What is Modern Conservatism
Updated: Oct 4, 2019
Hello again faithful reader! It has been some time since I have penned my thoughts on the Company periodical, but I am glad that we are finally back! It feels good to get the cognitive juices flowing once again. Thank you for your time and interest…
What is modern conservatism? In order to answer this question, we must first define how we judge any person, ideology, belief system or activity. Do we judge them by what either opponents or proponents say? By what the media says? Or, as I believe, should we define these things by the results they achieve or the actions they take?Traditionally, democrats have been defined as being more liberal and republicans as being more conservative. However, if we look at the actions and policies put forth by the both of these institutions, it is easy to see that neither lives up to their definition.
If we put aside the ideologies and simply identify the philosophies of both, they can be described and defined as follows: Liberalism, in the philosophical sense, is a belief that man should live for the betterment of his fellow man, and that through government, that all men’s lives and morals will be improved through social programs devised to secure this outcome.
Conservatism, in its purest form, is an assumption that men will be morally and personally bettered and that all men’s lives will be elevated through each man’s individual freedom, with the government defending those freedoms and nothing more. Conservatism also operates under the assumption that all men will be personally responsible for their own actions and for their own personal success or failure. If we look at both these definitions, I think we can all agree that neither of these are bad.
Who doesn’t want to live a better life, or for their neighbors and brothers to have improved lives as well? Again however, when we look at the actions of both of these political parties, they do not support these philosophical ideas. To illustrate this, we have no further to look than both parties handling of the Affordable Care Act. For the Democrats, while it sounded good that all citizens would have health coverage that was as good as, or better than, their private healthcare, and be affordable, the facts were quite different. “If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor” was an out and out lie. And I think we have to look no further than our own Speedy family to know that the cost of healthcare for all payers has grown astronomically.
As far as the Republicans are concerned, when they had the chance to repeal Obama Care, holding both houses of Congress immediately after Donald Trump’s election, both Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell fought diligently to ensure that the ACA remained in place.
Certainly NOT looking out for individual freedom as is the pillar of conservative beliefs.The sad part is that both parties acted not for the benefit of the people, but for the oldest and surest root of all evil; money. In the words of John Dalberg-Acton; “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. While this has absolutely nothing to do with the definition of conservatism, there is a reason I’ve started the discussion with this point; be cautious of what you hear or read.
If you were to listen only to the mainstream media, you would get very differing analyses of both political parties. There is extreme bias and that bias exists on both sides of the political isles. The mainstream media is tied intimately, financially to both the democratic and republican parties and for that reason, will never give us a clear and unbiased picture of either.
So, what is modern conservatism?
I recently came across an article by one Philip E. Agre arguing against the virtues of conservatism particularly here in the United States. Within the first two lines of this article, he asked the question what is conservatism? His answer, shockingly, was that “conservatism is the domination of the society by aristocracy”. This definition shows only ignorance and a lack of his education on the subject.
Conservatism in the classical sense began its development in 1789 after the abject failure of the French Revolution. While the revolution did manage to topple the monarchy of Louis the XVI, it failed to establish a working government that would enforce societal laws to guarantee its citizen’s freedoms.
After the execution of Luis the XVI, and the chaotic failure of the new, ill-established government, power was seized by Maximillian Robespierre and the “Reign of Terror” was instituted, during which time tens of thousands were executing for disagreeing, or the suspicion of disagreeing, with the revolution. Although the ideals of the Revolution were to increase man’s freedom, without an established set of laws to protect those freedoms, the Revolution was doomed. After witnessing the horrors of the French Revolution of anarchy, chaos and death, author and diplomat Franƈois-Auguste-René, vicomte de Chateaubriand termed the phrase conservatism, citing that; without the establishment of laws that grant (personal) freedoms and a government to protect those laws, no man will ever be free.
Modern conservatism has, as its cornerstone, the belief that man has been endowed with certain inalienable rights from his creator that ensure his freedom. And, that the government which he lives under has, as its reason for existence, the duty to protect those rights. As defined by this country’s forefathers, the federal government should be very limited in its power over the people, that it should work for the people and allow them to govern themselves, but never to infringe upon the rights of others.
The message of today’s conservative is:
That foremost among the transcendent values is the individual’s use of his God-given free will, whence derives his right to be free from the restrictions of arbitrary force;
That liberty is indivisible, and that political freedom cannot long exist without economic freedom;
That the purpose of government is to protect those freedoms through the preservation of internal order, the provision of national defense, and the administration of justice;
That the Constitution of the United States is the best arrangement yet devised for empowering government to fulfill its proper role, while restraining it from the concentration and abuse of power;
That the market economy, allocating resources by the free play of supply and demand, is the single economic system compatible with the requirements of personal freedom and constitutional government; and that it is at the same time the most productive supplier of human needs;
That American foreign policy must be judged by this criterion:
Does it serve the just interests of the United States?
Some say, why not then follow the ultimate blueprint of libertarianism in which there is little to no input or interference from the government in the living of man’s day-to-day life. But, as history has taught us, if man is left to his own devices, he will take advantage of his rights and freedom and impinge his will upon rights and freedoms of others. With this view of conservatism and individual freedom and rights, Barry Goldwater said, it is understandable “the Conservative looks upon politics as the art of achieving the maximum amount of freedom for individuals that is consistent with the maintenance of social order.” And that “The conservative is the first to understand that the practice of freedom requires the establishment of order.”
It is impossible for one man to be free if another is able to deny him the exercise of his freedom.
But the conservative also recognizes that the political power on which order is based is a self-aggrandizing force; that its appetite grows with each feeding. “He knows,” says Goldwater, “that the utmost vigilance and care are required to keep political power within its proper
bounds.” Conservatism is a philosophy, not an ideology.
But the conservative also recognizes that the political power on which order is based is a self-aggrandizing force; that its appetite grows with each feeding. “He knows,” says Goldwater, “that the utmost vigilance and care are required to keep political power within its proper bounds.”
Conservatism is a philosophy, not an ideology. It is the collective wisdom of conservatives such as Goldwater, Buckley, and Abraham Lincoln, who when asked what conservatism is replied, “Is it not ordered liberty?”
Conservatism gets a bad rap in the media and established government today because it doesn’t work to their advantage. When a man is free to make his own decisions, mistakes and successes and is solely responsible for himself, his family and his actions why does he need a government to care for him and tell him what to do rather than just enforcing what he can’t do to his fellow citizen? And, why does he need a media to tell him how he should think and how he should feel instead of simply supplying him the facts to make his own decisions? The answer to both is that he does not.
In the words of Ronald Regan: “Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves.”
As always faithful reader, don’t just listen to me or to any one or two sources. Do some homework, get engaged, talk to your fellow Americans and always, make your own decisions; those that are best for you, your family and your Country.
Until next time.