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[w:88]What Happened to American Conservatism?

HikerGuy83

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I want to extend a point I made earlier in the discussion, quoting Hayek:

I believe this is exactly where "conservatism" should be, in principle. I think most of us agree that Donald Trump is not a "conservative" in any traditional sense.

Conservatism, in my estimation and epistemology, as in Hayek's, is supposed to be a moderating force. It, philosophically, is about experience over theory, the known versus the not-yet-known. But, where it has gone off the rails for some time is, ignoring what is known.

For example, we know that racism exists, and that much of the economic and physical infrastructure of our nation was conceived and constructed during juridically-sanctioned discrimination. Equality being a foundational aspiration of our nation should, to a traditionalist, militate against maintenance of such unequal structures. Yet, conservatism, in practice, seeks to keep them intact. As another example, we lived through the fascism that destroyed much of the world in the middle of the last century. We watched as it grew, so we know the process by which it develops and the signs of its development. Yet, modern conservatives revel in the authoritarian tendencies from which it springs, in contravention of "law and order", and the norms of "liberty" that are traditional. Right wing authoritarianism is anathema to the themes of tradition that conservatism lauds.

How do we reconcile these contradictions?

Again Conservatism, as defined by Hayek, would not have the ability to think about making changes.

I disagree. One of of Kirk's principles (his tenth) is:

Tenth, the thinking conservative understands that permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society.

It is a matter of degree and mutual agreement. Conservatives are not going to support broad and "radical" change. That might not work for some (the left), but it's part of the basic nature of conservatism.

So you could ask if allowing "racism" to exist and killing it by degree's is O.K. ? I would contend that you are not going to change it any faster than that. And if you push to hard to fast you will find opposition for more than a few reasons (and calling conservatives racist is a silly response).
 

HikerGuy83

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Not to get too far from the focus of the topic, but I see the devolvement of the Republican party - the current home of conservatism in America - as an iterative process. Prior to the post-Civil War period, conservatism and progressivism was divided between the parties, depending on the topic. With the rise of the industry "barons", however, the economic conservatism became the province of Republicans, and has been since.

Tied to that was the xenophobia - a conservative staple - that resulted in the Chinese Exclusionary Acts of 1875 and 1882. Before that, it was a social gems These were the beginning of border closing and the adoption of the policies of exclusion that have been a central tenet of conservatism since. The economic arguments have mutated over time, but the impetus has remained the same. It also presaged the open racism that migrated from the Democratic to Republican parties in the 20th Century.

As late as the election of 1968, social liberals could still be found in the Republican party, but the purge began with the massive importation of Dixiecrats into the party during the 60s. They brought with them virulent racism and illiberalism regarding religion. It was also the heyday of the John Birch Society and "Bircherism".

I think you mean evolutionary process.

And while I think your short description is worth thinking about....there is a growing feeling that racism still exists at the same level as it did back when the dixiecrats did start to bring their thinking with them. And you might consider where they originated from. So, I question the (implied) claim that this is one sided.

Trump supposedly gave voice to latent racism that has simply been supressed with no outlet (but, nevertheless existed...which is the key point). While I don't fully agree with this, I do believe that his in-your face approach did embolden some people to be more vocal. People didn't like it...but it certainly revealed an issue that was going to remain until we address it at it's roots.
 

NWRatCon

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Conservatism does not change.
... Conservatism, as a philosophy, is still what it was when first articulated. It has not changed in spite of being dropped or ignored.
I disagree, and so does my friend HikerGuy83:
Again Conservatism, as defined by Hayek, would not have the ability to think about making changes.

I disagree. One of of Kirk's principles (his tenth) is:

Tenth, the thinking conservative understands that permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society.

It is a matter of degree and mutual agreement. Conservatives are not going to support broad and "radical" change.
Conservatism, by nature has to change as circumstances change. I suppose from a philosophical standpoint, the constant is changing as slow as practicable, but here's where that breaks down: When failure to adapt leads to crisis, changing slowly is not practicable.
That might not work for some (the left), but it's part of the basic nature of conservatism.
It's not left or right, actually, but who is more practical. Failure to address climate change, for example, is leading to a tipping point, and we are being faced with multiple crises all at once - wildfires, extreme weather events, rising tides, sustained drought, loss of crops and a failing water infrastructure. Failure to address affordable housing is leading to housing shortages, runaway price rises, and social strife. Failure to address racial inequality is leading to all kinds of social defects. Failure to address tuition inflation is making education unaffordable and harming the economic prospects of a significant portion of the population, as well as the economy, generally.
So you could ask if allowing "racism" to exist and killing it by degree's is O.K. ? I would contend that you are not going to change it any faster than that. And if you push to hard to fast you will find opposition for more than a few reasons (and calling conservatives racist is a silly response).
Ignoring racial inequality is not a solution, either, is it? It needs to end, it needs to be called out, but you don't see conservatives doing that at all, do you? Instead, they resist every modification no matter how meritorious. And yes, some do it for the same old reasons.
 
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NWRatCon

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I think you mean evolutionary process.
No, I emphatically did not.
And while I think your short description is worth thinking about....there is a growing feeling that racism still exists at the same level as it did back when the dixiecrats did start to bring their thinking with them. And you might consider where they originated from. So, I question the (implied) claim that this is one sided.
Was that my implication? Sorry, I I guess I should have been more explicit. It IS a one-sided problem. I am well aware of where it originated from, and it has always been a conservative issue. The party affiliation may have changed, but the core location has not. It is sophistry to argue that "well, the Democrats started it." Yeah, they started it when they were the conservative party, and the Republicans adopted it along with the mantle of convservatism.
Trump supposedly gave voice to latent racism
ya think? supposedly?
that has simply been supressed with no outlet (but, nevertheless existed...which is the key point). While I don't fully agree with this, I do believe that his in-your face approach did embolden some people to be more vocal.
Don't sugar coat it, tell it like it is.
People didn't like it...but it certainly revealed an issue that was going to remain until we address it at it's roots.
And who, my friend, is going to address it? That's the problem. Only "liberals" are willing to raise the question, but as soon as it is identified as a "liberal" issue, who opposes it? Why do you think they do so?
 

bomberfox

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I disagree, and so does my friend HikerGuy83:

Conservatism, by nature has to change as circumstances change. I suppose from a philosophical standpoint, the constant is changing as slow as practicable, but here's where that breaks down: When failure to adapt leads to crisis, changing slowly is not practicable.

It's not left or right, actually, but who is more practical. Failure to address climate change, for example, is leading to a tipping point, and we are being faced with multiple crises all at once - wildfires, extreme weather events, rising tides, sustained drought, loss of crops and a failing water infrastructure. Failure to address affordable housing is leading to housing shortages, runaway price rises, and social strife. Failure to address racial inequality is leading to all kinds of social defects. Failure to address tuition inflation is making education unaffordable and harming the economic prospects of a significant portion of the population, as well as the economy, generally.

Ignoring racial inequality is not a solution, either, is it? It needs to end, it needs to be called out, but you don't see conservatives doing that at all, do you? Instead, they resist every modification no matter how meritorious. And yes, some do it for the same old reasons.

I think we are facing a point where the country's inability to change and extreme slowness to change a system which should by all means and purposes have already collapsed if not for the ridiculous patchworking just to make ourselves believe that the system itself is not the dysfunction. It prevents us from even embarking on the slow road to change we should have embarked on 40 years ago. The Sisyphean effort at merely patchworking the system just isnt working so in the dismay at a system producing awful results which is the intended results of those who made the system what it is throws people into a loop.
 

NWRatCon

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Although this thread is slow-paced, it has not become stale. The points that are being made are still salient. Dipping back into the original essay, I'm going to comment on this paragraph:

"I recently went back and reread the yellowing conservatism books that I have lugged around with me over the decades. I wondered whether I’d be embarrassed or ashamed of them, knowing what conservatism has devolved into. I have to tell you that I wasn’t embarrassed; I was enthralled all over again, and I came away thinking that conservatism is truer and more profound than ever—and that to be a conservative today, you have to oppose much of what the Republican Party has come to stand for." (Emphasis mine)

Earlier today, while railing against a stupendously bad 5th Circuit opinion, one of our other conservative brethren weighed in, also in opposition. Denver Riggleman's book, "The Breach", drops tomorrow. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger will be back when the Jan 6 committee hearings resume. Rusty Bowers gave moving testimony to that committee in support of conservative values. All of these are examples of what Brooks was urging: "to be a conservative today, you have to oppose much of what the Republican Party has come to stand for."

The path the GOP is on is already apparent. It is going the way of Hungary, Turkey, Iran, Russia and now Italy. Authoritarianism is not conservative in nature. It doesn't celebrate liberal democratic values, as conservatism urges. The modern GOP is seeking to make election processes as valid as Putin's Ukraine referendums - a sham process to validate stolen elections and conquered territory.

That is not a validation of conservatism but its repudiation.
 

NWRatCon

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Inside the Completely Legal G.O.P. Plot to Destroy American Democracy (NYT, Opinion).​

Although this video is ostensibly political in nature, it is not. It is about the struggle to preserve "democracy", one of those core conservative values in the face of a concerted effort to destroy it. It's 25 minutes, but I think it is deserving of a viewing and relevant to this discussion.
 

HikerGuy83

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Conservatism, by nature has to change as circumstances change. I suppose from a philosophical standpoint, the constant is changing as slow as practicable, but here's where that breaks down: When failure to adapt leads to crisis, changing slowly is not practicable.

No it does not, and, in fact, it can't. Conservatives might change as circumstances change, but not the philosophy itself.

First, if that were the case, you'd never be able to pin it down.

Second, by it's very definition, one you seem so anxious to plaster on it, it can't.

The conservative rmovement itself might change, but the basic philosophy remains as it always has.

What you are describing is a situation where CONSERVATIVES don't change......
 

HikerGuy83

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As I've said other places.....

Brooks article might have been better titled "What Happened to America's Conservatives"

While I still don't believe he is even addressing that question correctly, it's closer to what I think he is trying to do.

Tucker Carlson isn't a conservative.
 

HikerGuy83

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"to be a conservative today, you have to oppose much of what the Republican Party has come to stand for."

To be a conservative today, or any other day, year, or decade, you are in line with many of the fundamental tenets as described by Kirk or others.

As the GOP leadership seems to have dropped (not that they carried many to start) some of them.....they are hardly recognizable as conservatives.
 

Hamish Howl

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What happened to American conservativism?

Most of the conservatives turned into dumbass populists.
 

HikerGuy83

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Rusty Bowers gave moving testimony to that committee in support of conservative values.

Bowers lost his bid to for a state senate seat to David Farnsworth.

While not an avid "stop the steal" individual, Farnsworth noted that he thought there were some troubling irregularities in the ballot totals.

Regardless. Bowers was redistricted into Farnsworth's former district where he (Farnsworth had served before....timed out). Bowers didn't have much of a chance.

Farnsworth was endorsed by Trump. In my book that probably cost him more than it helped, but it didn't matter. Bowers was shellacked in the primary.

I've met Farnsworth and have heard him speak. He is a good man and one I trust.

Many have made the contest something it wasn't all to keep the "here come the crazies" narrative alive.

I respect Bowers for standing his ground while I disagree with him on very specific things.

I do believe he was right to not call a special session.
 

NWRatCon

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No it does not, and, in fact, it can't. Conservatives might change as circumstances change, but not the philosophy itself.

First, if that were the case, you'd never be able to pin it down.

Second, by it's very definition, one you seem so anxious to plaster on it, it can't.

The conservative rmovement itself might change, but the basic philosophy remains as it always has.

What you are describing is a situation where CONSERVATIVES don't change......
I think you just repeated what I said in about 4 times as many words. "I suppose from a philosophical standpoint, the constant is changing as slow as practicable."
 

DiAnna

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Moderator's Warning:
Please comply with the special guidelines for Loft posts before responding. Thread-bans will be issued for those who don't.
 

bomberfox

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Inside the Completely Legal G.O.P. Plot to Destroy American Democracy (NYT, Opinion).​

Although this video is ostensibly political in nature, it is not. It is about the struggle to preserve "democracy", one of those core conservative values in the face of a concerted effort to destroy it. It's 25 minutes, but I think it is deserving of a viewing and relevant to this discussion.
I have to question if preserving democracy has been a core conservative value over the years because this recent attack on democracy is well not exactly a new concept. I dont mean this as an attack but this value to me seems to be very inconsistently applied.
 

NWRatCon

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Rather than start another new thread, I am going to add another Brooks essay from a year ago - November, 2021 - The Terrifying Future of the American Right (Atlantic, Subscription). It follows some of the same themes, but is based upon direct observation of "What I saw at the National Conservatism Conference". What I liked, particularly, about this essay is his dissection of the branches of conservatism. He says, "Judging by their rhetoric, after all, these are the fire-breathers, the hard-liners, the intellectual sharp edge of the American right."

The movement has three distinctive strains. First, the people over 50 who have been hanging around conservative circles for decades but who have recently been radicalized by the current left. Chris Demuth, 75, was for many years president of the American Enterprise Institute, which used to be the Church of England of American conservatism, but now he’s gone populist. “NatCons are conservatives who have been mugged by reality,” he told the conference. Seventy-three-year-old Glenn Loury, a Brown University economist, was a conservative, then a progressive, and now he’s back on the right: “What has happened to public discourse about race has radicalized me.”

The second strain is made up of mid-career politicians and operatives who are learning to adapt to the age of populist rage: people like Ted Cruz (Princeton, Harvard), J. D. Vance (Yale Law), and Josh Hawley (Stanford and Yale).

The third and largest strain is the young. They grew up in the era of Facebook and MSNBC and identity politics. They went to colleges smothered by progressive sermonizing. And they reacted by running in the other direction. I disagreed with two-thirds of what I heard at this conference, but I couldn’t quite suppress the disturbing voice in my head saying, “If you were 22, maybe you’d be here too.”

The information age is transforming the American right. Conservatives have always inveighed against the cultural elite—the media, the universities, Hollywood. But in the Information Age, the purveyors of culture are now corporate titans. In this economy, the dominant means of economic production are cultural production. Corporate behemoths are cultural behemoths. The national conservatives thus describe a world in which the corporate elite, the media elite, the political elite, and the academic elite have all coagulated into one axis of evil, dominating every institution and controlling the channels of thought.
(Emphasis mine)

He describes these as the "NatCons" (National Conservatives) and asserts that their motivation is that "the Left controls everything" (as if it were actually true).

The idea that the left controls absolutely everything—from your smartphone to the money supply to your third grader’s curriculum—explains the apocalyptic tone that was the dominating emotional register of this conference. The politicians’ speeches were like entries in the catastrophism Olympics:

“The left’s ambition is to create a world beyond belonging,” said Hawley. “Their grand ambition is to deconstruct the United States of America.”

“The left’s attack is on America. The left hates America,” said Cruz. “It is the left that is trying to use culture as a tool to destroy America.”

“We are confronted now by a systematic effort to dismantle our society, our traditions, our economy, and our way of life,” said Rubio.

The first great project of the national conservatives is to man the barricades in the culture war. These people have certainly done their homework when it comes to cultural Marxism—how the left has learned to dominate culture and how the right now needs to copy their techniques. If I’d had to drink a shot every time some speaker cited Herbert Marcuse or Antonio Gramsci, I’d be dead of alcohol poisoning.


Continued next.
 

NWRatCon

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He arrives at this: "The first interesting debate among the NatCons is philosophical: Should we fight to preserve the classical-liberal order or is it necessary to abandon it?" (It brought immediately to mind the struggle at the Supreme Court.)

"Another interesting debate among the NatCons is political and economic." Conservatives have lately become expert culture warriors—the whole Tucker Carlson schtick. This schtick demands that you ignore the actual suffering of the world—the transgender kid alone in some suburban high school, the anxiety of a guy who can’t afford health care for his brother, the struggle of a Black man trying to be seen and recognized as a full human being. It’s a cynical game that treats all of life as a play for ratings, a battle for clicks, and this demands constant outrage, white-identity signaling, and the kind of absurd generalizations that Rachel Bovard used to get that room so excited.

What Brooks ultimately found disturbing (a condition I share), is "national conservatism pursued to its logical conclusion: using state power to break up and humble the big corporations and to push back against coastal cultural values. The culture war merges with the economic-class war—and a new right emerges in which an intellectual cadre, the national conservatives, rallies the proletarian masses against the cultural/corporate elites." His conclusion is also chilling:

Sitting in that Orlando hotel, I found myself thinking of what I was seeing as some kind of new theme park: NatCon World, a hermetically sealed dystopian universe with its own confected thrills and chills, its own illiberal rides. I tried to console myself by noting that this NatCon theme park is the brainchild of a few isolated intellectuals with a screwy view of American politics and history. But the disconcerting reality is that America’s rarified NatCon World is just one piece of a larger illiberal populist revolt that is strong and rising.
 

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I appreciate your having actually read the piece!

Brooks, like George Will, Charlie Sykes, Bill Kristol, and other commentators of "the intellectual right", represent, I think, the conservative establishment. They seek to tie their views to the traditions of conservative thinkers, and what they espoused. What you have highlighted (which I truncated for brevity) is the contrast and decay that they, and frankly I, have complained about in conservative "thought". He did it far more elegantly and authoritatively than I ever could.

Because of the ferocity of commentary here on DP, I think I come across as far more liberal than most would see me as in the real world. And I admit that my views have migrated decidedly to the generic "left", inspired initially by the rise of Ronald Reagan and his attack on traditional values of governing, but I come from the same milieu as Brooks. What has happened, in my view, is that what passes for "conservative" nowadays is unrecognizable as such in the conservative intelligentsia.

For me, at least, conservatism was a pragmatic view of politics and progress. It sought to govern prudently, behave modestly, and argue rationally. That's why occasionally very expansive policies sprang from solidly conservative administrations.
It is a pleasure to see an actual discussion rather than the usual one-upmanship on DP. Brooks is centered in spirituality. He writes, "true conservatism’s great virtue is that it teaches us to be humble about what we think we know; it gets human nature right, and understands that we are primarily a collection of unconscious processes, deep emotions, and clashing desires." Great food for thought. Thanks for the post.
 

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This money-only, me only attitude that pervades the modern conservative psyche is actually of relatively recent vintage. Barry Goldwater didn't espouse it, nor did Nixon, and certainly not Eisenhower. It came to the fore with Ronald Reagan, but that was long enough ago, now, that current "conservatives" don't remember or honor those prior times and values.

At some point, "conservative" devolved from a way of thinking to being merely an identifier of a particular market segment.
The market segment was sold to.
At some point, the segment began purchasing the marketing itself instead of the product.

It's true that we must bear in mind the limits of our knowledge, understanding, and schemes.
If you realize that you might be wrong, it's more difficult to get on board with radical ideas and big change simply because it makes sense to you (ie you like the marketing).

The marketing has been a lot about rights.
It must be harder to sell things reminding people about their responsibilities.
But our obligations to our families and communities is a HUGE part of what being human is about, has been about forever.
As long as there have been people, we lived in communities. The reason being the obvious advantages of a team over a collection of individuals.
[ I think they're obvious anyway. ]
So now, the 'conservative' market segment buys patently radical ideas in bulk.

A number of folks on DP and out in the world have plans for radical "conservative" changes to our country and our world based on their own hubris, relying on their own understanding.
Obviously, these sorts of things are anathemas and diametrically opposed to actual conservatism.
imho, anyway
 

Simon W. Moon

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Do you think there is any validity to possibly categorizing Trump as not being Conservative or Liberal?
Trump is a Mammonite and an opportunist.
I've seen no reason to believe that Trump has any philosophy in re society, community, or government.

Trump's proposals are often radical and rely upon the prowess of Trump's qualities and abilities which necessarily excludes them from being conservative proposals.

To me, he was essentially an anarchist who ran as a Republican, and had some conservative views.
I am unable to see anarchist.
Trump wants a government...
...for The Little People™ not for him.

If you buy into my assessment, it really paints the congress and the GOP party leadership as much worse than the already dubious coloring of red. Because the "conservatives" in the GOP who routinely run up trillions in debt are all too happy to line up behind Trump because he has some popularity--meaning they are even less principled than one would suspect.
idk.
I'm pretty good at being suspicious

Also, this isn't to say that liberalism and the Democratic party are always right. Far from it.
indeed

pointing out the failings of Trumpco et al is a far cry from saying the Democrats are infallible
 

Simon W. Moon

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Just for the record, this thread is about conservatism - the philosophy - not party. I just wanted to make that point.

Having said that, I have voted - and even campaigned for - members of both parties, and have been registered at various times for both as well - so I could participate in primaries. That's how "centrist" my views are. Also, I think it also fair to point out that what passes for pragmatism in the present political environment is often derided as partisanship by... well, the most partisan of participants on either side. But, I do not want to deviate too far from the actual topic, so I will leave that there.

It is probably appropriate from a personal standpoint to also note that I often bash "conservatism" as generally intellectually faulty, in the same way that I criticize capitalism as inherently flawed as an economic system. But, the fact that I include "marketeer" in my profile also indicates that I don't reject it (for which I get a great deal of flack both online and at home), and I still understand, fundamentally, the goal of conservatism as an outlook. As Brooks points out in his essay, sometimes that includes some pretty ugly views within its rubric (e.g., racism, xenophobia). In both cases - conservatism and capitalism - it is sometimes difficult to separate the ugly elements from the common views, especially when they are aligned.

For what it's worth capitalism and free-market are not identical concepts.
One can easily exist without the other.
And they can even be at cross purposes. Capitalism is fine with monopolies. Monopolies negate free markets.

I am definitely for free markets and free-market economies.
 

NWRatCon

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For what it's worth capitalism and free-market are not identical concepts.
One can easily exist without the other.
And they can even be at cross purposes. Capitalism is fine with monopolies. Monopolies negate free markets.

I am definitely for free markets and free-market economies.
I appreciate the distinction, although I am not a free-market capitalist, quite the contrary. Large markets are only functional within a very well-regulated legal structure, as the demise of FTX is currently demonstrating.

Capitalism, and its relationship to socialism, is not well-understood popularly. But then, there is a lot of misinformation out there about both.

What even is a "free market", really? That's another of the fuzzy concepts of conservatism that is not well-defined.
 

NWRatCon

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At some point, "conservative" devolved from a way of thinking to being merely an identifier of a particular market segment.
The market segment was sold to.
At some point, the segment began purchasing the marketing itself instead of the product.
I very much agree with this analysis. It's the difference between calling oneself conservative and acting as a conservative. The Supreme Court is a stark example of that contrast.
It's true that we must bear in mind the limits of our knowledge, understanding, and schemes.
If you realize that you might be wrong, it's more difficult to get on board with radical ideas and big change simply because it makes sense to you (ie you like the marketing).
Amen.
The marketing has been a lot about rights.
It must be harder to sell things reminding people about their responsibilities.
But our obligations to our families and communities is a HUGE part of what being human is about, has been about forever.
As long as there have been people, we lived in communities. The reason being the obvious advantages of a team over a collection of individuals.
[ I think they're obvious anyway. ]
So now, the 'conservative' market segment buys patently radical ideas in bulk.

A number of folks on DP and out in the world have plans for radical "conservative" changes to our country and our world based on their own hubris, relying on their own understanding.
Obviously, these sorts of things are anathemas and diametrically opposed to actual conservatism.
imho, anyway
Again, I agree.
 

weaver2

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I appreciate your having actually read the piece!

Brooks, like George Will, Charlie Sykes, Bill Kristol, and other commentators of "the intellectual right", represent, I think, the conservative establishment. They seek to tie their views to the traditions of conservative thinkers, and what they espoused. What you have highlighted (which I truncated for brevity) is the contrast and decay that they, and frankly I, have complained about in conservative "thought". He did it far more elegantly and authoritatively than I ever could.

Because of the ferocity of commentary here on DP, I think I come across as far more liberal than most would see me as in the real world. And I admit that my views have migrated decidedly to the generic "left", inspired initially by the rise of Ronald Reagan and his attack on traditional values of governing, but I come from the same milieu as Brooks. What has happened, in my view, is that what passes for "conservative" nowadays is unrecognizable as such in the conservative intelligentsia.

For me, at least, conservatism was a pragmatic view of politics and progress. It sought to govern prudently, behave modestly, and argue rationally. That's why occasionally very expansive policies sprang from solidly conservative administrations.
Like many of the Republicans of his era my father was honest, hard working, fair, and sensible. He didn't loathe the Democrats. He supported many of their ideas but thought Republicans were more organized and had better leadership. Fortunately, he didn't live to see what has happened to his party.

I know there are intelligent, capable and honest Republicans out there but with the exception of Liz Cheney and David Brooks they all seem cowed by the Trumpists into total silence. If the party is to be saved now is the time to speak out against the dishonesty, power grabbing, refusal to cooperate and ugly denigrations of Trumpism before the party destroys itself. We need the balance of two healthy working parties in order govern well.
 
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NWRatCon

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For what it's worth capitalism and free-market are not identical concepts.
One can easily exist without the other.
And they can even be at cross purposes. Capitalism is fine with monopolies. Monopolies negate free markets.

I am definitely for free markets and free-market economies.
I wanted to expand upon some of my earlier comments. During the Reagan era, there was a concerted effort to obfuscate the differences between capitalism and free markets and to conflate capitalism and democratic systems. In this way, the administration supported authoritarian dictators by asserting that - since they were in favor of capitalist markets - they were somehow democratic. It was then, and is now, absolute BS.

But, here is the rub, and why this is germane. Markets can exist and operate separate from the political system in which they exist. Both China and Russia have stock exchanges, and private ownership of the means of production. That does not in any way indicate that their political systems are "democratic", nor are such systems consistent with "conservative" principles.

IMHEO, "free markets" can only exist on very small scales. Once one gets into publicly-traded stocks, and similar collective ownership schemes (true capitalism), a free market cannot exist in any meaningful way. Monopolies are the natural result of open markets, but create environments that are as un-free as any "government-controlled" market, as was the case when Adam Smith penned, "the Wealth of Nations". Indeed, Smith spent a great deal of his discourse addressing that very fault in the economic system and the role that government had to play in regulating markets to avoid injustice. I am not in favor of "free" markets, but very much in favor of "fair" markets - where the government's role is to ensure fair play within the markets, and to represent the public's interests regarding externalities that affect the public.

In the recent past (the last century or so), there has been a great deal of confusion created by the inconsistent use of words and the manipulation of concepts. "Capitalism" and "Socialism" are great examples of that. The philosophers and economists that coined those terms would be aghast at how they are used (abused) today. Conservatism, as this thread illustrates, has suffered from a similar "abuse-of-notion".

I think there are many of us, myself included, that would welcome a return to the historical notion of "conservative thought" even if we disagree on many of the premises upon which it is based.
 
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