Friday, October 17, 2008

Why conservatism doesn't just die, already

This is really simple. Conservatism, frequently declared dead or dying by "progressives," is the equivalent of Darwinism in the natural world, functionalism ("Do that which works," in essence) in the world of psychology, and trial and error in the world we all inhabit day-to-day. It's the tautology "Survivors survive." It's the preferential preservation of that which has shown itself to be effective, versus the preferential throwing out of baby with bathwater in a sometimes inchoate desire for "change."

And this is also the source of that bit about "If you're not a liberal in your twenties, you have no heart; if you're not a conservative in your forties, you have no brain," that's variously attributed to Disraeli, Churchill, and probably others. What smart and humane young person doesn't believe that she could arrange the world better than it is right now? What person in her forties doesn't have a clearer picture of both her and the world's limitations than she did twenty years earlier?

And thus my hard-won relative conservatism, not "in spite of" but because of my desire to see people's prospects improve as continually as possible: radical change is revolution, revolution is by its nature a gamble, and even when it does succeed (cf. the American Revolution, the Russian Revolution), it takes on a life of its own. It has consequences beyond its planners' and supporters' intent, and not all of those consequences are a net positive to those the revolution was supposed to benefit.

But wait - we're not talking about revolution this November...

True. But we are talking about a candidate whose platform is based on "change," without much regard to which direction the change should take - or, more accurately, without much regard to what the American people believe about which direction change should take, since Obama's plans are for more confiscatory and redistributionist government policy, both of which fail miserably in the court of public opinion. And the other candidate, whose version of "change" involves a return to "that which works," particularly in hard economic times: tax minimally, regulate minimally, read the Constitution in an originalist fashion, respect States' rights by not arrogating to the Federal government powers not explicitly granted to it. The old guy is for the (former, or as I prefer to think of it, once-and-future) status quo; no surprises there. The young guy is for the long-discredited approach of the New Deal and the Great Society - which would come as a surprise to his most fervent followers if they knew anything about those eras; sadly, the best-funded education system in the world, as Shieffer pointed out in the final Presidential debate a few days ago, somehow fails to teach very well.

It's a great disappointment to me (I'm trying not to let it be more than that - I'll certainly keep my wits about me in a way Bush-enemies have not, but it is a little scary to consider what the next several years will bring, economically) that Obama may well end up as our next President, since I think his fiscal policy, especially now, will be a disaster. It's been almost a hundred years since the last Great Depression, but the market certainly seems to be anticipating that this is our moment. Thanks, O.


Anonymous said...

McCain... Because Bush's economic policy worked so well.

Jamie said...

Nope, McCain, because Obama's economic policies will be disastrous. Nice try, though it's a leetle long for a bumper sticker.