Remember back in '08 after the republican party got spanked like a hot redhead with daddy issues? The topic making the rounds in the conservative media at that point was how the Republicans needed to get back to 'conservative principals'. This raised a question in my mind, what exactly are those principals? Or more broadly, what exactly is conservatism? That was almost four years ago and I can't say I've come to any sort of a solid answer since.
I get liberals. I think they are misguided fools who don't understand the first thing about human nature or economics, but at least I understand what their philosophy is. They're socialists. Of various flavors and to one degree or another they are socialists. They want to centralize the economy, they want to 'spread the wealth', they want to make everyone equal, even if they must tear down some to do it.
But what is a conservative? What is the philosophy there? What do the individuals pictured above think is the essential nature and purpose of government? They love to throw around words like 'freedom' and 'small government' but how small is their ideal government really? Let's let hear is right from the elephant's mouth:
One of the criticisms I make is to what I refer to as more of a libertarianish right. You know, the left has gone so far left and the right in some respects has gone so far right that they touch each other. They come around in the circle. This whole idea of personal autonomy, well I don’t think most conservatives hold that point of view. Some do. They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues. You know, people should do whatever they want. Well, that is not how traditional conservatives view the world and I think most conservatives understand that individuals can’t go it alone. That there is no such society that I am aware of, where we’ve had radical individualism and that it succeeds as a culture. -Rick Santorum
Doesn't sound very 'small government' to me. The more I listen to conservative media the more I think it's a completely schizophrenic philosophy. On one hand when you have bans on trans fat or seat belt laws they rail against the 'Nanny State' attempting to protect adults from themselves. Then they turn around and support keeping drugs illegal and even some wish to outlaw porn. I don't know what you call a government arresting a grown man for looking at a dirty picture, but I sure as fuck wouldn't call it 'small'.
Another odd thing about them is their imperialism. They rail against the federal debt but the fact is if you are not willing to cut both entitlements AND defense you cannot balance the budget. Not only does the right not want to end our mid-east adventures they actually are drooling over the idea of starting a war with Iran. The main reason conservatives sneered so hard at my man Ron Paul was that he didn't want to bomb brown people. The irony of course is that this 'police the world' foreign policy is actually a PROGRESSIVE one given to us largely by Woodrow Wilson. And not only does the right cling to this progressive foreign policy but they do it with such devotion that they find financial collapse preferable to abandoning it. They actually want to bomb goat herders in the deserts of Iran so much they are OK with bankrupting their grandchildren to do it.
So while I understand what conservative positions are on various issues, I fail to see what is the continuity that binds these positions. What is the basic viewpoint at work here? Author Stanley J. Grentz once described postmodernism as "less of a philosophy and more of a mood", I'm beginning to think that is what conservatism is. It isn't a coherent philosophy on government so much as it is based on the preference of the conservative. A sort of romanticized notion of 'the good old days', a clinging to traditionalism. Its just as much big brother as liberalism, but this big brother is wrapped in the flag and holding a cross. Its not that the outer shell of traditionalism makes their big brother any less dangerous or oppressive, it just makes them more comfortable. It is a question of preference not principal. It is a mood and a reaction, not a philosophy.