En Tequila Es Verdad/progressive conservatism/post/2009/04/24

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April 24, 2009 5:02 PM - Woozle

Woozle said...

[breaks bottle of very splendid and worthwhile champagne across the noble brow of this splendid yellow bulldozer... errm, I mean comment thread]

Eck, Blogger still not playing nice with Firefox 3. (Anyone else having trouble?) I spoze I can make do with Epiphany until whatever-it-is gets fixed...


But maybe this would be a good time to reopen an inquiry which got a bit lost early on.

We established that the difference between liberalism and conservatism has to do with the manner in which change is carried out, and that conservatism makes "tradition" its primary concern, seeing "abstract principles, and arbitrary and general doctrines" as the opposite.

This somewhat implies that liberalism, being more or less opposite conservatism, embraces "abstract principles, and arbitrary and general doctrines" -- I'd agree about principles, and I might even agree that good principles tend to be abstract in much the same way that a well-designed rocket engine requires a lot of abstract math, but I also see those abstract principles as being based on very concrete concerns of compassion at all levels -- for individuals, for communities, for nations, for humanity, and for civilization.

The question is this: how does a conservative decide which traditions to embrace? I could choose to call myself a conservative on the basis of the fact that I patriotically embrace our nation's established principles of justice, freedom of speech/expression, freedom of religion, freedom of thought, respect for the scientific method over superstition, and a general disdain for established hierarchical authority.

These ideas were, of course, firmly rooted in the century-old ideas of the Enlightenment and long-standing investigative and philosophical practices which it it helped formalize and crystallize into the institutions and traditions of what we now know as "science".

If the 1600s are too recent, then perhaps I should go back to the ancient Greeks, and state my firm adherence to the principles of rationality and ethics first sketched out by philosophers such as Aristotle and Socrates.

If I were more of a history buff, I could probably write a lot more in this vein, but you get the idea.

So anyway... as a staunch adherent to these time-honored traditions of Western Civilization and Our Great Nation, I believe firmly in a number of great conservative causes:
* The exclusive, complete, and inalienable right of a woman to make life-or-death decisions regarding the fruits of her body, so long as they remain within her
* The rights of those to whom nature hath given various affections to practice those affections with others so consenting, and for the law to respect all such varieties of affection equally
* The responsibility of wealthy nations to assist lesser nations to provide a minimum level of welfare for their citizens, in order to prevent the desperately impoverished from becoming manipulated and radicalized by powerful interests resulting in a possible terrorism risk to other nations
* The responsibility of our great nation, grounded as it is in the traditions of freedom and respect for individual liberty, to provide the greatest possible minimum level of welfare and education for its own citizens so as to allow all citizens to participate meaningfully in our democracy and minimize the overall levels of crime with which all citizens must contend

Now, tell me: how are any of those positions not thoroughly conservative in the American tradition?

How are the anti-gay, anti-women's-rights, anti-science, anti-welfare, pro-fundie-Christian agendas being pursued by today's so-called "Conservatives" anything but arbitrary and capricious innovations heedlessly seeking to "change the definition" of many of our most basic values?

April 24, 2009 5:02 PM

April 24, 2009 6:04 PM - Woozle

Woozle said...

Oh, and add "pro-torture","pro-big-business", and "anti-transparency" to the list of not-at-all-conservative "conservative" positions.

The point of this juxtaposition, I should belatedly point out, is that we were both wanting to draw a clear distinction between conservatism as an ideal and conservatism as it is actually practiced. The problem is that conservatism-as-practiced so blatantly contradicts my understanding of the term "conservative" that I'm having trouble figuring out what conservatism-as-an-ideal (of which you, Mike, are supposedly a proponent, albeit in a more "progressive" flavor) actually is.

April 24, 2009 6:04 PM