'Does it do good?' vs. 'Does it feel good?'
A fundamental difference between the left and right concerns how each assesses public policies. The right asks, “Does it do good?” The left asks a different question.
One example is the minimum wage. 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 poor people out of the job market . … More important, it would increase unemployment. … The idea of using a minimum wage to overcome poverty is old, honorable — and fundamentally flawed.”
Why did The New York Times editorialize against the minimum wage? Because it asked the conservative 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 page had moved further left and was now preoccupied not with what does good — but with income inequality, which feels bad. It lamented the fact that a low hourly minimum wage had not “softened the hearts of its opponents” — Republicans and their supporters.
As second example is affirmative action. Study after study — and, even more important, common sense and facts — have shown the deleterious effects that race-based affirmative action have had on black students. Lowering college admissions standards for black applicants has ensured at least two awful results.
One is that more black students fail to graduate college — because they have too often been admitted to a college that demands more academic rigor than they were prepared for. Rather than attend a school that matches their skills, a school where they might thrive, they fail at a school where they are over-matched.
The other result is that many, if not most, black students feel a dark cloud hanging over them. They suspect that other students wonder whether they, the black students, were admitted into the college on merit or because standards were lowered.
It would seem that the last question supporters of race-based affirmative action ask is, “Does it do good?”