Political conservatism

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Classic conservatism is a political philosophy whose central theme is the prevention of change in society. It often includes a certain reactionary element that wishes to revert society to an earlier (supposedly happer) time, or a set of societal norms that existed during that time, but this is not the main thrust of conservatism around the world.

The conservative ideal encompasses what is best about conservatism, and ways in which the idea of conservatism is misrepresented or misused.

Conservatism encompasses a wide variety of possible viewpoints, with different aspects being emphasized in different countries:

Social Conservatism

Social conservatives believe that there is "wisdom embedded in [existing] social structures/norms", and that we tamper with those structures at our peril. In other words, the current social norms are the way they are because they have been proven to work over a long period of time, and there is considerable danger if they cease to work properly.

The implication of this is that we don't know how those norms got the way they are, nor why they work. This is at odds with the idea that we as a civilization have been documenting our own history in considerable detail for many centuries now, and are indeed quite capable of noting which experiments have succeeded, which failed, and which were made popular or unpopular without correlation to (and for reasons other than) their success or failure at their intended purpose. The social conservative attitude essentially favors custom over understanding, shuns experimentation, and fears the possible consequences.

Social conservatives are at odds with social liberals on certain issues:

  • marriage (liberals want to broaden it, conservatives don't)
  • death penalty (conservatives for, liberals against)
  • gun control (conservatives against, liberals for)

Fiscal Conservatism

Fiscal conservatives are more concerned about unnecessary government expenditure, and tend to prefer solutions where private industry or "faith-based" groups provide the bulk of the funding. For this reason, they tend to seek solutions based in free market incentives. They also tend to be against government regulation, however, which they unfortunately often seem to forget is a requirement for a free marketplace.

Reference

Conservative and Fundamentalist Groups/Projects (non-US)

Related Links

Blogs

Books

  • The Marketing of Evil by David Kupelian (Amazon): "Americans have come to tolerate, embrace and even champion many things that would have horrified their parents' generation – from easy divorce and unrestricted abortion-on-demand to extreme body piercing and teaching homosexuality to grade-schoolers."
    • Comments:
      • Easy divorce has been shown to reduce suicide rates; nobody gets unrestricted abortion-on-demand, though I could argue that it would be a good idea, at least in the first trimester; and you can't "teach homosexuality" – is anyone actually trying to do this? Unless it means "teaching about homosexuality", which would be an important part of any decent sex education curriculum (otherwise kids are likely to grow up hating and fearing gay people, which would probably make this book's author happy – or, if the student in question is gay, hating and fearing her/himself, which would probably also make the book's author happy). What's wrong with body-piercing? --Woozle 11:07, 12 January 2007 (EST)

News Sites

  • NewsMax: "America's News Page" (see also Wikipedia)
  • townhall.com is generally described as conservative, but according to Wikipedia their mission is specifically to aid in "the fight against those who would sacrifice the individual and freedom for political gain and big government."

Publications

Commentary

David Brin writes about this [1]:

This fellow is another species. One that would prefer to stay feudal, terrified, and only half sapient forever -- though with confident expectation that God’s reality is a cramped, short term exercise, and so it does not matter.

He praises elitism, mythology, romanticism, nostalgia, mysticism, exceptionalism, ritualistic-dogmatic traditionalism, and prejudice in the purest meaning of the word - pre-judice - judging others and all thoughts based upon comfortable, self-serving assumptions and eliminating all processes that test those subjective assumptions against the genuine holiness of the Creator’s greatest work, a thing called objective reality.

Indeed, denial of objective reality or its relevance is the underlying commonality that this fellow howls in perfect synchrony with romantics of the far left, whose praise of ancient mysticism and tribal ways converge eerily on the extreme, with "reactionaries" like this guy.

(Naturally, my own theology, that we were meant to be apprentices and knowingly (through science) begin sharing and completing the art/craft of Creation, would send both types shrieking.)

If you have not seen it, do. And know the full range of human personality that makes our task so dauntingly difficult. Trogs who know that 6,000 years of trying their way never got humanity anything but pain, nevertheless bitterly resent us our turn, trying something new and blatantly better.

No wonder they are fighting back so hard, as we speak. They must re-establish the old way fast, or lose their chance forever, as humanity finally steps into the light.

A responding poster on the same thread says:

I don't have a link handy but there's been some research [indicating that far-right partisans] don't use their cerebral cortex much when evaluating political statements. Instead another part of their brain associated with emotional rewards lights up whenever they affirm the "correct" side or disagree with the "incorrect" side. I'm sure such a pack mentality came in handy back in the day but it's ill suited to a democracy.

I think this is also why we see such an overlap between creationists and people who vehemently object to global warming. The global warming hypothesis requires them to believe in a moral cause of a nature that they find unpalatable (there's no foreign enemy to blame it on and they're not necessarily the good guys).

Deconstructing the far right is easy. Just turn their accusations around, most of them in fact apply to them: global warming is a religion (they're creationists and/or heavily influenced by christian dominionism), liberals are arrogant and ignorant, etc. etc.

But in fairness we should be deconstructing the loonies on the other side of the political spectrum too. Unfortunately this is a lot harder to do since they're a lot more diversified and neurotic, a Baskin Robbins of ideological weirdness (although a lot of them them tend to have issues with daddy). The end result is basically the same nature of thinking, just with different packaging.

  • 2006-07-06 The thug and intimidation tactics of the Far Right go mainstream by Glenn Greenwald
  • 2005-12-05 'I Didn't Like Nixon Until Watergate': The Conservative Movement Now by Rick Perlstein
  • 2005-09-27 J.E.R. Staddon writes: "...there are acres written on conservatism, but one of the best definitions I've seen is that it is a disbelief in utopia, i.e., a disbelief in the "progressive" idea that human beings, and human society, are infinitely perfectible. The problem with belief in utopia is that if you believe it is possible, then you are obliged to take active steps tio bring it about, which usually leads to the death and misery of large numbers of human beings (see Stalin, Mao, the Islamists, etc.)."
  • 2004-08-18: [2] In the context of a book review, suggests a brief definition of key conservative values, and then states that they are contradicted by scientific findings, which explains why conservatives tend to be anti-science. (To be investigated: do the given values accurately reflect the conservative worldview? Does science contradict them?)

Notes

Many conservatives, especially those tending to the extreme (including DiPippo and Horowitz) seem to have it in for The New York Times, for reasons on which I'm not entirely clear. The NYT has recently been attacked for publishing photos and addresses of the vacation homes of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld; Rocco DiPippo retaliated by publishing similar information about the NYT's editor Arthur Sulzburger [3] and photographer Linda Spillers, who (with Rumsfeld's permission) took the photo of Rumsfeld's vacation home. The argument is apparently: (1) we are at war (the War on Terror); (2) providing such information in public is therefore providing aid and comfort to the enemy, (3) which is treason, (4) which is a crime punishable by death. See Conservative pundits reveal murderous plot by the Travel Section of the NYT! --Woozle 08:32, 13 July 2006 (EDT)