November 28th, 2012

Conservativism’s handicap: it’s complicated

This WSJ piece by William McGurn has a good discussion of something I’ve thought about before: why it’s so hard for conservatives to reach the public and explain their ideas, as compared to liberals.

The dominant media conclusion from this is that the Republican Party is cooked unless it surrenders its principles. I’m not so sure. To the contrary, it strikes me that now is a pretty good time to get back to principles—and to do more to show people who gave President Obama his victory why their dreams and families would be better served by a philosophy of free markets and limited government.

Let’s concede that those who are pushing to expand government have one huge advantage. Their advantage is that their solutions are immediate, direct and easy to explain.

Being correct, however, isn’t the same thing as being persuasive. The conservative is rightly concerned with incentives and the long-term effects of any government program for relief, which are vital concerns for workable policy. The liberal is far less abstract: Here are some food stamps so your children don’t go hungry tonight.

Never mind the long-term costs and consequences of these solutions. Yes, the education loans that supposedly make college “affordable” actually drive its costs up faster than normal inflation. Yes, housing subsidies have saddled people with homes they cannot afford. And, yes, minimum-wage laws price the people who can least afford it out of the job market. The dilemma for those of us who oppose big-government solutions is that the true costs of these “solutions” are seldom clear until it’s too late.

Read the whole thing.

72 Responses to “Conservativism’s handicap: it’s complicated”

  1. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    The 18th-century Scottish writer, professor and historian Alexander Tyler (1747-1813) wrote the following about a nation’s rise and what would precipitate its eventual fall:

    “The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

    From bondage to spiritual faith;
    From spiritual faith to great courage;
    From courage to liberty;
    From liberty to abundance;
    From abundance to complacency;
    From complacency to apathy;
    From apathy to dependence;
    From dependency back into bondage.

    He went on to argue that:

    A democracy is always temporary in nature: it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. (clearly Tyler found Tocqueville’s dictum persuasive)

    From that moment on, the majority will always vote for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, (which is) always followed by a dictatorship.”

    If the good professor is correct in his civilizational assessment, then the current ‘inability’ of conservatives to communicate their ideas and conservative rationale has less to do with any ‘complication’ or personal inadequacy in communication and more to do with the civilizational phase within which we currently reside. In which case, people simply aren’t listening because they don’t want to hear it.

    Personally, I’d assess America’s milieu (with some exceptions) as; the 50′s and 60′s as America’s time of abundance, the 70′s and mid-80′s as that of complacency, the late 80′s and 90′s as our time of apathy and the late 90′s to today as our time of dependency. In many ways, we are on the precipice of bondage.

    BTW, Prof. Tyler had this prescient observation,

    “In discussing the Athenian democracy, after noting that a great number of the population were actually enslaved, he went on to say, “Nor were the superior classes in the actual enjoyment of a rational liberty and independence. They were perpetually divided into factions, which servilely ranked themselves under the banners of the contending demagogues; and these maintained their influence over their partisans by the most shameful corruption and bribery, of which the means were supplied alone by the plunder of the public money.”

    Sound familiar?

  2. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Now that I’ve made the case for it being hopeless :-(

    I’d like to suggest some constitutionally preventative medicine that would address Toqueville and Tyler’s assertion that, “A democracy will continue to exist up until the voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury”.

    That ‘medicine’ is a balanced budget amendment, which if made tough enough (only during declared wars can the government run a deficit) and the amendment process made difficult enough, (90% majority to pass an amendment) would prevent voters from voting themselves “generous gifts from the public treasury”.

    Such an amendment has little chance of passage today and its problematic that dependent Americans will choose really serious fiscal sacrifice over tyranny.

    If not, perhaps the next civilization to attempt representative democracy (what alternative is there?) can learn from our mistakes.

  3. George Pal Says:

    “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.” – John Adams

    “Man born into a family is compelled to sustain society.” – David Hume

    To think we should avail ourselves of the thoughts of Milton Friedman is to miss the point of the problem. One faction unholsters M. Friedman, another Thomas Friedman, a third a Rothbard, and a forth Krugman, and you end up with dueling economists.

    Better to start with the eternal truths, the immutable virtues, Judeo/Christian ethics, and the paramount institution – the natural family. Once they are mastered it becomes second nature to see Milton F. new what he was talking about, Thomas F. as a charlatan, that Rothbard had a point, and Krugman’s full of shit.

  4. n.n Says:

    It’s not complicated at all. Respect individual dignity and recognize an intrinsic value of human life. The complications arise due to limitations imposed by the natural order and our own consciousness. For example: there is no instant gratification (i.e. material, physical, ego) without consequences. Another is that we will cannot all enjoy a beachfront property in Hawaii. And another yet is we do not all share the same dream. In fact, setting aside the challenges engendered by constraints of reality, American conservatism is very straightforward.

    Actually, it is libertarianism, which provides insufficient guidance for classifying behaviors; and liberalism and progressivism, which operate on selective principles, and offer no guidance whatsoever; that are complicated in their simplicity and complexity, respectively.

  5. n.n Says:

    George Pal:

    The axiom underlying the Adams quote is: liberty is only possible for individuals capable of self-moderating behavior.

  6. Paul A'Barge Says:

    Geoffrey,
    tl;dr

  7. n.n Says:

    re: Adams quote

    It is an example of traditional knowledge, which is summarily rejected or ignored simply because it is dressed in religious (or philosophical) attire.

  8. Jan of MN Says:

    Geoffrey Britain,
    It does seem that America has come nearly to the end of the cycle — “from dependency back into bondage” — which makes the conservative message all the more difficult, if not impossible, to convey. Further, our message seldom gets through the fog of campaigns because it is so challenging, compared to the liberal message, to articulate. I’ve long believed that conservatives ignore that extra challenge at their peril.

    Liberals need to be led — or pushed — beyond what Thomas Sowell calls Stage One Thinking, which results in policies based on hope and the short term, rather than thinking through the likely harmful side effects and long-term consequences. Conservatives can’t simply speak of lowering tax rates and reducing the size of government without explaining the “why”, the effects on an individual’s condition and spirit, not to mention the impact on the nation as a whole.

    This extra burden of communication may be an impossible task, but we have to try as if we believe it’s not *too late to try*. The first thing is to understand the nature and the magnitude of the challenge, then take it on aggressively.

  9. Ray Says:

    One of my fiends told me before the election Obama would win. I said, no way. He said too many people had an entitlement mentality and Obama promised them free goodies. So, who are people going to vote for, Santa Clause or the Grinch? Santa Claus won. Free goodies for everybody!

  10. Paul A'Barge Says:

    What’s troubling: confusing Republicans with Conservatives. Conservatives have principles. These are the people who should be communicating. Republicans have no principles. They are as likely to grow government as Democrats. And they don’t care if their candidate wins or loses as long as they make money during the campaign.

  11. ziontruth Says:

    From the WSJ article:

    “It can be done. Three decades ago, Milton and Rose Friedman illustrated the benefits of capitalism to millions of ordinary citizens through their television series and book, ‘Free to Choose.’ We need a similar popular effort today,…”

    McGurn is right that proper messaging can work wonders in changing the public perception. However, he forgets the other half of the equation, the one without which even the best messaging in the world would be useless: Making sure there are no hostile gatekeepers preventing the message from getting out to the public.

    The trouble with this all-important issue is that there may not be a legal way of getting past the toll booths. If the enforcing power behind the MSM has grown such that information shunpiking is illegal, then matters are about to get much tenser. This is why I’ve long watched the Amerimarxists’ attempts to shut down FOX News—the only MSM alternative to their monopoly—with great interest, as well as trepidation.

  12. Jim Nicholas Says:

    Delayed gratification is really not all that complicated to understand. Even when my grandchildren were quite young, they understood it well enough to tease me about my advocating it. As they matured, they began to have the will to apply what they had already understood. Now some even tend to vote for Republicans!

  13. neo-neocon Says:

    Jim Nicholas: on the contrary, I think delayed gratification is fast becoming more and more difficult to either understand or to accept, or perhaps both. And the conservative argument isn’t just one of delayed gratification, it’s of a seeming disconnect (or at least a seeming complexity) between cause and effect, something that seems counter-intuitive to a lot of people. It’s a sort of toughlove approach, in a way.

  14. NeoConScum Says:

    “The dominant media conclusion from this…”

    BHWAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa…!!

  15. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Paul A’Barge,
    Re: “tl;dr”

    really? If it’s too long and so you didn’t read it, I wonder how uneducated liberals with the attention span of a 5yr old are going to comprehend our ‘complicated’ message? I guess you’ve made, if inadvertently, neo-neocon’s point…

    And the point of the economic principles you tout is that country’s, as much as individuals, must live within their means and, that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, yes?

    Which as Ray points out, makes us, in their view, the ‘Grinch’ and far too many people today are saying, “take your principles and put em where the sun don’t shine. I want Santa coming down my chimney and Obama et al have promised to deliver him”. And for the ‘cherry on top’, if Santa doesn’t come down the chimney, its Bush’s etc. fault!

    So that 47% plus some massive but judicious voter fraud means the party can continue ad infinitum, which for those raised on instant gratification is all they care about.

  16. rickl Says:

    It’s pretty hard for principled arguments to compete against “Vote for me and I’ll give you free stuff.” A sizable percentage of the population is simply not intellectually capable of understanding the principles of limited government, and they lack the morality to realize that stealing from others is wrong.

    But all of this discussion is just meaningless wheel-spinning until we accept the fact that democracy is not a stable form of government. Parasites should under no circumstances have the same voice as productive citizens. People receiving government assistance should not be able to vote themselves a bigger share, period.

    There is no chance of resolving this until voting becomes an earned privilege, not a right.

  17. Zachriel Says:

    William McGurn: The conservative is rightly concerned with incentives and the long-term effects of any government program for relief, which are vital concerns for workable policy. The liberal is far less abstract: Here are some food stamps so your children don’t go hungry tonight.

    That’s a common tack; when comparing liberal and conservative, to take an extreme or oversimplified version of one side to compare to the moderate and reasonable of the other. Some basic concepts:

    “Conservatives” tend to believe that traditional values and institutions are the bulwark of society, that too fast of change can result in unintended consequences or even anarchy. Rational conservatives believe in change and reform, of course, but believe the change must be gradual and moderated. Conservatives tend to look to the past for inspiration, cultural stratifications being a consequence of natural order.

    “Liberals” tend to believe that traditional values and institutions can impede progress, that too slow of change can result in cultural stagnation or even disintegration. Rational liberals believe in the preservation of traditional values and institutions, of course, but believe they must be pushed to adapt to modern times. Liberals tend to look to the future for inspiration, the progress of history being seen as a march towards a more egalitarian society.
    http://zachriel.blogspot.com/2005/07/liberal-v-conservative.html

    So, taking another look at McGurn’s statement, we can see he is comparing a reasonable conservative with unthinking liberalism. We may as well compare reasonable liberalism with knee-jerk conservatism, for example, carefully considered reform rejected because it may threaten vested interests, or simply because that’s not the way it’s always been done.

    Those sorts of comparisons do not reveal the crux of the differences, or lead to any understanding of the respective positions.

    William McGurn: it strikes me that now is a pretty good time to get back to principles—and to do more to show people who gave President Obama his victory why their dreams and families would be better served by a philosophy of free markets and limited government.

    Most everyone wants the smallest possible government that still provides desired services. The question is which services, and how to design those services for maximum effectiveness and efficiency.

  18. holmes Says:

    Jan of MN- yes, it’s as if we have an entire generation of people who have never played chess. “If I just put my pawn forward, I’ll win!”

  19. Zachriel Says:

    rickl: But all of this discussion is just meaningless wheel-spinning until we accept the fact that democracy is not a stable form of government.

    That’s actually an interesting point. Modern democracies are dynamical systems which have shifting balances of power at all levels of society. In a mature democracy that includes elections, executive, legislative, judicial, federal, state, local, political parties, corporations, religious institutions, citizen and lobbying groups, property rights and individual liberties.

    rickl: A sizable percentage of the population is simply not intellectually capable of understanding the principles of limited government, and they lack the morality to realize that stealing from others is wrong.

    Sure, rickl knows best.

  20. holmes Says:

    Ha! That actually made me chuckle.

  21. holmes Says:

    Hmm, my attempt at a block quote is a total fail.

    But Zachiel, your quote about most people wanting wanting the smallest possible government made me laugh. It would be quaint if it that sort of naivete didn’t have such dire consequences.

  22. thomass Says:

    Zachriel Says:

    I’ve been trying to explain entitlement problems (as in programs) for over 20 years to liberals. I’ve yet to find the moderate ones.

    They also have problems understanding other basic math public policy issues. Including that the Reagan tax cuts raised revenues and that the Obama admin’s numbers on the 1% paying their fair share don’t make sense…

  23. rickl Says:

    Zachriel:

    Most everyone wants the smallest possible government that still provides desired services.

    OK, that made my jaw hit the floor.

    If that is true, then why is government metastasizing beyond all Constitutional constraints, let alone beyond all reason and economic limitations?

  24. Zachriel Says:

    holmes: your quote about most people wanting wanting the smallest possible government made me laugh.

    Few advocate government for its own sake, but see government as a tool to achieve social goals, whether national defence or creating an economic safety net.

    thomass: I’ve been trying to explain entitlement problems (as in programs) for over 20 years to liberals.

    The population of developed countries are aging, so entitlements are a long term problem that will have to be addressed. It’s not an insoluble problem by any means.

    thomass: They also have problems understanding other basic math public policy issues. Including that the Reagan tax cuts raised revenues

    That’s not basic math, because you are asserting causation, while the math only shows correlation. Clinton raised tax rates, and federal revenues also increased. Revenues generally increase when the economy is not in recession.

  25. rickl Says:

    Perhaps an illustration is necessary:

    The American Form of Government

  26. Zachriel Says:

    rickl: If that is true, then why is government metastasizing beyond all Constitutional constraints, let alone beyond all reason and economic limitations?

    The U.S. Constitution, unlike the Articles of Confederation, gives wide latitude to the legislative process, and the judiciary has final review.

    As for growth of government, there’s a number of reasons. People want the services government provides, including repeatedly voting for social programs. Changes in society have mandated new regulatory regimes. For instance, while people used to grow their own food, the vast majority of people today get their foods from large, industrial, faraway food manufacturers. In addition, once a government rule or structure is created, it tends to persist, even if the original function no longer exists. Bureaucracies find new purposes or justifications, cultivate constituencies, or simply hide in the crevices.

    Don’t worry. Only most of it is wasted.

  27. Zachriel Says:

    rickl Perhaps an illustration is necessary: The American Form of Government

    Sorry, that’s not an illustration, but a redefinition of standard political terminology. For instance, the video conflates statism with leftism. It goes on to say “those who claim” such and such never define their terms, when generations of scholars have done exactly that. While there is some ambiguity in political terminology, that is not to say that they mean anything you want them to mean.

    Nor do the redefinitions make any sense at all. The video would put kings on the left, when the very origin of the term “left” was in opposition to tbe Ancien Régime in revolutionary France.

    In any case, redefining terminology does not make an argument.

  28. rickl Says:

    People want the services government provides, including repeatedly voting for social programs.

    So the recipients of “social programs” get to vote themselves ever greater shares of my wealth and property?

  29. parker Says:

    “There is no chance of resolving this until voting becomes an earned privilege, not a right.”

    Although I am agnostic, I say amen.

    “For instance, while people used to grow their own food, the vast majority of people today get their foods from large, industrial, faraway food manufacturers.”

    And this is somehow germane to the concept of limited federal government kept inside the box of the Constitution?

    “In addition, once a government rule or structure is created, it tends to persist, even if the original function no longer exists. Bureaucracies find new purposes or justifications, cultivate constituencies, or simply hide in the crevices.”

    Alas, bureaucracies don’t hide. DC bureaucracies are openly, in the plain light of day, cannibals. Either the bureaucracies must be starved to the point of keeping them weak and within the confines of the original purpose or the bureaucracies must die.

    “The U.S. Constitution, unlike the Articles of Confederation, gives wide latitude to the legislative process, and the judiciary has final review.”

    Ah, now we can perhaps agree. The Constitution has been warped and abused over the last 200+ years. I wish to go back to a loose confederation where states are sovereign and can secede without fear of retribution.

  30. rickl Says:

    The video would put kings on the left, when the very origin of the term “left” was in opposition to tbe Ancien Régime in revolutionary France.

    The French revolutionary “left” turned out to be far more totalitarian and murderous than the kings they supplanted, as have been most revolutionary movements since. The American revolution was a notable exception.

  31. rickl Says:

    For instance, while people used to grow their own food, the vast majority of people today get their foods from large, industrial, faraway food manufacturers.

    Due to technological advances and economies of scale, the products of large industrial food manufacturers tend to be less expensive than those of smaller, less efficient farms.

    Up until recently, Americans have had a better and more varied diet than practically anybody in history, and we have spent a smaller percentage of our income on food. We have free-market capitalism to thank for that.

    That is changing now, as the government debases our currency and regulates our choices out of existence.

  32. thomass Says:

    Normally I’d say something about beware the echo chamber but then I remembered I’ve never been able to fit conservative ideas on bumper stickers….

  33. parker Says:

    “For instance, the video conflates statism with leftism.”

    statism: La pratique ou la doctrine de donner un contrôle du gouvernement centralisé au-dessus de la planification économique et de la politique.

    And how exactly is leftism not conflated with statism? Stupide, vous avez exactement décrit un statist.

    “Ancien Régime”

    Vous monsieur ou Madame êtes un idiot ignoble.

    You, Zachriel, are nowhere as intelligent or sophisticated as you think you are. Shit boy/girl/it, Je suis un garçon ignorant de ferme de l’Iowa mais je peux parler l’entretien sur les d’Elysees de champion ou les chemins détournés de Montmartre.

  34. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “There is no chance of resolving this until voting becomes an earned privilege, not a right.” rickl

    I concur.

    “That’s a common tack; when comparing liberal and conservative, to take an extreme or oversimplified version of one side to compare to the moderate and reasonable of the other.” Zachriel

    Fair enough. You did however leave out a key point; those reasonable, moderate liberals of whom you speak have elected the most far left, extremist President ever, whose goal is to take this country into a ‘fundamental transformation’ that far exceeds any possible “preservation of traditional values and institutions” that any ‘rational liberal’ could possibly believe in…and if you dispute that, you speak out of either monumental ignorance or as an intellectually dishonest apologist.

  35. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    ” I wish to go back to a loose confederation where states are sovereign and can secede without fear of retribution.” parker

    China, Russia and the Islamic Jihad are enthusiastic proponents of just that scenario. Dividing an enemy is always sound strategy.

    While dividing ones forces in the face of the enemy is almost always a fatal mistake.

    Turning the US into essentially another S. America of disparate countries…is that really the strategy you wish to promote in the face of entities that seek ever greater power, influence and even world domination?

    Once again that pesky Law of Unintended Consequences raises its head.

  36. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States Says:

    I will once again direct people to listen to Bill Whittle:

    http://patterico.com/2012/11/25/bill-whittle-for-president/

    Look through the comments, there’s a listing of some of his old long-form political essays, which show how consistently good he is at getting a point across.

  37. Zachriel Says:

    rickl: So the recipients of “social programs” get to vote themselves ever greater shares of my wealth and property?

    People have a right to band together for what they consider the common good. Yes, that means they can take (tax) some of your money to build a road, for instance. Courts would probably not allow ruinous taxation as an illegal taking, but will generally defer to the political process otherwise.

    Don’t worry, the rich tend to have disproportionate political power.

    rickl: The French revolutionary “left” turned out to be far more totalitarian and murderous than the kings they supplanted, as have been most revolutionary movements since.

    That doesn’t salvage your re-definition. The left was coined the left when it was comprised of largely moderate elements. The left is defined by advocacy of greater equality. In the extreme, that means communism. Fascism, on the other extreme, is absolute inequality.

    rickl: Due to technological advances and economies of scale, the products of large industrial food manufacturers tend to be less expensive than those of smaller, less efficient farms.

    Yes, but it means that meat factories can be extremely dangerous when not properly regulated. Poor conditions led to new laws during the Teddy Roosevelt Administration.

  38. Zachriel Says:

    rickl: There is no chance of resolving this until voting becomes an earned privilege

    parker: Although I am agnostic, I say amen.

    Which would be considered a view of the right; less equality, not more. In any case, the vast majority of the world’s people would vehemently disagree, and suffrage has been extended to nearly all adults, regardless of race, gender or economic class.

    Presumably, your advocacy would include you as part of the ruling class.

  39. Zachriel Says:

    Zachriel: For instance, while people used to grow their own food, the vast majority of people today get their foods from large, industrial, faraway food manufacturers.

    parker: And this is somehow germane to the concept of limited federal government kept inside the box of the Constitution?

    It was a response to the question as to how and why the government has grown over the last century. Regulation of the meatpacking industry was an important milestone in this growth.

    parker: I wish to go back to a loose confederation where states are sovereign and can secede without fear of retribution.

    That worked out so well the last time. Good luck with that!

  40. Zachriel Says:

    Geoffrey Britain: those reasonable, moderate liberals of whom you speak have elected …

    A majority of the voters, most of whom are not liberals.

    Geoffrey Britain: … the most far left, extremist President ever …

    Obama is hardly the most far left President the U.S. has seen. Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt were quite a bit further left. Even Nixon might qualify as to Obama’s left on domestic policy.

    In any case, the center has tended to move left from the Renaissance, so it would not be unexpected that Obama, or any U.S. President, is to the political left of King George.

    Geoffrey Britain: whose goal is to take this country into a ‘fundamental transformation’ that far exceeds any possible “preservation of traditional values and institutions” that any ‘rational liberal’ could possibly believe in.

    What traditional values and institutions do you think Obama intends to tear down?

  41. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Zachriel,

    Those who voted for Obama are a combination of the left, gullible liberals and the uninformed. Whether out of intention or ignorance and either an inability or unwillingness to think critically about assumed premises, that majority did vote in the most far left President to date. By doing so they have effectively rejected the principles upon which this country has existed.

    Asserting that Roosevelt, Johnson and Nixon were farther to the left than Obama is laughable. Arguably, they accomplished more than Obama, as far as effectively moving the country to the left of where it was prior to their terms but none of them were socialists, transnationalists nor appeasement minded. (I’m leaving out Obama sympathies for Marxism and Islamic principles) None of them viewed the Constitution as lacking because it is “a charter of negative rights”. None of them spoke wistfully of the advantages of being a monarch.

    The left today is not the left of even Moynahan’s day. In the past, the ‘center’ has tended to move to the left, when the ‘left’ was defined by classical liberal values, which has never included the far left positions of today’s left.

    “What traditional values and institutions do you think Obama intends to tear down?”

    You’re the one who used that phrase to describe the values and institutions that moderate liberals support, so you tell us specifically and then we can address those specifics.

    But we can start with the military if you wish, the facts of which are undeniable.

    You are far too articulate and facile in your responses for ignorance to be a sufficient explanation for the substance of your comments. As explanation, that leaves an intellectually dishonest apologist.

    In other words, you’re a troll.

  42. thomass Says:

    parker Says:

    “You, Zachriel…”

    I’ll add that having a retort to someone else’s comment does make it a thoughtful or even half way thoughtful argument. Not really impressed with Zachriel’s simplistic thoughts thus far.

  43. thomass Says:

    Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “China, Russia and the Islamic Jihad are enthusiastic proponents of just that scenario. Dividing an enemy is always sound strategy.”

    There is always the chance we’d work better together if we had places to live where we were left alone (from our own points of view). UK and US. UK and Oz. If Russia didn’t have Putin I’d say Russia and Belarus.

  44. thomass Says:

    Zachriel Says:

    “That doesn’t salvage your re-definition. The left was coined the left when it was comprised of largely moderate elements. The left is defined by advocacy of greater equality. In the extreme, that means communism. Fascism, on the other extreme, is absolute inequality.”

    Nonsense. People here are classical liberals. They’d have been on the left in French terms at the time of the revolution. American supporters of the revolution such as Jefferson are held up today by us as a hero and not really respected on the US left today. Classical liberalism is about equal opportunity not equal results. We are the modern party of enlightenment values and reason. The left is about tribalism, power, and force.

    Fascism does not hold up inequality of a goal. If you actually read about it; it claims to be equality based also.

    France has always had awkward political definitions since so few French people spoke foreign languages when Marx came on the scene. So; things such as a socialism grew their own local definition (this is straight from Sternhell btw). Even now when I listen to a French leftist I hear conservatism (culture this protect that)…

  45. stan Says:

    Assuming that McGurn is comparing a reasonable conservative to an unthinking liberal, to do so would be appropriate given the campaign that Obama just ran.

    Is the law of unintended consequences more complicated to explain? Sure. But it’s not hard. Parents understand it. [Perhaps that is why they vote overwhelmingly for the GOP.]

    Is explaining it made harder by a news media intent on blocking the message? Sure. But it can be done.

    The biggest problem is that GOP politicians don’t try to explain it. And the biggest problem that conservative/libertarian voters have is that they keep waiting for the next Reagan to come along and do the work that they need to do themselves.

    Forget waiting for the GOP to bring forth the perfect spokesman. The Dems didn’t win because Obama is a good spokesman. [He's below average at explaining anything.]

    Those who want the message to get out need to start taking responsibility for getting out. And they sure don’t need to wait until the next election campaign.

    Set up the web sites, make the videos, rent the billboards to direct attention to the web sites, send out the e-mails, make the movies and tv shows, write the novels (see e.g. Ayn Rand), create the art, talk to friends and family, highlight the blog posts — all to spread the news of the blue failures around the world.

    The blue model is in meltdown. The failures are entirely due to the problems inherent in the model. All we need to do is to point to the failures, explain why they happen and why they are inevitable for any govt that goes down that road.

    And never stop doing the work that it takes to get that message out. Because the work is never done. Something for nothing will always be enticing. But “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” is a truth that needs to learned by every generation.

  46. DNW Says:

    Zachriel says quoting Geoffrey Britain on Obama:

    “… whose goal is to take this country into a ‘fundamental transformation’ that far exceeds any possible “preservation of traditional values and institutions” that any ‘rational liberal’ could possibly believe in. “

    What traditional values and institutions do you think Obama intends to tear down?”

    To address your question as if it were honestly constructed and asked:

    It is clear enough from his own speeches and his commentary on our constitution, that the “fundamental transformation” he intends to effect is the disestablishment of the traditional regime of negative liberty, and to install as it’s replacement a positive liberty social sodality model.

  47. DNW Says:

    Read “it’s” as the possessive “its”.

    Any way to correct, after hitting the submit button? LOL

  48. NeoConScum Says:

    Zach…What “fundamental” changes does the Infantile Majesty wish to transform??

    Oh, you little joker, you.

  49. Don Carlos Says:

    I just saw a US Postage stamp with “EQUALITY” in bold black print beneath Old Glory.

    I refused to buy it.

  50. M J R Says:

    Leapfrogging over Don Carlos’ comment [nothing at all personal, bro'] . . .

    I’ve experienced this before. The leftie feigns ignorance: batting eyelashes innocently, s/he asks, for example, what, o what on God’s green earth or in heaven above does the incumbent want to do that’s o so terrible? —

    when said leftie knows full well what’s going on, and doesn’t want to address any more than s/he absolutely has to address.

    It’s as though said leftie is looking for an opening, something rightie says that leftie can latch on to and distract/derail the flow of what ought to have been honest, not-disingenuous conversation.

    Dammit, you and I and everyone else here knows full well what the incumbent and his ilk want to do, how he thinks, in exactly what ideology he’s been marinated. Can we discuss it honestly, or do we have to put up with your rope-a-dope tactics?

    I hope and trust I’m speaking for more than just little ole me here . . .

    We on this blog welcome honest dialogue about whatever. ^Honest^ dialogue — not disingenuous, eyelash-blinking “who, me?” that retards ^honest^ conversation, and that, if it’s not deliberate trolling, serves much the same purpose.

  51. n.n Says:

    thomass:

    Zachriel may be right in theory, but in practice each of the systems: communism, socialism, and fascism, are equivalent for one simple reason: by design, they consolidate wealth and power with a select few, which then selectively redistribute wealth and favor to preserve their political, economic, and social standing. This happens with every system, but the marginalization and evisceration of competing interests in those three systems (similar to dictatorial regimes) challenges efforts to hold empowered individuals from running amuck. They operate through the establishment of monopolies or monopolistic practices enforced through granted or coerced authority.

    Another concern is progressive corruption of individuals and institutions in the general population. This is caused by a dissociation of risk, which is why the welfare system is especially harmful. Not only does it marginalize risk from voluntary behaviors, it also corrupts the service providers who enjoy an elevated status as the face of redistribution or equalization. Both the benefactor and beneficiary are then motivated to increase their democratic leverage. The politicians and similar public workers, but also private, are also motivated to preserve this degenerate model.

    There is limited value to be derived from discussing philosophical or semantic models, especially when their realization is incompatible with reality and overriding principles. Our reality is dictated by the natural order. The two overriding (i.e. conscious) principles of consequence are individual dignity and an intrinsic value of human life.

  52. Papa Dan Says:

    Zachriel Says:

    “What traditional values and institutions do you think Obama intends to tear down?”

    Did you not read the article neo linked – McGurn: How Obama’s ‘Life of Julia’ Prevailed

    The ‘Life of Julia’ is a complete deconstruction of the Family.
    Woman does not need man, your all-caring Federal Government will. Go, and create a web site that the Federal Government will be proud of.

    Man need not fret over who will raise and take care of the children, your all-caring Federal Government will, just make those child support payments, and stay far away from our Federal Government approved family unit.

    “What traditional values and institutions do you think Obama intends to tear down?” What a foolish question to ask.

  53. neo-neocon Says:

    Papa Dan: not only the traditional family, but also the idea that we are responsible for our lives and are not owed things that people didn’t use to think they were owed (contraception paid for by others, for example). Another value to be torn down is the idea that the rich are not to be hated but to be admired (unless they’re crooks, of course) as successful. Another is that no one is above criticism because of his/her race—Obama et. al. have instead doubled down on the idea that criticism of a black person is ipso facto racism.

    These are all traditional American values that are being trashed. Another is the idea of American exceptionalism.

  54. Papa Dan Says:

    neo-

    Agree on all points.

    “So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don’t even know that fire is hot.”
    George Orwell

    They think they know what they doing. How much easier it is to tear something down than to create it.

  55. Zachriel Says:

    thomass: People here are classical liberals. They’d have been on the left in French terms at the time of the revolution.

    That’s right. Classical liberals would have been to the political left of the monarchy, which often wielded monopoly power through letters of patent. Monarchies are gone from most of the world. The political center has moved.

    thomass: Fascism does not hold up inequality of a goal.

    Um, no. Under fascism, not only is there a supreme leader, but some nationalities or ‘races’ are better than others. Nearly all scholars place fascism on the right. Here’s a few typical examples:

    -

    Nazism and the Radical Right in Austria 1918-1934, Lauridsen.

    The Routledge companion to fascism and the far right, Paul Davies.

    The Culture of Fascism: Visions of the Far Right in Britain, edited by Gottlieb & Linehan.

    Fascism Past and Present, West and East: An International Debate on Concepts and Cases in the Comparative Study of the Extreme Right, Griffin et al.

    France in The Era of Fascism: Essays on the French Authoritarian Right, edited by Jenkins.

    Fascism and Neofascism: Critical Writings on the Radical Right in Europe (Studies in European Culture and History), edited by Weitz & Fenner.

  56. Zachriel Says:

    Geoffrey Britain: Those who voted for Obama are a combination of the left, gullible liberals and the uninformed.

    ‘Those who voted for Romney were a combination of the right, gullible conservatives and the uninformed.’

    Geoffrey Britain: Asserting that Roosevelt, Johnson and Nixon were farther to the left than Obama is laughable.

    ‘Asserting that Roosevelt, Johnson and Nixon were to the right of Obama is laughable.’

    Sorry, you haven’t presented a coherent argument.

  57. Zachriel Says:

    Don Carlos: I just saw a US Postage stamp with “EQUALITY” in bold black print beneath Old Glory.

    “all men are created equal”
    http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration.html

    “equal protection of the laws”
    http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution.html

  58. Zachriel Says:

    n.n.: Zachriel may be right in theory, but in practice each of the systems: communism, socialism, and fascism, are equivalent for one simple reason: by design, they consolidate wealth and power with a select few, which then selectively redistribute wealth and favor to preserve their political, economic, and social standing.

    Thank you for making an attempt to address the question. Your point has some merit, but the ideological differences do result in distinguishable actions, for instance, fascists attack races while communists attack class. The reason they share many similarities is because they are both extremes, that is, to the extremist, the ends justify extreme means.

  59. Zachriel Says:

    Papa Dan: Did you not read the article neo linked – McGurn: How Obama’s ‘Life of Julia’ Prevailed

    Yes, and rewatched ‘Life of Julia’, which points out differences in various benefits, such as Pell Grants, between Obama and Romney. Nothing about the end of family.

  60. Papa Dan Says:

    In my recollection of the ‘Life of Julia’ there are no grandparents, M/F, M/M, or otherwise. Removing the possibility of immaculate conception, or perhaps artificial insemination, there is no father or at least a responsible father.

    But there are benefits promised so the idea that they can thrive outside of even a non-traditional family, because under Barack Obama this is all possible. It is a cruel lie.

    It will destroy us.

  61. Zachriel Says:

    Papa Dan: In my recollection of the ‘Life of Julia’ there are no grandparents, M/F, M/M, or otherwise.

    It’s a cartoon. It isn’t meant to represent every aspect of life.

  62. Papa Dan Says:

    Zachriel Says:

    “It’s a cartoon. It isn’t meant to represent every aspect of life.”

    It is propaganda. And it is a lie.

  63. neo-neocon Says:

    Zachriel: of course, it’s a mere coincidence that Julia has a child seemingly through parthenogenesis (no male involved at any point along the way; no male even mentioned—and yes, I realize that Julia is portrayed as having a son, so a father had to have been involved at some point, but her son’s father is completely missing from the “narrative”).

    Although Julia’s parents are mentioned right up to the point where she is allowed to stay on their health insurance up to the age of 26, somehow her parents also fade out of the picture when she has that child at the age of 31.

    Julia’s life, with all the Obama-facilitated benefits, is most definitely just her and the kid once she “decides” to procreate:

    [age 31] Julia decides to have a child. Throughout her pregnancy, she benefits from maternal checkups, prenatal care, and free screenings under health care reform.

    [age 37]Julia’s son Zachary starts kindergarten. The public schools in their neighborhood have better facilities and great teachers because of President Obama’s investments in education and programs like Race to the Top.

    That’s it for family and Julia. But it’s all just an accidental omission, I’m sure.

    Ask not what you can do for your country, but what your country can do for you. The point is that Julia doesn’t need help from spouse, parents (once she grows up), or anyone, because she’s got Obama and the federal government.

    Also, of course, the “Life of Julia” cartoon is loaded with lies about how Romney’s election would have changed things and made life harder for dear old Julia. But hey, the cartoon worked, didn’t it? And that’s all that matters these days.

  64. Zachriel Says:

    neo-neocon: But it’s all just an accidental omission, I’m sure.

    It purposefully skips over most of Julia’s life, only stopping here and there to raise the relevant political points.

    neo-neocon: Also, of course, the “Life of Julia” cartoon is loaded with lies about how Romney’s election would have changed things and made life harder for dear old Julia.

    In other words, Julia’s benefits would be much the same regardless of who won the election. That’s doubtful, but that seems to be your point.

    Papa Dan: It is propaganda.

    Of course it’s propaganda, “a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position by presenting only one side of an argument”.

  65. rickl Says:

    I’m not interested in wasting any more time on this troll, except to note that he has no fucking idea what fascism is.

    Read Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism”. There’s not much that I can add to that.

  66. neo-neocon Says:

    Zachriel: you are a fun troll in certain ways, but tiresome.

    If you really think the omissions are accidental and meaningless and just in the interests of brevity, then you are not the sharpest knife in the drawer. But I don’t for a minute believe that you really think that.

    And no, you don’t understand my point about the lies about Romney. Perhaps you didn’t read the link.

    Whatever.

  67. parker Says:

    The most amusing thing about the likes of Zachriel is that he/she/it poses as a sophisticated member of the worldly, leftist ‘intelligentsia’ but he/she/it can not read a word of French beyond oui. Quel ennuyeux peu de merde. ;-)

  68. M J R Says:

    parker, 11:22 pm:

    Brother parker, I think you’re aiming at the wrong thing. Zachriel’s universe is radically different from yours or mine, much as the right’s and the left’s universes are radically different. For me, at least, whether he can read French is not that important. I’m pretty lousy at French, but I think my viewpoint is nevertheless worthwhile (you are free to differ, of course).

    Once upon a time we-all could agree on objective reality; I guess that was when journalism and the writing of history were honest attempts to record what is. As you and I both agree, journalism has gradually given way to whoredom (with exceptions, of course); I can’t say when it comes to the writing of history but I am not encouraged.

    Anyway, right and left are talking/writing straight past each other now. In many cases, the attempt to bridge the gap is worth neither the effort nor the elevation in blood pressure. (I’ve been experiencing this of late with someone who was once a very dear friend, but who is as left as they come this side of sanity.)

    What a state of affairs! And it can be traced to the post-modern dogma that this human experience is totally subjective: that while different people will experience the same event differently, sometimes markedly so, post-moderism does away with the notion that there is an objective reality for people of good will and decent motives to interpret differently.

    ‘Nuff! See ya . . .

  69. Zachriel Says:

    rickl: Read Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism”. There’s not much that I can add to that.

    We cited a number of professional historians. Goldberg is not an authority by any means, and redefining terminology doesn’t make for an argument, in any case.

  70. Zachriel Says:

    M J R: Once upon a time we-all could agree on objective reality;

    We’re quite happy with objectivity. Our original contention was that McGurn was comparing apples and oranges, something easy enough to see in this statement:

    McGurn: The conservative is rightly concerned with incentives and the long-term effects of any government program for relief, which are vital concerns for workable policy. The liberal is far less abstract: Here are some food stamps so your children don’t go hungry tonight.

    Thoughtful conservatives do worry about long-term effects. So do thoughtful liberals. Knee-jerk conservatives reject reforms regardless, just as knee-jerk liberals embrace them regardless.

    There has been a great deal of confusion on this thread over basic political science. Left and liberal are not equivalent terms. Leftism advocates equality. Liberalism balances liberty and equality. Rightism advocates hierarchies. Conservatism advocates adhering to traditional institutions, which are often hierarchical.

    When McGurn says “The conservative is rightly concerned with incentives and the long-term effects of any government”, he is correctly stating the thoughtful conservative view. While a conservative may accept the necessity of reform, he balances this against the need to preserve important traditions and the unintended consequences of that reform.

    The thoughtful liberal will acknowledge the problem of unintended consequences, and attempt to minimize the problem, yet may still press for reform. Ultimately, all reform has unintended consequences, but the world has changed since the days when kings and popes determined all matters of law and conscience.

  71. Zachriel Says:

    Extremists, on the other hand, ignore unintended consequences, and use extreme measure to achieve their goals, whether absolute equality on the extreme Left or absolute inequality on the extreme Right.

    In Nineteen Eighty-Four, a nightmare of the Left, Winston Smith was not killed, but ‘healed’.

  72. parker Says:

    MJR,

    I agree with your words. I simply enjoy making feeble attempts to nudge the Zachriels of the world. A bit mean spirited on my part I admit.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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