Never run with the crowd. They're probably headed over a cliff.

Why Conservatives Fail

The things conservatives say make sense. They really do. Why stand in the way of people who are trying to innovate? Lower taxes on success. Deregulate as much as possible. Give people the tools they need to succeed widly. These things, conservatives say, will keep America strong and progressive. Think about how you would run a school. People who make bad grades and cause disruptions shouldn’t be rewarded for their bad behavior. And those who get good grades shouldn’t be forced to give part of their GPA to those who party when they should be studying.


So why, time after time, if their ideas have such merit, does the conservative approach fail? I will admit I had high hopes in 1994 when the Republicans swept congress. And a few things did happen. But for the most part their tenure came and went with few lasting changes. Were they responsible for the economic boom of the 90’s? Some say yes, but it is far more likely the 90’s were due to an emerging technology that generated enormous entrepreneurship. And those emerging technologies had been emerging since the end of World War II, so to give any current group credit is a bit of a stretch.


Conservatives make the mistake of thinking that people are rational. They tend to believe that if an idea makes sense that people will adopt it and their lives will improve. While this might make sense to a person that claims to be rational it ignores the dynamics of groups. Consider smoking. It is a good idea to stop but is harder than it sounds. In my line of work this is called, Systems Engineering. Just because a component works doesn’t mean it is going to work well within the system. And just because a particular configuration worked well on one system, doesn’t mean it will work as well on another system. The reasons for this can be highly non-intuitive, but if not carefully considered and mitigated, the system will fail to meet expectations, often spectacularly as the Space Shuttles Columbia and Challenger both showed.


What conservatives lack is a failure to understand groups. Conservatives are generally highly motivated people who are often self-starters, which is why they are so often small business owners. If they hear of a good idea they will put it into practice and it will occasionally pay off. They expect all people to do the same. But people don’t need good ideas, they need leadership. Never has this been better stated than by Jesus, who used over and over, the analogy of sheep. Not only will sheep follow a leader, sheep need a leader. They are domesticated animals and without care will die. They can’t survive in the wild. Show them a good idea, say, an enclosure where they can run if a predator arrives, and they will huddle together in the open and be slaughtered unless they are led into the enclosure. As K said in Men In Black, “A person can be smart. But people are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals.”


Conservatives don’t understand that people don’t need good ideas, they need leadership. People are looking to their leaders to make them feel secure. Conservatives laugh at this, but it is the reality of humans. Feelings are very important and if humans feel uneasy, they will make poor decisions. If they feel secure, they will make better decisions. To ignore this reality or dismiss it as weakness is the height of stupidity. Okay, so it is a weakness. Then you damn well better do something about it.


Mr. Bush proved this point better than I ever could. Moral in our armed forces stayed high even though he invaded the wrong country using bad intelligence and thousands of people died. Despite the fact that his military plan was an utter disaster, our military continued to function well, and even win, because he was a spirited leader. He understood that THOSE people needed leadership. But when it came to assuring the American people, he was, to use someone else’s phrase, “A miserable failure.” A great leader isn’t someone who always makes the right decisions. A great leader is someone who can inspire (and occasionally shepherd) people past the mistakes to a new dawn.


Liberals get this. Just this week President Obama is fast-tracking legislation to limit compensation for banking executives. Will this help the economy? No. At least, not directly. But what it does is show the American people – that dumb, stupid, panicky group – that the guy at the top, AKA, the leader, gives a damn. As a result they will ‘feel’ better, and in time, those good ‘feelings’ will help the economy improve. After all, that is what drives a consumer-based economy. Not good ideas, but good feelings. I don’t even like to admit it myself because I’m squarely in the rational thinking camp. But the experiment I watched over the last twenty years has convinced me that pure conservatism can’t work. Without a thorough understanding of feelings on the part of the leader, and acknowledgement that groups require and need spirited, empathetic leadership, a group can not survive. And that is why conservatives fail.

-Futbol Guru


Angela Williams said:

I really enjoyed this article.  Maybe it can help inspire me to be a great leader and politician?  Only God and time will tell.



# February 4, 2009 2:38 PM

FutbolGuru said:

Good luck to you Angela. Leadership doesn't come from ideology. It comes from somewhere else.

# February 4, 2009 3:33 PM

John W. Thinkwright said:

Conservatives often flop because the leftists have a smog machine that blots out meaningful communication.  We are constantly miscast.Take the leftist use of the word Nazi --- and its casual application to conservatives.  Rarely do conservatives jump to point out this obvious lie. JWThinkwright is the exception. (Google 'Bye-Bye Sweet Liberty' to See the treatment of Sam Gibbons on his arrival in heaven: 'Pudd'n Head Wilson's Dream';Chapter 19. Heaven, an Update.  Does anyone wonder why one of the most talented linguists, Noam Chomsky, is a cherished member of the socialist movement in the United States?  A: He is the mainspring of the smog machine.

# February 4, 2009 5:53 PM

FutbolGuru said:

I couldn't agree more, and appreciate your comments. Notice that the article didn't call conservative ideas into question, only how they are implemented. And clearly liberals fail, too, but that wasn't what this piece was about.

# February 4, 2009 9:29 PM

confusious said:

the central value that genuine conservatives place upon local, face-to-face, decentralized groups: family, school, church, local government, etc. These are what make up a true sense of "community." (Robert Nisbet)

The loss of face-to-face community  emphasizes the state as sucking up the powers of localities and creating the mass society.

# February 4, 2009 9:52 PM

John W. Thinkwright said:

Thanks, FutbolGuru, for pointing me back to your original points.  

Very often it is not that conservatives fail, but non-conservatives who falsely portray themselves as conservatives.  Most Republicans are not conservatives, the mask on Bill O'Reilly has started to slip recently (I've had my doubts about O'Reilly for some time now.)GWB was never a conservative, nor was his father,GHWB.  Even when conservative measures succeed, the smog machine commanded by the left succeeds in making the success seem to be a failure.

# February 6, 2009 4:33 PM

FutbolGuru said:

I would add Mr. Limbaugh to this category as well. I think he may have started life as a conservative, but in the past few years he's been more and more a mouthpiece of the party. A true conservative wouldn't have been afraid to stand up to the president when he invaded the wrong country, but Mr. Limbaugh has repeatedly defended him. I'm as patriotic as anyone but repeat the phrase slowly, three times: Invaded the wrong country. Invaded the wrong country. Invaded the wrong country.

# February 9, 2009 7:20 AM