Laurie Penny recently tweeted that it's easy to write young Tories off as "loathsome" without asking: why do humans behave like this?
Of course, some people on the right are loathsome racist sociopaths and snobs. But some are not, whilst some lefties are arrogant sanctimonious prigs. And tribalism, groupthink and the confirmation bias combine to increase both sides' fanaticism*.
I suspect that one under-rated reason for disagreement lies not just in differences in values or frames or in class interests, but rather in question of fact. For example:
- Are successful businessmen entrepreneurs who benefit society or rent-seeking exploiters?
- Is the state a force for oppression, or a means of enabling people to pursue their dreams by providing a welfare state, education and sports funding?
- Is market failure a greater problem than government failure?
- Is freedom restricted merely by the state, or by employers, in which case state intervention might be liberating?
- To what extent is state intervention rendered ineffective or counterproductive by problems of bounded rationality and limited knowledge?
These are, of course, all matters of degree. The difference between left and right is where they place the emphasis; I'd add (of course!) that the answers can be blurred by cognitive biases.
But here's the thing. We tend to think of empirical questions as ones that can be decided by evidence - as distinct from questions of values which are intractable. However, these empirical questions are, I suspect, intractable, simply because society and the economy are too complex to admit of simple answers. The fact-value distinction might not be as sharp as we think.
* Sometimes, (wilful) misunderstanding exacerbates the conflict.For example, it really irritates me when right libertarians equate "capitalism" with "free markets." And it's easy to read our opponents in the meanest and most exacting way possible, whilst giving our own side an easier ride.