Political Differences

Conservatives and liberals obviously see things differently, but lately I’m impressed by how their differences reflect preferences for opposing sides of the same coin. On issues from Obamacare to no-fault divorce, from abortion to welfare, our reporting and commentary reflect a choice of one value over another.

For example, conservatives see the social changes of the last half century or so and focus on how there is less cohesion, less community and stability than there was before. Their priority might be the success of the group, not the safety of the individual. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.”

(Ironically, conservatives seek to ensure the success of the group by preserving the freedom of the individual.)

Liberals will look at the same issues and focus on how some old problems have been at least partially alleviated for some people by the same changes. Their priority might be the safety of the individual, not the success of the group. “The needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many.”

(Ironically, liberals seek to ensure the safety of the individual by engineering wholesale change in the group.)

Perhaps this is why conservative media is more likely to report on big-picture stories of societal decline and abuse of systems, whereas liberal media is more likely to report on intimate stories of individuals being abused, but ostensibly being helped by institutional evolution.

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Perspective and Reaction

Why do so many liberals seem to overreact to events? Perhaps the basic difference in our worldviews hold the answer.

One of the many inherent benefits of conservatism is that, with an emphasis on heritage and tradition, a healthy respect for historical perspective comes automatically built in. Conservatives don’t overreact because we’re wired to play the long game. We base our lives on eternal verities and look for permanent solutions.

Progressive liberals, on the other hand, living in a state of constant flux dedicated only to the obvious here-and-now, have no such frame of reference. When all of world history is merely a monolithic march of one-dimensional oppression, then of course your more “enlightened” views make this era (and you yourself) the most important thing that has ever happened. Therefore, every trendy new issue becomes cosmically crucial.

Every loss becomes the most catastrophic tragedy ever, because as far as your values recognize, today’s event is the only thing that has ever even happened. All dissent becomes a profound personal insult, demanding retaliation of the highest order.

Their cultic obsession with their own myopia defines who they are, and cripples any chance they have of acting rationally in a civilized world.

Just once, I’d like to see a liberal react to an event with a nonchalant shrug and say, “Minor setback. Not a big deal.”

“Western civilization has defended us for centuries. Isn’t it about time we defended it?”

This essay is correct. The primary philosophy behind our policy decisions should be preserving the principles that make us who we are as Americans. First, though, we need to understand those principles, and love them enough to defend them.

 

…The West refuses to take even the most rudimentary steps to protect itself against a known, sworn enemy. Why?

Lots of reasons: ennui, cultural Marxism, the mutation of the Left into a suicide cult that wants to take the rest of us with it. A loss of faith in organized religion (some of it brought on by the faiths themselves, or rather the imperfect men who represent and administer them). The transformation of government schools into babysitting services for subsections of the populace with severe cultural learning disabilities, no matter the skin color of the pupil. The marginalization of the very notion of excellence. And a political class that is little more than a collection of criminals, throne-sniffers, pantywaists and bum-kissers, all dedicated to their own enrichment.

…The antidote to this is a return to our cultural roots, including the pre-Christian principles of Aristotle (passed down via St. Thomas Aquinas, among others) and the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. Those roots are neither race- nor faith-specific and in fact the genius of Western civilization is that its principles — not “conservative” principles but civilizational principles — have proven so successful that they resulted in the United States of America, the very embodiment of those ideas.

Which is, of course, why Islam and its ally of convenience, the Left, hate America so. We and our cultural heritage are the refutation of every satanic principle they hold so vengefully dear.

10 Current Political Questions Answered By The Founding Fathers

The Federalist Papers are a collected series of essays that originally appeared in New York newspapers from 1787-1788, during the period of debate and ratification for the new Constitution.  In them, the series’ three authors–Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay–very clearly explain the nature of the Constitution and how it was to be implemented.

Their authority is, of course, unimpeachable.  Hamilton would become the first Secretary of the Treasury.  Jay would become the first Chief Justice of the United States.  And Madison, the primary architect of the Constitution itself, would go on to become our 4th president.

Here are some of our most auspicious Founders’ answers to ten pressing issues of the present day:

 

1. Is America a multicultural society, or a basically homogeneous Christian nation?

Answered by John Jay: “Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country, to one united people, a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs…”  –Federalist #2

2. Should American government be more Democratic (populist) or Republican (representative) in nature?

Answered by James Madison: “A pure Democracy, by which I mean, a Society, consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischief of faction.  A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole….A Republic, by which I mean a Government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect and promises the cure for which we are seeking.”  –Federalist #10

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“Culture Trumps Politics”

Mark Steyn, as always, is way ahead of the curve here.  By the time most of my fellow conservatives figure this out, I fear, we’ll be even more of a consciously inconsequential minority, a marginal annoyance with little functional power, than we already are.

*****

Where the Action Is,” National Review, 3/10/14

You can’t have conservative government in a liberal culture, and that’s the position the Republican party is in….Liberals expend tremendous effort changing the culture. Conservatives expend tremendous effort changing elected officials every other November — and then are surprised that it doesn’t make much difference. Culture trumps politics — which is why, once the question’s been settled culturally, conservatives are reduced to playing catch-up, twisting themselves into pretzels….

Culture is the long view; politics is the here and now. Yet in America vast cultural changes occur in nothing flat, while, under our sclerotic political institutions, men elected to two-year terms of office announce ambitious plans to balance the budget a decade after their terms end. Here, again, liberals show a greater understanding of where the action is….

So, no, I’m not particularly focused on a Tuesday in November in 2016. Liberals understand that it’s in the 729 days between elections that you win all the prizes that matter, on all the ground conservatives have largely abandoned.

What Is the Future of Conservatism?Commentary, January 2013

The Democrats used their brutal Romney-gives-you-cancer/ Ryan-offs-your-granny advertising in Ohio as bad cop to the good cop of Obama’s cultural cool. The trouble for conservatives is we have no good cop. That’s to say, we have no positive presence in the broader cultural space where real people actually live. We have all the talk-radio shows and cable networks we need, and the rest of the country is happy to leave us walled up in those redoubts. But culture trumps politics, and not just in the movies and pop songs, grade schools and mainline churches, but increasingly in the boardrooms, too. Instead of giving your hard-earned dollars to help drag some finger-in-the-windy squish with an R after his name over the finish line every other November, conservatives need to start fighting on the turf that matters. We risk winding up like the Shakers–dependent on conversion while eschewing all effective means thereof.

 

Pure Political Preference

Besides all the more intellectual reasons why I am a conservative, I prefer it to liberalism because I simply like its values more.

Conservatism is concerned with the primary needs of existence: physical safety, family, private property, freedom.

Liberalism is concerned with secondary wants: egalitarianism, self expression, fulfillment, comfort.

I like subscribing to a worldview that prizes the eternal over the ephemeral.

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The Ten Conservative Principles

Quoted from an essay by the great Russell Kirk, in 1957:

(1) Men and nations are governed by moral laws; and those laws have their origin in a wisdom that is more than human—in divine justice.At heart, political problems are moral and religious problems. The wise statesman tries to apprehend the moral law and govern his conduct accordingly. We have a moral debt to our ancestors, who bestowed upon us our civilization, and a moral obligation to the generations who will come after us. This debt is ordained of God. We have no right, therefore, to tamper impudently with human nature or with the delicate fabric of our civil social order.

(2) Variety and diversity are the characteristics of a high civilization. Uniformity and absolute equality are the death of all real vigor and freedom in existence. Conservatives resist with impartial strength the uniformity of a tyrant or an oligarchy, and the uniformity of what Tocqueville called “democratic despotism.”

(3) Justice means that every man and every woman have the right to what is their own—to the things best suited to their own nature, to the rewards of their ability and integrity, to their property and their personality. Civilized society requires that all men and women have equal rights before the law, but that equality should not extend to equality of condition: that is, society is a great partnership, in which all have equal rights—but not to equal things. The just society requires sound leadership, different rewards for different abilities, and a sense of respect and duty.

(4) Property and freedom are inseparably connected; economic leveling is not economic progress. Conservatives value property for its own sake, of course; but they value it even more because without it all men and women are at the mercy of an omnipotent government.

(5) Power is full of danger; therefore the good state is one in which power is checked and balanced, restricted by sound constitutions and customs. So far as possible, political power ought to be kept in the hands of private persons and local institutions. Centralization is ordinarily a sign of social decadence.

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A Conservative Case for Amnesty

Today, everybody’s talking about the Supreme Court’s universal health care ruling.  However, here are some thoughts I’ve been putting together since their ruling on Arizona’s controversial illegal immigration law a few days ago:

Regardless of whatever details or variations are appended to either, the fact is that the only two options here for ending the debate over illegal immigration are amnesty or deportation.  When the dust finally settles, either the millions of Hispanics in this country illegally will generally stay here, or they will generally leave.

In that light, the choice should be obvious.  Amnesty may well have some advantages that conservatives have overlooked, and deportation is simply untenable.

Mass deportation is a Utopian fantasy.  The first rule of conservatism is to approach reality as it is, not as we wish it would be.

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What the Left and Right Both Get Right

A pair of recent New York Times features asked political thinkers on both sides of the aisle what the other side gets right.  The columns are each fascinating: I enjoyed the recognition of key conservative principles in “What the Right Gets Right,” and I can easily agree with most of “What the Left Gets Right.”  Highly recommended.

From “What the Right Gets Right:”

It recognizes “the importance of material incentives in shaping behavior, and the difficulty in keeping bureaucracies under control and responsive to citizens.”

It is skeptical of “the application of social science theories to real world problems” and cognizant of “human fallibility/corruptibility.”

It places a high value on “liberty/autonomy.”

It places a similarly high value on “good parenting.”

It acknowledges “the superiority of market systems for encouraging efficient use of resources.”

From “What the Left Gets Right:”

Liberals are sensitive to the unsettling potential of income disparities. They are attentive to the overreaching of the federal government through its national security apparatus. They are less likely to pretend that scientific questions – is the planet getting warmer, for example, and if so, why? – are really ideological questions. They understand that the legacies of two centuries of slavery and another of Jim Crow are still active and still debilitating. And they are more realistic about the limits of American military power than many conservatives.

Charlton Heston: Winning the Culture War

So the latest remake in the Planet of the Apes series seems to be a hit.  That reminds me of the original, which was really quite good (Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling  wrote the script).  That reminds me of Charlton Heston, who starred in the original, and said the famous “Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!” line.  That reminds me of a great speech Heston gave at Harvard Law School in 1999, where he excoriated political correctness, victim mentalities, and every other sort of social “gotcha” game that ends up facilitating a coarser, weaker world. 

I read a transcript of this my senior year in college, soon after the speech was given.  As a youth, like all good, young mass culture consumers, I was reflexively liberal, swallowing whole every bit of media indoctrination presented to me.  However, throughout my college years, a confluence of factors started to gel, and I started to see the world differently.  This speech was definitely one of those factors.  I immediately saw the wisdom in it.

Below is audio from YouTube.  This site has a transcript.  Audio is also available from Harvard Law here

Obama’s Education Speech Gets An A+

I’m no fan of Barack Obama’s platforms or policies, and I admit that I had reservations about his plan to address American school children live, but his speech was a flawless home run.  I don’t say this as a teacher or as a parent, but as a conservative.

I did not show the speech in my class–I had a lesson to teach and the students had work to do–but I hope they looked up the text later on in the day, like I did.

Listening to the radio yesterday afternoon and checking out a few news sites just made me sick that so many on the right would indulge in such petty vitriol over the speech after the fact.  Bottom line, a Republican could have given that speech and it still would have been great.  Be willing to give credit where it’s due. 

One complaint that surprised me yesterday is that the speech will do no good.  Well, maybe not.  But Barrack Obama is the world’s biggest celebrity, a bona fide pop icon, and if he wants to use his status to try to sell kids on hard work, responsibility, and good old fashioned duty, then I say, more power to him.  Continue reading

Defending Ayn Rand

atlasPoor Ayn Rand.  She’s taken her licks lately in the Bloggernacle, getting excoriated at By Common Consent.  Some have stepped up to defend her honor, conservative gentlemen they are, but there are still some important points to be made that I don’t think anybody has explained yet. 

Rand is criticized for three main things: that her philosophy promotes greed and selfishness, that she was militantly anti-religion, and that her writing is poor.  I’ll address each:

1.  On the title page of my personal copy of Atlas Shrugged, I copied this famous quote from Book IV, chapter 2 of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations:

Every individual…generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it…he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention….By pursuing his own interest, he frequently promotes that of the society more efficiently than when he really intends to promote it. 

Meaning, Ayn Rand’s Objectivism may seem selfish and greedy…but it results in a better world for all, a world more just, more prosperous, and more fair than any other system.  Continue reading

Conservative African Praised In NYT?

Thanks to Arts and Letters Daily, I just read this fascinating interviewwith a young African woman named Dambisa Moyo, who’s publishing a scathing new book indicting the liberal elitist “benefactor” mentality that drives the Anglo world’s policy towards Africa.  She makes several quick but devastatingly sharp insights about the free market system and our narcissistic nannying of Africa.  And the New York Times ran this? 

Forty years ago, China was poorer than many African countries. Yes, they have money today, but where did that money come from? They built that, they worked very hard to create a situation where they are not dependent on aid.

 

Care to comment on America’s stimulus package, Ms. Moyo?

 

Read the interview here.

 

Book Review: Wizard’s First Rule

19315199A preview of the new series Legend of the Seeker on TV last Fall got me to finally pick up Terry Goodkind’s Wizard’s First Rule, the novel upon which the first season of the show is based. 

Wizard’s First Rule is long and detailed, but not really epic: it concerns a fairly small cast moving in a linear plot line with only a handful of major episodes.  Reading it, one gets whisked away and wonders how the book doesn’t get bogged down when it lovingly explores every nook and cranny of a scene, for chapters at a time.  But, magically, it doesn’t.

Although sometimes the magic wanes and it does get a bit slow.  One long sequence in the middle, about the two main heroes sojourning with an indigenous tribe, goes on too long.  It presents the reader with some excellent daring-do, but we must wade through quite a bit of exposition to be so rewarded. 

Still, despite the occasional speed bump, Wizard’s First Rule engages us and invents far more than enough originality to make the slow patrs worth it.  However, (he said, reversing himself again), on the subject of originality, I must add that some parts of the book are poor copies of the genre classics.  The obvious example here is a creature called Samuel, whose every single characteristic is exactly like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings.  Goodkind clearly doesn’t need to crib ideas from anyone; why not write Samuel differently?

But the best part of Wizard’s First Rule is its unabashed politics.  That’s right; this is a very political novel.  Continue reading

Repeat: Ask The Founders

In the wake of yesterday’s nationwide socialist revolution (Nevada, long a conservative bastion [check here for proof], is now officially a blue state at almost all levels of government–thanks to everybody who moved here from California!), my thoughts turn again to what America is supposed to be. 

Yes, supposed to be.  There are things that America is designed to be, and things that it is not.  The best thing I can think of to say on the subject now is to reprint this piece which originally ran on July 1

**********

The Federalist Papers are a collected series of essays that originally appeared in New York newspapers during the period of debate and ratification for the new Constitution.  In them, the series’ three authors–Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay–very clearly explain the nature of the Constitution and how it was to implemented. 

Their authority is, of course, unimpeachable.  Hamilton would become the first Secretary of the Treasury.  Jay would become the first Chief Justice of the United States.  And Madison, the primary architect of the Constitution itself, would go on the become our 4th president.

Here are some of our most auspicious Founders’ answers to the pressing issues of the present day:

  • Is America a multicultural society, or a basically homogeneous Christian nation?

Answered by John Jay: “Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country, to one united people, a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs…”  –Federalist #2

  • Should American government be more Democratic (populist) or Republican (representative) in nature?

Answered by James Madison: “A pure Democracy, by which I mean, a Society, consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischief of faction.  A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole….A Republic, by which I mean a Government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect and promises the cure for which we are seeking.”  –Federalist #10

“In a democracy, the people meet and exercise the government in person; in a republic they assemble and administer it by their representatives and agents.  A democracy consequently will be confined to a small spot.  A republic may be extended over a large region.”  –Federalist #14

  • Can America ensure that its citizens have equal success and comfort?

Answered by James Madison: Continue reading