Friday, October 13, 2006

what it means to be a conservative

Jane Galt has a list of what it means to be a conservative - with the disclaimer:
I'm not one, really; I'm a kind of fuzzy soft-communitarianish libertarian. But let me take a hack at it anyway:
  1. Conservatives believe that people should take responsibility for their actions.
  2. Conservatives believe in equality of opportunity, not in equality of result. Conservatives do not want to punish people for the crime of being successful.
  3. Conservatives believe in protecting the lives of the helpless, even when their lives inconvenience other people.
  4. Conservatives believe that the government should treat everyone equally, regardless of their race or gender.
  5. Conservatives believe that people should be allowed to express their faith, and their views on other controversial topics, even when those views make others uncomfortable.
  6. Conservatives believe that each individual is unique and special, and cannot be treated simply as a member of a group. Individuals are only available individually.
  7. Conservatives believe that well intentioned changes often have unintended consequences.
  8. Conservatives believe that people respond to incentives.
  9. Conservatives believe that America is a special nation, not perfect, but with a proud history. People who come to America should feel that that history is theirs, and celebrate their citizenship. They should not have loyalties to foreign powers.
  10. Conservatives believe that victims of crime are more worthy of our concern than the criminals who prey on them.
I think she's being serious.

4 comments:

Don said...

She could be describing textbook, 'classic' conservatism (true paleo-), but certainly not the poisonous mess that exists under that name today (whether neo- or current nominal paleo- a la Buchanan).

I can agree with most of it. Any test I've taken (about a dozen or so, online and off) tends to graph my political position about a tick right of centre, with a decidedly libertarian bent, although on certain issues, I'm solidly left.

That said, as with all 'isms', it's the human element in the execution that usually screws it, and human arrogance that 'permits' us to casually call down devotees to 'isms' other than the one to which we might be committed. God knows we don't need another reason for conflict.

lukery said...

yeah - i still dont have any idea what label i'd give myself - but before this crew came along, i'd have NEVER called myself 'left' - but i'm probably liberal on many fronts, especially social, and also libertarian. heck - if the right wingers hadn't hijacked 'conservative' - i could probably call myself conservative.

i probably ascribe almost automatically to all but #9 in her list - and #9 is a 'lie' by definition - because there are non-american conservatives - but then i also ascribe to the essence of #9

starroute said...

The trouble with her list is the spin. There's very little there that I couldn't subscribe to, given the chance to define it in my own way.

But if "Conservatives do not want to punish people for the crime of being successful" is a covert argument against the progressive income tax, I'm agin it. I go much more with, "Of those to whom much is given, much is expected in return."

Similarly with "Conservatives believe in protecting the lives of the helpless, even when their lives inconvenience other people," which sounds like an anti-abortion position.

Or "Conservatives believe that people should be allowed to express their faith, and their views on other controversial topics, even when those views make others uncomfortable," which slides very easily into an argument for having military chaplains evangelize, or state legislatures evoke the name of Jesus, even to the point where it makes religious minorities feel excluded or at risk of persecution.

Or, "Conservatives believe that each individual is unique and special, and cannot be treated simply as a member of a group," which sounds like an argument against affirmative action.

Or "Conservatives believe that victims of crime are more worthy of our concern than the criminals who prey on them," which sounds like a preference for vindictive rather than restorative justice.

Come to think of it, I guess my problem with much of the list is that it doesn't read like a set of bedrock principles so much as a set of covert justifications for Republican policy positions. It's the psy-ops words like "punish," "inconvenience," and "uncomfortable," as well as the way that "worthy" (=virtuous) subtly morphs into "worthy of our concern" {=requiring close attention), that really bother me.

And that sort of slipperiness, especially when dressed up as, "what it means to be a conservative," makes me very suspicious.

But then, my own sense of conservatism comes mainly out of Edmund Burke -- respect for traditional wisdom, a bias for sticking with what works over change for the sake of change, an emphasis that any change should be organic and grow out of the existing norms of the community affected, and a recognition that communities and community norms are the fundamental building block of human society.

I just don't see much of that among any of the groups that pass for conservative at the current moment -- even the paleocons blow it when they try to insist that present-day America is a highly homogenous white Christian community and blind themselves to the facts-on-the-ground of multiculturalism.

lukery said...

starroute - you are right - the list appears to be full of code-words, which was kind of a surprise to me bc i've read her stuff in the past (infrequently) and i never thought that she was a real hack - but the whole thing is completely hacktacular.

i was tempted to start tearing the list to shreds, but i could see that there was nowhere to stop.

She might as well as just come out and said we like Healthy Forests (Act) and Clean Skies (Act) and Patriot (Act)

I just don't see much of that among any of the groups that pass for conservative at the current moment
for better or worse, conservatives will be able to turn around in the near future and repudiate Bushco and say 'they weren't really conservatives - let's try again'