No matter how hard I try, I can never get a good answer to what makes a person left leaning or right leaning, Hell, I hardly even understand what left and right leaning means. I think at least a part of the problem is that the differences are probably moral or ethical, and I think that decisions based on morality and ethics affect our lives the least. An example:
In a hospital emergency room, five critically ill patients desperately need organ transplants. A healthy man walks in. Should the doctors remove his organs to save the sick five? Most people will respond in milliseconds with a resounding “No way”. Now imagine an out-of-control train about to run down five workers standing on the track. There’s a fork ahead, and throwing a switch could divert the train to another line on which there is only one worker. It’s the same question – should we sacrifice the one to spare the other five? - yet most of us would say “yes” just as quickly. How do we make these lightning moral judgements?
This is the original source, but I read it from a Kuro5hin article. Anyhoo, the original article uses it as a launching pad to talk about right and wrong. I don’t think the situation itself is meant to mean anything other than “two similar situations can sometimes yield different, yet consistent, moral viewpoints. Now let's talk about science”. I’m willing to accept the quote to discuss the science, but in any case, the Kuro5hin article takes issue with the statement and starts arguing about how the voting process can be improved, and how libertarians can see the “flaw” in the quote above.
I saw a different flaw: The situation is ridiculous. That’s often the deal with moral issues. I’ve yet to see a clear-cut moral issue that makes any sense, realistically, and I can’t remember the last time I was in a moral or ethical dilemna.
In the first situation, we’re asked to choose between one healthy man and five sick ones. I ask, how did the five sick get into this situation? Does one need a liver transplant? Is it due to excessive drinking? Can all operations be done with no risk? Even in the extremely unlikely circumstance that all five of them have some genetic condition (hence getting into the situation through no fault of their own) does it really make sense to save someone whose offspring may also have similar troubles?
The far more likely scenarios of bad hygiene, viruses, or bad life decisions would mean that the real decisions lie much further back, before these 5 people were in critical condition.
The train scenario is even more of a no-brainer. Why on earth are there people working on tracks when trains are on these tracks? Why can’t they get out of the way on time? Why can’t the train stop on time? The decision to make is damage control, whether to kill one or five people. The error was made long before.
To illustrate the point, let’s replace the train driver with a drunk driver. Now, you’re a drunk driver who’s speeding down a road, and a bunch of “unruly teenagers” on the sides of the road who think they can race across the road. There are 5 teens on one side and 1 on the other. If you swerve you can definitely hit the one teen, or not swerve and definitely hit the other 4. What do you do?
The point I’m trying to make is: About the time a moral decision needs to be made, someone has made a bad technical decision at some point. It’s usually damage control, and either option is terrible. I propose that people who are left leaning or right leaning live their lives in this “mode”, not really being forward thinking... or forward... leaning.
So I propose a new political leaning: Forward!