Another View on Conservatism

BillWhittleAs I’ve said before, “conservative” and “liberal” are just labels that you slap on your forehead, shorthand for the general ideas that you subscribe to, but beneath those labels, there’s a whole host of issues that need to be addressed individually to really know what a person actually believes.  You simply cannot get an accurate picture of someone’s political views by looking only at their label and here’s a case in point.

I’ve never been a Tea Partier, although I liked some of their original positions before they took a hard right-hand whack-a-loon stance on things I vehemently disagree with.  That said though, I think that way back at the beginning, particularly their Contract From America, they had some good points which I certainly think we ought to implement.  A lot of what Bill Whittle says about conservatism in this series of videos are perfectly reasonable. There are 7 videos, each about 10 minutes in length, and I’ll address what I like and what I do not like about each of them.

Generally speaking, I have few problems here, I think that liberalism, under the misnomer of “progressivism” is largely a failure, specifically because nothing they are doing is new, it’s been tried before and it’s failed before, over and over and over.  Now while I’m not as convinced as Mr. Whittle that human nature cannot be changed to some degree, it certainly won’t be the laws or the government that will change it, it must come from the society itself.  While the general concept is that society will elect representatives that will pass laws in accordance with the wishes of society, laws generally don’t control how children are raised, what values are imparted to them and what morals they receive.  These are the most important elements in determining how a person will behave and think as an adult, although certainly no guarantee.  Today, we have parents who are almost totally disconnected from their child’s upbringing, resulting in misguided and anti-social people walking the street.  We need to change this, but it can’t come from the government, it has to come from the people.  Pass all the laws you want, it won’t significantly affect how children are reared in the home and by the time a child is 7 or so, their brain patterns are set for the future, it’s difficult to change basic personality traits thereafter.

He starts off fine, I do entirely disagree with lifetime politicians who largely have no grasp whatsoever with the trials and tribulations of the common man.  I have and will continue to advocate for  term limits for politicians that require them to get out of politics entirely at least every 2-3 terms for a while so they have to get their own hands dirty and figure out how things operate in the real world.  Oh yes, I hear people saying, the voters can do that any time they want!  You’re right, but we all know they simply don’t do it.  We have a voting population who has been carefully crafted by the political machine who is more interested in how someone looks on TV and what sound bytes they generate than how they will actually do in office.  So long as that’s the case, I think we need to eliminate the possibility of lifetime politicians, for the good of the nation.  You might find that elitist on my part, but there it is.  That said though, I think we need a balance between people who live in ivory towers, no matter how educated and intelligent they are, and the common man, who has direct life experience in a specific field.  We shouldn’t go as far anti-elitism as Bill seems to want, nor should we go as far pro-elitism as I see a lot of liberals wanting.  The proper answer is somewhere in the middle.

Again, he makes a lot of good points at the beginning, wealth creation is the result of human innovation and creativity.  It makes no sense for the liberals to complain that people have more than they do, they simply have not worked hard enough.  I really hate people who whine about the wealthy, unless the wealthy can be demonstrated to have violated the law.  I am sick and tired of the poor whining about how the wealthy got their share, as if wealth is supposed to be broken up equally among the population and someone stole yours.  The wealthy got the way they are, by and large,  by hard work.  If you have not bettered your position in life, it’s because you haven’t earned it.  Pointing at the wealthy and claiming life is unfair misses the point.  It’s not their success that you ought to be worried about but your own failure.  I’m not going to argue about acting immorally because that’s subjective and frankly, I have little respect for the “morals” that a lot of liberals bandy around.

Sorry Bill, you lost it right off the bat.  No vote of Congress, no Presidential decree can overturn a Constitutional amendment.  That has other requirements.  He then goes into the laughable idea of “Natural Law”, which I have soundly discredited many times in the past.  There is no way to demonstrate that Natural Law exists, there is no logical, rational, evidence-based means by which one can discover what Natural Law is, nor separate it from what Natural Law is not.  He then tries to claim that Americans are exceptional, simply because we are Americans.  That’s laughably untrue as well.  He tries to use the first line of the Declaration of Independence to justify his beliefs, but he does what so many do, they imbue the Founding Fathers with magical powers and godlike authority.  They were just men, they were no better than you or I, they had an idea and expressed their opinions on how a nation ought to be run.  They were good opinions, to be sure, but they were not infallible opinions.  Bill seems to think they were.  Bill is wrong.  Unfortunately, he, like so many others, seems overly enamored by his heroes, such that anything said hero says is seen as automatically correct and valuable, instead of looking at what’s said, regardless of who said it, and evaluating the idea on it’s own merits.  People on both the left and the right make this serious mistake.  It’s why I think hero worship generally sucks.

 Oh look, an appeal to common sense!  Logical fallacies out of the gate.  I’ve spoken before about the misreading of the 2nd Amendment that goes on so I won’t do it again, but he seems to take it to heart, even if he doesn’t detail it in his video.  That said though, I think that people do have a right to own firearms, within the context of the law and it would be entirely impractical to think otherwise.  You cannot stop people from getting guns, you cannot confiscate all the guns that are out there and even if you could, it wouldn’t be long until people got more guns.  We live in a gun culture, it’s as absurd to think that you could get rid of all the guns as to think you could get rid of all the cars.  It’s just not going to happen, so from a matter of practicality, it’s stupid to try.  I find it bizarre that modern people think the way Bill does.  Yes, there was probably a time in the past where an armed population could overthrow their government, but, especially in the United States, it’s simply not practical today.  A government who would move against their citizens and is willing to pull out all the stops wins.  They just do.  A bunch of guys, no matter how many they number, with handguns, shotguns and pick up trucks simply cannot win against a military battalion with automatic, armor-piercing rifles, rocket launchers and tanks.  It’s just not  going to happen, no matter how much some dream that it would.  You’d end up with a lot of dead people with the military rolling right over their bodies.  That might be scary to some people, but that’s the reality of the world we live in.  So stop thinking that you’re going to fight off a determined government, or even a determined invading army, with the .22 you have stuffed in your pants.

 Then he starts to come around again and I agree with most of his positions on illegal immigration.  Look folks, like it or not, these people are criminals.  No, their crime is not as bad as murder or child molestation, but a crime is a crime is a crime and just because you don’t personally care about it, it’s still a crime.  This is something I have written about many times before so there isn’t a lot of reason to go into it again.

 I have a problem with American exceptionalism, especially as it tends to be thrown around by the neo-cons.  They assert that people are exceptional just because they are Americans.  I disagree.  Exceptional people are exceptional because they do exceptional things, not because of where they were born.  There was a time in this country where we encouraged and even expected people to do exceptional things, where success was the benchmark and exceeding expectations was the word of the day.  America was better than everyone else because we worked hard and earned it.  However, that’s not what a lot of far-right wingers mean when they say American exceptionalism today, they mean that you’re just better than everyone else because you happen to have been lucky enough to be born on American soil.  Like it or not, it just isn’t enough to be born here, you have to work for it too.  You can’t ride around on the shoulders of past greats and pretend that you’re great too.  You have to earn your place among the exceptional.  Many Americans do, they work hard and achieve much but that doesn’t entitle everyone to go riding along on their coattails.  In fact, I think the myth of American exceptionalism, the idea that you’re a better person just because you live here, is harmful.  It suggests that people don’t have to work as hard to be exceptional, just because of where they were born.  The fact is, as technologically advanced as we are in America today, as much as we innovate, we really aren’t that exceptional, we’re just so far ahead on the tech curve that nobody else can catch up.  That doesn’t mean we’re doing everything we can, just that we’re standing on giants and feeling good about ourselves because of how far we can see.

We can take  good ideas from a wide variety of sources, even sources we probably largely disagree with.  I think it’s important to be open to plucking the gems, even from places that we’d otherwise not tread, but I fear that the nation is far too ideologically extreme for most Americans to be willing to do that.  Everyone hides behind their labels, everyone believes only the official word and rejects anything that falls outside of party dogma without even thinking about it.  How can we ever expect to improve our nation if we’re not willing to fix the problems?

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