I hate conservatism

In the most classical definition of the word, conservatism has always stood for a defense of the status quo. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the so-called "liberal" parties were more or less interested in revolutionary change into the future and opposition to political power, while the so-called "conservative" parties were a reactionary movement that was interested in maintaining the privileges of the existing political classes and elites of the times. In those days, this meant a defense of things such as monarchy, land privileges and the union of church and state. Hardly an admirable political position. The thing to be conserved by conservatives in those days was political power and the privileges that came with it to particular private individuals.

As a historical view, conservatism has a tendency to romantisize the past. In particular, anything from colonial America to fuedal Europe to the 1950's is painted in as positive light as possible to the level of absurdity. Conservatives tend to paint colonial America as a haven of freedom. Yet, not to sound cliche, but this is only remotely true if you were rich, white and male. If you were a native American, a slave or the average worker your conditions were fairly horrid. This is of course not an indictment against freedom, because freedom was denied to such people in the first place. In either case, the conservative idea of "turning back the clock" represents a desire to do something that is impossible. While the starry-eyed progressive and social darwinist notions of perpetual or gradual progress into the future may be silly, the idea of returning to a past utopia is equally absurd.

In modern times, conservatism is in many ways the most hypocritical contemporary political position. At least the so-called "liberals" are consistant in that the objective content of their political positions more accurately matches their rhetoric, as they tend to openly advocate a nanny state. But conservatives have been preaching rhetoric in favor of limiting the government's powers for decades, yet the objective content of their political positions is in sum total pretty much no less statist than that of the contemporary left, and in practise they have expanded the power of the state every time that they have gained the helm of political power.

For years, conservatives have promised to gut taxes, spending and federal departments. But it seems that this has been little more than rhetoric. While making such promises and claims, they have proposed and fully supported the establishment of new departments such as the department of homeland security, and have been more than happy to expand funding to the military and intelligence bereaucracies. They have proposed and rubber stamped massive spending increases on both domestic and foreign policy. The neoconservative's foreign policy of aggression and empire inherently requires considerable government intervention in the economy and a drain on the resources of the people.

So-called "fiscal conservatism" is clearly a myth. While it is true that Republicans may sometimes cut taxes, these tax cuts are rather miniscule and they never have the courage to actually advocate any abolitions of certain taxes. At best, tbey propose "tax reform", which is a shell game that merely shifts from one type of taxation to another or one tax bracket to another. Furthermore, conservatives have a long history of simply using monetary inflation to fund the government in order to make up for the initial loss of revenue from the tax cuts. Republicans simply rely more on borrowing from overseas and printing money to fund their expansions of the state. This creates a situation that leads to tax increases in the future anyways.

While conservatives tend to rhetorically support "the free market", they fall into a false paradime shared by the contemporary left in assuming that we currently have one and in practise they tend to support existing property classes rather than property rights. There is a huge difference between being pro-market and pro-buisiness. Conservatives are generally pro-buisiness, which is to say that they favor government intervention in the economy in order to favor buisiness interests. A free market, on the other hand, by definition requires the lack of government intervention in the economy. The type of system that they favor more closely resembles economic fascism than a free market. Economic fascism is a mixed economy in which the government and big buisiness collude through mechanisms of patronage and protectionism.

While many conservatives rhetorically support a restrained domestic policy, they often paradoxically do not apply the same principles to foreign policy. The idea of cutting back the government at home and expanding it abroad is an oxymoron. It is impossible to have both a limited government at home and a highly active one abroad. A highly active and aggressive foreign policy always coincides with an increase in government intervention domestically. In either case, most American conservatives have almost never met an American war that they did not support. They have a clear history of being war-mongers. And their wars are the most expensive endeavors that a government could possibly engage in.

Some may object to my harsh treatment of conservatives by making a sharp distinction between neoconservatives and paleoconservatives, claiming that the paleoconservatives are true to the limited government rhetoric. The paleoconservatives claim to be the true conservatives, and accuse the neoconservatives of being leftists who hijacked their movement. But while there are indeed some signicant differences between these two schools of conservatism, I do not find too much of a significant difference in the some total of state power that both ideologies tend to support. When it all is tallied up, the paleoconservatives aren't much better than the neoconservatives, and on some issues they may very well be worse than them.

It is true that paleoconservatives may tend to be less interventionist when it comes to foreign policy, yet their so-called "isolationism" is a very different thing than non-interventionism. "Isolationism" is a nationalist policy of government intervention in the name of isolating the people within geographic territories from eachother socially and economically. In place of foreign adventurism, paleoconservatives have a tendency to simply reconcentrate the military power domestically into a police state, just pointing the guns a bit closer to home. They are willing to expand the powers of the government in all kinds of ways in the name of fighting immigration. And they have a history of being virulently protectionist when it comes to foreign economics. To make matters worse, they are permeated by social conservatism and therefore may very well tend to support government legislation of religious and traditionalist morality. Paleoconservatism has much in common with national socialism and tends to attract white nationalists.

While it is theoretically possible for someone to hold socially conservative views and confine them to a voluntary context, most social conservatives support enforcing those views onto everyone through the mechanisms of the state. Inevitably, this implies some kind of coerced uniformity in opposition to free association. Social conservatives may have a tendency to use the state as a mechanism to promote their personal cultural preferances for the purpose of oppressing groups that they do not like such as homosexuals, seculars and certain ethnic or religious groups. While people are perfectly free to have whatever cultural views they please, the desire to create a monolithic culture is in contradiction to reality and trying to use the government towards this end is incredibly dangerous.

I find the assumed alliance between libertarians and conservatives in America to be mostly ill founded. While the so-called "old right" of the 1930's and 40's contained libertarian elements with in it, such elements were never the mainstream of the movement and their remnants have long since been scattered into oblivion. The "old right" has clearly been overly romanticized in either case. Mysteriously, many libertarians continue to this day to have faith in traditionalist conservatives to magically "restore the republic". Libertarians have had an unfortunately tendency to vote for Republicans time and time again, under the illusion that the right is somehow more restrained than the left. This tendency has in turn allowed the libertarian movement itself to be infiltrated by conservative elements that water it down.

Indeed, back in the 70's there were libertarians scrambling to support none other than Richard Nixon. And in the 80's the same was true of Ronald Reagen. Yet the state expanded by leaps and bounds under both adminstrations, despite the fact that both of them predictably ran on a platform of limiting the government down to a smaller scope. And it would be disingenous to blame such an expansion of the state solely on the Democrats, as conservatives tend to do. These Republicans are responsible for proposing and rubber stamping plenty of expansions of the state in themselves. What's most puzzling of all is how libertarians could be fooled into supporting or admiring such people in the first place. What will it take to get libertarians to wake up from their slumber and realize that such political means are not conductive to the ends of liberty?

Published Thu, Jan 10 2008 1:29 AM by Brainpolice


# Jared said on 11 January, 2008 09:41 AM

Classical conservatism has little to do with the status quo directly. Classical conservatism holds that the State and society are organic, change in them should be gradual, and said change should be constitutional. The rule of law is a key conservative concept. The original conservative writer, Edmund Burke, was even sympathetic to the American Revolution!

The problem for American conservatives is that they lost in the 1860s and then again in the 1930s and again and again. Because conservatives lost, they find themselves in a wilderness. So what should the conservative support? The gold standard, constitutional and wise, or the fiat money, which is the status quo? Conservatism as based on the principles of prudence, gradualism, and the rule of law should only support the gold standard, one example of many issues.

Why do conservative governments grow, then? Because the vast majority of voters are not great political thinkers. They might have a few issues that they watch the candidates on TV and papers for. The hint of something bad on one candidate scares them away. They don't really want to give up welfare, or the Fed, or our global military presence. They never see their taxes taken from the purchasing power of their dollars, so why should they care? In fact, many of the conservative voters don't really know what limited government entails. All they know is they were taught to it, that darn government spends a lot of money, and that they should vote on candidates that say it like a magic phrase.

Trust me, conservatism is not some great blight. Consider that a conservative could go on a similar rant against a similarly straw man libertarianism and how many of its adherents are hopelessly uneducated.

# Brainpolice said on 11 January, 2008 04:12 PM

The rule of law is essentially a myth perpetuated in the attempt to justify the rule of men. Laws do not rule on their own. Constitutions are not self-enforcing. The problem with the overtly gradualist approach is that it turns into dedicated opposition to radicalism.

The problem for American conservatives is not that they lost power. It's that whenever they have been in power, they used it for their short-term benefit. It's that they have used coercive means out of fear of "the other guys" using it first (commies, social democrats, etc.).

Conservative governments grow because (1) the very nature of the system is designed to grow and force compromise (2) conservatives support political means when it suites their special interests (3) most conservatives are disingenuous about their will to reduce political power. Blaming it on voters strikes me as kind of backwards.

Conservatism is a blight because it is a statist ideology like any other. "Order" and particular personal values ultimately trump liberty. Anti-communism, cultural monocentrism and the police and military power are higher on the list of wants then reduction of political power.

# atrickpay said on 15 August, 2008 04:28 PM

Thanks for pointing out that paleo-conservatism is also a sham! I hate when people try and say that that is the "true conservatism." I say 'bull-***'. Pat Buchanan is a hack...

ps. John Stuart Mill summed it up well:

“Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative.”

# Social Murray said on 31 January, 2009 02:40 AM

I am diehard republican...i hate monarchy...liberal here (Australia) is the conservative party...the left is the labour which i proudly vote for!!!! United socialists of the World forever.