11 June 2010

Not Evil Or Stupid, But Conservative

One of the things that conservatives like to obsess about is why liberals are liberal.  The two most common explanations are referenced in the title, but sometimes I think that there's a third explanation.  At least in the US, I think that liberals are liberal because they are instinctively conservative, in the sense of being content with the status quo.  If you're content with the status quo and the status quo is liberal, then you end up being liberal.

That's why my conservatism isn't much shaken by the big questions status quo conservatism got wrong, which in the US are basically slavery, Jim Crow and civil rights.  Status quo conservatism is too prone to the position that some practice is unfair/unjust/oppressive, but now's not the time to rock the boat.  Once you've taken that position, it's never time to rock the boat.  The right position is that it's always time to rock the boat, if the cause is worth risking upsetting the boat entirely.  That's why, for the past 30 years, our reactionaries have been liberals and our radicals have been (non-status quo) conservatives.


Harry Eagar said...

Too glib. The Catholics can't be fitted into that scheme, and they are not the only ones, although the biggest identifiable group.

As it happens, last night I was reading about the North Carolina Regulators, who in 1770-71 were liberals but in 1776-80 conservatives.

The historian of the Regulators concludes that the second stage was purely an 'enemy of my enemy' reaction, nothing to do with some sort of general political or social stance.

Harry Eagar said...

'our radicals have been (non-status quo) conservatives.'

Not true if, as the time frame (starting in 1980) suggests, you are speaking of reaganism.

Reagan was unquestionably a radical but never a conservative.

David said...

I think you need to define you terms, then. Obviously, Reagan called himself a conservative, as did both his allies and enemies. He was less pure than his allies and enemies claim, but adulterated conservatism can still be conservatism.

Of course, people also called him reactionary, but we've already agreed they were wrong, since he was a radical.

Bret said...

I still think liberals are the way they are because of brain parasites.

Harry Eagar said...

Conservative: a person who admires or prefers what his forefathers did and wants to keep doing it.

By that standard, Reagan couldn't be a conservative.

I follow Sydnor, who concluded that the Founders were conservatives, in that they were defending a set of political arrangements that had evolved over 7 generations and become, to them, traditional. However, these political arrangements were, compared to any other time or place (except possibly Athens in the 5th c. BC)radical.

erp said...

Harry, now I see your problem. Your definition of a conservative is, quoting the Skipper: wrong, wrong, wrong.

Conservatives today are classic liberals as were our founding fathers and what we want is to conserve our American values, conserve our freedoms, conserve our way of life and protect them from those who want to turn us into a socialist paradise.

Harry Eagar said...

You think Alexander Hamilton was a classic liberal?


None of the founders was what you call a classic liberal. The only classic liberal value most of them held was a repugnance toward monarchy, and not all of them even felt that.