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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Behavioral Conservatives

I just spent a couple of weeks in that most liberal of liberal European countries - The Netherlands. While the purpose of the trip was primarily business, I had the good fortune to spend some time with one of the guys I work with there and his family. I went to his house and hung out with him, his wife and their two kids. They consider themselves good liberal Europeans and classify Americans as being very right wing and conservative relative to themselves.

But I couldn't help noticing that their lifestyle was nearly identical to conservative Americans living in republican states. They live in a house, have two cars, one of which is a minivan. They have two kids, and though that is less than average for a conservative American family, it's by no means unusual. Their interactions with their kids didn't seem any different to me than what I observe here in the United States. They don't partake of any of the vices that The Netherlands if famous for.

Indeed, if an alien came down and observed this Dutch family and a conservative American one, the alien would be hard pressed to tell them apart. The only obvious differences are that this Dutch family was not religious and they didn't own any firearms (which are generally prohibited). They basically talk the liberal talk, but they don't really walk the liberal walk. So they may be ideological liberals, but they are behavioral conservatives.

I'm an "actions speak louder than words" kinda guy, so I find this very interesting. When I pointed it out to my Dutch friends, they were quite uncomfortable with the concept of being behavioral conservatives. They put a lot of thought into trying to come up with distinctions between themselves and conservative families in America. Religion and guns are about it.

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