Skip to comments.Goodbye to conservatism
Posted on 11/26/2011 7:26:14 PM PST by rabscuttle385
Conservatism is a negative philosophy. I dont mean negative in the sense that it proposes something undesirable. I mean that it seeks to negate objectionable aspects of the human condition. Man has a propensity for evil. This means that men must be restrained in some fashion which is precisely why conservatives have typically stressed religion, conventional morality, humility, etc.
But conservatives have also stressed that any government designed to be powerful enough to restrain men will also be run by men, whose collective propensity for evil is to be feared even more. Conservatives have never argued that man should not be governed only that there is far more to fear from humanity organized in the collective called the state than from the inherent and inevitable shortfalls of individual men. Classical liberal Lord Acton perhaps summed up conservatives creed best when he wrote that Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Our Founding Fathers were unabashedly conservative in their attitudes toward the state. President George Washington said: Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. Government is force; like fire it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. James Madison noted: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. Thomas Jefferson was even blunter about the danger of centralizing state power: Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.
From the Founding to the 20th century, critiques of the modern state or what we today call big government were at the heart of traditional American conservatism. Ronald Reagans hero, President Calvin Coolidge, was a champion of laissez faire and a harsh critic of statism. Mr. Republican Senator Robert Taft led conservatives in their battles against President Franklin Roosevelts New Deal. President Reagan would later sum up conservatives view unequivocally: Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem.
This brief history of the American conservative tradition is necessary to demonstrate how it has now become history. The election of Reagan in 1980 was revolutionary in that it popularized the term conservative like never before and it was tragic in that the words widespread use stripped it of any substantive philosophical meaning. Today, virtually every Republican relatively liberal leaders like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham are prime examples calls himself a conservative. But do they mean it in the same way the Founders or Reagan did? Do they mean it in any substantive way at all?
We know the GOP presidential candidates dont like Obama, Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi, and each candidate can rattle off one-liners about Democrats. But who among them has a major beef with the modern state, to the degree that it guides their political philosophy?
Last month, The Los Angeles Times put the current Republican presidential field into proper context:
The basic question posed by the likes of Republicans Herman Cain, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry is: Would this person do a better job as president than Barack Obama has?
The basic question posed by Rep. Ron Pauls candidacy is: Why do we have a federal government?
Paul isnt saying the federal government is wasting every dollar it spends; hes saying the federal government doesnt need to do much of what it does. Which gets us back to the existential challenge that Paul poses to Washington. Why is the federal government performing so many functions?
This existential challenge is American Conservatism 101. Much of what passes for conservatism these days is mere Republican tinkering with the current system, not a rejection of it. Too many of todays self-described conservatives dont necessarily want to get rid of big government. They simply want to fix it, or as current Republican presidential front-runner Herman Cain noted of a certain fellow contender: [With Ron Paul] everything is end this, end that, end this, end that! You have to fix stuff, not end everything.
Not end this or end that? Now this is something new for conservatives. Should we not get rid of the Department of Education that Reagan (like Paul) always wanted to abolish, and instead just fix it? No Child Left Behind, Cain-style? Conservatives argument has long been that the federal government has no constitutional role in education. Senator Barry Goldwater, the conservative movements long-time standard-bearer, went even further in outlining proper constitutional parameters:
I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is needed before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible.
Who speaks like this anymore? Some of the GOP candidates say that theyll take Obamas mess and make it more Republican, which might be enough to win the next election, but its not conservative. Not even close.
This is particularly interesting, or depressing, at a time when the grassroots right is more open to pure conservative philosophy in all its unadulterated anti-government, anti-state bravado than it has been at any other time in recent political memory.
The big government that the Founders warned us about, and that Coolidge, Taft, Goldwater and Reagan tried to fight, is now here. Its hard to fathom the concept of big government being any bigger than our current federal government. And were simply going to fix it? Good luck with that and goodbye to conservatism.
Rick Perry rejects the Status Quo.
He is for limited and reduced Gov, he is for States rights.
He is fiscally conservative.
Ron Paul is correct on many fiscal matters and libertarian matters, but he is a dangerous fellow on isolationism and defense.
Long past time to discuss how to ‘save’ America; there’s nothing left to save.
It must be taken back.
In point of fact, most of the Founders on both sides could more accurately be described as Progressives inasmuch as conservatives in those days were interested in conserving the Crown government. I use the term Progressive precisely: these men, even the ones who did not believe in the adoption of the Constitution such as George Clinton did believe in an established historicist pattern of lessening aristocracy and the march of humanity toward liberty, equality, etc - to them the Enlightenment pointed toward a new future for America, one without a King. Those of us who wish to return to that set of ideals and approach to government might properly be described as conservative today because that's what we wish to conserve. Those fellows weren't conserving anything, they were breaking new ground.
And yet I might be overstating the case. In the eyes of Edmund Burke they were conserving certain vital aspects of the British government from which they broke: its basic structure, its basis in Common Law; these and a list of others were what he found the French Revolution throwing out, the baby with the bathwater, and the new American government preserving. That was not a popular attitude among even such Founders as Thomas Paine, but it was the central thesis of his Reflections on the Revolution in France.
Off my soapbox. Thanks for posting, Rabby!
No matter how pure your Constitutional conservatism, politics is the art of the possible. Until we get an overwhelming majority in all of Congress and a conservative president, we will not be able to do as you suggest.
How do you “take back” something that isn’t there?
What is happening now isn’t unlike trying to fix the flat tire on your car that just forced your car off a cliff. IOW- fixing the flat is useless...
Both the democrat party and the repulican party are corrupt to the core. We are past the point of know return. Soon, very soon, we may be involved in a large scale war in eastern Europe and the middle east.
"I mean that it seeks to negate objectionable aspects of the human condition. Man has a propensity for evil. This means that men must be restrained in some fashion. "
"Conservatives have never argued that man should not be governed "
This may be the most frightening and dangerous GARBAGE that I've ever seen posted in seriousness here at FR.
Locke's Second Treatise on Government. Read it.
Then, come back, state the PURPOSE of a just government, and then tell me I'm wrong.
Speak for yourself.
“Rick Perry rejects the Status Quo. He is for limited and reduced Gov, he is for States rights.
He is fiscally conservative.”
Too bad he Coddles Illegals and considers conservatives ‘heartless’ because they refuse to...
Failure by elitist politicians to voice true conservatism does not mean conservatism is ending.
Particularly when we the people know exactly what conservatism is, and the meaning of liberty.
I dare you—you measly little leftists out there—I dare you to try and perpetrate more of your stupid little ideology on us. You think the Tea Party caught you off guard? Keep going the way you’re going!
I think you are mistaken.
Strong arguments for decentralized Gov.
This could be said of any political philosophy.
“I think you are mistaken.”
When I see E-Verify, no more Sanctuary Cities, and no more Texas Dream Act...here in Texas, then I will agree that Governor Perry isn’t coddling Illegals. Since none of those seem to be a priority for him in 2011, maybe it will be before 2015, should he decide to run again.
The founding fathers were classical liberals.
Freedom and self governance. Self sufficiency.
The exact opposite of a modern liberal/progressive. “Progressives” are Marxists.
Perry was against sanctuary city’s, he could not veto the Tx dream act and he believes that E Verify is a transference of responsibility from the Feds to the American businessmen that is unfair in businessmen.
He has passed Voter ID, and done a dozen things to control the border that the Fed refuses to do.
Perry passed a law that prevents the State or Local authority’s from asking for legal status.
He passed a redistricting that favors conservatives.
Some weren't exactly classical liberal - Paine, for example - but Hamilton, that "bastard son of a Scotch merchant" certainly was (I think that was Adams' description but I might be wrong).
I dunno - I'm playing games with labels, I guess. Sort of like "conservative" and "liberal". ;-)
Yes, John Adams.
Howdy, Pub’! Johnny had a nice touch in invective.
“Perry was against sanctuary citys, he could not veto the Tx dream act and he believes that E Verify is a transference of responsibility from the Feds to the American businessmen that is unfair in businessmen.”
Whatever, if Perry cannot outlaw Sanctuary Cities with a 2/3’s Republican legislature, then he cannot lead.
While Perry, supposedly, could not veto the Texas Dream Act a decade ago, he certainly could distance himself from it now...but he doesn’t. Therefore it’s OBVIOUS that he would sign it again, and likely he’d sign it at the federal level.
For E-Verify, I guess if the big home builders (and similar interests) are telling you it’s will impose a cost on their business, then they are OBVIOUSLY doing quite well with Illegals, and Perry has no interest in rocking that boat.
Bottom line - until Perry gets near matching what AZ and AL have done (i.e., the above, and more), he will ALWAYS be called out for coddling Illegals.
Read McCullogh’s book on Adams. The man had the temper of a volcano.
Meanwhile, the Democrats and their pseudo-communist ilk believe they can negate the human condition and create what the classical Austrian economists called, "the socialist man". I would rather tilt at windmills with the conservatives.
Did you read the article? He effectively cut the nuts off of the idea of Sanctuary city’s.
Now asshole Mayors or PD Chiefs may not call the shots in Texas.
It is illegal to forbid officers from asking for proof of citizenship.
When a person claims to be a “Conservative,” just ask yourself what have they EVER “Conserved?”
Almost all the candidates reject Big Government, and almost all have deviations on their records. There is a practical limit to how much you can get, but we need to reduce government as much as we can and then come back for more tomorrow.
If true, one must wonder wtf he was thinking mandating Gardasil.
Should he win the nomination, let's hope he learned not to try sort of power trip again.
The mandatory “optional” vaccine?
He was looking at saving lives and reducing costs to the tax payer.
Even Reagan didn’t follow his own advice. He put William Bennett in charge of the Dept. of Education. Bennett tried to improve the DOE rather than abolish it.
Jack Hunter just climbed up a rung or two on my list of favorite commentators. He put into words many things I've been pondering for several years but didn't have the stamina to follow up on.
So you can’t really be a conservative unless you advocate anarchy? That make sense, sure...
The choice is either law or culture. A conservative sees laws as necessary evils (given the fallen nature of man) and counts on culture to do most of the repressive work. A conservative knows that virtue is freedom.
When virtue fails or flags, then laws are required.
Let me illustrate. I remember a time when Italy, though a wine producing country did not have a drinking problem. Decades ago, a 12 year old kid could buy wine, because it was simply taken for granted that it was for his parents. Wine galore, enough to float aircraft carriers on, but for all intents and purposes ungoverned. Then came a culture of liberation (sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll). The end of virtue. And now the number one cause of death among youths are Saturday night massacres. Now breathylizers galore, zero or near zero tolerance (taking a lot of the fun out of dining out).
The virtue was lost and replaced by laws. After 10PM nothing above 18 proof. After 2Am nothing alcoholic at all.
Laws, lots of niggling rules whereas before there was personal freedom.
The loss of virtue is really a pandora’s box. It’s hard to put all those demons back in the box.
America - as a society - loves laws. This is also because she doesn’t have a common culture (she is a mix of different ethoi). But it’s also because of her bigness. Her corporate mentality.
The link below shows all of McDonald’s locations in America (found it here at Freeperdom a couple of days ago)
McDonald’s is a state within a state, governed by laws: the decor, the offer, the attitudes etc. are all decided by others. Same goes for Starbucks and Seven-11.
Everything virtuous and cultural and personal and slow and small (as in old fashioned southern hospitality) has been focused on the bottom line. It’s all done very well, but it’s not cultural, not neighborly. All controlled.
Talk about negative! The author here apparently is a utopian, or a lib trying to box conservatives in.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor was it brought down in a day. Conservatives today can only get things done through a constant battle with liberals or socialists, including the media and their puppet masters.
Ron Paul has some very good goals for breaking down and reducing government, but our president simply doesn’t have as much power as the candidates bluster. Ron Paul has other issues that will keep him from ever achieving the highest position in the land.
I believe most everyone on this site, and candidates Cain, Bachmann, perry, and Santorum would all like a true conservative government, greatly reduced in power and scope from today. Getting to there from here is beyond any 4 year term. Even in 4 years the most you can do is to teach americans what school does not: what our founders were trying to achieve, what they feared (”wait til they find out they can vote themselves money”), and why the original goal of theirs back then should still be ours today.
We need an articulate and passionate leader to begin the journey back toward federalism and smaller government. It’s a journey. You can’t just snap your fingers and eliminate a third of the federal government and have unicorns pooping skittles.
If you say so...in all honestly, you're probably right about his motive(s).
Regardless, you do understand that's not what comes to mind with folks like me who are rightfully suspicious of government and fearful of government power?
"If no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?"
---President Ronald Reagan, Jan. 20, 1981.
Controlling the human condition is one hard thing to do. But try we must!
If you can't appreciate the pure beauty of the violin after hearing this, something's wrong with your ears.
Or you can get raw with these strings. Either way, the violin is sweet yet lethal.