Monday, November 15, 2004

A response to Hov.

(This is in response to Hov's comment to my previous post below Rebecca's )

Well, you do bring up a good point and it’s something I should be clearer on. It’s subtle but my word choice is dictated by what I think will get my point across best. In keeping with that, I sometimes have to use a word out of its historical context because most people I’m writing to have a different meaning in mind. Here, “conservative” means whatever most people think it means. Namely, it indicates the ideology of the Republicans, whatever that may be. When 35% or so of the US considers themselves “conservative” and when those people vote overwhelmingly for the Republican, and make up the bulk of their votes, you’ve got to take note.

Now, I’m not saying that we can never break free of these popular definitions. They can be pretty crappy and downright misleading. When the public definition in misleading or unclear, a writer can and should redefine it. Then of course, you run the risk of your reader not accepting your definition. In keeping with that, let me take issue with the definition of conservative you gave.

Defining liberal/conservative as “big government/small government” is silly. I don’t know where you get your “general analytic consensus” from, but in all my history classes, liberalism and conservatism were distinguished by the first wanting to experiment and change, the other wanting to stay with the old ways. “Big government/small government” doesn’t even make sense since “big government” has only been around since the 30s. Surely, the terms were in use before that.

It was the liberals who pushed for enlightenment, democracy, and capitalism while the conservatives tried to keep religion, the king, and the aristocracy in charge. It was liberals who pushed for ending first slavery and then racism and female disenfranchisement while the conservatives defended “tradition”. Yes, there were some bad experiments: Prohibition, price controls, key parties, Affirmative Action quotas, and Wilsonian foreign policy were all failures. (I’m sure your ears are pricking up at prohibition: Didn’t FDR, a liberal, put an end to that? Yes! FDR was great because he knew when an experiment was over.)

That’s why we keep conservatives around. At best they are the realist string which keeps the liberal kite flying. But 9 times out of ten, the conservatives simply represent the current power of the age. It makes sense, if you are doing good right now, why would you want anything to change? In modern times there is another faction which joins the conservatives besides the monetarily powerful, the culturally powerful who are threatened. 50 years ago it was the racists. They were fine liberals until the racist injustice of their way of life started becoming untenable. Then they promptly switched parties and started fighting all progress. That’s quite an about face! But the rich have no use for the RIL kind anymore, Hov. You guys can complain about Republican “Hispandering” all you want. The rich Conservative elite have found a new bunch of boobs.

In our age, it’s the intolerant Christians elite who provide the Republicans with their 50% +1. Seeing their sway over public discourse fray over the years (see Will & Grace), and knowing that letting people to choose for themselves would weaken their power, they are reduced to trying to push intolerance through big government programs and laws. Of course, like the racists they won’t get much out of it. But I’m sure Bush’s Supreme Court justices will be busy whacking away at business regulation and efficient markets for years and years. Certainly, it would be a crime against conservatism if today's corporations had to... gasp!, compete to stay on top. Yay conservatism!


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