En Tequila Es Verdad/progressive conservatism/post/2009/05/12/0626

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May 12, 2009 6:26 AM - Mike

Mike at The Big Stick said...

Just a reminder, I believe we agreed from the start that we would discuss an ideal form of conservatism, liberalism, etc. As soon as you get into real-world examples the conversation is pointless. For every example of ideal liberalism you offer as a good thing, i could no doubt find an example where the Democratic party tried to apply that idea with disasterous results. And you could do the same with the GOP.

You keep coming back to the notion that conservatives are suggesting we always go with tradition over new ideas. What you're talking about is of course traditionalist conservatism which was well-defined by Russell Kirk back in the 1950's. If you recall the original premise of this conversation was whether a progressive conservatism could exist. While Kirk and his colleagues favored what I will call a more 'static' view of society which distrusted most change as unneccessary, what I have suggested is that progressive conservatives can accept change and that it is the pace and the scope we must control.

One of Kirk's 6 'canons of conservatism' was a 'recognition that change and reform are not identical'. That's pretty much the angle I am taking. What I am suggesting is we don't have to keep rewriting the script, which I believe is a liberal tendency resulting from a kind of institutional boredom. For example, capitalism. I think that history and experience (which is where traditions are rooted) has shown us that the basic structure of capitalism is sound. Liberals see things like the housing bubble bursting and suddenly they are singing the praises of Swedish socialism. That is where a progressive conservatism steps in. It recognizes that a leave-it-alone traditionalist conservative position is a bad approach, but it also recognizes that a liberal throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater approach is equally dangerous. The progressive conservative suggests reforms to the system that recognize the core strengths of capitalism and takes cautious steps to put firewalls in place to prevent the mistakes from happening again.

No doubt you will argue that liberals recognize the basic good of capitalism and want to take a similar approach of minimal regulation. I would argue that the liberal tendency to pass up a good plan for a brilliant one and put more faith in the Paul Krugmans of the world than the Tyler Cowens is where the typical leftward overreach occurs.