Throughout recent centuries, conservatives (people who fight to maintain tradition and oppose progress) have been responsible for public policies in governments around the world that cause many deaths.
Of course, when people think of conservative religious governments they tend to focus on the Islamic ones, countries where simply being gay or atheist can earn a death sentence. There are similar cases in countries that aren’t dominated by Islam, a recent example being the American pastor who imported his hatred of gay people to Uganda. But there are less visible effects to be found even in more secular western democracies.
Consider war, for example. During much of human history, violence has been a common method of dealing with international disputes. Retaining this tradition is completely illogical in a world armed with nuclear bombs, yet conservative parties in America and around the world tend to be much more eager for war than diplomacy. Several of the Republican candidates for president this year expressed a desire to use nuclear and/or conventional bombs on Middle Eastern nations they perceive as a threat (and Trump went as far as advocating the murder of innocent women and children to get back at the terrorists). Obama’s efforts to make peace with other nations are derided as weakness, an “apology tour”, while our needless use of two atomic bombs on Japan is enthusiastically defended, despite the huge and inexcusable loss of civilian life they caused.
For supposedly pro-life people, these warmongering policies are hypocritical and insane. In fact, our indiscriminate bombing of Middle Eastern people is one of the main reasons terrorist groups like ISIS even exist. America gave them a unifying hatred of the west by murdering their civilians.
But war isn’t the only tradition that causes death. Our long-running fight against drugs has proven to be counterproductive, since it drives up the prices of banned substances and hands over the market to criminals, who eagerly accept the challenge because there’s a lot of money in it. People who become addicted to the drugs are less likely to seek help when simply putting a plant into their body carries a longer prison sentence than rape. Portugal serves as a great example of this, as they’ve legalized all drugs and instead of spending enormous amounts of money to imprison people, they spend less money to actually help those people. As a result, drug addiction rates have dropped. It turns out to be cheaper to fix the problem than perpetuate it.
In America, much of our illegal drugs come from countries south of us, some of which have homicide rates up to twenty times greater than the USA. Due to various factors, including government corruption and the economic power of drug producers and smugglers, many of these nations are facing violence at a level significantly greater than even the most dangerous American cities. If we were to legalize and regulate all drugs, we could take some of that power away from the criminals and perhaps help not only our own people, but also those to the south who suffer from our bad choices.
Because of this violence, refugees flee north in search of a better life in America, and once again the conservatives take the anti-life position. They label these people “illegal immigrants”, even though most of them entered the country legally and their temporary visa simply expired. Rather than fixing the legal immigration system (which is so fucked up that sometimes college-educated and skilled workers attempt to immigrate for over a decade and still fail), they place all the blame on the immigrants for being “illegal” and attempt to send them back to the dangerous places they came from. They try to paint these refugees as potential or actual criminals, despite the fact that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born citizens. Even as the conservatives claim immigrants are a threat to them, the opposite is true–the conservatives are a threat to everyone else.
The drug war has another terrible consequence. Banning natural and helpful drugs like marijuana and kratom pushes people with chronic pain into using highly addictive (and expensive) painkillers that can easily cause death from overdose. In fact, according to the CDC at least half of all opioid overdose deaths in America involve a prescription drug, and 14,000 people died in 2014 from overdose of prescription opioids. Meanwhile, marijuana overdose has killed zero people (because it’s nearly impossible), and in states that have legalized it, the use of prescription painkillers has dropped significantly. Why the hell are conservatives so freaked out about people using plants to treat their chronic pain, while government-approved opioids are killing more people every year than firearm homicides, and alcohol kills even more? I have no idea.
But how else can they destroy people’s lives? One of the major unifying causes of religious conservatives in America is abortion, and most of them are also opposed to various forms of contraception. This is hardly the pro-life position it’s presented as, because not only does outlawing abortion result in more deaths of women, it also completely fails to reduce abortions. There is a strong correlation between nations with legal abortion and lower abortion rates. In other words, women in countries where abortion is illegal tend to have a lot more abortions. It turns out that the most effective way to reduce abortion is to reduce unwanted pregnancies, which is best done with contraception, which tends to be opposed by the very people who would make abortion illegal. In short, their policies increase unwanted pregnancies, increase abortions, and then seek to punish the people they’ve screwed over.
Similarly, conservatives promote policies that restrict the rights of gay people and often make unsubstantiated claims about the dangers of same-sex attraction and relationships. Of course, many of the dangers they cite, such as suicide, are often caused or at least exacerbated by the anti-gay policies and cultural attitudes maintained by conservatives. In this case the hypocrisy (or insanity) is painfully clear, as they claim the negative consequences of their own policies are the very reasons we should implement them.
Opposition to providing healthcare as a right to all citizens has allowed a predatory for-profit system to continue raising the cost of healthcare per capita far beyond what any other nation on earth spends, and puts many poor and middle-class people in the terrible position of choosing between bankruptcy or death. An appallingly high percentage of Americans are unable to afford their prescriptions or other necessary medical care, which is likely a major contributor to our lagging behind in longevity, infant mortality, maternal mortality, and general health compared to most other developed countries.
Opposition to assistance for the poor leaves many people unable to afford healthy food. This is why areas with higher poverty rates tend to have more obesity, as the cheapest available foods are high-calorie and low-nutrition. Obesity in turn contributes to more health problems, and ultimately all the issues mentioned in the previous paragraph.
So why does anyone believe that these conservative policies are better for society? I think it mostly comes down to their inability or unwillingness to consider consequences. Religious morality, as I’ve said before, is not really moral; it’s not a system of determining what is right and wrong. Rather, it’s a system of absolute obedience to authority, which prevents them from considering how their actions actually affect people. If they based their decisions on consequences, they’d realize how evil the religion really is.
A study from several years ago supports this, showing that both religion and conservatism predict a resistance to considering consequences when making moral decisions. In other words, while liberals consider the outcome of actions to at least be important, conservatives and religious people tend to ignore outcomes and remain loyal to authority. After debating morality a lot and growing up within conservative Christianity, I can say that I’ve met very few who consider real-world consequences at all. Most are completely opposed to consequentialism and claim morality must be based on the arbitrary command of ancient religious texts.
This is probably why the Republican party targeted religious voters several decades ago, because when you’re pushing policies that benefit the rich at the expense of economic stability and the well-being of everyone else, it helps to have a voting base of people who refuse to look beyond superficial claims and consider the actual consequences. After several decades of our political system shifting to the right, the consequences of right-wing policies are clear: they damage lives and kill people, and they also increase inequality and place greater strain on our resources (which happen to be two of the main features of societies that have collapsed in the past).
The big question, then, is why should anyone trust religious people or conservatives to make public policies if they’ve already proven that they will completely ignore the consequences of those policies?