Hillsdale, MI. It’s really too bad that so many wimps are running away from the word “conservative.” It’s become fashionable. Now, don’t get me wrong. When Billy Kristol claims that the “Weakly Standard” is conservative, I at least chuckle. When Fox News is called “right wing” I giggle. When the psychiatrist Dr. Krauthammer positions himself as the moral spokesman of conservative foreign policy I break out in a sweat before I laugh, hard. If Iran is the contemporary version of Carthago, delenda est it’s probably true that “conservative” has lost a little of its meaning.
But only a little. “Liberal,” it is true, is a dead term. Think about Michael Dukakis in a tank, or Jerry Brown calling for a constitutional convention. Or to bring it up to date, think about Algore inventing the internet or Ted Kennedy as a venerable statesman. Once something in public life gets too funny, you must indeed ditch the label or get laughed out of serious discourse.
To “conserve,” however, is a fairly simple thing. While “liberals” and “progressives” keep changing what lovely things they see in the future, “conserving” means knowing what’s important and trying to save it. The opposite of “conservative,” in fact, has never been “liberal”; it has always been ideology. Ideology, as my friend the great historian Forrest McDonald says, is “dogmatic, scientific, secular millenialism.” It’s been around the western political world since the French Revolution. Ideology is older than that, of course, it is “we shall be as gods.” Conserving, its exact opposite, is understanding the order of creation, and trying as hard as we can to stay somewhere in its near vicinity.
It’s interesting that the term “liberal” was destroyed by its internal contradictions, carefully pointed out by both the right and the extreme left, while “conservative” is being challenged mostly by its own. There is some logic to this, because conserving can mean just saving what you had yesterday. All neocons, most Republicans, and a great many posturing pundits translate conserving into the last generation’s New Deal. Let’s not have Obamacare, but by golly FDR was a great leader, a defender of freedom and caretaker of capitalism, and Truman was a gritty cold warrior who saved Korea, and JFK, and LBJ, etc. To place Newt Gingrich on the right is enough evidence to take seriously the notion that we have all accepted political relativism.
Many of the journals and many of the men and women I admire most are trying very hard to distance themselves from “conservative.” But I ask you to take seriously a few fundamental things before you consider yourselves so cool or academically sophisticated that you must throw away another good word. To wit: To be an American conservative is to believe that first, there is an Order of Creation. Second, that God’s authority has given us an eternal contract between the dead, the living, and the yet unborn. Third, that this contract is expressed in the church, the family, and the local community. Fourth, that there is a constitutional arrangement in the common sense of things, limited in authority, that gave shape to these truths. Fifth, that a reasonable amount of individual freedom, based on the above, rewards enterprise and initiative. Sixth, that there is a duty among all citizens to defend, sometimes (not often) even militarily, all of the above.
None of this implies an ideological box. These principles do not predict for whom I would vote or what foreign policy initiative I would support. They do, however, exclude me from thinking that we will likely achieve some state of earthly bliss. And they do imply that I probably will not take kindly to high taxes, big bureaucracies, or people who show up at my door and say, “I’m from the federal government, and I’m here to help.”
Place. Limits. Liberty. Do these words have real meaning? I have often asked my ideological friends, “Is there a place you love? What would you do to defend it?” Or, “Is there a limit to what you would ask government to do? Name it, or at least give an approximation.” “Is there a better definition for liberty than the one in Micah 4:4?” But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and none shall make them afraid, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it. This is, by the way, the definition of liberty that was overwhelmingly the one used in the early years of our republic.
If you love place, limits, liberty, and think they are words that have meaning, you are probably conservative, and should honor that word also. If you waffle, and want to be cosmopolitan and sophisticated and make up your own names and categories, you probably want to live in a world dominated by what Walter Lippmann called in 1938, the “dominant dogma of the age,” that government has the ability to make us happy. I like “conservative,” because I know what I want to conserve, and am unapologetic about what I want to exclude. It is not conservative to believe that “diversity” is itself a virtue. It is not conservative to believe that the “American way of life” can be exported, except by example. It is not conservative to think that “change” necessarily makes things better. It is not conservative to think that education, equality, democracy, or freedom cause progress. In fact, it is not conservative to believe in Progress.
Republicans, we must remember, have since their beginning been the party of Progress. Democrats, who in the generation of my grandfather Jim Fuller, were mostly conservative, have turned into the Nanny Party. The “flag waving” part of the image above probably doesn’t describe me. But just because politics doesn’t describe conservatives very well doesn’t mean that I won’t wear the name with as much dignity as I can muster.
Dr. Willson, it appears you have found your internet voice: The Manifesto.
The key element of conservatism, implied but not explicitly mentioned in Dr. Willson’s fine piece, is its anthropology: we believe that man is inherently flawed, impaired, sinful — call it what you may — and is thus imperfectible in this life. We reject the Rousseau/Emerson/Dewey idea that man is basically good and just needs [fill in the blank] to achieve completion/perfection.
Any viewpoint that does not accept this “pessismistic” view of man cannot really be called conservative.
In my humble opinion, the label “conservative” has undergone a renaissance in the past year. I sense less animus towards it now than at any time in the past decade. That’s just one man’s impression.
Thank you for this essay. To me it says with great clarity exactly what it means to be a conservative, something far differnt from republican drivil. I would add that to be conservative is not to be nostalgic or pessimistic but I often hear those terms used as a sort of rebuttal to the idea of conservatism. I don’t see it that way at all. I do not think that conservatives suffer from some affliction or bias that favors some idealized era from the past whose sharp edges have been made smooth by memory or whose qualities have been exagerated by wishful fantasy. It is rather a consistant recognition of what is important. Moreover, it is not pessimistic to realize, as Rob realizes and as history certainly proves, that man is inherintly flawed. That is realisitc. Thanks again.
This is the kind of conservative I want to be. Persuasive! Thank you, Dr. Willson.
“People will be different after the revolution” says Pasha, the young revolutionary in the movie “Doctor Zhivago.” I’ve often thought that describes the source of so much of the horrors of the last century, a belief in earthly human perfectibility. Rob G. has already posted the most important addendum to this essay, and I applaud and reassert his point.
That said, I like your statement. I agree with it. I do, however disagree with your hope for the term “conservative.” It has a primary meaning. “Liberal” has a primary meaning. The besmirching and abuse of your word has been as destructive as anything done to the L word. There is nothing in liberalism as contradictory as the opposition to social program over-spending while supporting massively expensive military activity thousands of miles from home. I appreciate your nostalgia for the word, but if liberal is a dead term, so is conservative.
I came to this site from a link on freerepublic a site that insists that you can not be conservative if you aren’t Christian and that you can not be Christian if you believe the Earth to be greater than 6 thousand to 10 thousand years old.
Is that your belief as well?
Dr. Wilson makes a cogent case for a renewed appreciation of an oft-abused label. Would that the “movement” conservatives turned off FOX news or the strident bellowing of Mr. Limbaugh, and heeded such thoughtful analysis as Dr. Wilson provides. Yet the “conservative” brand is nowadays associated in the public mind with the misguided effort to turn Mesopotamian tribesmen into Swiss aldermen, and with freewheeling spending of a sort that would leave Croesus agape. We should read or re-read Jonah Goldberg’s uncomprehending polemics against the ideas in Rod Dreher’s “Crunchy Con”, and ask ourselves if the “conservative” movement can likely be reformed along traditionalist lines. On the contrary, those of us who look to Burke, Kirk, and perhaps also MacIntyre, Berry, and Blond, ought to be more deeply invested in raising the banner of Traditionalism, not as another ideology, but as an alternative politics that allows a practical means by which to check the excesses of crony capitalism, rampant statism, and unbalanced consumerism and individualism.
This article reminds me of the well-meaning but inevitably doomed attempts to rehabilitate the swastika on the grounds that it was originally a Hindu symbol of peace. Like the swastika, I fear the word “conservative” has become too synonymous with fascism ever to be restored to its original meaning.
Nick the What?
Well-meaning fascist? Swastika?
This is just a real creepy reply that should never have made it on this site.
I would just love to stand face to face with someone who won’t sign his name but wants to make some poor soul out there think that I have some secret nazi past.
You are over the top, whoever you are, and I demand an apology.
I didn’t mean to insinuate that you were some sort of Nazi, and I apologise if you understood it that way. My post was referring to an argument I have occasionally heard (on internet messageboards and the like) from people who are emphatically *not* Nazi sympathisers that the Nazis and neo-Nazis shouldn’t be allowed to take ownership of the swastika because it had been used as a symbol of peace for thousands of years before the Nazis came along.
My point was that I see your attempts to reclaim the word “conservative” from the Glenn Beck/Sarah Palin wing of the conservative movement (which I make no apologies for describing as fascist, since to me it is indistinguishable from fascism) in the same light. I fear that the word has been lost to them, and it might be better to use a different word, such as “traditionalist”.
Once again, I apologise if sloppy writing meant that I didn’t make my point clear the first time.
while I appreciate the way you distinguish conservatism from the wacky folks on today’s “right”, I also appreciate how this column reminded me why I am not a conservative:
– “Order of creation”: which order are we talking about? the one in the 21st century USA? the Order in Europe? in Chinese culture? the Piraha people of Brazil? “orders” are social creations. that is why citizenship distrusts serfdom.
– “Place. Limits. Liberty”: of course. but not just for people and goverments… conservatives don’t seem to require a sense of place or any limits on the Market.
there’s more, but that’s enough to make my point, I think.
While I do not consider the Beck/Palin wing of conservatism to be fascist, there is the fact that to many Leftists conservatism = fascism, nevermind that they don’t know what they’re talking about re: either thing.
We conservatives, however, should not allow the Left to dictate our terms, so I’d rather keep the word and “rehabilitate” it than dump it altogether.
Rob G: I’d be interested to hear what you think distinguishes the Beck/Palin wing of conservatism from fascism. Fascism is a notoriously tricky beast to define, but there are various commonly agreed tenets, all of which seem to be present: nationalism, paranoia about an “enemy within”, belief in perpetual warfare, cult of “action” and masculine values, melding of corporate and state power and so forth.
OK, Nick the Greek, I’ve calmed down now, put my Remington 870 back in the closet, don’t want to kick your backside into the green cheese, understand the point you are making. I guess, however, that you have grown up with an overall willingness to let the bad guys take whatever words they want. “Gay,” for example. I just don’t want to lay on my back and let the stupid progressives have their way with me, to put it crudely.
joe730372, another one who will not name himself, the Order of Creation is in Genesis. Have you read it?
“Place. Limits. Liberty”: of course. but not just for people and goverments… conservatives don’t seem to require a sense of place or any limits on the Market.
there’s more, but that’s enough to make my point, I think.”
I think you said enough to make Dr Willson’s point as well. I’m assuming you equate a conservative with someone who endorses or is aligned with corporate interests. While party politics might have married conservatism to the interests of corporate america, conservatism seeks to conserve place, limits, and liberty among other things, whether the threat stems from government infringment on individual rights or Walmart’s infringment on the community.
The ‘melding of corporate and state power’ is a fundamental aspect of fascism but is absent from ‘Tea Party’ conservatism. The TP-ers biggest gripe is against the expansion of government. They tend not to get the idea that the modern expansionist Leviathan is a corporate managerial state and not a strictly “socialist” one. Their neo-conservative/libertarian streak prejudices them against the big government side of the modern state only, and the big business side of the thing escapes their critique. But this oversight does not make them fascists, in my opinion.
I think you are exactly right Rob, the Tea Party seems to be setttleing for the republican view of whats wrong with the world. I wish they d read a little more Chesterton.
Rob G: “The ‘melding of corporate and state power’ is a fundamental aspect of fascism but is absent from ‘Tea Party’ conservatism.”
I disagree. The expansion of corporate power is not something that your average rank-and-file Tea Partier actively campaigns for, but it is what their ringleaders like Palin want, and seems to be an inevitable consequence of the policies they support.
John Wilson: it is not so much “willingness to let the bad guys take whatever words they want” as a recognition that words change their meaning and there is little anyone can do to stop it. Try using the word “gay” in its old-fashioned sense, for example, and you’re liable to be either misunderstood or laughed at, depending on the context.
Again I feel the need to put in my two cents in support of a Rob G’s addendum to Mr. Wilson’s fine piece. I judge that we are far more threatened by corporate power than government power.
“I wish they’d read a little more Chesterton”
That would be helpful but they don’t even need to go back that far. Even Kirk, Weaver, et al., would be a huge benefit. Unfortunately the modern conservative movement’s collective memory seems to go back only to about 1980 or thereabouts; any pre-Reagan conservativism is unknown to most of these folks.
“The expansion of corporate power is not something that your average rank-and-file Tea Partier actively campaigns for, but it is what their ringleaders like Palin want, and seems to be an inevitable consequence of the policies they support.”
What they want is an expansion of the “free” market, which they see as resulting from a rollback of the expansion of government. What they don’t get is that in the modern state government power and corporate power are joined at the hip and cannot be easily separated. They do well to be suspicious of the expansion of government. But they need to be more suspicious of the expansion of corporate power, and especially suspicious when the two expand together.
God is liberal and conservative but He is neither Liberal nor Conservative. Don’t be afraid to admit it, Mr. Willson.
Thomas McCullough (great name, by the way),
I think you need to do some arithmetic. If money is power, and I think you are right in assuming that it is, add up everything Wall Street does in a day and compare it with what the Feds do in an hour. Furthermore, note that there is no way that the capital money men can get together to worry your bank account, but there are three or four people in Washington who can put you into financial purgatory, and will do it just because they can. Go back and read the very particular circumstances when JFK, that noble man of “Ask not what…” did away with the American steel industry because he got pissed at Roger Blough. Our Founders knew very well that political power is where the real power is.
I think that Big Pharma and two or three other wielders of “corporate” power are indeed dangerous. But only because they are in bed with the Feds. We must always know the real enemy.
What a beautiful description! As my other namesake stated, that’s what I wish to defend. I think I like your points better than Kirk’s elaboration in the Conservative Mind and other places.
By the way, and as a segue into the state of the word “conservative” in public discourse, the history of the swastika is fascinating. It’s been used for thousand of years by Buddhists, Hindus, Celts, Trojans, Greeks, Europeans, Scandanavians, and even Native Americans. Christians claimed it as a symbol of the cross, and I think it was one of the great Aeropagus-like claims of the Christian humanist. It truly is a deep tragedy that it’s become unavoidably linked with Nazism, but I do think it’s irretrievably lost. For now.
“Conservatism,” meanwhile, is clearly not so sullied, nor quite dead. Dr. Willson, you are very right that liberal, on the other hand, is as dead as can be. The triumph of liberalism was also really the end of liberalism (and not the end of history that Fukuyama’s quite stupidly proclaimed).
But it is quite sullied.
I am not a fan of the loose application of “fascism” to every sort of right-wing nationalism, any more than (as Dr. Willson and I have argued about before) the using “communism” to describe all kinds of left-wing statism. Calling neo-cons and the like fascists is inaccurate–not only because Fascism was an Italian movement founded by Mussolini and neo-conservatism is not, but also because it plays into the Stalinist and leftist attempts to create more rhetorical space than reality allows between their statism and right-wing statism. It was Stalin who first demanded that the Nazi regime no longer be called National Socialist, but instead Hitlerist. He likely did so because the increasingly nationalist tenor of his own regime made such a phrase intolerably self-indicting. His followers and successors–and their followers and sympathizers–followed his lead by applying fascist to everything “rightist” in order, again, to differentiate themselves from those other progressive Statists.
I don’t think that anyone with a working mind or an ounce of charity automatically lumps all conservatism in with fascism (and who else should we be concerned with? Those without brains and hearts can and likely will go to hell).
But, again, “conservative” is sullied. It is very much identified with the current GOP and Palin and Fox News and rabble-rousing Tea Partiers and the Religion Right. And if by some miracle it can be disassociated from these specimens, that miracle is usually to say that these jerks have stolen the true conservative heritage… of Ronald Reagan (and thus of Progress and technology and nationalism and militarism and City-on-a-Hillism).
I very much like John Lukacs’ employment of the even-more-abused “reactionary,” though I would not claim it for myself. I like “traditionalist,” too, and would say that I, among other things, am that.
Ultimately I agree with T.S. Eliot in saying that “conservative” and liberalism each imply a certain question:”What must be preserved?” and “What must be destroyed?” (I would say “changed”). Thus, Eliot suggests, we need both, because some things must be preserved and some must be destroyed. This a position both reasonable and Biblical (Mark 7 and 1 Corinthians 11 express the tensions between the two).
But since the word does essentially mean “those who conserve,” and I would rather err with preservation rather than destruction, I think the word itself ought to preserved against the attacks of those who wish only to destroy and the brutal appropriation of those who want only to conserve their wealth and nationalism.
I agree with Rob that corporate and political powers seem joined at the hip. I think they are both to be feared, government for its assualt on individual liberty and its ventures into the domain of the family and big business on its effect of separating work from meaning, reducing property to paper and its constant war on tradition. Here is a quote from Edward Albert Ross written in 1900 regarding America’s transition from a rural economy to an urban one as a result of the industrial revolution.
“Kinship has lost its old sacred significance. Social erosion has worn down the family until now it consists of only parents and young. From being a sacrament marriage has become a contract terminable almost at pleasure ……….For the intimacy of the countryside the city offers only multitudinous desolation. Frequent change of domicile hinders the growth of strong local feelings. The householder has become a tenant, the working-man a bird of passage. Loose touch-and-go acquaintanceships take the place of those close and lasting attachments that form between neighbors that have long lived, labored, and pleasured together. The power of money rends the community into classes incapable of feeling keenly with one another. Even while we are welding it, the social mass laminates. Everywhere we see the march of differentiation. Everywhere we see the local group–the parish, commune, neighborhood, or village–decaying, or else developing beyond the point of real community.”
It seems to me that Ross’ observations of Chicago at the turn of the century ring true for today except to the extent that they do not go quite far enough. The federal government at the time was nearly non existent but the detrimental effects of big business on family and community were already taking its toll.
The Reaganite electioneering slogan “The words you don’t want to hear ‘I’m from the federal government, and I’m here to help’ ” needs careful reappraisal. With the Tea Partiers and a majority of Americans it would appear to have become a quite mindless piece of rhetoric much like the animals’ slogan “Two legs bad; four legs good” in George Orwell’s novel “Animal Farm.” In hindsight commonsense tells you that you only wish Republican and Democratic politicians including Ronald Reagan himself had actually taken it seriously with regard to “foreign governments” who have been allowed to manipulate their foreign trade with the United States to the detriment of the American economy. The recycling of export earned dollars by foreign governments into US Treasuries and American corporate debt and assets has disrupted the natural market Savings/Investment balance of the economy and the consequent low savings and borrowing rates encouraged asset inflation leading ultimately to the Financial Crisis. In addition the deliberate pegging of currencies to the US dollar together with other hidden subsidies has created further market distortion in particular a continuing deflationary demand situation in the American economy due to stagnation in wages linked to artificially restrained wage pressure in the foreign governments’ own countries. China, for example, has clearly benefitted from this manipulation. It is now a major economic player to the extent that approximately a third of its exports are now classifiable as High Tech and 75% of annual capital investment in the Pacific Rim countries now takes place in China. Here are two articles explaining in more detail:-
What does need explaining to the American public by both Republican and Democratic parties is not that foreign governments recycling export earnings into US debt is so terrible, or restraining wages in their countries, but why they, the American politicians, couldn’t understand the deadly effects and counter it and why the nonsense that business and government shouldn’t collude with each other when it’s done so very successfully by other country’s governments!
I don’t know most of what you are talking about–it seems incomprehensible–but I do know that your introductory remark about a “Reaganite” comment has nothing to do with anything. He never said it, it long predated him, and name one country where governments “collude” with business “successfully.” Please, name one.
I appreciate your chiding my conclusions, Mr. Wilson. (other people write ‘Dr.’ Is that preferred?) I think I still disagree, but promise I will think about it.
David Alexander mentions God in this string (in a way not entirely clear to me) and that brings to mind a notion about terms. I was following leads to pictures of religious art which more often than not I find pleasing and attractive. I found myself at a site with some lovely images and, God help us, the text of “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” It is an example of how much Evil can exist under the ægis of Christianity. However, we cannot abandon that term, at least.
I always enjoy the salutes to the “Free Market”. It reminds me of when someone asked Gandhi about his opinions of “Western Culture” and he replied “someone should try it sometime.” . This market is about as “Free” as the rides in an amusement park…you buys your ticket and you take the ride. Sometimes its fun, other times you see the carny and accept the fleecing with resignation for lack of a better thing to do.
Chesterton does not cough up enough red meat jingoism for the modern “conservative”. They’d read it with a kind of mystified abhorrence.
Willson do you never bother to read any history ? Firstly, Reagan made his remark about not trusting anybody from a government at a press conference in Chicago on August 2nd 1986 whilst talking about assistance to farmers:-
Secondly, a good example of a successful historical collaboration between business and government is lying right under your nose, the United States. It grew its industry for many years under the protection of high tariffs.
Do I “bother” to read any history? I have been teaching it for fifty years. You obviously have not. What nonsense you think you project. Gosh, I’m glad I’m off this site.
~~Chesterton does not cough up enough red meat jingoism for the modern “conservative”. They’d read it with a kind of mystified abhorrence.~~
Ain’t it the truth. I was hoping that Dreher’s ‘Crunchy Cons’ would get some conservatives reading Kirk again (it did me), but apparently not enough of them bothered to read Rod. A shame, really.
John Willson wrote: “Gosh I’m glad I’m off this site”
Are you leaving FPR? If so, it is a loss. I distinctly remember the first essay of yours I read in Chronicles, about the demise of New England. The World needs more outspoken old guys like you.
~~I think that Big Pharma and two or three other wielders of “corporate” power are indeed dangerous. But only because they are in bed with the Feds. We must always know the real enemy.~~
We are well past the stage, I believe, where one can determine where the corporate power stops and the government power starts, seeing that the two are tangled together in so many ways and at so many points. The real enemy is the Leviathan state, and that beast has both a government and a corporate aspect. Thing is, when you’re fighting him it doesn’t matter much which side of the head you whack him on.
Thank you, Richard Grossman, and yes, I am gone. I’m too outspoken, I guess.
Rob G, I really don’t think we are past the stage; tell me one thing that corporate power does to you that has anything like what the Feds do every day. Please, name one thing, just one!
A shame to see you go. It is true you do not suffer fools gladly, myself included, which is a necessary trait on these here Internets.
Regarding “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” I was thinking about this this afternoon, while I was gathering together some of the many forms that I have to have in order to sell the products of my farm. I’ve farmed in two states (California & New York), and, in general, the agricultural bureaucrats I’ve had dealings with have been honorable, sincere people who really do want to help. It’s the laws that they are charged with enforcing that are the problem. I don’t know that this carries through to government generally; I suspect it doesn’t.
Mark, You are man of character and indeed i respect the differences we have had. Thank you for the exchanges.
I appreciate it.
To Rob G. (24 June 2010 at 12:27 pm)
Precisely. That is exactly correct.
I believe I am smiling.
I hope you will not stop writing for FPR. This is a very fine article, and just the sort of outspokenness that’s needed. I hope you will reconsider.
This is an excellent article. Dr. Wilson is to be commended for doing a fine job in pointing out what real conservatism is, which is miles removed from that which often falsely lays claim to that honored appellation today. I prefer “Tory” to “conservative” myself, although I can see why American conservatives would probably not appreciate such a term. It does create some confusion in my own country where it is frequently used to refer to members and supporters of the Conservative Party. I try to use it in the sense in which Dr. Johnson used it.
I like especially the fifth paragraph, which invokes but does not parrot Russell Kirk’s famous canons of conservatism.
Jordan, I’ll bet you are smiling.
Since the good Mr. Neal has brought up St. Russell’s name, a bit of autobiography is perhaps in order. The 60s were a tough time to be a young married man. I was a good New Deal Liberal when I cast my first national vote for LBJ (I was 24; in those days we were not so foolish as to think that 18 year-olds should vote for anything), having been trained well by a subscription to The New Republic given to me at the age of 16 by my aunt Bocca. She was a charter subscriber to that venerable journal, started in 1914 by the holy trinity of Croly, Lippmann and Weyl. She also said to me that a man who is not a liberal before he is 30 has no heart, but if he stays a liberal after 30 he has no brain. I thought this was original at the time she told me.
When Vietnam, the Vatican Council, the philandering leaders of our empire and the Pill confused me sufficiently I found that I had to read my way out of the Woodstock Nation. Russell Kirk did that for me. Just as he had the time to read on the salt flats of Utah as a conscript during the not-so-great war, I got the time to read as a twenty-something while I was also trying to teach history to young people who were at least as confused as I.
The break point came just after the Kent State disaster. The university where I was teaching called for a “strike,” a word that assumed a special meaning when I crossed the student “picket line” and held class. The thugs who wanted to prevent this said, Dr. Willson, we are not going to allow you to disrupt our control of this situation. I replied that they may have to assume the responsibility of significant violence; well, it probably wasn’t all that gentlemanly and articulate, but I got past them and my class met, and every single one of my students was there, and they protected me against the thugs. That’s when I realized I was conservative.
Jordan, I don’t expect you to understand this.
“tell me one thing that corporate power does to you that has anything like what the Feds do every day. Please, name one thing, just one!”
Dr. Willson, I don’t believe that corporations wield the kind of direct, coercive power over us that the state does. However, I do believe that they exercise what might be called a “directive” power or one that pushes or compels us in certain directions. Of course, from one angle this compulsive power seems to work at the suffrage of the state, so in a sense the state does have “final say.” But seen from another angle the lobbying and monetary clout of the corporations has a profound effect on what the state “allows” them to do.
Two examples: Big Agri — seems to me that it should bother a real conservative that 4 or 5 huge corporations control upwards of 80% of what we eat from farm to table. I challenge you, however, to define for me exactly where the line can be drawn between Big Agri’s and the state’s shenanigans in the current agricultural mess.
Likewise, it seems very problematic to me that 3 or 4 gigantic multinational corporations control the vast majority of music we hear and movies we see. The cultural direction of the society is being steered towards a certain end (i.e., multiculturalism) by what we watch and listen to. We, of course, can turn off the radio and stop going to movies; in that sense we can prevent the negative influence from affecting us directly. Culturally, however, the trend is still going to go in that direction because the masses aren’t going to stop listening or watching, and we cannot help but be affected by that overrall trend.
And don’t get me started on the porn industry, which is a $2.5 billion a year business. Yes, the state allows it, and shouldn’t. But our society is very obviously being “pornified,” because that particular industry is making a very large amount of money by supplying a product for which there is much demand.
There has been much that I have learned following up on what you have pointed out in your many posts. Even in class, there are always a few wise guys that a professor is forced to deal with. I hope you will continue to write for FPR, but if not I bid you well. What we may be experiencing is that it is easier to suffer actual fools when they are in front of you than it is to suffer the foolishness that is the internet.
All the best.
Patrick J. Deneen,
Dr. Wilson, I too hope you will change your mind and continue with FPR. I really enjoyed the article and your work here.
I actually appreciate much of what you have to write about, (this was a good article), and I appreciate your combativeness. I will miss that aspect of your contributions.
What I won’t miss is your painful self-regard and propensity to trot your CV out whenever possible. Oh, that and the silly obsession with people’s names. (I notice not many contributors complain about the lack of a name when the comments are positive.)
But I truly wish you all the best for whatever lies ahead.
We are well past the stage, I believe, where one can determine where the corporate power stops and the government power starts, seeing that the two are tangled together in so many ways and at so many points.
Not least in that much of the legislation passed by the gummint is written for them by corporate lobbyists.
[…] John Willson has some thoughts on the subject. To “conserve,” however, is a fairly simple thing. While “liberals” and “progressives” keep changing what lovely things they see in the future, “conserving” means knowing what’s important and trying to save it. The opposite of “conservative,” in fact, has never been “liberal”; it has always been ideology. Ideology, as my friend the great historian Forrest McDonald says, is “dogmatic, scientific, secular millenialism.” It’s been around the western political world since the French Revolution. Ideology is older than that, of course, it is “we shall be as gods.” Conserving, its exact opposite, is understanding the order of creation, and trying as hard as we can to stay somewhere in its near vicinity. […]
Tell me one thing that corporate power does to you that has anything like what the Feds do every day. Please, name one thing, just one!
Why don’t you try asking a shrimper in the Gulf of Mexico that question?
Why don’t you try asking a shrimper in the Gulf of Mexico that question?
Agriculture, fishing and forestry now employ < 2% of the workforce.
This is not the first ghastly spill in the Gulf of Mexico in my lifetime. There was another ca. 1980. The perpetrator was not a commercial company. It was PEMEX, the Mexican state oil monopoly.
Public agencies are unlike commercial companies in their capacity to coerce and their position as monopolists. We are reliant on the character of the civil service and their superintendents for exercising great care in the execution of functions exclusive to the state. What has happened is that the state has been subcontracted to self-dealing public employee unions and odious characters like Barney Frank, et al, people a cut below the man in the street.
This article and its comments raise an issue that requires a serious response. The issue is whether economies get into trouble because market mechanisms are damaged by the failure to recognize that the competitive pressure on private enterprises force them to seek control of governments ( a sort of internal colonialism ), and these governments in turn seek to control world markets ( a sort of global colonialism ). If the answer is affirmative then economies would function better by recognizing that there is no such thing as free market fundamentalism to be pursued in opposition to government and we would be economically healthier to pay closer attention to making market mechanisms work better.
World markets are not controlled by anyone. The terms of trade are influenced by public policy driven by constituency pressure.
Competitive pressure does not force business interests to see ‘control’ of governments. Various business interests form crooked alliances with politicians to safeguard and extend rent-seeking arrangements. Consider, though, that the sectors which benefit most greatly from subsidies and rents from regulatory architecture are all over the map in terms of the size of the enterprises therein and the history of how they came to be so intwined with the state. (Those sectors are education, agriculture, real estate, banking and finance, insurance, medical care, construction, and oil).
One circumstance you might see a strong inclination to engage in rent-seeking and restraint of trade in pursuit of stable markets is when you have a sector which functions as a ‘Bertrand oligopoly’, where you have a limited number of producers doing so in conditions that resemble perfect competition. A prominent example of that is airlines. The thing is, the airline cartel was dismantled in 1978 and has never been reconstituted. Business sectors do not have unlimited influence.
Nice Article Mr. Wilson, I am a casual reader of FPR and I hope you continue writing and commenting. We need outspoken citizens… we need lively debates, even if it is online. I hate when I am in class and a debate breaks out and the damned commi-liberal teachers will stop the debate after 2 mins. I don’t know if it’s because they have no real principals or arguments…. or they just don’t have a spine. I was a hippy liberal until a friend introduced me to Congressmen Paul and Mr. Kauffman’s great books on Localism and Ant-War Conservatism. If every kid were introduced to true “Conservatism” in High School, I think America and it’s communities would be better off. The Republicans and Talk Radio types give Old Right Traditional Conservatives a bad name. I had never even heard of the “Mr. Republican” Robert Taft until last year…public schools U.S. history classes are pretty bland and liberal. DEBATE On my fellow Porchers Stand Ye Ground !!!
I am not sure that the examples you provided of Dukakis or Kennedy show that Liberal is a dead term. If they do, then Conservative is also. Think about W in a flight suit declaring mission accomplished or Palin being beat up by little Katie Couric and talking about Putin rearing his head in Alaska. Compared to those two, Dukakis looks like Patton.
Be that as it may, I agree with your six points that show someone is a conservative, but the devil must be in the details, because I don’t think I’m all that conservative. In fact, I wonder if Gore, W, Palin, Limbaugh, Obama, or whoever would disagree with a lot of them. I also can’t think of too many people who would argue that “change” necessarily makes things better. I don’t care if you tote a gun, wave the flag, or fear God. I think waving the flag and fearing God are good things. As far as toting a gun, that’s fine too as long as you don’t commit a crime with it.
Refreshing post! A few things:
“‘Is there a better definition for liberty than the one in Micah 4:4?’ But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and none shall make them afraid, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it. This is, by the way, the definition of liberty that was overwhelmingly the one used in the early years of our republic.”
Any definition which includes women. While I believe I understand what you mean, I still think my seemingly flippant response points to problems with using such passages given the Bible’s particular historical context and its shortcomings as a result.
Of course these “shortcomings” would assume the possibility of “progress”. So I guess that critique is easily shoved aside.
However, are there no inherent tensions within your definition of Conservatism. That is, between it’s reliance on “Order of Creation” and “God’s authority,” despite being naturally opposed to “ideology.”
How does your definition of conservatism not devolve into a form of epistemological pragmatism naturally opposed to many of the principles with which you build it?
Mr. Wilson beautiful piece! I was just listening to the Mike Church Show and he was reading your article I had to zip on the net to see if I can read it at the same time… I’d like to thank you for such a wonderful work… And it looks like about three million people or more just heard it.
What I find tiresome is how someone always shows up to throw the word “Fascist” around and how it gets thrown at people who are conservative. The description of “The merging of state with corporate power” is an accurate description but there is more to “Fascists” then just that trait alone.
Nick the Greeks example of what is going on with the BP gulf spill is not “Fascist” behavior (by BP) but is a condition caused by “Crony Capitalism.” Now he would be right to assume that the behavior of the current administration in using federal regulations and power from preventing the people of Louisiana from taking action themselves to save their state and their private property a type of “Fascist” behavior.
A true conservative cannot be a fascist, Nazi’s, socialists, communists, Marxists… these things are something we just don’t believe in and are all European creations. These titles don’t deserve to share the same room or the same piece of paper with anything concerning true conservative thought and should be challenged whenever they pop up.
Anyway wonderful article Mr. Wilson, thank you again.
The description of “The merging of state with corporate power” is an accurate description but there is more to “Fascists” then just that trait alone.
Yes, which I why I listed several other traits in the same post. Umberto Eco’s definition of Fascism, which I regard as the best of the many definitions out there, lists 14. I won’t hog bandwidth by repeating them all here, but the relevant extract from his 1995 essay ‘Eternal Fascism’ can be found at:
Not all these 14 points apply to the Beck/Palin/Limbaugh wing of the conservative movement. But I’d say at least 10 of them do.
Not all these 14 points apply to the Beck/Palin/Limbaugh wing of the conservative movement. But I’d say at least 10 of them do.
I’ve read just read what you posted in reply to me… First off I’m making it a goal in my life to confront anyone calling conservatives “Fascists or Nazi’s” and I’ve just read what Umberto’s Eco’s criteria.
I have a question for you. Do you consider the founders of the United States “Fascists?”
Just because people like Beck, Palin, and Rush appeal to the masses and that what they may say appeals to the middle class the most important thing to consider is what these people are promoting.
If a person wants to establish the Constitution of the United States as the supreme law of the land… and if they try to emulate the founder’s beliefs and educate the public about the founders in order to restore this country back to a pillar of Liberty and Freedom as a constitutional republic. That these people cannot in any way be labeled fairly as a “Fascist” since they do not condone this European form of governance.
I listen to Beck along with other conservative people… I look for the truth and he is no way a “Fascist” he’s guilty of being a libertarian… not exactly a bad crime.
I’ve followed Palin she’s guilty of having Ronald Reagan as a hero.
I don’t listen to Rush very much so I have no comment.
I feel Eco’s criteria is terrible example to go by… this is the end to this issue since I don’t want to mess up Mr. Wilson’s blog with discussions like this and I believe your opinion on those people you’ve pointed out as absolutely unfounded and misguided.
Interesting essay, and a most entertaining thread of debate.
I’m a retired submarine officer, and I shun the label “conservative”, though I ascribe to some of the basic tenets of the essay. I’m not a Christian, so that litmus test eliminates me right off. But I do share some views with those called conservatives.
I believe that our reality, our planet, our families, all deserve careful concern an protecting. There is no need to require interaction with or implied endorsement by a deity to further emphasize the importance of such concern. I think that such decision making is the essence of good.
Every decision should be made in the context of considering the impact on ourselves, our ancestors, and our children… and the generations to come. Some might whip out the term “Sustainability” – though that has become a sullied term as well. I think the original meaning fits quite accurately.
While I believe in independence, paying your own way, being responsible for your actions, I also see that taking community action (including government action) that violates these principles can lead to better conditions for those of us who ARE paying our own way. It’s difficult for me to justify such government action philosophically, as my mental framework is almost Rand-like.
Are we to stop all social programs because they’re against conservative dogma? What if that hurts ME, even though I’m working and supporting my own family? What if my neighborhood descends into a “defend it or lose it” battlezone, as people become more desperate for resources to support their own families, and find out the truth about capitalism, that there isn’t a path for everyone to support themselves? Should they be allowed to starve outside my house?
I don’t claim to have the answers, I’m bringing this up as a frank question to which I seek a frank answer. What is our measure of success? Is a “free” society where the average lifespan is truncated by violence and desperation a superior one, as opposed to a state-controlled false-utopia where we all live as rats to be octogenarians? I seek the third way. As I believe our founding fathers did.
I’m always confused when someone says “the Founders believed.” There were a number of founders. They argued quite a bit, and had more serious disagreements than any of the current members of the Senate. There was more legitimate distance between and among Franklin, Paine, Adams, and Hamilton than there is today with Boxer, Kerry, McCain, Lieberman, and Brownback. As far as I can tell, whenever someone says “the Founders believed” they seem to mean “I believe.”
That being said, I’m pretty sure none of the Founders, Jefferson included, was libertarian. Beck, incidentally, is also guilty of being a self-important windbag (some might call it a Messiah complex) who exercises one of the most astonishingly selective minds I’ve ever encountered, whose “Founders” believe whatever he happens to believe, whose “Liberty” and “Freedom” have a nasty nationalist bent which inclines him to label those who disagree with him as un-American. He makes a caricature of partisan punditry, while his exaggeration of “mainstream media’s liberal bias” (is there anything more mainstream than Fox News these days?) makes it downright impossible for anyone else to point out legitimate liberal bent in the news.
Palin is indeed guilty of having Reagan as a hero which, as I implied earlier, is at least questionable as a conservative credential. She’s also guilty of using populist anger for her own anti-elitist, anti-intellectual ends. She has a very active sense of being wronged (some might call it a martyr complex), and fails to see how at least half of the fiasco that was her vice-presidential candidacy was entirely due to her own ill-preparedness.
I am no kind of Christian either which of course means I am dammed – No problemo – I’ll take that responsibility. Now according to Dr. Wilson I cannot be a conservative either – Nuts. It is blinking hilarious really. Do you really wonder why people’s eyes become spastic and they feign incontinence when ever that label is brought up in conversation?
Being basically illiterate when it comes to the Old Testament I looked up the Micah 4:4 reference, you might want to do the same before invoking it again. Micah was talking about the end of days. After the Lord establishes a kingdom on earth and…”rebukes the far-off nations”…”beats swords into plow shares”…etc. Then you get to sit under your fig tree and vines, protected by “the Lord of Hosts” or “Yahweh of Armies”. It is a nice, if violent myth, but I fail to see how it is a metaphor for liberty? Please advise…
Well here’s some advising:
You do realize beating swords into plowshares means turning violent weapons into tools to till the earth? The promise is that instead of using our resources and energy making war or preparing to defend ourselves in a violent world, we use them to work the earth, to bring forth food, to provide for our families and communities… Call me crazy but that seems like the opposite of violent.
I believe the people and the Anti-Federalists at that time had a very Libertarian/Anarchic stance on government. Give Murray Rothbard’s “Conceived In Libery” a read. The labels we apply to modern politics allow statist establishment types to divide us when you think about it. I believe that’s why the majority of people can’t stand politics. They are constantly trying to drive a wedge in the minds of the people. The false paradigm is honestly what I believe I am an Old Right Republican even a Classic Liberal does it matter though? I like the debate and discussion, but we need to first get rid of the establishment power structure before we spend all this time fighting over labels. Do you think Clinton, Bush, Soros, Bernanke, Obama care about labels no they are all just unprincipled Statist mouth pieces for an ever expanding government.
The very use of “ism” in “conservatism” means the presentation of ideas; ipso facto you can’t have non-ideological “conservatism” it’s a non sequitur. Accordingly you either think the ideas contained in John Willson’s notion of conservatism are constructive about the issues facing us or you don’t.
The presentation of ideas ≠ ideology.
Ideology = Idea (of ideas) + logy (study or systematic set/study of)
So I suppose a presentation of ideas could be non-ideological, but then one would have to assent to them being not systematic, with the several ideas bearing no logical connection to one another. Unless we’re dealing with the term’s colloquial connotations.
Or you could expand a bit on what you mean Mark, so I don’t misunderstand your argument.
Some people seem able to track and participate in 100s of discussions a day, but, like usual, I come late to an article not yet a week old (an eternity in Internet time), and after reading most of the comments in order to prevent being redundant, I see that it looks like you’re leaving.
Please don’t. This was one of the best web articles I have ever read after 2 decades on-line, and the summary of conservatism midway through the fifth paragraph is literally stunning for both its succinctness and density.
If you’re done with this thread, I understand completely, as one who used to get sucked into pointless debates that went round and round and led no where. Once you’ve said what there is to say, it’s time to stop. But I hope you don’t leave FRP, and I’d like to ask a question or two that will hopefully offer you a chance to elaborate more.
I am a Christian, and I understand and agree completely with your descriptions of the “order of creation” found in Genesis and the description of liberty found in Micah. It is because of my Christianity I think of myself as radically traditionalist, something John Stott develops wonderfully in The Message of the Sermon on the Mount found in “The Bible Speaks Today” series.
I hope you’ll indulge me, but I need to make a few more background points before the question. Several readings this week converged for me to a point. First, in Tozer’s The Pursuit of God I read this: “God made us for Himself: That is the only explanation that satisfies the heart [emphasis his] of a thinking man, whatever his wild reason may say. Should faulty education and perverse reasoning lead man to conclude otherwise, there is little any Christian can do for him. For such a man I have no message.” (Kindle edition, location 311-16)
Then this from an old article in “The Freeman” on
–something I imagine you know quite a lot more about than I:
Finally, I am not ordained, but work as a Director of Christian Education in my church, and I was just teaching a Bible study on “Hebrews.” In a discussion of the Law during class, it occurred to me that the power of the Gospel to save in contemporary Western societies seems to have been diminished because the power of the Law to convict has been eviscerated.
These three thoughts converged as I was reading your article to make me ask this: If we no longer live in a Christian society with values rooted and grown from Scripture (and we don’t), and if relativism is so advanced that the concept of sin is lost along with the Law’s power to convict (and it is), and if a democratic government is supposed to represent all its citizens, and neither the representatives nor the majority of those represented want a return to those values, then what are we to do?
Of course, stand firm to our confession, unwavering in our hope, uncompromising in our values, steadfast in our conviction, bold in our proclamation and constant in our prayer, but do we just gird ourselves for the coming persecution (even if it’s another century coming) or is there something we can do so that it need never come?
Christian values are seen as reactionary, repressive, intolerant, antiquated and, and even “mean”–the worst slam our adolescent society seems to be able to muster. If the people don’t want Christian values, if the government and businesses only want them to ensure both order and profits, then what?
Thanks again for the brilliant article. Please keep them coming.
And if I botched the html forgive me. I’m rusty.
My citation didn’t work right. This is the article from the Freeman
Regarding ideology (and I think this is actually quite in line with the original topic and post):
First let me point out that Dr. Willson studiously avoided the word “conservatism.” His issue was with being a conservative, not necessarily with conservat-ism. It’s an important distinction. -isms are indeed sets of ideas. Whether every “ism” must be systematic or ideological is up for debate.
Ideology is, as Mr. Gach’s link suggests, something like a science of ideas or a systematic superstructure of ideas. Mr. Gach, you assume that a set of ideas must either be systematic and scientific or incoherent. That is a false dichotomy.
It does, however, illuminate what may be the key distinction between a true conservative and an ideologue. The former is rooted in history; the latter, in science. The former understands that we, as persons and communities, live and think historically. The latter believes that we, as individuals and societies, live and think scientifically.
A true conservative, then, recognizes that every person and community is unique and cannot be replicated. The ideologue believes that one can create a rigorous scientific system of ideas that can be applied universally, regardless of distinctions of place and time.
A conservative sees no need to attempt systematic unity in a world that is distinctly unsystematic–and, in fact, sees that such an attempt becomes inevitably destructive rather than constructive. A conservative believes in prescription, believes that there are worse arguments in favor of something than “it’s the way we’ve always done it” (and that there are few worse arguments than “it’s new!”). Conservatives believe in preserving humane communities rather than engineering a perfect ideological system.
How does one live, act, BE in this world, and not operate using various “ideologies?”
Surely we might add that people should be flexible, cautious, and reflective when utilizing certain “ideologies” (that is, systematic arrangements of beliefs/ideas), but maintaining still a weaker version of the term, how does one simply discard of them.
“Ideology is, as Mr. Gach’s link suggests, something like a science of ideas or a systematic superstructure of ideas. Mr. Gach, you assume that a set of ideas must either be systematic and scientific or incoherent. That is a false dichotomy.”
I agree with your general point, and think the distinction between historical and scientific is both interesting and an illuminating avenue of inquiry.
Still, regarding the “idea” of “coherence,” it it possible that a “coherent” set of ideas can somehow resist being an ideology?
Or is it possible that contradictions abound (they certainly seem to, but even after much qualifying and exposition?) and the ideas/mentalities/attitudes of a “conservative” (or other label) can be incoherent, contradictory, and irreconcilable? This is perhaps possible, but it seems to suggest some hard work ahead for any democracy based on the exchange of ideas.
How does argumentative exchange, persuasion, and collective action succeed when without criterion of “coherence?” And is the distance between “scientific,” a growing, progressing, ever changing endeavor, and “coherent,” really so much that one can have a “coherence” of ideas that is not a “science” of those ideas?
The historical character of “conservative” appears to acknowledge an empirical bent. That the a person of such a label has, perhaps, a set of “coherent” ideas arrived at through trial and error, lived experience, interaction with others, what have you. And if that is so (it might not be) how does that differ from “scientific” and/or “ideology,” an organized set of beliefs set upon via information gained through the senses.
ooops, sorry about the bold!
Sincerely, reading this string, I have come to the conclusion that ‘conservative’ is more meaningless than ‘liberal.’
I am so “conservative” I am a Libertarian/Constitutionalist.
I always find it odd when people quote religious text when they are discussing politics.
Well Thomas I think you are wrong. I think what the string shows is that unlike Willson some do not know what it is they wish to conserve while others havent really recognized what is and is not important regarding his statements. As far as the definition of liberal is concerned you have to admit that it pretty much boils down to “its where your heads at.”
Not sure about that cheap shot at the label “liberal”
The word Liberal is dead I just substitute the word Leftist every time I see the word Liberal used.
Libertarians are the only true liberals left in this world.
There are only two choices left as far as I can see… reestablish this Constitutional Republic and dismantle the engines of socialism.
Or give up Leftist ideals and become slaves to the state and condemn future generations to nothing more than serfs to an ever growing government monster.
Oh wait… There’s a third option, let the government spend itself into bankruptcy and just surrender to a socialist created passive dictatorship.
Hummm… well for me it looks like the first option is best, what are you willing to give up to “hit the reset button.”
I’ll start… I’ll give up my social security, after all it’s spent already and I’ll never get a chance to collect all the money that’s been stolen from me.
Constitutional Conservatives and Libertarians are our only hope!
A great piece from a while ago at the League on Liberal-tarianism:
“The word Liberal is dead I just substitute the word Leftist every time I see the word Liberal used.”
By conflating the word’s Liberal (even if it’s American Liberal) and Leftist, I’m not quite sure what you mean by either. By Leftist do you mean Socialist? In which case, I don’t see how you get from A to B. If by Leftist you mean those persons in America often referred to by the MSM and others “Liberals” then I think I understand better.
Either way perhaps you could add something beyond your nonsensical three options.
I guess that is a cheap shot but take an item that most people on this string know should be conserved and view it through the eyes of a liberal. Family for example. How do we define it? Liberals are hard put to define it because it would be mean excluding someone. It is hard to conserve what one cannot define. Perhaps the most intersting definition that I ve seen lately was in a law review article that defined family as “intimate groupings.” Geeez.
Mzchief wrote: “I always find it odd when people quote religious text when they are discussing politics.”
I find it odd when people seem to think religion and politics are some kind of either/or proposition rather than a both/and one, as if in the modern atomization of humanity into specialized compartments one has nothing to do with the other.
A comments section on a blog isn’t even the place to begin, but you might consider reading Reasonable Ethics: A Christian Approach to Social, Economic, and Political Concerns
and also Beene’s forthcoming (in 3 weeks) Good and Bad Ways to Think about Religion and Politics.
Good point, and I agree that family is one of those interesting and vital issues on which Liberals/the Left are deaf on.
Certainly at least in part because of complications raised from advancing the “gay rights” issues of marriage and adoption, its not an easy topic for them to speak cogently on. In addition, divorce, absent parents, and etc. all make the family unit something that appears to be decreasing in stability.
Perhaps the difference than for Liberals and Conservatives regarding that problem is the is the Clinton “It Takes a Village” mantra vs. the movement to reinvigorate the “family ideal” (i.e. American Family Association).
It does get at the E. Savior’s point about Liberal being a dead term. In this respect Liberals are putting individuality above the family, does that make the Left more Socialist or more Libertarian?
I should have clarified this…
The word “liberal” has been hijacked by radical socialists and Marxists. At one time it had very well meaning intentions.
Latin root words Liberal = free = liberty.
You listen to a liberal today and they mostly expound Marxist ideals weather they know that they do or not… collectivist thinking.
Classical liberals are now called Libertarians… no wonder Conservatives get along with libertarians… for the most part that is.
Just like the word “Progressive” there is nothing “Progressive” about the ideals these people push on the public but are actually regressive thinking.
So when I see a liberal, I just replace that word with leftist because once they start talking that’s exactly where they are coming from… Karl Marx.
Karl Marx, one of the, among other things, outspoken critics of labor oppression?
As long as you aren’t invoking Karl Marx as a proxy for blanket collectivist ideology..
I’m just unclear on where the principle of “Liberal” (from Liber meaning free) get’s it’s force? That is, do the Liberal and Leftist differ only in who they look to to enforce the idea of liberty? Because again, you seem to pigeon whole Marx as simply a collectivist, ignoring the complexity of reconciling his, for certain, collectivist sentiments, with his views on alienated labor and the individual.
I think we could agree that those on the “Left” look to the government to enforce liberty. But to where do Conservatives look? Who would some argue that freedom is a starting point, allowed to individuals through the “natural state of things.”
“Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” -Genesis 11:7
The best way to see why “Liberal” is a dead word is to read this book “The Road to Serfdom” by F.A. Hayek.
Socialists, Marxists, Fascists, Communists, Anarchists they own that word now.
The last true liberals I’d say are the classical liberals. What we are dealing with today… the current Liberal thought pushes these ideals mostly Socialism but GIVEN enough time Socialism evolves into some sort of authoritarian or totalitarian form of governing.
As with Hayek’s book, the more Socialists push for central economic control the more liberty and freedom it costs the individual. Whoever controls the economy controls life itself.
So the only thing Liberal about a Liberal… well maybe gay rights but beyond that if you follow the current Liberal thought and you are on the road to economic destruction and the end to liberty itself.
I’ve live in a state dominated by Liberal thought for the past 30 years… economically we are dead and awaiting bankruptcy.
Maybe I’m a crack pot… but how about this… just watch all those nice Liberal Socialist countries of Europe… when they finally go bankrupt let’s see which way they go… let’s see how many dictators pop up.
Time will tell, and we’ll probably be around to see if I’m right or wrong about this.
The only way to save the U.S.A. is to elect Constitutional Conservatives, and Libertarians into office… Keep going Liberal and we are doomed.
Finally, a Bible quote that makes sense.
This was an interesting thread of conversation, but has devolved into a discussion of what different words represent. Who cares? The words do not control our destiny, our decisions, or our thoughts. They are a shorthand for communication, little more.
Let us discuss… no, let us converse on the topic of “what are the best aspects of governance?”, “what is the right use of government?”, and other such larger minded topics.
Collectivism, for example, is not an evil, in and of itself. I like my library and parks, and I don’t want them “privatized”. The concept of collectivism extended to all aspects of life – negating the right to any private property – is a means of misappropriation, and is wrong. But don’t throw the baby out with the bath-water by saying that sharing for the common good is evil.
I’ve been searching for years, but haven’t found a single “ism” that works coherently to fit not only the principle that hard work should be rewarded, and that we should take care of each other, as we are one large family, for better or for worse. I ask that those who are taking the time to peruse this thread, or others like it, try to formulate the words themselves, without resorting to “just follow the Constitution” or other such platitudes.
We need a new “ism”, that pulls together the best of what works from each of the others (such as the collectivist idea of libraries and parks). Pure capitalism worked great for us – when we had frontiers that provided a nearly unlimited range for the bold to explore and exploit, bringing great progress and wealth, as well as some challenges that weren’t handled as well as they could have been.
Nowadays, though, we don’t have those frontiers, and capitalism no longer provides a fair shot to those willing to work hard, as the rich have a strangle-hold on the resources. How do we reconcile this with our notion of freedom, and our ideal that through hard work, we should all be able to rise up? That’s no longer true, but I’m not comfortable with “spreading the wealth” either. What’s a better way?
But, in any case, for crying out loud, stop arguing about the etymology of words related to principle.
I feel your frustration Cloutier, and would be pleased to move on towards your line of investigation, but when loaded words are thrown around without clarity, precision, it invites confusion, misunderstanding, etc.
Not to mention, the original post was about a word, and it’s meaning, aka, Conservative.
And then you yourself say we need a new “ism.” Might that new “ism” be a, who knows, word?
I think that the best indication that the term liberal is dead is that liberals ran away from it a couple of decades ago and resurrected the term progressive. (which by the way would likely horrify many of the turn of the century progressives) If liberals won’t even claim the word liberal, it has to be dead. I think though that Willson’s point that conservative is not a dead term, that it still has a common meaning to many and that a conservative should not flee from or abandon the word merely because it has been denegrated by party politics and misconstrued by the media is quite right.
Okay here you go some Conservative truth;
I don’t want to be part of a collective I’m an individual and it’s through individual liberty and freedom that started here in the U.S. of A that created the fastest advance of human society in modern times.
I’m glad you enjoy public parks and stuff like that. I’d gladly donate my money and even my free time as long as it involves my free will to decide to do so! If you force me to take part against my free will then I object to that.
As far as Capitalism being fair!
It’s not supposed to be fair… all you should be given in an opportunity… do people who have more wealth have more of an advantage yes they do. But in a proper Capitalist system I should have the opportunity to compete with those wealthy people to try… I may even find a wealthy investor to help me… that’s what a true Capitalist system is all about.
We no longer have Capitalism… we have Crony Capitalism, where large corporations make deals with elected officials to regulate and restrict competition in order to control markets.
Don’t blame Capitalism when you have a government bent on central planning and a managed market economy.
So enjoy your collectivism now because when the federal government goes broke… and if it trickles down and takes out your State and Local government, that park you love so well will probably get sold to pay the bills for the “entitlements that have gone wild!”
Or… It may be bought by the Chinese company and made into a private recrational.
Collectivism is nothg more then the theft of other peoples hard earned money.
Mr. Savoir (I have a funny feeling this is a ‘subtle’ and ‘loaded’ pseudonym),
You are doing a good job of rehashing Fox News talking points. For one: “Just like the word ‘Progressive’ there is nothing ‘Progressive’ about the ideals these people push on the public but are actually regressive thinking.” I’m always utterly mystified when I hear this from people claiming to be conservatives… hearing, in other words, “conservatives” trying to claim “progressive” for themselves and deny it to “liberals” as though “progressive” were a praiseworthy label or being progressive were somehow a good thing.
“This was an interesting thread of conversation, but has devolved into a discussion of what different words represent. Who cares? The words do not control our destiny, our decisions, or our thoughts. They are a shorthand for communication, little more.”
You do realize that we think, talk, and write with words? You understand that our laws are written in words, our beliefs are expressed in words? That every truth is expressed in words, and so is every lie?
Words do, in reality, control our decisions and our thoughts…. because… >>>you can’t have thoughts if you don’t have words.<<< Go ahead, try having a thought without words. Tell me about it.
You can have emotions and feelings, but so can a dog, and I haven't seen dogs "controlling their destinies" or making well-reasoned decisions or defending the truth.
The only truth we get comes in words. Muddled words, muddled thinking, muddled truth: they are inseparable.
Possibly very true, but I’d be curious how, again, you would respond to my question. If we do away with any form of collectivism what so ever, cut out from society like a cancer, what forces would you look to for securing liberty?
We know that there needs to be a government to enforce laws. Is that not a form, no matter how weak, of collectivism?
On a further point, there is pretty broad consensus that without any interference, all free markets eventually reach a stable state of monopoly, how would you address that?
I m sure that everyone who has written here is more familiar with Robert Nisbet than me. Nevetheless, I detect from time to time some confusion regarding the differences between conservative and libertarian views. I just recently read an essay on the differences and although it is a bit dated, would recommend it.
“Conservatives and Libertarians: Uneasy Cousins”. Modern Age (Winter 1980). http://www.mmisi.org/ma/24_01/nisbet.pdf.
Sorry but I dont know how to make it an active link to this message.
Just a question for the Conservatives arguing for “free market” Capitalism here:
Where exactly do you get off portraying Capitalism as a system of free choice? I often hear paleo-conservative types speak of Capitalism as some sacred free choice ideology that unfortunately keeps getting violated by the government. However, the rise of the modern nation-state in history is inextricably linked with the rise of Capitalism. The Big Government you all complain about, the very same one that is often accused of violating the supposed sacredness of free market Capitalism, is in fact a historical product of Capitalism. Not only that, but it seems very clear to me that Capitalism actually likes Big Government. After all, Capitalist interests originally envisioned the welfare state, the military-industrial complex, and financial regulation. Capitalists called for these things in the 1950s when they still remembered the Great Depression, and they called for their destruction in the 1980s once it was a distant memory.
At the end of the day, State Capitalism is the most successful form of Capitalism. State Capitalism allows Capitalism to force itself on other cultures, organize politically to defend Capitalist interests, and to temporarily slap band-aids on Capitalism’s errors. State Capitalists aren’t ex-Capitalists who were corrupted by eating the fruit of Big Government, they’re the best Capitalists there are. In any case, they’re obviously better at being Capitalists than you free marketers are. They definitely make more money!
Now don’t get me wrong, I despise State Capitalism just like I find Capitalism at large abhorrent. However, at least the State Capitalists understand that Capitalism is about making money and protecting that money, while you free market types are left crying and whining because everybody else keeps violating some supposed “essence” of Capitalism that we’re morally obliged to follow!
Mr. Perkins… now that is boarder line offensive that is my real name, half my family is from Belgium that’s where Savoir comes from along with surviving two world wars, check out a French dictionary… And in my case it’s Flemish… Maybe Perkins is a fake name?
Now… as for Fox news, because of the lack of completion of cable companies in the state I live in I refuse to pay extortion rates for 300+ channels that show the same old shows over and over… Internet, XM radio, and books… I hate T.V. so give Fox a break… all I need to know about economics for example is from Hayek, Mises, Hazlitt… so before FOX there were books…
A weak form of collectivism… okay I’ll give you that one, the weaker the better and only for basic public services.
“On a further point, there is pretty broad consensus that without any interference, all free markets eventually reach a stable state of monopoly, how would you address that?”
The key to that question is the PROPER way to regulate… Regulation to promote competition and a judicial system that is designed to deal properly with those issues… Monopolies form because of lack or elimination of competition.
The major problem today is that current lawmakers don’t follow Adam Smith or any Austrian economic theory… They make a law or a regulation to help a select group of people not take into account the overall long term effects that regulation has on the overall public or the long term economy for that matter…. Sometimes horrendous results happen decades later, as we are witnessing today.
The best thing I could say is read Hazlitt, and Hayek… They’ve been warning us not to go down this road for decades if they were alive today I’d love to hear them say “I TOLD YOU SO!” They can explain much better than I can on the “natural law” way of economics.
I do think that the radical individualism that most libertarians and free market folks believe in seems to feed into “Big Government” by destroying all the intermediary bodies of association and authority between government and “the individual.” But I’m afraid you might be mistaking correlation for causation in suggesting that free market Capitalism created “Big Government.” It is, I believe, the emphasis on individualism that necessitates the ungodly bureaucracy of our administrative state.
Capitalism and “Big Government” do indeed get along, but Capitalism is not synonymous with free markets and, indeed, they are often in tension with one another. I tend to support the latter (though I do not believe in markets in the way that Austrians and libertarians do, nor do I subscribe to the philosophical concepts of those camps); I tend to oppose the former.
My apologies (sincerely!). Savoir being a French (or Flemish, though I did not know that) verb that means to know or be familiar with (I think), it just sounded a little too euphonic, a little too fitting to be real. I meant no offense, and you are fortunate to have such a surname. Mark Perkins is my actual name (though I am not the one running for mayor of Tulsa).
I have not read Hazlitt. I like Hayek to an extent. I do not like Mises.
I certainly agree that our lawmakers are short-sighted and selective. Part of the solution, I believe, is a true federal system with competing bodies of authority and, above all, with limits, but it’s very hard to run for Senator or President on a platform of passing the buck to state, local, and non-government authorities, isn’t it?
Again, apologies for what I realize came across as a dig at your name. No offense was intended–it’s just a very fitting last name for an Internet forum!
LOL… Apology accepted!
I don’t understand the dislike people have for Capitalism, how long has it been since Europe has practiced true Capitalism and true free markets. How has Europe benefited from current socialist policies? Except for a few countries Europe is on the verge of collapse… Even Marx understood the need for socialism and capitalism to exist together in order for Socialism to feed off the other.
Capitalism creates wealth… Socialism destroys it!
People condemn Capitalism for not working when it was only properly practiced for a brief period of human existence.
All the problems we have today have to deal with control… Control over the economy, and control over the individual by a government that naturally wants to grow and always needs more power… Capitalism and free markets are not the villain the desire to control it is.
As I said if you can control the economy you control life itself.
Until about 100 years ago… They United States did it right… now we are socialist and were going to go down the tubes just like Europe will.
As I said before… when I was a kid 30 years ago my state was an economic power house… drive down the highway and nothing but factories… 30 years of liberal socialist control here and now they are empty and rusting, our standard of living is dropping and our state is on the verge of bankruptcy… socialism destroys wealth, destroys personal initiative, creates an nanny entitlement state that feeds off others until they run out of money. Kill off Capitalism and free markets and you cut your own throat.
And the funny thing is you really can’t kill Capitalism… it just turns into a black market that’s practiced under the nose of big government.
“As I said before… when I was a kid 30 years ago my state was an economic power house… drive down the highway and nothing but factories… 30 years of liberal socialist control here and now they are empty and rusting, our standard of living is dropping and our state is on the verge of bankruptcy…”
It’s also probably because the rest of the world caught up and started manufacturing the things those factories did for much cheaper.
[…] at The Front Porch Republic, John Wilson has a wonderful essay titled “Why I am a Conservative.“ It has a very precise statement that is dense with historical flora and philosophical […]
NO! I’ll say it again it’s because my state legislation has been dominated for 30 years with people who are bound and determined to redistribute wealth have chased out business’s through over taxation and burdensome regulations… add to that the high cost of labor unions… I said before in order to be competitive YOU HAVE TO HAVE REGULATION AND POLICIES TO ENCOURAGE COMPETITION NOT RESTRICT IT.
You want to destroy an economy all you got to do is embrace socialist policy’s… but I forgot Capitalism is evil and making profit is too… and we should all do what’s best for the collective (for the social good)… we only exist to work, and pay taxes to support the state not to improve our lives by increasing our own personal wealth.
Here’s another one… I should take a movie of my city and drive through and show all the closed up small businesses… Just 3 years ago these were occupied by people who had a dream.
Just 2 books to read… they say it all “Economics in one lesson” by Henry Hazlitt… And “The Road to Serfdom” by Hayek.
I laughed when I heard this one… There is a professional basket ball player Lebron James… I guess he’s’ a free agent now. I don’t know how many offers he’s had but so far I’ve heard of 2, one to play for a team in New York… One from a team in Florida.
Now… New York has an 8% income tax… if he picks that team he will have to pay 8 million dollars in income tax.
If he picks Florida he pays 0 income taxes.
I’m sure if he moves to Florida and buys a nice home there that Florida will benefit somehow, (property Taxes and fairly low ones at that.)
So if you were Mr. James where would you go? And if he doesn’t go to New York I guess that makes him an evil Capitalist.
Same for a Business… they will go where ever it is best to make a profit!
You want a sure way to destroy an economy… put a Socialist in charge!
Well as far as Lebron goes, I’m sure where he ends up playing will have little to do with the income tax level, and much more to do with how many talented players the team has, their chances of a championship run, etc.
Which get’s at a larger point of money not being the end all of people’s choices. So New York has an 8% income tax, they also have a huge metropolitan city, with lots of other companies, legal firms, investment firms, etc. If Lebron were a company, he might think, hey, New York might be more expensive, but look at all the added benefits of the location, proximity to other business/potential clients, and so on. Indeed it is probably much easier to recruit some of the brightest talent when they will be relocating to the Big Apple than somewhere else potentially less exhilarating.
This isn’t to endlessly praise NY, with all of it’s problems, but just try to point to all of the complexities involved in human decision making and what goes into it besides greed (also, I’m sure 8 mil is a drop in the bucket to Lebron, as it would be to most large fortune 500, making it a small price to pay if there are other aspects of the location which yield benefits far out waying the annoying tax).
John, you started out superb when i studied under you back when dinosaurs (and saints) walked the earth and, remarkably, you manage to keep surpassing yourself. put your definition of a conservative in a frame next to Dr Kirk’s and they make a complementary pair. you are an old sword, beautifully crafted at the forge, ever keeping its keen edge and always there to defend home, hearth and values. thank you.
Greed is not a bad thing, and gets a bad rep from the have not’s.
Let’s see where he goes… Let’s see if you’re right the quality of the players or the cash or the so called benefits and opportunities of a dying state… I’m going o place my bets on the “cash” and not the quality of the players, after all they are all professionals… Maybe he’d rather donate that 8 mill to charity instead of New York?
But if what you say is true, if a state like New York still has benefits I would assume this would apply to wealthy people also, then that does not explain the exodus of rich people moving out of New York City. After all they must be wealthy enough to deal with raising taxes… it should be nothing but a drop in the bucket for them too.
From the New York Post:
New Yorkers are fleeing the state and city in alarming numbers — and costing a fortune in lost tax dollars, a new study shows.
More than 1.5 million state residents left for other parts of the United States from 2000 to 2008, according to the report from the Empire Center for New York State Policy. It was the biggest out-of-state migration in the country.
The vast majority of the migrants, 1.1 million, were former residents of New York City — meaning one out of seven city taxpayers moved out.
“The Empire State is being drained of an invaluable resource — people,” the report said.
Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/item_qb4pItQ71UXIc0i6cd3UpK#ixzz0sXBD6pam
And this New Jersey;
NEWARK, N.J. — Wealthy people are moving out of New Jersey.
A study by the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College was commissioned by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce.
While other studies have examined migration of people with high incomes, this is the first to look at wealth.
It finds that between 1998 and 2003, there was a net gain in state wealth of $98 billion. Between 2004 and 2008, there was a net loss of $70 billion due to the affluent moving away.
Chamber of Commerce chairman Dennis Bone says the study shows that taxes that have risen for high earners in recent years are driving some of them away.
The study finds the migration of money hurts charitable giving and state tax revenue.
(oh those evil rich people give to charities)
Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/study_the_rich_are_leaving_new_jersey_a5E4Ti0z6CxWelbf6nGwOL#ixzz0sXBfWvdq
There’s hope for New Jersey… but for STATES being run into the ground by socialists, we’ll get to see who is right… I’m betting on California to go bankrupt first… Oh and L.A. the largest U.S. city … yes you guess it… run by socialists will be broke by August.
So let’s see where Mr. James goes, I say NY doesn’t stand a chance in hell and it will have nothing to do with the quality of the players in New York.
If I’m wrong I’ll publicly admit it
Greed is not a bad thing? That kind of statement is an effective way to completely discredited anything you have to contribute. You want a sure way to destroy the world?… Put a greedy capitalist in charge.
Er, that would be “discredit”.
Yes I’m saying that greed is not always a bad thing.
Greed – excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth.
Let’s look at Lebron James… let’s say a basketball team is willing to pay him 100 million dollars to play basket ball. Would you say that’s excessive? Is that more than a person needs to live? Does he deserve that much money? Does Mr. James have the right to substantially improve his standard of living this much?
Now if a Owner of a team is willing to pay Mr. James 100 million dollars for let’s say a two year contract he’s free to do just that… and who are we to judge Mr. James for taking that offer… and what gives us the moral right to do so… Would we refuse such an offer?
Let’s look at another;
So Henry Ford comes up with the idea to mass produce cars. He assembles a team of brilliant people and working together they come up with the idea of the “Assembly Line.”
Henry Ford had a dream, ambition and he amassed enormous wealth and I’m sure he didn’t live a Spartan lifestyle. There is no way he did what he did NOT to earn a profit. We could call him a greedy Capitalist.
What good did Henry Ford do? He paid his people on the assembly line $5 a day… double the wages of standard workers; he had the lowest worker turnover rate in the industry. His idea of the Assembly line was applied to an ungodly amount of manufacturing plants, increasing productivity which drove down prices of goods so that more people can afford them and increasing employment… Not to mention driving down the price of his cars, and the cars themselves increased productivity of other people and other businesses. Henry Ford’s idea raised the standard of living of untold millions of people all over the world. Not bad for an evil Capitalist.
Sure greed can be bad… the quickest example for me that pops to mind are the Boer Wars… A war that was basically fought over the control of South Africa’s gold and diamond mines… a war that created the world’s first concentration camps.
This really all has to do with human nature… there’s good and bad people, good and bad capitalists it’s just easier to see the bad then the good… Look around you I’d bet you’re surrounded by items that somebody made a profit on… do those items make your life easier? Could you live without them?
Now why is socialism evil… because socialism means central (government) control of a country’s economy to control the means of production, control markets and wages in order to control the life of the individual for the (perceived) benefit of the collective good… Control the economy control life itself. Socialism does not take into account human nature or “natural law” of economics… Thus it is always doomed to fail, especially when you run out of other people’s wealth. It does more harm than good to the individual human spirit… and it makes it very hard or almost impossible for the individual to improve their standard of living.
This is just one reason that made the United States unique in the world and so successful was because we were created by the founders and the framers to be the opposite of European forms of government… They tried to make socialism illegal.
THIS IS WHY I’M A CONSERVATIVE!
“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery”
Well the praise of Henry Ford has sucked me back into the conversation. Alas.
Ford is indeed the epitome of the greedy Capitalist, and I say with little hesitation that much of what he did and believed was quite evil. He may have been the single most important figure in the destruction of craftsmanship in America. His assembly line made mass production of all sorts of goods profitable which in turn destroyed the craftsman, the local producer and farmer, and every variant of regional variation. He is the reason why we have McDonald’s and Wal-Mart and any other number of “ungodly” (you picked the write adjective there) faceless corporations instead of locally produced goods. He turned men into monkeys and made oil the all-powerful lifeblood of America. You might even say Henry Ford caused the spill in the Gulf. And, incidentally, the man deeply admired Hitler, a feeling which Hitler reciprocated.
Churchill, by the way, was the major figure alongside David Lloyd George who pushed through the “People’s Budget” of the early 20th-century which essentially created the English social welfare system, including almost-universal health care and unemployment insurance. His entire life he considered its passing one of his greatest achievements. He of course thought that such things were not synonymous with socialism, which is one of the many places where he and contemporary American “conservatives” party ways.
Mr. Perkins I almost agree with you but… I love things made by hand, I do some of that myself and at times I get paid for my services. I’d love to go back to a time were a man can create something with his own hands, make a good living for it.
Look around you man… a single man cannot provide his services on a massive scale… even what I do as a hobby isn’t cost effective for me to do because it takes too much time to do so. Time = Money and people have to make a living.
So individual craftsmanship is dead… but not individual inventiveness and ingenuity… Mom and pop stores can’t compete with wal-mart… then specialize in something that wall-mart doesn’t. It’s simple what the hands can no longer do the mind can and it can only thrive in a free market world.
I read a story about a stay home mom who came up with a baby video for parents, I forgot exactly what the video does, but with some effort, she got her foot in the door and now this video is being sold by major store chaing she started her own baby video company, made millions… Hell I think it was a store chain that competed against Wal-mart.
As for Ford… this is exactly what I’m talking about… so you say what this evil man created and all his inventions did not benefit people in some way besides his evil intentions.… well then It’s hopeless to change your mind and I hope you ride a horse to work.
How about this… do you know any Capitalists that are not evil?
And the B.P. oil spill could have been contained if the current U.S. government accepted help from countries that have oil skimming tankers sitting around doing nothing from day one… That’s more of an issue of incompetance.
I guess Thomas Edison is evil too? Do you make your own candles? Look around you again, how much do you have that’s made from oil.
Give it a break man… If you’re looking for Utopia you’re not going to find it on this earth and it’s not going to be created from some sort of Marxist theory… that would only lead to more misery.
As for Winston Churchill I never said he was perfect and what you point out is true, I just love his quote. Now what you point out is a perfect example of a politician creating something for one group of people out of legislation without considering the impact that law will have on those people who have to have their money confiscated in order to pay for those programs by future generations.
I’ll go back to America’s founders and why the U.S. was intended to be different… They did not believe in entitlement programs at all, and they would never condone that type of legislation that Churchill passed.
Maybe you’d like this one better?
“The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money [to spend].”… Margaret Thatcher
Hey … are we going to get back our money we bailed out Greece with?
Hey wait… Henry Ford liked Hitler… and FDR admired Mussolini… Something to think about.
We have quite a different understanding of the good life and of a healthy society. We’re not likely to sort out our disagreements given those differences.
Still, a few points are worth clarifying in my mind. The idea of craftsmanship is not that of self-sufficiency. Rather, it’s that things are made by craftsman, but a person who can make something well. Nor is it a denial of a market-based society, but it is the concept of a largely local market within your community rather than a global market where even your whole community could not collectively form a tiny part of the market.
Almost no one today can make anything. Ford’s assembly line trained us to be machines until the machines mostly took over. Now we are trained to be bureaucratic memo-writing computers until the computers mostly take over. You want collectivism? Visit a factory, visit the floor of the NYSE, visit a corporate headquarters. I fail to see how assembly lines and bureaucratic corporations do anything but destroy human imagination.
I am well aware of my own addiction to oil. We are all of us crack babies.
I’m not looking for Utopia, and I’m certainly not subscribing to any Marxist nonsense. Those who’ve read far too much Marx or far too much Mises can only think in economic terms. There is more subtlety to the world than a simple decision between Austrian capitalism and Marxist socialism.
And I should mention I like Churchill very much and like that quote. I only mention that the man, who was a lifelong opponent of socialism (and chose to return to the Conservative Party rather than go to Labour when the Liberal Party dissolved), did not think that every element of social welfare was an element of socialism. Churchill, who was a very smart man and was Chancellor of the Exchequer five years running, was not unaware of necessary tax costs of his program–only he felt that the alleviation of the very potent suffering of those crushed under the wheels of that merciless deity Free Market was worth it (incidentally I am always disturbed when I hear Austrian economists like Mises shrug off that suffering as though it were the necessary burnt offering to appease the market).
Holy Cow we have areas in which we agree!
I see our differences, but I think that there are a few things we can think about. Hazlitt has a chapter about the illusion that automation as a bad thing… I don’t see it as a bad thing but I guess we will differ there.
About Craftsmanship… I beg to differ its not dead but it’s been altered… true its not on a massive scale but I believe it still exists. My parents just had their kitchen refurbished and I got to see it for the first time yesterday, the skill and the pride this man and his employees had in their work was incredible… a perfectionist… then he went above and beyond the call of duty to repair work others not as skilled before him. He gave my parents, people of simply means a kitchen that looked like it came out of Home and Gardens magazine… his work even held up to the closest inspection I’d gladly recommend this man to anyone looking to have the same work done.
Now other people are popping into mind… People of business with honesty and integrity who still work with their hands… contractors, jewelers, ect… where I live there is a small apple orchard known state wide for their apple pies and cider, still in business with unmatched quality its taken years but now they even have their pies selling in our national “Big Y” markets… There’s even a push for locally grown organic foods.
Sometimes we can’t see the forest through the trees, and this is what I get so upset over… these people need to flourish and grow and I find bad economic policy by narrow minded politicians’ so destructive.
And this is what Mises and Hazlitt are trying to get at… When a person loses their job do to automation its not a personal thing, its natural order of things… In a thriving free marked economy these people SHOULD be able to find employment fairly rapidly… That’s the problem… when you have an economic crises created by Government policy that restricts and harms free market principles it makes matters worse for people to find new work… This is where we are today… the world Governing bodies and the U.S. included have turned away from free markets for over 100 years now… What we have now is the end result.
I’ve spent half of my life working in factories, yes I’ve seen some that are destructive to the human spirit, absolute meat grinders… some aren’t, it all depends on the management. I’ve seen both, good management, bad management… I’ve been laid off 3 times in my life and it had more to do with bad changing economic policy at the state and federal level. The last 2 factory jobs I loved but no longer exist. The longest I’ve been laid off was one month and had no trouble finding a job except for the last lay off… What I see around me now is absolutely unbelievable massive human misery as half my family and friends are unemployed.… it took 14 months to find a new job from this economic fiasco… Who are still thriving?… Public sector jobs and Labor Unions as the private sector takes a beating… even their days are numbered.
So I turned to Hazlitt, Adam Smith, Hayek, Mises… and to the founders and the framers of the United States to find out why my financial life has been set back 25 years… And yes I am furious, not just at my government but at the worlds governing bodies as a whole… we are watching the greatest destruction of financial capital in the world…. And its going to end in misery.
The key for the common individual is an opportunity to improve our standard of living through liberty and freedom to participate in the free market for our selves… the harder governments restrict us little people to do so… the further down “The Road to Serfdom” we will find our lives… we will exist only to support the state.
I like Winston Churchill… the right man at the right time for the right purpose… imperfections and all.
You’re an okay dude Mr. Perkins… Time for a cookout and maybe a discussion with those who are willing to listen about what July 4th was really about… Who knows maybe one of the 50 states will grow some intestinal fortitude and write a new Declaration of Independence then I’ll even have a place to move to.
I am a Liberal. I don’t understand how letting things to keep on going the way they are now is a good idea. The answer lies in the future. Hell, I’m Social Democrat. Until government and business are properly balanced, things will be bad.
I am a Liberal. I don’t understand how letting things to keep on going the way they are now is a good idea. The answer lies in the future. Hell, I’m Social Democrat. Until government and business are properly balanced, things will be bad.
I’m an EMT and first responder. In some instances, I am paid (indirectly) by FEMA. I always bring “refusal of care” paperwork with me in case a true conservative doesn’t want my help with their injuries.
“To be an American conservative is to believe that first, there is an Order of Creation. Second, that God’s authority has given us an eternal contract between the dead, the living, and the yet unborn. (etc.)”
I don’t see how any of this follows from the wonderfully simple definition of “conserving” given earlier in the article: “knowing what’s important and trying to save it.” If a conservative is one who believes in conserving, why must he, if he is an American, be bound to conserving the particular things that Mr. Wilson lists.
On a related note, I find the explication of the opposition of conservative and progressive quite elegant, but I don’t really see how the two are incompatible: why can’t one seek to know & try to save what is good and important and, at the same time, also seek to change what is bad? Rob’s addendum seems to go a ways to explaining this, but to say that humans are inherently flawed and imperfectable does not imply that they are unimprovable. Indeed the fact, which most people on this thread seem to take for granted, that human society can get worse seems to imply that it can also get better. Otherwise, we are assuming that there was some ultimate, as-perfect-as-it-gets society in the past, and that everything since has been decline. This just seems kind of an unconvincing premise. To say that nothing good can be created or discovered is as strange as to say that everything created or discovered is good.
But if we accept this, we are left with a problem: how do we know what is to be kept and what is to be changed. This, it seems to me, is the problem that pure conservatism (i.e. the doctrine that we should seek only to conserve and not at all to progress) is trying to duck. But I don’t think you can duck it. To assert that the best possible moral order is already known makes as little sense as to assert that no moral order is possible and everyone should do whatever the heck they want.
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