The Problem with Conservatives

Okay, so before everyone jumps up and asks why I would have this be my first post, let me just say that being able to examine one’s self for weaknesses is an essential trait if one wishes to improve.  I don’t see this as a violation of Reagan’s eleventh commandment. (Not that it’s applicable, since I am not a Republican.)  Mean-spirited criticism is not useful, but careful examination of the problems that arise out of a political philosophy is required to refine that philosophy in order to make it more effective at reaching its goals.

To examine what the problems are, we need to start with the goals of conservatism.  I’ve mentioned a bit about my idea of what conservatism’s goals are (the whole “What is Rational Conservatism” thing), but I’d like to go into a little more detail.  I see the goal of conservatism as being the creation and preservation of a society in which self-determination is not only possible but is seen as the best available option.

Conservatives want to be able to succeed or fail by their own efforts.  They want to be able to use the Puritan work ethic that was present at the Founding of this nation, combined with their intellect and ingenuity, to make a better life for themselves.  They believe in basic fairness.  (We’ll probably discuss distortions of that term in another post.)  They believe in property rights.  They believe that the things they purchase by means of their labor are theirs, and they should be able to determine the manner in which those items are used. (There will likely be a discussion of taxation at a later point as well….)

Because conservatives are not satisfied to simply ask “who is John Galt?” (yes, I’m busy reading Atlas Shrugged at the moment), they take it upon themselves to try to better their lives and the lives of others in the process (with the lives of others being bettered as an externality to the bettering of the conservatives’ own lives).

But this is where the problem arises.

In order to have a society in which conservatives can thrive, there has to be a government that is conducive to such a society.  Without a system of laws, there would not be any protection for property rights, and there would be no guarantee that one could keep that which was bought with labor.  While I have not yet read the two treatises on government, I do agree with the basic tenets.

Government then becomes a question of scope.  Once the government is expanded beyond the protection of property, one must determine what roles it is allowed to play and what roles it is not allowed to assume.  This is where the problem with conservatives arises.

By their nature, conservatives tend to be busy regulating their own affairs.  As such, the majority of their time is spent dealing with market forces, supply chain management issues, and other pesky things that require their attention in order to improve their situation.  In all this, they often neglect one thing: government.

The conservative that wishes to be left alone, and wishes that others would be afforded this same courtesy, is the same conservative that imperils conservatism and the way of life desired.  This is because he (or she, but I’m not going to use the convention of he/she throughout my writing – assume that I mean both genders) generally feels that the government is an external force.  He believes that the government is a deist god, a watchmaker who sets things in motion and stands back.  Of course, a better analogy would be an umpire: one who watches but also intervenes when rules are broken in order to maintain the integrity of the game. (I umpire baseball, and officiate football and wrestling…)

The peril comes in that there are those on the other end of the political spectrum who wish to alter the rules as they go.  They seek an advantage through manipulation of the rules, and if left unchecked, they will often gain said advantage.

For those who use government as a tool to better their lives instead of using their own efforts within the already established set of rules, government is not only the umpire – it is also the pitcher and the catcher.  (Yeah, more sports analogies, sorry.)  The batter would like to simply attempt to hit the ball, but if the other three have suddenly changed the rules, he has little chance of success.

Okay, back to government.  Those on the Left see government as a way to become successful and are therefore more than happy to go into government.  This is how they try to influence society.  The conservative, on the other hand, wants to be left to his (remember, both genders) labors.  The conservative sees working for the government as service, not as a way to profit.

Since public service is something that conservatives would rather not have to do, there are fewer who choose to enter into it.  The problem is that by doing so, they are essentially Cold War Russia, but without the shoe pounding.  The USSR boycotted the U.N. Security Council in the 1950s because of a dispute over representation of China.  When Russia boycotted, they removed the last voice of opposition, and the U.N. went to war with Korea (or at least part of it). When conservatives are reluctant to engage in politics, whether it be at the level of elected office or simply talking with their friends and neighbors and engaging in rational debate, the liberals are able to influence the government for their own purposes, many of which are seen as detrimental by conservatives. (I imagine there will be lots of discussion of that later on as well…)

In the end, I suppose this piece is a call to arms.  (Yes, I support the second amendment, but the call to arms is figurative, not literal.  Don’t have spirited discussions with firearms in sight.  They make liberals nervous, and people don’t think as well when they’re nervous.) I’m asking that conservatives start being more proactive in their involvement, be it in town hall meetings (remember to be polite and reasoned), talking with neighbors (be considerate of others’ opinion and persuade with logic and out of caring for others, not out of superiority), or any other realm in which we might be able to lend our view.  By golly, you could even become a contributor to a blog much like this one.  (Or start your own.  Your choice.) (But I’d rather you help with this one…)

If conservatives fail to speak up, they will lose.  I don’t mean that in the sense of losing a political game.  I mean that we will lose the opportunity to determine our own fates, we will lose the right to keep the things that we have earned through our own efforts.  We will lose the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens, and in turn, we will lose our freedom.  (I’m not trying to be an alarmist, I believe that losing marginally is still losing.)

Whatever method you choose, engage in Rational Conservatism, engage in reason, engage in the society in which you have the opportunity to determine your own fate, and keep it that way.

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About MBABailey

With a background in Linguistics and Literature, and an MBA in Marketing, I enjoy writing stories that make people buy things related to languages. wait...
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6 Responses to The Problem with Conservatives

  1. Dan Trabue says:

    I’m interested in reading more of the posts here. As someone who has been called a “liberal” (I think labels are sometimes unhelpful – I’ve liberal tendencies and conservative tendencies, but I’ll concede the point, generally) by many more conservative types, I’m interested in the thinking of today’s conservatives. I’m also interested in dialog with such folk, as I believe in increasing communication which hopefully will lead to increasing understanding, if not agreement.

    So, where you say…

    Once the government is expanded beyond the protection of property, one must determine what roles it is allowed to play and what roles it is not allowed to assume.

    This seems like a logical starting point. Most folk, I think (founding fathers included) don’t want gov’t to be merely protection of property, but where to from there? Does the state get to decide who can marry whom? Does the state get to decide who consumes what? Is it in the people’s best interests for the state to promote fossil fuel power? Or wind power? Or individual motorists (as opposed to mass transit)? Or vice versa?

    Where and how do we draw lines? Good question.

    Your “problem with conservatives,” then…

    By their nature, conservatives tend to be busy regulating their own affairs… The conservative that wishes to be left alone, and wishes that others would be afforded this same courtesy…

    I suppose you would acknowledge that conservatives who seek to determine what medical procedures can and can’t be used, who can marry who, who can participate in what sexual practices, who can smoke, drink or consume what, etc, that these conservatives don’t come across as being “busy regulating their own affairs,” and seem overly interested in micromanaging the affairs of others – yes? No?

    Which leads back, I think, to what limits should and should not be on gov’t, you think?

    • MBABailey says:

      Hi Dan,
      I’m glad you’re interested in reading more posts here. I would like everyone of all political persuasions to come, see what we have to say, and then evaluate whether they believe the same as we do, or something different. The key is that I want people to think through their positions, and identify their assumptions. Only when we know what our assumptions are can we properly evaluate the validity of our position.
      I actually like labels, so long as they are accurate. There will always be an insufficiency of labels, but the efficiency that they bring is often enough for us to overlook their downsides. This is the way every heuristic works. It does not serve us in all circumstances, but it does in enough that we are willing to use them in most situations, and do so to our benefit.
      The questions you pose on specific issues are valid questions, and ones that I imagine will be addressed in more specific posts down the road. Many of them are issues that are far to complex to be done justice by a reply to a comment. I plan on addressing subsidies, consumption mandates, energy policy as well as issues of personal liberty in future posts. In the meantime, I would caution against lumping conservatives (who bring their own emotion to mix in with the conservative principles), Libertarians, and conservatism, a school of thought rather than a group of individuals.
      Again, thank you for reading. I hope you will continue to do so, as many topics that you seem to be concerned with will be addressed in time.
      Regards,
      JB

  2. Dan Trabue says:

    I actually like labels, so long as they are accurate.

    I agree that labels CAN be helpful as general guidelines or as a referential starting point, but we just can’t place too much stock in them, seems to me.

    For instance, most people would identify me as a liberal, not without some justification.

    I am an environmentalist, I lean towards pacifism or at least “just peace theory” (as opposed to Just War Theory), I am supportive of gay marriage, I support striving for a simple lifestyle, not an opulent one. I read/am a fan of Thoreau, Wendell Berry, John Muir, Helen Keller (self-avowed socialist, did you know?), Rachel Carson, etc. Many commonalities with others who self-identify as Liberal.

    At the same time, I was raised a traditional, conservative Southern Baptist. I am a Christian – faithful to my church, I love the Bible and am quite well-read in it, as well. I’m a devoted husband and father and family man – chock full of family values. I’m a tea-totaler, clean-living kind of a guy. Many commonalities with others who self-identify as conservative.

    Additionally, while I am an environmentalist, it is because of my love for God and because of my desire for personal and societal responsibility and “conservative” living – Does that make me a conservative or a liberal?

    While I support gay marriage, I do so out of a belief in the sanctity and inherent wholesomeness of marriage and because I don’t believe the Bible or God would oppose gay marriage at all. Does that make me conservative or liberal?

    You get my point, I hope. I tend to be rather liberal in my politics, leaning Green Party over Dems and certainly over the GOP, but it is for a deep variety of reasons that I hold these positions, most of which are neither Liberal or Conservative, or perhaps are BOTH liberal and conservative.

    Anyway, all of that to say, thanks for the invitation to read and respond here. I look forward to reading further and perhaps some interesting conversations. Just recognize that while I’m “liberal,” it comes with caveats, as I think is true for most people.

    • MBABailey says:

      Dan,
      the more complex a situation is, the less apt a simple label is going to be. I cannot say if you are, on the whole, liberal or conservative. really, you are the only person who can decide that for yourself.
      I’m less concerned with the label that one puts on themselves as the results of the policies they support. I’m even happy to have people disagree completely with my positions, as long as theirs are arrived at through careful consideration and weighing of the factors involved in arriving at said position, as well as the costs and benefits that flow from them.
      Again, thanks for reading.
      Regards,
      JB

  3. Dan Trabue says:

    I’m even happy to have people disagree completely with my positions, as long as theirs are arrived at through careful consideration and weighing of the factors involved in arriving at said position

    This is a place that I truly believe liberals, conservatives and most others can come together in agreement. Do we want “Big gov’t?” Small gov’t? Well, that depends on the program, generally speaking.

    Speaking for myself, I’m interested in results. IF a prisoner rehabilitation program costs $1 million – $1 million going to help convicted felons!! – that might set off an alarm about a gov’t program I’m not interested in.

    However, IF that same $1 million gov’t program results in reduced recidivism for those prisoners, and as a result, the state (ie, US) SAVES $5 million that went towards housing return prisoners, well then, that investment looks pretty good to me now. And, IF the prisoners who were part of that “big gov’t” program leave prison and – instead of repeating a crime and robbing me, for instance – they instead get a job and become productive citizens, well then that $1 million looks even better.

    Sometimes “Big Gov’t” programs can result in SMALLER gov’t and THAT makes sense. Humanitarian sense as well as fiscal sense.

    I think if we might look at outcomes and measurable results of programs and measure its worth based on that, I think perhaps we might get to where Dems and GOP, conservatives and liberals and maybe even some Libertarians can agree on some issues.

    My problem is not with those who disagree with me, but more with those who aren’t willing to listen to all the options and all the input into an issue. If a person, for instance, merely says, “Nope! Nope! Those are prisoners and it’s their own fault for being where they are – no gov’t money for them!!” and refuse to listen to the whole argument, then those type of folk seem like the ones who’d “cut off their nose to spite their face.” They don’t seem to me to be actually interested in smaller gov’t, but instead are overly tied to a pre-formed agenda.

    But listening to the arguments for any position, and weighing its merits on all factors, this to me seems worthwhile. You think?

    • MBABailey says:

      Dan,
      You seem to be rather interested in our site. I’m glad.
      As to particulars on any given issue, such as spending, please look for future posts that will discuss such things. In order to keep the site organized, I will be compartmentalizing. When a commenter goes too far off the core topic of a post, I will be moderating their comments. Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to stifle discussion, only to keep it organized. I’ve seen many sites that devolve into a shouting match in the comments on topics that were not addressed by the original post. I am going to try to make sure that does not happen on this site.
      Regards,
      JB

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