Zero-Sum Politics

Liberals see “rights” as something of a public good (like national defense or a scenic view), whose consumption by one individual doesn’t diminish consumption by others. In fact, they believe that all Americans are thereby made better off.

In the conservative version of identity politics, however, everything’s a zero-sum game: Freedom from discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion or other characteristics doesn’t unleash greater human potential to the benefit of all. Instead, it’s a step backward for everyone else, part of the never-ending war of all against all. Your gain is necessarily my loss.

In a world where one sees others gaining with a zero-sum game view, one should have fear for oneself, family, and friends. When the government encourages certain behaviors, they are picking winners and losers. Fear of being the loser becomes a real thing.

Whereas, with the non-zero-sum point of view, when the government encourages certain behaviors, it lifts up the lowest to improve the environment for everyone.