Saturday, December 20, 2008

Conservatism Revisited

There is a good debate starting on E!! about the social conservative and libertarian make-up of the Republican party. I'm on the periphery of both groups, so I thought I'd chime in. The original column, written by Randall Hoven, is at the American Conservative Union Foundation.

Let's start with the fact that philosophy is not my best subject. I've tried several books and they all have one thing in common; I've never made it past page 50. On the upside, if you ever need to have your mind numbed before bedtime, David Hume is excellent. The only pure philosophy book I've ever finished was an abridged version of "Wealth of Nations". Adam Smith is the only philosopher, on any subject, that made any sense.

I read "The Libertarian Manifesto" back in the '70's and came away thinking they were basically right, but a little bit nuts. Privatizing the police and fire departments, with toll roads everywhere, didn't seem very practical. So government does have a purpose. We can all pay taxes for what we all use. Then Ronald Reagan came along.I'll admit, in 1980 I thought he was a bit nuts too. (Beat the soviet empire? Get real.) Many of the people in his first term seemed excessively idealistic, some scarily so. But, by 1984 I could see that things were getting better. America was back.

But, What of all those followers, specifically the Christian Right. Quoting from Mr. Hoven's column:

...I have no problem with "social conservatives" or the "religious right" and their supposed influence on the Republican party. I base this not on the Bible or historical authority, but on the love of liberty and the evidence of my own eyes.

This has been my experience also. The evidence of my experience is that Christians are the most temperamentally conservative people I know. The idea that they are secretly out to set up a Theocracy is laughable, but then the left has never been very good at scare tactics. There are far too many subsets of Christianity for the whole to agree on anything. Would it be a Baptist Theocracy, or a Methodist Theocracy? You can see the problem.

Another funny idea is that of the miserly, penny-pinching socialist. Mr. Hoven explains:

I'm still searching for the mythical creature that is the "financially conservative, socially liberal" politician...Using the National Journal's ratings of Senators in 2007, the correlation coefficient between "economic" scores and "social" scores is 90%. That means they almost always go together; financial conservatives are social conservatives and vice versa.

The fact is, Christianity is a big tent all by itself.

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