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The Case for Conservatism


By George F. Will
Thursday, May 31, 2007; Page A19


Conservatism's recovery of its intellectual equilibrium requires a confident explanation of why America has two parties and why the conservative one is preferable. Today's political argument involves perennial themes that give it more seriousness than many participants understand. The argument, like Western political philosophy generally, is about the meaning of, and the proper adjustment of the tension between, two important political goals -- freedom and equality.

Today conservatives tend to favor freedom, and consequently are inclined to be somewhat sanguine about inequalities of outcomes. Liberals are more concerned with equality, understood, they insist, primarily as equality of opportunity, not of outcome.

Liberals tend, however, to infer unequal opportunities from the fact of unequal outcomes. Hence liberalism's goal of achieving greater equality of condition leads to a larger scope for interventionist government to circumscribe the market's role in allocating wealth and opportunity. Liberalism increasingly seeks to deliver equality in the form of equal dependence of more and more people for more and more things on government.

Hence liberals' hostility to school choice programs that challenge public education's semimonopoly. Hence hostility to private accounts funded by a portion of each individual's Social Security taxes. Hence their fear of health savings accounts (individuals who buy high-deductible health insurance become eligible for tax-preferred savings accounts from which they pay their routine medical expenses -- just as car owners do not buy insurance to cover oil changes). Hence liberals' advocacy of government responsibility for -- and, inevitably, rationing of -- health care, which is 16 percent of the economy and rising.

Steadily enlarging dependence on government accords with liberalism's ethic of common provision, and with the liberal party's interest in pleasing its most powerful faction -- public employees and their unions. Conservatism's rejoinder should be that the argument about whether there ought to be a welfare state is over. Today's proper debate is about the modalities by which entitlements are delivered. Modalities matter, because some encourage and others discourage attributes and attitudes -- a future orientation, self-reliance, individual responsibility for healthy living -- that are essential for dignified living in an economically vibrant society that a welfare state, ravenous for revenue in an aging society, requires.

This reasoning is congruent with conservatism's argument that excessively benevolent government is not a benefactor, and that capitalism does not merely make people better off, it makes them better. Liberalism once argued that large corporate entities of industrial capitalism degraded individuals by breeding dependence, passivity and servility. Conservatism challenges liberalism's blindness about the comparable dangers from the biggest social entity, government.

Conservatism argues, as did the Founders, that self-interestedness is universal among individuals, but the dignity of individuals is bound up with the exercise of self-reliance and personal responsibility in pursuing one's interests. Liberalism argues that equal dependence on government minimizes social conflicts. Conservatism's rejoinder is that the entitlement culture subverts social peace by the proliferation of rival dependencies.

The entitlement mentality encouraged by the welfare state exacerbates social conflicts -- between generations (the welfare state transfers wealth to the elderly), between racial and ethnic groups (through group preferences) and between all organized interests (from farmers to labor unions to recipients of corporate welfare) as government, not impersonal market forces, distributes scarce resources. This, conservatism insists, explains why as government has grown, so has cynicism about it.

Racial preferences are the distilled essence of liberalism, for two reasons. First, preferences involve identifying groups supposedly disabled by society -- victims who, because of their diminished competence, must be treated as wards of government. Second, preferences vividly demonstrate liberalism's core conviction that government's duty is not to allow social change but to drive change in the direction the government chooses. Conservatism argues that the essence of constitutional government involves constraining the state in order to allow society ample scope to spontaneously take unplanned paths.

Conservatism embraces President Kennedy's exhortation to "Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country," and adds: You serve your country by embracing a spacious and expanding sphere of life for which your country is not responsible.

Here is the core of a conservative appeal, without dwelling on "social issues" that should be, as much as possible, left to "moral federalism" -- debates within the states. On foreign policy, conservatism begins, and very nearly ends, by eschewing abroad the fatal conceit that has been liberalism's undoing domestically -- hubris about controlling what cannot, and should not, be controlled.

Conservatism is realism, about human nature and government's competence. Is conservatism politically realistic, meaning persuasive? That is the kind of question presidential campaigns answer.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/conte...7053002026.html
 

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Sounds great in theory but for a party that is supposed to endorse small government, the Republicans are all about big business and sure have their hands in just about all of our 'freedoms'.

The good thing about two parties is that our country will never swing too far in either direction. It will always gravitate back towards the middle.
 

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Sounds great in theory but for a party that is supposed to endorse small government, the Republicans are all about big business and sure have their hands in just about all of our 'freedoms'.

The good thing about two parties is that our country will never swing too far in either direction. It will always gravitate back towards the middle.
+1

What conservatism used to stand for and what it does today are not even close to being the same thing.
 

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+1 What conservatism used to stand for and what it does today are not even close to being the same thing.
My philosophy is inherently Republican, however, the party has settled on defending and promoting hot button "issues" as opposed to philosophy. Republicans cannot continue to adhere to antiquated views of medicine based upon myths (stem cell research) and odd patriarchal/noninclusive world views about people. The party has become myth/religious based and is antiquated in this platform. Eventually, and I mean no disrespect, the red states will catch up to the blue states just as we're trying to coax along the third world.

(/wrench)
 

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The essay only applies to economics and nothing else. Unfortunately, most republicans are incapable of being finanially conserative while leaving their beliefs at home. Conserative ideals as a whole are less desireable to many due to their rigidity. There is no flexability in conserative ideals. The president summed it up best when he said, "you're either with us or against us". The main reason for the president's dropping approval rating is his inflexability.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
+1

What conservatism used to stand for and what it does today are not even close to being the same thing.
I wouldn't go quite that far......I'd say we've lost some focus.

Ironically, I'm estatic that what the Dems stood for behind closed doors is becoming stated policy. :)
 

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What I find disturbing is that conservatism has become the exclusive domain of the GOP over the last few decades. People have all but forgotten that there was even such a thing as conservative Democrat. It also annoys me to no end that the terms "conservative" and "liberal" have become these monolithic, catch-all terms.

-RZ
 

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What I find disturbing is that conservatism has become the exclusive domain of the GOP over the last few decades. People have all but forgotten that there was even such a thing as conservative Democrat. It also annoys me to no end that the terms "conservative" and "liberal" have become these monolithic, catch-all terms.

-RZ
I know there are some liberal Republicans but are there any conservative Democrats.....(currently)???


^^^That's a genuine question...not some set-up.
 

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I know there are some liberal Republicans but are there any conservative Democrats.....(currently)???
^^^That's a genuine question...not some set-up.
Not that I am aware of. Frankly, I am not aware of any particularly liberal Republicans either. Conservative Democrats pretty much died out in the 60's.

-RZ
 

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Not that I am aware of. Frankly, I am not aware of any particularly liberal Republicans either. Conservative Democrats pretty much died out in the 60's.

-RZ
RINOs

Republicans In Name Only

Let's see.. Rupublican's I think are idiots right now...

Arlen Spector....
ALL The R's supporting Bush's Immigration bill...
Umm... BUSH... ! (there are some bright spots for me with Bush)

I could go on but I am tired....
 

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I have no idea how to classify John McCain........except maybe the CEO of FlipFlops, Inc.
Indeed. Last time it was John Kerry. Now it is John McCain... It would be great if politicians said what they were really thinking instead of saying what they think needs to be said to win some votes.
 

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So what makes those Republicans that were listed liberals? I only ask because from my perspective the word "liberal" has just become conservative Newspeak for "ungood". Many people get labeled as being liberal when they are not liberal at all… they are just simply not conservative Republicans.

Ronin Z
 

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So what makes those Republicans that were listed liberals? I only ask because from my perspective the word "liberal" has just become conservative Newspeak for "ungood". Many people get labeled as being liberal when they are not liberal at all… they are just simply not conservative Republicans.

Ronin Z

No... that doesnt make them liberal. Just 'tarded. Bush isnt LIberal.. but right now.. its hard to find things i like about him. There are a few things.. but im more concerened about his shortcomings at the moment. This immigration thing... has me speechless.
 

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So what makes those Republicans that were listed liberals? I only ask because from my perspective the word "liberal" has just become conservative Newspeak for "ungood". Many people get labeled as being liberal when they are not liberal at all… they are just simply not conservative Republicans.

Ronin Z
I think their voting records speak for themselves.....I'll look some stuff up when I have time.
 

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No... that doesnt make them liberal. Just 'tarded. Bush isnt LIberal.. but right now.. its hard to find things i like about him. There are a few things.. but im more concerened about his shortcomings at the moment. This immigration thing... has me speechless.
It's simple.

Latinos, hispanics, chicanos....whatever the **** you call them, are America's largest minority now. They are also the fastest growing segment of our population. This is primarily due to the 1986 amnesty, and our total fucking lack of securing our own borders.

Both political parties know this, and they also know minorities generally tend to vote as a group. If Bush gives them amnesty now, the Republicans hope to secure this voting block. White Middle America votes all over the goddamn place, so....they don't give a **** about us. Secure the block, and you have a better chance of keeping your party in office, no matter how ****** up it's proven to be.

It's Politics 101




Make me President, and tomorrow I'll start on a wall the Chinese would weep over.
 
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