Saturday, June 18, 2005

The last Conservative value

I don't think it's true that, as this Scottish blogger likes to say, that "cruelty is the last remaining conservative value." That's torqued up a tad bit too high, IMHO. Note that I don't think it's entirely without merit. One can attempt to make an ideology of some elements of conservative thinking by fetishizing them: free markets, law and order, nationalism. To avoid this trap - one that is not unique to conservatives - one has to remember that we value those things because we think they can help people. Our loyalty has to be to people, and not to abstractions:
Conservatism is the property of all, not the simple possession of whoever sits in the Oval Office. Such is the detachment of the free market establishment from the working man and woman, and so ideological are they, that they forget that the working class are some of the most socially conservative people you will find. If you want an advocate for the wearing of school uniform and corporal punishment, you’ll find them working on a production line. Ditto for immigration control, restriction of abortion rights, support for the death penalty, whatever. Archie Bunker and his English father Alf Garnett were crude liberal caricatures of the backbone of productive society. However, the free marketeers do not see these people as fellow citizens whose contribution to economic activity is as vital as their own. Instead, they are viewed merely as ‘labour costs’, untermensch almost, to be expunged from the balance sheet in favour of the option that brings the highest return at the earliest opportunity.
I think his criticism is best directed at some of the libertarian boyz in the big C tent, rather than at the big tent itself. G-Gnome's idea of conservatism is that should be:
a philosophy, not an ideology, that compliments Judaeo-Christian values and does not seek to supplant them; which holds that the life of the individual is sacred wherever it is found, whether it be in the womb , in the hospice or in the illegal immigrant; that holds it is possible to debate the negative aspects of immigration without resorting to race hatred masked as 'eugenics' or 'human biodiversity'; that holds that the possession of private capital is essential to the health of a society, and that the more people possess capital the better as opposed to its being hoarded by governments, ultra-wealthy individuals or legal entities like corporations; that holds that tradition and history should be taught correctly and not abused; that holds that the word 'trade' implies a two-way traffic, which must be of some benefit to both parties; that holds that the citizens of nations are entitled to make their own laws, which are always the best laws by which they could be governed; that holds that governments are only delegates of the people and not their rulers; and which holds that it is possible to recognize the dangers posed by beliefs already coursing the culture without the need to make war against shadow enemies.
Thanks also to the Gnome for the link to this interesting blog.
Postscript This WSJ op ed examines the Liberal counterpoint to the above: Liberal fundamentalsts:
... politics during the presidencies of Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower was waged mainly as politics and not as a kind of religious political crusade. Somehow that changed during the Kennedy presidency. Mr. Kennedy used the force of his personality to infuse his supporters with a sense of transcendent mission--the New Frontier. The emotions this movement inspired coincided with the one deeply moral political phenomenon that postwar America has experienced--Martin Luther King's civil-rights movement. The Rev. King's multiracial civil-rights marches and their role in overturning de jure and de facto segregation in the U.S. were a political and moral achievement. In retrospect, it's clear that the moral clarity of the early civil-rights movement was a political epiphany for many white liberals. Some have since returned to traditional, private lives; others have become neoconservatives. But many active liberals carried along their newly found moral certitude and quasi-religious fervor into nearly every major public-policy issue that has come along in the past 15 years. The result has been liberal fundamentalism.

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