Anyone who’s studied election maps has seen that when you look at which areas voted conservative and which voted liberal, it isn’t a matter of “red states” vs “blue states”, it’s a matter of urban areas vs rural areas. The cities in red states are blue, and the countryside in blue states is red. The balance of the state as a whole largely comes down to how urbanized it is (though the racial composition of rural areas can also be a factor).
So what is it about city and country that correlates with liberal and conservative views? I think there is one factor which explains most of the difference. It comes down to investment.
There are several types of conservatism in the United States. They differ in what sorts of principles and values they consider to be the moral basis of conservatism.
The first branch to consider is small-government conservatism. This includes libertarians, anarcho-capitalists, and other ideologies favorable to laissez-faire free market policies. The underlying values and principles have to do with liberty, individualism, responsibility, and self-reliance. They judge people as friends or enemies depending on how willing they are to impose rules on each other. When this philosophy reaches a toxic extreme, you get philosophies like objectivism, in which caring for other people is anathema. But the mainstream of this type of conservatism is the most common one you will usually find in intellectual discourse: it has a rich body of abstract philosophy supporting it, and often attracts highly intelligent people. But I don’t think it’s a majority among American conservatives.
How compatible is this type of conservatism with the rhetoric of Donald Trump? Not very. He tends to easily mix hands-off ideas in one area with interventionist ones in the next. (more…)