Will the Real Conservatives Please Stay Where You Are?

Chris Dierkes

Chris Dierkes (aka CJ Smith). 29 years old, happily married, adroit purveyor and voracious student of all kinds of information, theories, methods of inquiry, and forms of practice. Studying to be a priest in the Anglican Church in Canada. Main interests: military theory, diplomacy, foreign affairs, medieval history, religion & politics (esp. Islam and Christianity), and political grand bargains of all shapes and sizes.

Related Post Roulette

6 Responses

  1. James Joyner says:

    Hayek for example wrote a book entitled Why I Am Not a Conservative–emphasis on not.

    Actually, it was just a short essay that appeared as an appendix The Constitution of Liberty. It’s quite good.

    That was published in 1960. “Conservative” changed meaning in the American context soon thereafter with Barry Goldwater’s 1964 campaign. In Conscience of a Conservative, he outlined his “conservative” classical liberal philosophy. Ronald Reagan built on that legacy.Report

  2. Bob Cheeks says:

    C., There’s an essay over at Taki by Mr. Columbe (sp) differentiating the beloved Paleo’s by generation, that you might enjoy!Report

  3. Will Wilson says:

    As an addition to James’ comment, I’d point out that Hayek repudiated most of “Why I am not a conservative” in his later essay “The errors of constructivism”. Both essays are worth a read on their merits, and furthermore give a good sense of Hayek’s political drift.Report

  4. I am torn in the debate between Dan and Conor. On one hand, I agree with Dan that we should differentiate between conservative and Republican in the sense that you can’t have a bunch of liberal opinions and then try to couch them as conservative just because you self-identify as conservative. You can do that to a degree as a Republican, since there are at least some ideas that would be good for the GOP but aren’t really conservative (helping rather than trying to kill the Education Department, for example). I also agree with Conor that you can’t discount people who hold some conservative views, like a Rod Dreher, just because they aren’t ideologically pure.

    I guess the question is what % of your views have to be conservative in order to get he stamp of approval. 60% ? 75% ? I believe Reagan said 80%.

    The opinion that is starting to form in my mind is that liberalism and conservatism need each other and in an ideal world, they work together as a team. I make the analogy of a car approaching a sharp turn. The liberal approach is to trust their ability to reason out the best time to cut the wheel and they hit the gas. The conservative approach is freak out about the approaching curve and try to pull the car over to the side of the road. When both sides work together, the liberal has the courage to take the turn and the conservative has the good sense to tap the brakes so they don’t drive off the cliff.

    The point of my clumsy analogy is that liberals are always wanting to move forward and excited about ‘progress’. Conservatives are usually looking backwards wistfully and thinking about tradition and custom. As Disraeli said, the ideal arrangement is to move forward slowly and cautiously with respect for tradition.

    I’m also inclined to say that this arrangement would nearly rely on conservatives always being the minority party. They function best as a sort of trouble-shooting mechanism to restrain liberal exuberance.Report

    • The problem with all of this is that it presupposes that conservative principles will necessarily result in the particular policy agenda of movement conservatism and that therefore the more you are aligned with movement conservatism the more “conservative” you are, which is frankly bizarre. This is why the accusations against people like Dreher, as being insufficiently “conservative” or liberals in sheeps’ clothing are just wrong. Whatever I may think about Dreher’s positions, it’s quite clear that what he’s trying to do is to point out the ways in which particular policy positions (and argumentation styles) of movement conservatism are not consistent with conservative philosophy. In other words, he is arguing that the means chosen by movement conservatism do not fit the supposed ends of conservatism in general.

      The other strange thing about all this is that the dissident conservatives are the least likely to identify as Republicans and are, frankly, the least concerned about the Republican Party, yet Riehl is ok with them being Republicans but no ok with them calling themselves conservatives.

      Political parties are supposed to be means of electing people who share a common policy agenda, not necessarily means of electing people who share a common philosophical agenda. Movement conservatives, however, seem to be reversing this.Report

  5. Who cares about Hayek? The point in Chris’ post is that conservatives simply don’t know who they are any more. Nothing could more obvious or true. It’s the whole 3 blind men and an elephant joke all over again.

    I liked Chris’s last paragraph a lot – is big government really the problem? I don’t think so. It’s the corporatist state that is the problem, and we largely have “conservatives” to thank for it’s creation.

    Finally, this:

    “The guiding ethos of such practice involves:

    1. Free inquiry and transparency

    2. Free choice–i..e no coercion. (from liberalism)

    3. Deep commitment to the choices made (from conservatism)”

    These are just words, but I think they describe an ethical and universal approach to living in a just (mostly) world.

    Not that we are likely to see it, ever. Human beings are just too greedy and self centered.

    And all too ready to commit the Fundamental Attribution Error – that is to attribute bad faith to anyone with whom they disagree.