I’m watching Congressman Vitter reporting back to work, after being exposed as a hypocrite, being a big proponent of the Sanctity of Marriage, despite having visited the DC Madame.

I was wondering why it always seems to be the Conservatives who ooze hypocrisy. Rev. Haggard, preaching hatred against gays while happily enjoying “massages” from a male escort (not to menton buying drugs. He claims, however, that he didn’t inhale). Congressman Foley chairing the anti-online-predator board while using Instant Messages to ask teenage congressional pages to describe themselves masturbating. Let’s not even consider the $600 million judgment against the Catholic Church for its systematic cover-up of child molestation. It almost seems epidemic.

Upon reflection, though, it isn’t. And I don’t believe it’s due to a moral failing intrinsic to social conservatism(*); it’s structural. Socially conservative positions are characterized by restricting behaviour. In short, “thou shalt not …” It’s easy to be a hypocrite when you preach against a certain behavior, just do the behavior.

Liberal positions are typically pemissive. “It’s your choice what to do in the privacy of your own home.” There’s no way to be hypocritical with a permissive stance, since it’s perfectly find to support someone’s right to do something and still not exercise that right itself. There are certainly ways in which a liberal position can create hypocrisy, as can be seen with the pro-alternative-energy Kennedys protesting the Cape Wind wind farm (it would alter the ocean view from their family mansions). But it’s less common, I believe, for the structural reason described above.

So if you want job security and the respect of your neighbors, take liberal social positions and you greatly reduce the chances of being labeled an accidental hypocrite.

(*) This should not be construed to mean that I believe social conservatives have moral positions, only that moral issues aren’t the root cause of the hypocrisy.

It’s harder to be a hypocrite if you’r…

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