Conservatism is no longer an intellectually defensible political orientation

by Richard @ Flexible Reality – May 6th, 2017


Since the end of WWIII Conservatism became a very potent political philosophy ostensibly grounded in respect for tradition, prudence, personal liberty, limited government, and belief in God. However, each of these tenets have lately been abused and corrupted so that the ideals have dissipated, to be replaced in popular culture with vulture capitalism, white privilege, corporate hegemony, fundamental Christianity, and a preference for privatized social services.

Reviewing each segment reveals the crux of the problems

  • Traditionalism and Established Prescription: In the past historical change was measured in reins of a monarch, then later by changes in energy and production methods, and into the modern age by technological epochs, such as the Age of Steam Engines, Railroads, Cars, Airplanes, television, computers, and robots. With each new epoch the time interval between one form and its predecessor shrank. For example there was about fifty years between the invention of the steam engine, and the first transcontinental railroad, another forty years between the railroad and the car, twenty years to airplanes, twenty years to television, fifteen years to computers, and fifteen years to industrial robots. Most of these systems bear almost no relationship to their original forms. Rules and processes from the earlier age necessarily changed to adapt to new circumstances. The current conditions of our planetary system, and the exponential growth in technology and systems complexity make it abundantly clear that to survive and prosper in the future will require much more rapid adaptation and integration to new conditions.
  • Liberty & Freedom: There are States on the Plains with a population density of 5 people per square mile which can be compared with the 22,000 ppl/sq mile in New York City, or the 71,200 ppl/sq mile in Hong Kong. The US population has more than doubled in the past fifty years. When I moved to Atlanta in 1972 the metro population was just over 1 million, today it is over 5 million. Each year, U.S. States and the Federal Government enact upwards of 40,000 new laws, with less than 1% of existing laws being superseded. In post 9/11 America’s Federal agencies like the NSA, CIA, JSOC, DSI, and other authorities have engaged in massive sequestering of citizens personal information. Some companies have required new hires to provide DNA samples, or submit to drug tests which can also yield highly personal information about a person. Cellular, landline, and ISP providers are required by law to collect, maintain, and share metadata of all traffic that passes through their systems to authorities upon request. Freedom of expression routinely is subject to abridgment, ridicule, or condemnation whether it is tattoos, baggy pants, hijabs, or hoodies.  Comparing the “personal liberty” available to a nineteen century cowboy on the range to the average America suburbanite proves emphatically we are individually and collectively less free than we were in the past.
  • Prudence: The old Calvinist notions of frugality, prudence, personal integrity, fair play, and community spirit have become relics to be replaced with rampant consumerism, tribal politics, and a survival-of-the-fittest mindset. We no longer speak of a “melting pot” society. We have retreated behind mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, and economic walled in communities. Instead of celebrating and enhancing our connections to all life, art, language, and cultures many are now demanding “English First”, saying no to immigrants, curtailing life-long learning opportunities to become unitary entities. Many of us proudly put on a coat of jingoism, celebrated ignorance, and a pedantic exceptionalism while denying the legitimacy of any alternatives.
  • Belief in God: In times past the Church was the center of human education, artistic endeavors, social training, and spiritual enhancement. One only need review the encyclicals of Pope Francis and compare them to Pope Pius III, or compare the services in Temple between orthodox and reform Judaism, or from the village level congregations to the Mega-Churches of today to see the profound changes in religious activity. On a social dynamic perspective the evidence is clear, the countries with the greatest levels of secularism have the most advanced, or dare say, progressive societies, while the strongly fundamental ones have major unaddressed social problems. America continues to be one of the more religiously oriented countries in the World, but while professing allegiance to Christianity, we attend church much less than previously, and arguably do not practice its teachings in almost any manner except as a form of tribalism. The evangelical orientation has become militarized, dogma and sacred texts are righteously exalted and deemed superior to both civil law, and scientific inquiry.
  • Limited Government: The purpose of government is to to protect people’s inalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. to provide for the common defense, and promote the general welfare of citizens. The issues that separate Conservatives from other orientations is who and what is included, and excluded. In addition there are major differences about methods, coverage, participation, funding, and values. One example of the divide between conservatives and other orientations can be seen in America’s Military and Security State system. Conservatives push for a meet-any-challenge military, a rigorous law and order police and justice system, a fixation on allegiance to flags, rank, and pledges; but being predominately white-privileged they are not generally subject to stop-and-frisk laws, military conscription, or restrictions based on physical appearance, cultural or religious affiliations. They speak passionately about their rights, and argue about what privileges are granted to others who are not like them.
  • Respect for Authority: Many psychological tests, including the RWA, and others by Altemeyer have demonstrated a strong link between conservatism and authoritarianism. In earlier times, television offered shows like “Father Know’s Best” , “My Three Sons”, “The Andy Griffin Show”, “You Bet Your Life”, and others that featured a strong male father figure as the central character. Which morphed into more collective shows like “Mash”, “Bonanza”, “The Twilight Zone” and “Star Trek”, that featured a cross-dressing Corporal Klinger in Mash, and the first on-screen inter-racial kiss on Star Trek.  American culture had no problem with black Heavyweight Champions; but had quite a bit of difficulty with Tiger Woods when he first came on tour. Conservatives voted against suffrage for women, against Social Security, against the Civil Rights Act, and generally opposed any non-hetero sexual orientations. They are strongly opposed to abortion and family planning; but have no problem with divorces.
  • Heterogeneity vs differential economic status: Conservatives like to showcase their affection for the “self-made” man, the rugged individual, the planner, the dreamer, the industrialist. Their literature constantly asserts that anything is possible if a person is willing to work hard to achieve goals. More than any other group they strongly support corporate capitalism and its proponents. They believe they possess innate abilities that allowed them to achieve their financial goals, and those who do not achieve the same levels of success are either unequipped or unwilling to devote themselves to achieve economic success. They choose well-established brands when shopping. They are strongly “patterned” in any economic consideration. Change, volatility, or uncertainty is a cause for discomfort.
  • Public vs Private Resources and Provisioning: All the preceding characteristics coalesce in the preference for the organizational form of service  providers, where democratic-socialist citizens prefer a distributed, public service system while Conservatives and some Libertarians herald a hierarchical, private enterprise, for-profit system.  We have seen the push for privatization extended into prison, police, fire, military, and security services. By one estimate, more than a third of all staff at the DoD, and at numerous National Security Agencies work for private corporations, just as Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden did. The Framers asserted that Government was charged with providing services to citizens in a mutually symbiotic relationship, while modern day Conservatives seem comfortable with a commensurate or even parasitic relationship since it champions their ideals of hierarchical, autocratic, unregulated, and acquisition oriented mind-set.In recent polls the American public voted Comcast as “the most hated company in the World”, followed by Sprint, DISH Network, Sprint, and Charter Communications, yet recent decisions by the Republican dominated FCC are doing everything possible to prevent the Internet from being regulated as a public utility, while the FCC is simultaneously favorably disposed toward mega-mergers, even monopolies of national ISPs. Government created and managed public resources, which include air, water, and public lands are being transferred to private enterprise in an unprecedented fashion, which if carried to extreme simply means every resource will be held by private stakeholders instead of shared owners. This fascination with privatization carries over into international relations, where Conservatives chafe against the United Nations, the Paris Accord, even NATO, and demand their form of privatization whether its called Brexit, or some other name. It’s as if the only role permitted for the State is for law, order, police, security, and military functions, with everything else being privatized, and no longer being the property or asset of the Commons.

Addendum: by Patrick Osio – Possibly your segments are missing one more point — the corruption of the political system – it’s been coming for some time, but under Trump it seems to change the speed limits, e.g. Pruitt, DeVos, etc… — what I meant by this – instant gratification when present serves as a major motivation for people to act according to the wishes of the person(s) providing the gratification — in the political arena you have two players each seeking the gratification — the elected official seeks political contributions for “campaigns” and the contributor seeks “favored treatment.”

Those seeking favored treatment are loath to invest on new candidates as then, if such person wins, the seduction process needs to start anew – this is a reason heavy contributions (and other favors) are dished out to those already in office. The elected official is also looking for the time when he/she is no longer elected and looks for the guaranteed position as a legislative consultant with a lobbying, advertising, public relations agency. Such offices are of great importance to conservatives as they provide access to big money under the pretense of philosophical like minds to promote conservative agendas, e.g. NRA — Such conservatives are in a state of denial that they have in fact been seduced into the world of corruption