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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Laundry-List Conservatism, Modern Conservatism

More than once, elsewhere, I've said that most people who call themselves "conservative" these days aren't so much genuinely conservative as they are subscribers to something of a "laundry list" of popular ideas associated with conservatism. This is so common that a person could easily be excused for thinking that that is what modern conservatism actually is: subscription to the list. And it's not that the ideas are necessarily bad (though some of them might be...); it's that conservatism isn't the list of ideas, it's the approach one takes to arriving at and using them.

Favoring low taxes (or the Fair Tax) doesn't automatically mean you're a conservative.

Being pro-life doesn't automatically mean you're a conservative.

Favoring states' rights doesn't automatically mean you're a conservative.

Favoring a republican form of government doesn't automatically mean you're a conservative (At least one of the Founding Fathers would have been just fine with a monarchy!).

Favoring traditional marriage doesn't automatically mean you're a conservative.

Being pro-gun doesn't automatically mean you're a conservative (Ever heard of the "Pink Pistols"? No? Go look 'em up...).

Etc. Being a conservative (do follow the link) pretty much inevitably leads to these positions, as they are consistent with maintaining man's God-given rights and human experience over the millennia, but it is the approach that leads to holding the positions, not that holding the positions automatically makes a person conservative in approach. Time and again over the last few decades, we have seen putative conservatives championing positions that fly in the face of man's nature and the facts of history. That's not conservatism; at best, it's typical mixed-up political thinking with a conservative flavor.

Laundry-list conservatives are valuable allies at the ballot box, of course. But the truth of the matter is that because their allegiance to those popular conservative ideas is almost tribal rather than the result of reflection, they are frequently forced to resort to purely utilitarian arguments that do not persuade people that ultimately do not believe there is any purpose or plan to human life, or, worse, they fold when pressed on a point because they have no adequate basis for their thinking. To my mind, this is a big part of the reason that so many Republicans fold on crucial issues when they make it into national politics.

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