Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Conservative Failings

I'm going to take it a break with criticizing "progressives" for a little, particularly Lothar - he's been great to talk with, but I think I'm rattling him by pounding on this topic, and really I don't want to sound like a broken record anyway. So let me explain something in greater detail that I've meant to go over in the past: what I see as the principle sins of conservatives.

I want to stress here, though, that conservatives - I have in mind here low-tax, small-government conservatives in the broad sense - are subject to a different spread of failings than "progressives", practically by necessity. The conservative, in virtue of opposing an expanding government, of wanting minimal at best state intervention in people's lives and livelihoods, is generally not going to be prone to pushing their way into people's lives.

Note the 'generally' - yes, I'm well aware that some people can interpret 'regulations against killing unborn children' as intervening in people's lives. Yes, I understand conservatism-in-practice - namely self-described 'conservative' legislators - are subject to moral panics, such as "protecting" kids from violent video games and so on. Those same legislators also have a habit, shared by "progressives", of wanting to rush headlong into global adventures and wars - even if they differ on just what particular bits of entanglement they favor. Again, I'm not going to ignore the fact that I am speaking in terms of generalizations.

But at the end of the day, I think it's fair to size up conservatism as a perspective oriented towards limited government services, and leaving people - including large corporations - alone. A mass shooting won't stir the conservative to think about limiting gun ownership, the existence of people without health insurance won't have them hatching plots to get the government to foot that bill, poverty is not a problem for the government to solve... the list goes on.

And it goes on for good reason. They resist the introduction of state services that make individuals servile, sapping their spirit - a danger FDR himself mentioned, but which few people seem to be aware of. They understand that government is absolutely not immune from corruption, from favoritism, from spying on its citizens. And they also understand that historically - again, something people forget - one of the biggest threats to human life has been government. You know, that thing that's thrown its citizens into gulags, ovens, and idiotic wars? They're a little hesitant about granting it power, making it omnipresent in day to day life.

Besides - the government doesn't get its money or its manpower from the sun. It gets it from the people - it taxes, it takes. And whatever can be accomplished by taxing can be accomplished by individuals, right? They can form organizations, work in groups, found hospitals, start charities - people can take it upon themselves to voluntarily give up their money and their time, and encourage other to do the same thing. If such things really matter to them.

There's the obvious weakness - conservatives, particularly the politicians, spend practically zero time encouraging and promoting charity in any big way. When the conservative position is that government should be small, and that charity should be performed voluntarily by individuals... the absence of public promotion of charity is pretty glaring. And I want to be clear what I mean here - obviously not 'getting the government to fund these charities'. Rather defeats the purpose. I'm talking about visibly promoting charities, teaming up with organizations that really are going out there and feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, helping people out.

It doesn't have to be the way I'm proposing, but the fact remains - conservatives don't really pursue a public image of charitable association. At best, it is something they engage in at times, and yes I'm aware that many conservative organizations (churches, and so on) have charity arms, engage in charitable causes. But it's not front and center - it's not made into a core, visible principle of conservative philosophy. It is ultimately invisible in a lot of ways. And the result is that whenever 'health care' or 'poverty' or anything else gets brought up, conservatives come across as the party of "no", but without so much as an alternative in mind. Despite there being a clear alternative for conservatives, particularly Christians.

I can imagine all kinds of reasons for it. Not wanting to 'politicize' a charity is probably first and foremost - many charities probably don't want to be associated with one political party or another. Of course, there's flat out 'failure to give to charity'. But at the end of the day, the problem is that the generalized conservative has a certain way to approach the world, a certain kind of answer to problems... but this action, and these answers, doesn't get discussed or promoted.

Particularly for a Christian, I think the conservative approach to the world has to be paired with an increasing public advocacy of individual, voluntary action. Note that conservatism doesn't stand or fall based on the success of these actions - but the attempt really strikes me as important, and all too often, lacking.

16 comments:

lotharlorraine said...


Hello Crude.

There are lots of good points you made here.

It is disconcerting to see respectful atheists saying that their use of a moderate rhetoric just lies in their own temperament.

I am sure there are nice progressive Christians who are like that and I completely oppose this, for one ought to combat injustice wherever one sees them.

You also deserve a complete response on this post as soon as possible.

In the mean time, I just wrote a post CRITICIZING the liberal agenda:


Gender equality and the liberal agenda.

I hope that reading it will show you that progressive Christians are not all the same: some of us are more than a good cop, we are criminals in our own right :-)

Since I have been criticizing a lot Conservatives, I think it is only fair I should begin exposing the flaws in political liberalism.


Cheers.

The Deuce said...

Hey Crude, I agree, and I think this is very important.

Another aspect to this is that conservatives really do give a lot of charity already. They just don't like to talk about it much.

To a degree, there is some justification of this. You don't want to be seen as humble-bragging about your acts of charity, or much of the virtue is removed from it.

But, this needs to change nevertheless, I believe, for the good of everybody. Leftists with totalitarian impulses truck in the perception that if they aren't allowed to create some coercive monstrosity, people are simply going to be left in the lurch to fend for themselves. It NEEDS to be publicized more loudly that there is a lot of charity available from the people who oppose those programs, and that conservatives oppose those programs because they want to give *more* charity.

I think the message needs to be carried by our political representatives. They should publicly praise their constituents for their charitableness on a regular basis, they should often call on the American people to give even more, and when opposing some program and talking about "putting more money back in people's pockets" they should follow it up with "so that we can share even more with those of us who are less fortunate" or something to that effect.

The association between conservatism and charitableness should be pounded constantly. The secular Left is constitutionally incapable of competing with us in this regard, so it's an advantage we can press for as long as we want, if only we start pressing it.

Crude said...

Lothar,

Did you mean to comment on a different post? The good cop one, maybe? Not that I mind the miscategorization if so, just making sure.

Deuce,

I agree. What worries me is that I'm not sure this sort of change is even on the map for conservatives, not really in their minds. I think it's a blind spot they're... well, blind to. So that's a difficulty.

Gyan said...

I think the bigger failing is to put out of mind the "Destruction" part of "Creative Destruction".

American conservatism is misnamed.
How can conservatism be compatible with celebration of entrepreneurship?

Properly speaking, State Welfare should go only for deserving poor.
While Charity serves undeserving.
So Welfare and Charity complement each other and both are required.

Crude said...

How can conservatism be compatible with celebration of entrepreneurship?

Because conservatism culturally celebrates individual initiative and commitment, which the entrepeneur tends to represent in one powerful form.

So Welfare and Charity complement each other and both are required.

The state is the worst possible mechanism and agent for deciding who is and isn't the "deserving poor".

Gyan said...

Before celebrating anything, the conservatism should conserve what is worth conserving.

Otherwise, you have the ruin of culture and family midst of great achievements of entrepreneurship.

This disregard of the Polis is the problem. Conservatism does not believe, contra pre-Enlightenment, that the Polis is an irreducible level of human organization. The conservatives seeks to reduce ALL to the individual.

The American conservatism is illustrated and virtually defined by Dostoevsky's Dream of the Crystal Palace--the building up of society on rational principles.

Gyan said...

The Bible is full of exhortations to kings to care for and make provisions for widows, orphans, and the strangers.

The Catholic Social Teaching obliges State to provide for the deserving poor as well.

Crude said...

The Bible is full of exhortations to kings to care for and make provisions for widows, orphans, and the strangers.

I'll be sure to let the kings know. In the meantime I've got entrepeneurs, voting citizens, and a country where even the poorest people typically live in conditions that King David only wishes he lived in.

The Catholic Social Teaching obliges State to provide for the deserving poor as well.

I'm going to need more than that to be concerned.

The conservatives seeks to reduce ALL to the individual.

No, the conservative seeks to minimize government, which in turn necessarily leaves the individual alone. Individuals can damn well choose to cooperate and assign themselves to groups as they choose, and often do exactly that.

But not with the boot of the state on their throats.

The American conservatism is illustrated and virtually defined by Dostoevsky's Dream of the Crystal Palace--the building up of society on rational principles.

This really sounds like a fantastical bogeyman dreamed up by people who desperately want the world to be as black and white as possible.

I stress repreatedly that I speak of 'progressives' in terms of generalities, and that there exist plenty of exceptions and different strands of thought, even if an overriding pattern obtains. You should try that style of thinking.

Gyan said...

Consider the current hysteria over Eich and KickStarter cases and boycott of certain businesses.

Conservatives are crying ruin of free speech, even though the cases involve private entities. And wasn't it a conservative idea that corporations are amoral entities that are and should be solely concerned with profits and maximization of shareholder wealth?

The conservative delusion is that all questions can be resolved through normal political processes (in which I include judicial processes). The history shows otherwise. Some questions, slavery and national self-determination aka sovereignty ARE pre-political. They must be a matter of consensus BEFORE normal political process can commence.

Other pre-political questions are abortion and marriage and whether the country should be communist or Islamic or Catholic.
In theory, conservatives believe that marriage is pre-political. Then, it is illogical of them to process marriage through political processes i.e passing Amendments and propositions etc.


I believe that a nation is DEFINED through its pre-political consensus. That is, its truisms that virtually all citizens share in. And it is a revolutionary change, and not a normal political change when this consensus changes. So you are trying to combat revolution through politics and this is not a very hopeful endeavor.

Gyan said...

Another current example of conservative delusion--Academic freedom.

Forgetting that this slogan was first devised to decimate the Christian character of ancient universities.
Weren't atheists called Free-thinkers in 19C?

Crude said...

Conservatives are crying ruin of free speech, even though the cases involve private entities.

They clearly mean 'free speech' in a sense other than constitutional - which just goes to illustrate that conservatives' concerns go beyond the strictly legislative.

And wasn't it a conservative idea that corporations are amoral entities that are and should be solely concerned with profits and maximization of shareholder wealth?

'Solely concerned with profits and maximization of shareholder wealth'? No. You're talking about the conservative view of a model of the corporation in the abstract. They also go on to say that individuals ultimately make choices about how to run their businesses and their companies, and that they can in fact run them in 'good' ways and 'bad' ways. The difference is that they don't think a 'bad' way should automatically be an 'illegal' way.

The conservative delusion is that all questions can be resolved through normal political processes (in which I include judicial processes).

I believe you're thinking of "progressives". Conservatives are the ones who think that some problems are best solved by utterly non political processes.

So you are trying to combat revolution through politics and this is not a very hopeful endeavor.

Try reading what I said instead of desperately fighting the conservative phantoms.

Seriously, Gyan, one of the biggest tipoffs to me that you have a terrible approach to these discussions is that you dictate all terms. It is beyond rare for you to so much as ask a question, ask for a clarification, preface your statements with 'If this is the case, then that is the case' sort of language. And once again it's leading you into attacking ideas and concepts that have nothing to do with what I wrote.

Crude said...

Forgetting that this slogan was first devised to decimate the Christian character of ancient universities.
Weren't atheists called Free-thinkers in 19C?


If 'academic freedom' decimated the character of some Christian universities that bought into it, it was with the supposed promise that no particular set of ideas would be favored over others - in which case it makes complete sense to point out when 'academic freedom' is being abused in the other direction.

Gyan said...

"the conservative seeks to minimize government"

Why have the govt then?
Suppose, as libertarians argue, it is possible to have private provision of national security and justice, then is the State redundant then?

Gyan said...

"Academic freedom" is not being abused. The sole point of "Academic freedom" was to decimate the Christian character of universities.

I am afraid you display the very typicality I am pointing out. You are not thinking of it as a war but civil disagreement among friends which can be resolved with talking and being civil and polite.

But it is a no-holds-barred war as we were promised in the scriptures.

Gyan said...

This is from NRO today
"(the conservatives) must adopt a sense of urgency in order to prevent irreparable damage to the concept of a nation where people are free to pursue their dreams without interference — as long as they are not harming others."

I submit that this is not quite going to combat the revolution that the Left has unleashed.

I regard the libertarians and the progressives as two wings of a common idea. The idea being that man is not a political animal that is, nations is an illusion.

Crude said...

Why have the govt then?

Because not every decision is necessarily a matter of going to an absurd extreme?

Suppose, as libertarians argue,

Provide me with a libertarian who argues that A) this is possible and B) this would be a good thing.

You are not thinking of it as a war but civil disagreement among friends which can be resolved with talking and being civil and polite.

No, I am thinking of it as a war in practical terms. But in the past, there was an ideal proposed and much talked about that many people believed was to be the case.

Do you really think that everyone who has ever talked about 'academic freedom' was a liar?

I submit that this is not quite going to combat the revolution that the Left has unleashed.

It's a single line from a shitty online mag - what kind of firepower do you expect it to have? It contains the germ of an idea that can be rolled out in a variety of ways.

I regard the libertarians and the progressives as two wings of a common idea.

Please don't tell me you equated 'conservative' with 'libertarian' in my post. Better yet, that you equate 'libertarian' with 'Ayn Rand objectivist'.