September 1

a brief history of true conservatism

Over the past few centuries, the notions and flavors of conservatism and liberalism have become confused and conflated. The American Revolutionaries, for example, were contemporary liberals, while their adversaries the Tories (or British Loyalists) were conservatives. Today’s conservatives, on the other hand, embrace the American Revolutionaries, whereas today’s liberals probably would necessarily have embraced neither. Since these definitions have been lost in translation, this article will attempt to annotate a brief history of true conservatism and other similar and/or competing ideologies.

Classical liberalism was an 18th-19th century philosophy of general antipathy toward the state which argued for free markets, individual liberty, and natural law. “Liberal” in this historic definition is similar to “liberate” – from the Latin liberalis, “of freedom”. This ideology espoused rebellion against authoritarianism in the manner of John Locke, along with the total laissez-faire economics of Adam Smith. It held a general distrust of governments in light of historical erosions of civil liberties.

Conservatism (in the United States) is in practice a far cry from classical liberalism, though oratorically it is very similar. Mainstream modern conservatism pays lip service to the notion of limited, Constitutional government, but in fact many conservatives only espouse limited government in the areas they choose. Many of today’s so-called conservatives are now pro-big-military, pro-social-intervention, pro-power-state. This clearly contradicts the “limited government” rhetoric; whereas today’s liberals want big government for social programs, today’s conservatives want big government in other places.

Neoconservatism evolved as a result of progressives (Democrats) who, beginning in the 1970s and 80s, infiltrated the conservative (Republican) party in an attempt to shift it to the left on the political scale. Some of their main goals were increased foreign interventionism in defense of Israel and expansion of welfare programs, all in the name of conservatism. They were overwhelmingly successful. 9/11 was the spark that really lit the fire, when Bush declared that the United States should seek to promote liberal democracy around the world as cause for invading Iraq.

Paleoconservatism, on the other hand, is much more consistent on limited, Constitutional government. Paleoconservatives often tend to be religious and carry strong moral sentiments, but being aware of the “slippery slope” are more leery of advocating state intervention into many of these social and moral strata.

Libertarianism evolved as a contemporary approach to classical liberalism, and is sometimes called neo-classical liberalism or neoliberalism. This school of thought was revived by more modern intellectuals and Austrian economists such as Bastiat, Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, and Friedman. The term “libertarian” is typically associated with the United States, as similar movements around the world are known under different labels. It is characterized by a fundamental belief in liberty, and all its tenets flow from that point. Libertarians and paleoconservatives share a lot of common ground, but the former is antithetical to the latter’s preference for state-imposed social conservatism.

The Founding Fathers would be thought of at the time as classical liberals. In today’s terms, this would make them libertarian. Those who insist on invoking the Founding Fathers need to get consistent on their philosophy and embrace real libertarianism. Otherwise they are just regurgitating some flavor of neo- or faux conservatism. If only they knew what is often said and done in their name, the Founding Fathers would be rolling over in their individual (not collective) graves.

 more info

Many of these terms were also discussed in one of my previous posts, ideological definitions.

Recommended reading: dissertation on liberalism.

June 10

cheatsheet for World’s Smallest Political Quiz

The short answer: “Agree” to all! Take the quiz, and post your results and comments below.

Government should not censor speech, press, media or Internet:

ANY government encroachment is always a slippery slope. The state has proven time and again that once they get their foot in the door, they will only open it wider. The First Amendment guarantees recognition of the right to absolute freedom of these mediums, period.

Military service should be voluntary. There should be no draft:

Compulsory military service is an infringement of the individual’s right to freedom. Anything the government enforces involuntarily must be done either directly or indirectly at the point of a gun, with the threat of violence, which is not only immoral but against the spirit of liberty. Besides, anyone forced to do something against their will lacks motivation to perform – and if the people of a country lack the motivation to defend themselves from an impending attack, that country is destined to fail either way.

There should be no laws regarding sex between consenting adults:

There should be no laws regarding ANYTHING between consenting adults. Sex falls into that category. What people choose to do with their own bodies is up to them only – period.

Repeal laws prohibiting adult possession and use of drugs:

Possession and use of drugs harms nobody except possibly the user. As established previously, what people choose to do with their own bodies is their business only. Objectors will point out various crimes and hazards stemming from drug use – these issues only exist because of black markets and would be significantly reduced or eliminated altogether with decriminalization. Personally, I have never once used a single illegal drug, but I will defend anyone else’s right to do so of their own volition.

There should be no National ID card:

The powers that be want to put the means in place to eventually be able to track and control our every move – would never happen on my watch. If it were up to me, I would eliminate the Social Security card too, and go back to the original means of identification which worked just fine: by name.

End “corporate welfare”. No government handouts to business:

I would not give another corporation a single taxpayer dime if my life depended on it. Modern governments seems to be primarily run “by the corporations, for the corporations”. This is called fascism, or corporatism. Governments should not have a single finger in business; if a business is failing, the invisible hand of the market will do its work. A new business or entrepreneur will come in, buy up the assets, and restructure them in a more useful way. This holds true even for “critical” sectors, such as banking (though there are issues there with the FDIC, but that’s a whole new issue).

End government barriers to international free trade:

Absolutely. What products the government restricts in order to “save jobs” for businesses, it restricts the citizen (generally, the “little guy”) from obtaining at better prices. Protectionism helps only the corporations by allowing them to artificially inflate prices, creating monopolies. Market competition, even with other countries, is what equalizes costs and spurs innovation. If an entrepreneur can undercut a foreign industry at a profit, he will do so; otherwise, the citizens are obtaining the product at market price, and the entrepreneur’s attention is best suited elsewhere.

Let people control their own retirement: privatize Social Security:

Government control of the individual’s affairs in any way, including finances, should be called what it is: the Nanny State. Most people can manage their own retirement on a custom basis and much more efficiently than the state as a collective, and if they choose to let it sit in a bank, that is their own prerogative. Besides, Social Security is a complete failure and is nothing more than a tax-and-spend slush fund.

Replace government welfare with private charity:

The government has no business forcing one citizen to pay for another against his will. Objectors will claim that without government welfare, the needy will go unhelped; however, they fail to recognize that everything the government does, it is said to do with the will of the people. This means that if it is the will of the people to give to the needy, they will do so whether or not they are forced, and if it is not their will, the government should not be doing it in the first place.

Cut taxes and government spending by 50% or more:

My ideal solution would be to cut government by 90% or more, but unfortunately this is probably impractical. I would like to go to a “Fair Tax” of 10% (if 10% is good enough for God, it’s good enough for me), end the wars and bring all troops around the world home, defund most executive departments/Cabinets, eliminate basically all unelected bureaucracies, repeal the majority of government regulations and legislation, and eventually privatize all welfare/charity. That is, return to Constitutional government – just for starters.