Skip to comments.Conservatism "Matures"
Posted on 05/02/2002 12:46:20 AM PDT by paleokonEdited on 04/23/2004 12:04:26 AM PDT by Jim Robinson. [history]
Sept. 11 might have also brought down a political movement.
The great free-market revolution that began with the coming to power of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan at the close of the 1970s has finally reached its Thermidor, or point of reversal. Like the French evolution, it derived its energy from a simple idea of liberty, to wit, that the modern welfare state had grown toolarge, and that individuals were excessively regulated. The truth of this idea was vindicated by the sudden and unexpected collapse of Communism in 1989, as well as by the performance of the American and British economies in the 1990s.
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Conservatism, in and of itself, is unstable. It has no animating principles; it possesses no mechanism for determining what to conserve. To give it strength and solidity, it must adopt a model of human interaction and a matched set of rules for telling political "right" from political "wrong." The principles it chooses determine its true coloration, as we can see from the recent history of other countries. In the late Soviet Union, it was the hard-line change-nothing Communists who were the "conservatives." In Iran, it's the theocrats, the mullahs and ayatollahs who insist that Islamic law must not be touched who are the "conservatives."
In the Anglo-American world, we can trace two forms of conservatism through history: aristocratic conservatism, which attempts to conserve hereditary privilege through the law, and libertarian conservatism, which puts the objective of law and government at securing the natural rights of the individual, without regard to his origins. Aristocratic conservatism is the variety that dominated England until the most recent decades. Libertarian conservatism has been the sort that prevails in the United States.
Granted that the libertarian philosophy is, like all other philosophies, inherently partial; that is, it does not apply to all problems, even in the political sphere. For example, as Fukuyama points out with full justice, foreign-policy problems are often not tractable by libertarian reasoning. Yet it is internally consistent, it is congenial to the unspoken assumptions of most Americans, and when applied to topics in domestic governance, it produces clear and attractive conclusions that prove themselves in practice.
"Orthodox" conservatives might well reject strict libertarianism as incompatible with their premises on various subjects. Yet they cannot do without some set of principles. Politics abhors a vacuum of principle. Conservatives who doubt this should try explaining why government continues to grow even under Republican administrations, including the most conservative ones.
Freedom, Wealth, and Peace,
Francis W. Porretto
Visit the Palace Of Reason: http://palaceofreason.com
But on the other hand it was not the government, despite the trillions of dollors and resources that had been poured into it, that prevented the terrorists from killing more of us on the ground on Sept. 11. It was private individuals on Flight 93 working together and taking individual responsibility and giving their lives to protect others. September 11 was a tremendous failure of government. I agree with Fukayama on the cloning issue but his anti-libertarianism goes way too far. For example, how much better off would we all be if the pilots on the hijacked planes had been able to defend themselves with guns (a libertarian argument)?
The government does initiate force by banning the pilots' guns.