Thursday, May 22, 2008

Basic Conservative Thought

For several years I have struggled to understand the conservative movement in America. While many at this moment in time are sounding the death bell of this movement, it appears necessary to stand back and just think about the very nature of the impulse that causes people to be (or claim to be) conservative. In its main form, conservative thought centers around the role of government in our lives. Its adherents say that we are joined together by the unique writings of the U.S. Constitution and the sum and essence of the principles of that document describe and limit the function of the government, no more and no less. In trying to understand I have reduced the distinction between conservatives and non-conservatives in basic terms. This simplistic reduction says that from the conservative viewpoint, government should stay out of our lives. The government has no right or duty to assist, say, impoverished citizens. The government has no responsibility to bail out farmers whose crops fail. Activist judges do not have the right to divine some "living" meaning within the Constitution that permits a woman to choose between the life or death of her unborn child. The economic market place should be free from regulations so that the basic principles of supply and demand reign free and unfettered. Because that Constitution gives us the right to "keep and bear arms" we can keep a pistol under our pillow or tucked away in a holster somewhere on our person without fearing that the government will take it away or punish us. We can say and do what we want, subject of course, to the requirement that our actions or words don't interfere with the rights of other citizens to do likewise.
The examples given above summarize the slanted nature that the conservative implusle takes in form whereas there are whole areas of governmental involvement that are routinely ignored or exploited by those claiming to be conservative. The people who espouse such views call themselves "neo-conservatives" whereas I think the title 'pseudo-conservative" is so much more appropriate. In this analysis, I contend that a basic conservative principle is the responsibility to accept being held accountable when one's own actions harm another, a principle that is steadfastly ignored by those who espouse so-called conservative values.

As a final thought, one can have some fun planning a campaign for public office. I can imagine such a campaign in which the candidate sets forth an agenda exploiting the basic impulse of conservative thought; "There are too many laws and too many people running our affairs that tell us how to run our lives. If elected I promise to not do a damn thing."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, but Capitalism has strong historical link with LIBERALISM. Thats right, before capitalism if you were not born into the aristocracy you could not legally own property. Even if you were a merchant the ruling elite would tax you heavily to ensure that wealth remains concentrated among the nobility.But thats only the economic element to it. Your post doesnt quite get to the heart of the philosophical basis of conservatism which is the Preservation of inherited priviledge AND maintaining the status quo.