will join the unsuspecting organization and will actively seek out positions within the organization that will let them push their agenda. Once they get those positions, they will push that agenda as hard as possible. This is true of homeowners groups, church councils, professional organizations, etc.: the people who want to change the organization are the most motivated to seek positions that let them do that. Sadly, organizations are easily high jacked by activists because activists have an advantage over non-activist members in that they are highly motivated to achieve their goals, whereas others don’t even know those goals exist.

A good recent example of this involves Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The founder of MADD recently left because MADD has been taken over by activists who want to change the mission of MADD from stopping drinking and driving to opposing to all alcohol consumption. Churches are another example, where gay clergy have been working for several decades to change church doctrine without ever admitting their final goal.

Further, because these people usually hide their ultimate goals, few of their colleagues suspect what is going on and they don't realize they need to stop the plan from the outset. Instead, they examine each step in the process as if it were a wholly independent issue. And as each step seems reasonable enough given the then-current circumstances, they readily agree to each step of the plan. Thus, the activist can make huge progress before anyone even notices that the organization has been changed. And by that point, the activist has usually put barriers in place to prevent the organization from going backwards. Indeed, undoing liberalism often takes a complete reformation of the organization, with a purging of functions, goals and people.

That’s why organizations drift to the left -- because activist liberals seek out positions that let them push the organization to the left, because adopting liberalism is often an easy short-term solution that quiets those who are most upset, and because even non-activist liberals will seek to inject their views into every decision they make. Conservatives rarely do this.


MegaTroll said...

Interesting. That would explain a lot, and I see examples of this all the time at work -- liberals are always pushing political correctness.

AndrewPrice said...

Mega, Political correctness is just another tool the left uses to keep people from fighting back. By making it impossible to speak your mind unless you're a liberal, they think that only liberal ideas will be put into effect.

Tennessee Jed said...

"The natural ally of the liberal is incrementalism." A great phrase; mint it and coin it! It is so true, and certainly what the Democrats are trying to do with single payer.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I'm sure you know Walter Williams? He once described this as "how you boil a frog." If you toss the frog into a boiling pot, it jumps back out. But if you put it in cool water and then slowly turn the heat up, it doesn't notice until it's boiling.

The same principle is true in every endeavor on this planet. You can make almost any change to anything without drawing any objections if you do it a little bit at a time.

And by the time people realize they've been had, it's usually too late.

Unknown said...

Andrew: Ford, Rockefeller and Carnegie would be spinning in their graves if they knew how their foundations have been perverted into massive providers of money for left wing causes. This is more than just "mission creep." It's a careful and long term strategy to use that dirty capitalist money to advance rabid egalitarianism and government intrusion into every facet of our lives. When they can't get the government to support their agenda, they now have all that money from those dead guys to work with. And you're right--the takeover has occurred largely because those who should have known better were asleep at the switch. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, and we've been taking too many naps. Who is guarding the guardians?

Ed said...

I've said this before, but one of this things I really like about your website is articles like this. You don't get this anywhere else.

I think you're right in your analysis. So my question is this: how do you stop it from happening and how do you undo it after it does happen?

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I'm sure they are spinning in their graves right now. In fact, even some people who are still alive and have set up these trusts are upset at how they are being handled. That's why the new crop (people like Bill Gates) are running their charities themselves. Of course, when he dies, that's when the problems begin.

Also, beyond mission creep, as I discuss, there are people who actively try to manipulate and change/subvert organizations. I think something like a huge, rich charity is simply irresistible to these people because of the potential power it wields.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Ed, we do try to come up with original ideas. The last thing we want to do is just repeat what you could read elsewhere.

In terms of undoing this, that usually requires someone like the last Pope or a new CEO or something to come in and clean house all at once.

In terms of preventing this, that's harder. Basically, people need to be more careful about defining the limits on what the organization can and will do. It also needs to be more careful about who it hires. Finally, as Lawhawk says above, it require vigilance. It requires that people pay more attention to all the little things that their organizations are getting into and doing their best to nip this in the bud.

It also wouldn't hurt if conservatives got more aggressive in pushing back and in pushing their own agendas.

Ed said...

Even if conservatives are vigilant, it doesn't sound like this can be stopped?

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, It can be stopped, but it takes a conscious effort. It also probably requires constant reformation where you strip this stuff back out before it can take hold.

The problem is that most organizations don't have the kind of structure that lets someone come along and clean them out periodically. That's the difference between the Catholic Church and the Protestants, who are much more diffuse. The Catholics were able to reform themselves because they had a strong Pope who could re-impose some sense of religious discipline from the top down. By comparison, the protestants are shattering into thousands of smaller churches because there was no way to undo the damage done by their liberal members in one shot.

LL said...

Liberals like to use the word "fairness" to describe what it is they want to do. Usually "fairness" imparts some favor to another liberal (at the expense of somebody else or the American taxpayer).

AndrewPrice said...

LL, Very true. Their arguments are never presented as "I want us to be more liberal," it's always "we need to be fair" or "we need to the right thing" or "we need to be good corporate citizens." In each of these instances, they only accept liberal policies as the appropriate policy.

DUQ said...

How do you think this could effect the Tea Party?

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, That's hard to tell. I would say the bigger danger to the Tea Party is that it will be taken over by many different activists. It's current structure allows different groups to claim the mantle, so there is little stopping a group dedicated to (for example) ending the Fed from taking over the Topeka branch. And a group dedicated to passing a flag burning amendment from taking over the Columbus branch. Suddenly, the movement is split. That's the real danger and the "brand" starts to become meaningless.

Of course, the other danger is that they go the other way and become more establishment and suddenly end up being corrupted that way.

It's an interesting phenomena and I don't know yet how it will eventually turn out.

patti said...

MADD wants to end ALL drinking?! why, why, that's mad! not to mention militant crackpotish.

AndrewPrice said...

Patti, It is stupid. They're going to squander what they've built in the process.

What the founder apparently said was that the people who've drifted up to the top of the organization basically are trying to stop all drinking, not just drinking and driving. So she quit.

Individualist said...

The thing that draws me to the Tea Party is that it is a conservative organization. It is grass roots and the people running it are interested in addressing the issues.

I for one hope this remains so because we conservatives need this. For too long the leftists have had their "interest" groups and have been attacking the culture and congress with stunts and lobbying.

We conservatives have got to understand that we need groups like the Tea PArty out there voicing our opinions, out there investigating what is going on, out there speaking for conservative causes free of the policy wonks in Washington and the pressure the elected individuals are placed under.

The Tea Party is doing this, Harry Reid for one is feeling it. Many democrats who have for so long felt they had the advantage in the publicized public arena because conservatives had no organized voices are finding out different.

We conservatives need to keep the Tea Party Conservative. We need to get active and stay active.

Individualist said...


What is going on with the NRA.

I hear they might endorse Harry Reid..... What?

AndrewPrice said...

Individualist, I agree entirely about the value of the Tea Party. It's a fantastic thing. And so far, they've done a great job of controlling their own destiny.

BUT, like I say above, no matter what the organization is, the problems I discuss are always present. The more successful the Tea Party is, the more "activists" will see it as a weapon they can use and they will try to reshape it.

So long as they remain vigilant and they have a means to keep out the people who mean to change them or high jack the movement, they will prosper. . . but they will always be a target.

And let me clarify, the danger is not just from liberals, but it is also from other conservatives with a different agenda and from establishment people who see them as a threat or see them as a tool they can use to advance their own careers.

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. Individualist, They are likely to endorse Harry Reid because they claim he's been a friend of the gun lobby. I think that's ridiculous. Harry Reid is an enabler of the rest of the Democrats on that issue. . . he's no friend of theirs.

I think this will hurt their reputation a lot.

Ponderosa said...

Thanks Andrew. Perfect.

It really is simple. I’m starting to get it
The left acts ("Just do it") and the right does very little.

Regarding politics it is very clear.

The left wants to achieve a specific goal that has defined steps. Also the goal is tangible, of interest and directly benefits the politician or activist i.e. - Healthcare “Reform”.

The right just says “no”. No – things work just fine, leave me alone.

Even stated in the affirmative – more freedom – there are no specific steps and no definable goals and generally there isn’t even a direct benefit to the activist or politician.

What the heck does “freedom” or “lower taxes” look like? How do you win?
Not much to earmark and no patronage to speak of.

So a flawed plan beats no plan. And we must always have an alternative.

But even this is a “heads the left wins, tails the right loses” scenario. Sen. Harkin said of HCR something like it may be a starter home now but eventually it will be built into a mansion.

Very few want a career defending the status quo.
You don’t get your name put on hundreds of buildings that way.

Then again Reagan did a heck of a job.

AndrewPrice said...

Ponderosa, You're welcome.

You define the problem very well. So far, it's usually taken someone like Reagan or Thatcher or the last Pope to come along and undo the liberalism that's been done. But that's not very satisfactory because that means that the left wins most of the battles until a Reagan can come along. . . and even then, they win so long as Reagan can't undo everything they've done.

A better strategy would have the right come up with an affirmative plan on how to solve the various problems that keep coming up by spotting them first and putting in place genuine free market reforms. In other words, we should be proactive, not reactive, and we should set about framing the debate.

That way, we have something to sell to the public, something tangible to work toward that can keep people excited and on the same page, and we are creating the constituency -- though they won't be the same kind of reliant constituencies as the left creates as ours would not be people who depend on the government for a living (be it welfare or corporate welfare). Ours would be people who see how smoothly things run under our leadership.

Take health care for example. Our mistake is that (1) the right ignored the problem, letting the left uncover it first and frame the debate, (2) the right failed to recognize that the problem with our health care system is too much regulation, not too little -- it's a highly regulated and distorted system, (3) the right mistakes things like sops to insurance companies as free market solutions, and (4) we offered no real plan in response. So a bad plan became the only plan.

We should have offered "radical" free market reform years ago. If the health care market was as free and open as the fast food market or the retail market, it would cease to be a political issue because market mechanisms would correct the problems that arise. But we never did this. Instead, we tinkered with regulations just like the left and we thereby participated in creating a system that would eventually collapse, allowing liberals to step in with their solutions.

Basically, I think the only way to stop the leftward drift is to put in place our own rightward drift.

Joel Farnham said...

Good Post Andrew. It makes a lot of sense.

It is better than my idea of colleges creating Marxism and spreading it.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, Thanks!

Colleges are definitely collection points, sanctuaries, and training grounds for leftists, but they wouldn't make much headway if it weren't for the millions of individuals out there slowing pushing everything toward the left.

CrisD said...

They have ruined many churches.

AndrewPrice said...

CrisD, Very true. And in each case, they've done it the same way -- they start joining local councils, committees and church boards, soon they start recommending "minor" changes to "make everyone more comfortable" or "to be more fair." Soon the changes get bigger and bigger. Then they move up the chain. And then they start fighting to change doctrine.

The Catholics experienced this with the liberation theologists in the 1960s and 1970s, who wanted to turn the church into a weapon for radical Marxism. And now various Protestants churches are running into this with issue like gays, feminism, abortion, etc. And the latest thing is that environmentalists have been pushing to get churches into the global warming game.

I even used to work with someone who was trying lobby her church "to stop talking about God so much," because it made some people uncomfortable. Uh... you're in a church, that's what you're supposed to talk about! Unbelievable.

rlaWTX said...

"Instead, they examine each step in the process as if it were a wholly independent issue. And as each step seems reasonable enough given the then-current circumstances, they readily agree to each step of the plan." Excellent analysis!!

Also, the churches issue -- they slowly made itso that any ole news will do in the "good news (gospel)" instead of THE Good News!

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, Thanks!

I think you're right about the change of focus. Instead of focusing on religion, they have slowly taken the religion out of religion and turned churches into charitable organizations, focusing more on good deeds than educating. And thereby, they've weakened the very purpose of religion. . . which opens it up to being exploited.

Gordon Winslow said...

I saw the extreme version of this phenomenon a lot when I was a student at the University of Michigan in the early '90s. The campus communists would join every left-leaning organization and every organization with a cause that could be co-opted (sexual violence awareness and prevention, for example), vote themselves into leadership positions, and then use the established organization name to push communism.

AndrewPrice said...

Gordon, I think that's happened with a lot of liberal groups. The environmentalist seem to be overrun by Marxists, the unions seem to be overrun by military socialists, feminist groups were taken over by lesbians, and so on.

There is a hard-core leftist cadre out there that just looks to infiltrate things and reshape them as far-left neo-Marxist and anti-American organizations.

So it's not only the conservatives that need to police themselves in this regard. Liberals face the same problem from their left flank.

Anonymous said...

I see this with conservative activists too. The creationism people in particular have moved into our County Republican Party and they have wiped us out as a worthwhile organization.

AndrewPrice said...

Anonymous, I've seen that too. The danger to any organization is that people who want to change the organization will infiltrate, bring their friends or gain power, and then remake the organization into something other than what people wanted it to be.

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