Category Archives: Conservatism

The Difference Between Conservatives and Liberals

In having a lot of discussions with both liberals and actual conservatives, not the conservative-in-name-only crowd that tends to populate the modern right wing, I’ve started to notice a few things about their attitudes and their mindsets.  Now I don’t want to make this sound ideological in nature, although I’m sure it will come off as such, this is just an observation I’ve had, biased thought it may be, in my many exchanges with people of various ideological bents.

Liberals tend to think of themselves, they want the government to give them things.  At the very least, they want the position of the government and government policy to make them feel good about themselves and their ideologies.  They’re all about emotional comfort, they want to feel good about the world around them, even if the whole planet is going to hell in a hand-basket, they want to feel like their ideological position is being maintained.  And liberals tend to want help from others.  They want there to be some policy, some program, some governmental office that is there to hand out money if and when they need it.  They look at the government as mother and father, there to take care of them from cradle to grave.

Conservatives, on the other hand, think of society.  They want what’s best for the nation.  They want what’s best for the people.  Even though JFK was a Democrat, his “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” is probably pretty close to conservatism today.  JFK would never survive in the modern liberal society, he’d be run out of town on a rail for daring to suggest that people have any obligation to their society.  I don’t care if a government program might benefit me, I care if it will benefit the nation.  I care if it’s sustainable.  I care if it’s going to leave my children and grandchildren holding the bill.  I don’t want to be benefited to the detriment of others.  I don’t have my hand out.  In fact, even if I qualified for help from the government, the majority of the time I wouldn’t take it because I don’t want the government’s help.  I want to be self sufficient.  That’s a central part of my ideology.  I look at the government as a necessary evil, something that isn’t there to care for me, but to deal with situations that society needs dealt with.

Of course, we have to talk about the stupidity on the far right too.  Which side are they closest to?  Clearly, they are closer to the liberal way of looking at things than the conservative way.  The modern GOP has never met an opportunity to enlarge the government that it didn’t embrace.  They want the government to protect their ideological views and punish those who get in the way.  They want the government to make them feel good, to guarantee their ideological “safety” and hand out money when times get tough.  This is why the modern GOP is more liberal than conservative.  We have no actual conservative political parties in this country, it’s just various shades of liberalism.  That’s just sad.

The one thing that I always look at when evaluating someone’s ideological position is how realistic it is.  How sustainable is this position?  Can you achieve your goals over the long term realistically?  Or is this just wishful thinking, based on emotionalism, that simply could not survive in the real world.  Communism is one of those things.  We saw it in Russia.  We saw it in China. We saw that it falls apart when applied to real people.  Yet there are a lot of leftists who still cling to the emotionally comforting fantasy that communism just might work because it makes them feel good to think that it could.  We’ve got a ton of Bernie Sanders supporters out there who think socialism sounds great because they get free stuff, they just haven’t worked out where all of that money comes from to pay for it.  Money doesn’t grow on trees.  It isn’t sustainable in the long term.  We need a political ideology that actually works and doesn’t fall apart because people don’t work as the system pretends they do. But that’s something for another post sometime, isn’t it?

Maybe I’m Not a Conservative

Certainly not in the sense that a lot of people in the GOP mean it and trust me, you have no idea how happy that makes me. Of course, I’m not a liberal either, I’m even more happy of that because I find virtually nothing worthwhile on the liberal left, at least for the reasons they hold their positions.  And libertarian?  In some ways, but certainly not in the quasi-religious natural rights/natural law way, I find those things utterly ridiculous.  Mostly, I’m only “libertarian” insofar as it agrees with my conservative values and where it doesn’t, I’m not.

But every time I say I’m conservative, people assume, wrongly, that I hold all of the views of the far religious right GOP machine.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  So I went looking for a better term, delving into the various and sundry schools of conservatism and came across fusionism, popularized by Frank Meyer, held by William F. Buckley, Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan and others.  It isn’t a perfect fit, in fact, I’d feel it necessary to tack “secular” onto it to make it clear that I do not respect any religious or quasi-religious views, period.  If your position is held on faith, keep it away from me.

Murray Rothbard, writing in Ramparts, explained where the modern neo-conservative movement was going wrong, “a new, younger generation of rightists, of “conservatives,” . . . who thought that the real problem of the modern world was nothing so ideological as the state vs. individual liberty or government intervention vs. the free market; the real problem, they declared, was the preservation of tradition, order, Christianity and good manners against the modern sins of reason, license, atheism and boorishness.”  He added that we had allowed ourselves “to sacrifice the American ideals of peace and freedom and anti-colonialism on the altar of a crusade to kill communists throughout the world; we have surrendered the libertarian birthright into the hands of those who yearn to restore the Golden Age of the Holy Inquisition. It is about time that we wake up and rise up to restore our heritage.”

That certainly sounds like the modern GOP, doesn’t it?  Unfortunately, I think Reagan fell into that with his abject hatred of the commies, adding almost $2 trillion to the national debt as he fought to outspend Russia.  Having a higher limit on your credit cards does not prove your political ideology superior, sorry.

And of course, I’ve pointed out before how Barry Goldwater called the modern trend of the Republican Party long before it came to pass.  “Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.”

So am I a secular fusionist conservative?  Maybe.  But if I said that, nobody would have the slightest clue what it means. But I’m going to go grab Frank Meyer’s “In Defense of Freedom” to see how much I agree with it.  Maybe I will, maybe I won’t, but I’ll be sure to do a review here once I’m done.  I’m sure that my views will differ in significant ways.  They seem to do so a lot, don’t they?