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The Vision Thing

Perhaps some sort of congratulations are in order for guest poster Edward Sisson, who managed to garner quite a number of comments and votes (although most of them were negative) with this post. Although much of what Mr. Sisson said is debatable, his piece was very well written, and contains many things that conservatives should consider, particularly the importance of an appealing vision for our future. I believe that such a vision is essential for political victories, particularly over progressive candidates and ideals.

In order to understand why vision is important, we should first begin by familiarizing ourselves with the most fundamental axiom of progressivism, which is this - there are two kinds of people in the world: the oppressed, and their oppressors. This simple binary worldview underpins virtually the entire social teaching of progressivism: rich versus poor, black versus white, bourgeois versus proletariat, etc. Throughout the last century, progressivism has positioned itself as the lone answer to the problem of oppression. If you are suffering, then you are oppressed, and the progressive individual understands your plight, cares about you, and is ready to help.

This is an enormously appealing message. It can be easily expanded into a prophetic vision for a brave new world, free from poverty, destruction, and oppression. And virtually all of the gifted and talented individuals who are the creators and caretakers of our mythos and our popular culture - authors, poets, songwriters, actors, journalists, theologians, sociologists, historians, philosophers, etc. -- are devoted followers of progressivism and its utopian vision of an end to human suffering. In fact, they have infused it so completely into contemporary thought that we often do not recognize its more subtle manifestations.

Second, we should accept the fact that progressivism is now the default solution to the problems of the human condition as reflected in our films, television programming, newspaper editorials, and classroom curricula. For this reason alone, progressivism will always be extremely difficult to defeat. In order for that to happen, progressivism must be tied at a foundational level to strife and discomfort. And people must be given a viable option based on an inspired vision of recovery and prosperity.

Third, we must understand that people are continually hungry for change, particularly when they are concerned about their future. A new face with a different set of ideas always carries with it a certain amount of native appeal, even if those ideas are not "new." If one candidate is able to define himself as the candidate of "change," he then puts his opponent in the unenviable position of having to defend the status quo. Democrats seem to have an easier time defending the status quo than Republicans, simply because those who shape our culture want to see progressivism succeed. But occasionally Republicans have been able to overcome this significant barrier and win some astounding victories.

It seems odd today that the public would actually trust the Republican party with ending a war, but in 1968 Richard Nixon was able to convince a majority of Americans that a Hubert Humphrey presidency would be nothing more than a continuation of the policies of Lyndon Johnson, particularly his unpopular expansion of the Vietnam war. Nixon won the presidency in 1968 because he assured America that he had plans to win the Vietnam war quickly and to solve the looming economic problem of inflation.

By 1976, Republicans had occupied the White House for eight years. They were deeply associated with America's embarrassing withdrawal from Vietnam which left 58,000 Americans dead and a Communist regime in power. America had also endured the "energy crisis" of 1973 - 1974, and was left spiritually broken in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Any Democrat would have had a better-than-average chance of winning simply by telling the American people, "I'm not one of them."

But by 1980, Americans were ready to listen to Republicans again. The reasons were simple - the economy was a shambles, and America's rapidly-diminishing prestige as a superpower had been all but destroyed by the disastrous foreign policy of Jimmy Carter. But Carter was the progressive candidate, and he still had the full support of America's intellectual class. And in their opinion the failures of the Carter Administration were nothing more than symptoms of the the overall failure of America. We were told that we were finished as a nation with a free market economy. We had danced during the 1950's and 1960's while the rest of the world suffered, and now it was time to pay the fiddler. Fighting Soviet expansion was pointless, because it was too expensive and it forced us to ally ourselves with despotic Third World dictators. Plus, our military was no longer capable of enforcing American foreign policy around the globe. So we had better resign ourselves to the fact that America's days as a political and economic superpower were over.

Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1980 simply because he offered Americans a desperately-needed alternative vision of an America with a revitalized economy and the ability to once again defend liberty and democracy around the world. At that time, most of America's business and civic leaders and decision makers were members of the World War II generation, and they were not about to abandon the free and prosperous America that they had fought so hard to defend thirty five years earlier. Reagan's message also appealed strongly to the American heartland and to the South, regions that have always been very patriotic. Reagan won a landslide victory, and intellectuals were left scratching their heads. Similarly, Newt Gingrich was able to use the clearly written Contract With America to engineer the incredible Republican congressional victory of 1994.

After riding Reagan's coat-tails to victory in 1988, George H. W. Bush lost his bid for re-election in 1992 because the economy was wobbly and he had trouble convincing Americans that he really understood the whole "vision thing." Likewise, Al Gore lost his 2000 presidential bid (which, given the strong economy of the late 1990s should have been a landslide victory) because he largely failed to distinguish himself in any meaningful way from the Clinton administration, whose endless scandals and blatant political maneuvering had become tiresome. Republicans lost control of Congress in 2006 after they became practically indistinguishable from the Democrats. And what can we say about this year's presidential election? Compared to Barack Obama, John McCain undoubtedly looked like "John McSame" to a majority of Americans who were fed up with a Republican-run White House and eager for something different. We should also consider the fact that the candidacy of Barack Obama presented an opportunity to at least symbolically address the injustice that has plagued African-Americans for the past three centuries.

So how can Republicans win back the White House in the wake of Barack Obama's broad, visionary "hope and change" message that was so blatantly support by the mainstream press, along with the entertainment industry, and the intellectual class?

We must continue to remind Americans that progressivism is not new, nor is it innovative. It is based upon theoretical economics, social studies, and pseudo-science that is over a century old. It retains its "freshness" simply because it is taught by its disciples to generation after generation of young students, who are led to believe that progressivism epitomizes the apex of human reasoning and presents the only realistic solutions to the eternal problems of mankind.

We must continue to show Americans than the binary worldview of progressivism is deeply flawed. One man is not always forced to suffer because another man prospers. Economic growth in America or the West does not automatically result in the impoverishment of those living elsewhere. This is perhaps the most egregiously false dichotomy in contemporary politics and economics. However, when disproving this theory we should be careful not to dismiss the plight of those who truly are suffering, particularly those trapped in the dismal economies of Third World nations, or in the perpetual dysfunction of America's welfare state.

We must continue to contrast the voluntary community advocated by conservatives with the mandatory collective demanded by progressives. Even though people often seem willing to trade freedom for security, there eventually comes a point where people become reluctant to surrender more and more of their individual liberties. We must demonstrate the difference between a democratic government limited by guaranteed individual rights, and a totalitarian (though supposedly benevolent) welfare state in which an individual has little free choice. We must explain that justice is much more likely to be achieved by a free society than by a collective whose primary function is the empowerment the state.

And we must develop an appealing alternative vision of the future, grounded in hope and common sense, and clearly articulated by inspirational leaders. Ronald Reagan's economic and foreign policy initiatives, and Newt Gingrich's Contract With America, are two good examples of how conservative principles can be used to win elections, and then transformed into effective public policies.

Dislodging the stranglehold of progressivism won't be easy, but it can be done. And if we are to preserve our Republic as it is outlined in our Constitution, it must be done.

- Michael Laprarie


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Comments (42)

Six years of absolut... (Below threshold)
dr lava:

Six years of absolute Republican dominance and eight years of this malignant Bush administration has brought destruction upon this country that Bin Laden could only dream about. In every segment of this government gross incompetence and neglect has left us in a mess not seen in 80 years.

There is no greater proof of of the absence of morality in the republican party than the executive orders Bush is signing now at a furious pace. Dump untreated industrial pig waste in streams and rivers? Sure no problem. Mine uranium in Grand Canyon National Park? Sure go ahead. Fill in stream beds with coal mining debris? Sounds great.

If you think images of Newt and Reagan are what is needed to rally a new wave of young people into the GOP you are as deluded as those pathetic morons chanting "drill baby drill" at the GOP convention last fall.

Something informs me that a... (Below threshold)

Something informs me that after the next couple of freezing winters about to set upon America, the majority of Americans will not be eager to embrace any Progressive change.

Progressive change can only work in an affluent environment; affluence is coming to an end for a while, much like the climate this is a cyclical thing. The tides rise and then they fall only to rise again.

The youth (ie anyone born after 1980) have never know an environment which was not affluent...this climate is about to bring great change to their comfortable lives.

Government cannot fix poverty anymore than it can fix the weather; the next several years will be a very painful experience however an excellent learning tool for the human condition.

In other words, Dr Lava is ... (Below threshold)

In other words, Dr Lava is saying:

'human beings are starving to death, don't have enough fuel to keep them warm during deep freeze, the electricity is out again so the food in the refrigerator has rotted...no problem...we're Luddite's imposing draconian laws to maintain our level of affluent-inspired hypochrondric paranoia'

VisionMay I sugges... (Below threshold)


May I suggest Fallen Angels (1991) is a Prometheus Award-winning novel by science fiction authors Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Michael Flynn.

The story features a future in which the environmentalist movement, joined with the religious right, has gained control of the earth's governments, imposing draconian luddite laws which, in an ironic effort to end global warming, bring about the greatest environmental catastrophe in recorded history - an ice age which may eventually escalate into a Snowball Earth.

The exact process is described: Rain is water condensation. This cannot occur without particulate matter in the atmosphere. The draconian emission laws have removed most of this, reducing rainfall throughout the world. With less rain, there is less cloud cover, meaning the ground loses heat faster. This in combination with the drop in greenhouse gases has resulted in an ice age - which is now self-perpetuating as glaciers have a much higher albedo.

As a radical Nazi-like Green Party of "Naderites" now controls the world's governments, this is described as "propaganda from life-hating technophiles", and blame for the ice age is instead solely placed on a society surviving in orbit. Science fiction fandom forms the core of a pro-technology underground in the United States, working in tandem with the Legion of Doom. Operating in a gray area, their colleagues and friends in the Society for Creative Anachronism work with the tacit support of the green-movement, in spite of considerable overlap between fandom and the SCA. Other technologists were accused by the government of pursuing "materialist science" were removed from their jobs and forced underground, where they were generally unable to continue their work.

"Something informs me that ... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

"Something informs me that after the next couple of freezing winters....."
What, the voices in your head? Your imaginary friend? A little birdie?

"In other words, Dr Lava is saying....."
No, that's not what Dr Lava said. Can you read a coherent English sentence? You darn sure can't write one.

Nice job Michael. Unless I ... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

Nice job Michael. Unless I misunderstand, I differ with you a bit. You lump all those with a Utopian vision together as progressives. However, there are vast differences of opinion as to how we get there.

The progressive worldview relies completely on the innate goodness of mankind and human innovation to achieve its ends. It needs only the right environment in which to flourish.

The counter view is that mankind is utterly depraved and, left to its own devices, will tend towards self destruction. The human race can only succeed by recognizing its weaknesses and pleading to God for help. Our march to Utopia requires death to self and the conscious embrace of God's attributes. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control. Without God we cannot arrive.

The same destination, two contradictory paths. Only one of those is "progressive."

What, the voices in your... (Below threshold)

What, the voices in your head? Your imaginary friend? A little birdie?

No voice in my head nor imaginary friend...what informs me are the heating and food bills come due over the next several years.

Perhaps you are not aware however the sun-spots are dormant which means cooler winters and shorter growing seasons which means higher energy and food costs; this is nature's cyclical pattern, how we survive nature's fierce power will soon be the topic de jour.

And yes, I fully understand Dr Lava I was merely repeating what he meant to say.

<a href="http://wattsupwith... (Below threshold)

Early snowfalls in Europe hit Historic Levels

Wattsupwiththat.com is a good site for examining some of the um, uncertainties regarding the global climate change controversy. Especially amusing are the 'site surveys' of weather stations - really, putting in a blacktop parking lot close to a temperature monitor, on top of a tar-paper roof or locating it downwind of an air conditioning system isn't going to bias the temperature readings in any way, right?

Icecap.US is another interesting site. Anyone who says the science is settled and we're warming is just plain wrong.

Re sunspots - you might want to check out Spaceweather.com. We may well be going into a Maunder Minimum/Little Ice Age scenario - there's been very few sunspots this year.

Don't know about you, but I think I'd rather see global warming of 1-2C as opposed to cooling of the same amount. With the warming, growing areas will increase, food will be easier to grow, energy bills will drop in the winter. With the cooling? Growing areas shrink, forcing prices up - and energy costs will rise to meet demand.

Stock up on long underwear, I think I feel a chill...

JLawsonMany thanks... (Below threshold)


Many thanks for providng the links.

And without the risk of offense which by no means do I intend.... I do wish you a Very Warm Merry Christmas with lots of Mistletoe Kisses.

"And virtually all of the g... (Below threshold)
Dave Noble:

"And virtually all of the gifted and talented individuals who are the creators and caretakers of our mythos and our popular culture - authors, poets, songwriters, actors, journalists, theologians, sociologists, historians, philosophers, etc. -- are devoted followers of progressivism and its utopian vision of an end to human suffering."

That's a surprisingly comprehensive statement.

Why do you think that is the case?

"The progressive worldview ... (Below threshold)
Dave Noble:

"The progressive worldview relies completely on the innate goodness of mankind and human innovation to achieve its ends."

"In order to understand why vision is important, we should first begin by familiarizing ourselves with the most fundamental axiom of progressivism, which is this - there are two kinds of people in the world: the oppressed, and their oppressors."

Realizing that these are two different posters, I note that these two views of the view of human nature underlying progressivism.

Personally, my view is closer to the latter than to the former. However, I disagree with the simplistic "binary" view of the latter view.
The tendency to oppress others to maximize one's own interests is inherent in human nature. Any political or economic system that ignores that fact will be at the least rife with injustice and at the worst totalitarian.

On the other hand, respecting the religious basis of Jeff Blogworthy's view, I disagree that mankind is "utterly depraved." Although I was inculcated with that view as a child, my reading of history and my personal observations over the course of my life indicate that view is not empirically demonstrated.

I believe this thread has the potential to open some interesting discusssion. Thank you, Michael.

Sorry, I had an attack of b... (Below threshold)
Dave Noble:

Sorry, I had an attack of brain-keyboard disconnect again .

"Realizing that these are two different posters, I note that these two views of the view of human nature underlying progressivism."

This incomprehensible sentence should read:

"Realizing that these are two different posters, I note that these two statements of the understanding of human nature underlying progressivism are inherently contradictory."

I agree Dave, this is an in... (Below threshold)

I agree Dave, this is an interesting topic. As a progressive, I've never felt that sheer human goodness was sufficient in and of itself for driving "progress", and I would hope that right-leaning quasi-utopians don't actually think that humans are inherently wicked. (Or do I misunderstand the dichotomy?)

Anyway, I also don't believe that people can only get ahead by exploiting others, though someone like Foucault could reasonably point out that every single relationship is inherently exploitative to a certain degree. If we want to use the concept that loosely, then I guess progressivism is necessarily opposed to exploitation, but then so too would be libertarianism and conservativism.

Progressivism has to do with combating injustice, especially as realized at the group or collective level. (Gender, race, class, nationality.) Libertarianism/conservativism either takes such considerations to be misguided (as these views take a fundamentally individualistic perspective of justice) or dangerous (as they tend to obstruct the free flowing of capital--obstructions which even Adam Smith acknowledged are necessary in a healthy society).

Jeff Blogworthy,Th... (Below threshold)

Jeff Blogworthy,

Thanks for your comment. You are primarily describing the difference between Christian and secular worldviews. I had intended to leave religion out of this brief discussion, simply because the overlap between Christianity and conservatism/progressivism can get messy pretty quickly. But I'll bite and say just a few things.

First, you are correct that much of progressivism is based on the secular belief that man has the ability to purge society of sin and suffering solely through his own efforts. This belief has, I believe, been the genesis of monstrously evil policies such as eugenics, sterilization and euthanasia campaigns, Stalinism, and National Socialism.

But it has also motivated progressives toward working in the here and now to end oppression and suffering, as opposed to waiting for Divine intervention, either in the form of prophetic deliverance or the Apocalypse.

In that sense, progressivism has been beneficial in some important ways. And if you know very many progressive Christians, you know that they are deeply passionate about social justice and righting institutional wrongs through moral public policies, whereas conservative Christians are focused more on personal evangelism and public warnings about the sinfulness of our contemporary society.

Dave Noble,

You asked a very good question. Why is academia so completely sold on the progressive vision? I would say briefly that it is because so many progressives are such gifted and lauded scholars. And one thing that I have learned is that scholars, particularly those in philosophical areas of study (as opposed to mathematics or science) spare no effort basking in the collective brilliance of their own wisdom.

Hyperbolist,Thanks... (Below threshold)
Dave Noble:


Thanks for the response. I would think to the extent that Foucault position is correct, it is that even positive relationships involve reciprocal use of the other by each party to the relationship. But that is not exploitation. Exploitation occurs when there is a lack of reciprocity. As the old adage goes "a good day's work for a good day's pay."
If I'm not giving you a good day's work, I'm stealing part of my wages. If you're not giving me a good day's pay, you're stealing part of my work.

I believe a basic flaw in libertarianism/conservatism ("l/c"), at least as it is applied in political discourse and policy, is that it either assumes market forces will prevent exploitation or it is willing to tolerate exploitation out of fear of the obstruction of market forces or the slippery slope of totalitarianism.

And even if l/c is more concerned with individual injustice, as opposed to group injustice, in the real world all injustice is experienced at the individual level.

You guys are really articul... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

You guys are really articulate and intelligent. I didn't even know who Foucault was until I tried and failed to read that book by Eco with his name in the title.
But here are some facts about conservatism.
It was conservative Romans who persecuted the early Christians (and others). It was the conservative Catholics who burned "heretics" at the stake, and conservative churchmen who persecuted and killed those who correctly called for a heliocentric view of the solar system. Conservative Puritans hung the "witches" in Salem. Conservatives were pro-slavery, and conservatives made up the membership of the Ku Klux Klan during Reconstruction. Conservative Democrats wrote the Jim Crow laws of the 1890s, and enforced them for 75 years or more. Conservatives like William Jennings Bryan, had they been successful in stamping out the teaching of evolution in schools, would have set back the cause of science and reason for 100 years. Despite the progressive impulse to reform, it was conservatives, not progressives, who instituted Prohibition, and the consequent rise of organized crime, in this country. It was conservatives who opposed its repeal. Conservative opposition to the labor movement kept the working man making a dollar a day for 50 years. Conservatives opposed entering the fight against fascism in the 1940s (and despite recent revisionism, Nazism was always a profoundly conservative movement). Conservatives opposed, and continue to oppose, equal rights for women, ethnic minorities, religious minorities, and gay people.
Name one POSITIVE accomplishment of conservatism as it is commonly defined. Just one.

Mike,That sounds l... (Below threshold)
Dave Noble:


That sounds like anti-intellectualism to me. And I can't speak for you, but many conservatives are not too fond of scientists either. Especially with respect to evolution or AGW. I spent a fair amount of time on another conservative blog being told that the scientific consensus on global warning is the result of the suppression of divergent views. They attacked the peer review process, which is the foundation of modern scientific discourse, as a form of censorship.

Was Mother Teresa conservat... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

Was Mother Teresa conservative or progressive?

William Wilberforce? Dietri... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

William Wilberforce? Dietrich Bonhoeffer?

Now, the question about the... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Now, the question about the three people Jeff listed, Mother Teresa, Wilberforce, and Bonhoeffer: Were they conservative or progressive? Now, THAT'S an interesting question.
I (much to my embarrassment) don't know enough about them to comment intelligently. But I bet you guys above do! I'd really hope you would pick this up.

Bruce is shifting the defin... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Bruce is shifting the definition of 'conservatism' to fit his rant. Much as the now self-identified "progressives" abandoned the tag 'Liberal' when they had smeared that name too dirty for the public to accept.

The Romans, for example, had long ago abandoned their Republic for an autocratic Empire by the time Christ walked among us. As for the Roman Catholics, their repression was tied to secular power as much as any Soviet pogrom. Bruce, perhaps unknowingly, leaves out the political machinations in the RCC actions, like the suspicion that Galileo's patrons, the Medicis, were becoming too powerful and so a signal was sent to rein them in.

And as for the Nazis, the lie that they were 'conservatives' by any sane definition can be refuted by reminding the audience of the English translation of their very name: the National Socialist Workers' Party.

Bruce is just rehashing old, stupid, spite-spun lies. And as usual doing a poor job of it.

No, DJ, the mainstream corp... (Below threshold)

No, DJ, the mainstream corporatist newsmedia allowed for authoritarian jackals to turn the word liberal into an insult. It was political suicide for someone in America to call themselves a liberal in all but the bluest coastal enclaves for decades, despite the innumerable accomplishments of liberals from Jefferson to Lincoln to MLK Jr. I would say that this trend started during the Vietnam War, though various groups (anarchists, Jews, Italians, immigrants in general, Reds) have borne the brunt of blame in the grand history of American scapegoating. Can't remember who wrote the article but Harper's had a wonderfully detailed timeline of which groups had been saddled with blame for what catastrophe; currently, it's "liberals" (as sloppily defined by folks like you) who are seen as the source of all social ills in America by a dwindling minority of angry reactionaries.

Here's something you need to understand: liberal does not imply secular, though today perhaps a majority of liberals might define themselves as such. Liberals fight against orthodoxy and authority in the name of justice. So I would say that in Maoist China, for example, a dissident locked up for speaking out against the authorities is quintessentially liberal. I would say that a Frenchman who joined the resistance to fight the Nazis was a liberal. I would say that Mother Teresa, who thumbed her nose at authority, was politically liberal, though her attitudes toward modern medicine were quite conservative. The Spaniards who fought the fascist Franco were liberals (even if some or most of them were communists and anarchists). Walesa in Poland was a liberal, whatever his thoughts of the appropriate role and size of government in a fundamentally liberal society. He fought against a rigid authoritarian orthodoxy. Churchill, a conservative if ever there were one, rallied the English in World War II not out of a liberal concern for human flourishing, but a far more base desire to simply survive. If it hadn't been for Hitler, history would have revealed that man to be the racist, aristocratic boob that he was.

I'm not using the word the way you want people to use it, DJ--as a pejorative label for anyone to the left of wherever you feel like defining the centre, be they liberal democrats or Stalinist murderers--but I am using the word accurately, in fairness to its historical import and cross-cultural contextuality.

Now you might simply think I've defined liberalism as "every hero ever", but that's not the case. I would challenge you, however, to think of an example of great progress brought about by a conservative movement--keeping in mind that it was Western neo-liberalism, not conservativism, that brought down the USSR.

As for your nasty reply to Bruce--that Nazis were liberal because they called themselves socialists--that is simply stupid. A stupid person would claim that National Socialism had anything in common with the philosophy of Karl Marx (socialism) or Immanuel Kant/John Stuart Mill (liberalism); a stupid person would believe that their bastardization of Nietzschean existentialism--by the arch-conservative Heidegger--had anything to do with liberalism or socialism. And, a stupid person would make comments about the philosophical underpinnings of National Socialism while obviously lacking a clear understanding of the subject. Hitler was a conservative, which is not to say that all conservatives are Nazis, but it is to say that all Hitlers are conservatives. Take that for what it's worth.

And notice, if you will, ho... (Below threshold)

And notice, if you will, how people were having a conversation until you came along and called Bruce a stupid liar. Are you a bully in real life, or do you just do a really bad job of playing one on the internet?

Thanks for coming to my def... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Thanks for coming to my defense, Hyperbolist.
I don't pretend to be a great thinker. I'm not a great writer (shocker, huh?). But I have read, rather widely if somewhat shallowly, about Western history.
And, as I said, however inartfully, there is no recorded instance that I can think of of a conservative ever effecting ANY POSITIVE CHANGE whatsoever.
Instead, conservatives instinctually obstruct change at every turn. Think of a positive historical movement, be it abolition, women's sufrage, civil rights, or any other. You'll find conservatives on the wrong side of history every time.
Oh, and showing off by displaying your knowledge of 16th century Italian politics doesn't make you right. It makes you a windbag.

Can we agree on some defini... (Below threshold)

Can we agree on some definitions? I define Conservatism is the belief that the moral values of an inevitably flawed society should be preserved and individuals should take responsibility for their lives and their government because they are accountable to God. Liberalism is the belief that the moral values of a perfectible society should be changed and the state should take responsibility for its people because it is accountable to the progress of humanity.

I find myself more closely aligned with conservativism because of my belief in God and and that all have sinned and fall short of His glory. I believe we must work within the framework of a flawed human nature to address realistic issues of order and liberty. Russell Kirk explained conservatism as "a way of looking at the civil social order." He said that for the conservative politics is the art of the possible, not the art of the ideal. Though the world around us changes, conservatism remains a consistent and cogent way of looking at the civil social order by recognizing that principles don't change.

The association of conservatism with Hitler is simply false. Consider Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party in light of the definitions above. Was Hitler a conservative who believed that the moral framework of society must be preserved and that individuals are accountable to God? Or did he believe that society was perfectible, should be changed, and that the state is accountable to the progress of humanity? The answer is, Nazism was clearly and prolifically a liberal ideology. I need to read it again, but I recall F.A. Hayek in his Road to Serfdom makes it abundantly obvious that Hitler was a socialist and aimed at the overthrow of traditional society. Hitler viewed politics as the limitless art of the ideal.

Now can everybody quit calling everybody stupid?

Hyper, you can dance indign... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

Hyper, you can dance indignantly around the bastardization of the word "liberal" and debate the classic v. modern definitions till the cows come home. It's a meaningless cheap shot. The word is what it is. If you want to go there, the word should not be used in any sense and suitable alternatives chosen. Your argument that liberalism brought down the Soviet Union amounts to nothing more than a convenient bait and switch.

DJ is right. Bruce said,

"And, as I said, however inartfully, there is no recorded instance that I can think of of a conservative ever effecting ANY POSITIVE CHANGE whatsoever."

Yet he cannot bother to do 20 min. worth of research to inform himself, asking others to think for him. What a patently stupid statement.

As for the links between Hitler and the LEFT.

First, the emphasis on "the worker" as the oppressed agent of change is the indisputable modus operandi of the Left.

"We are socialists, we are enemies of today's capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are all determined to destroy this system under all conditions." --Adolf Hitler

(Speech of May 1, 1927.

Who owns what after the dust settles is a mere quibble.

Second, Hitler's superman, the eugenics movement, and his virulent Antisemitism are logical straight shots from Darwin and Nietzsche - hardly icons of conservatism. His ideology emphasized the "struggle", survival of the fittest, and extermination of the weak, all in enthusiastic endorsement of Darwin's work. You own it pal.

Third, Hitler's devotion to "science" devoid of moral considerations is the purview of the Left. He merely redefined "Jew" to non-human to salve the conscience - the very same practice employed by the Left in regards to abortion and fetal experimentation. The weak few must be sacrificed for the good of the many.

Well, Clay, I guess Jeff de... (Below threshold)
Dave Noble:

Well, Clay, I guess Jeff decided to ignore your plea for a civil discourse. Jeff, I respected your religious beliefs, why can't you respect Hyper and Bruce even though you disagree with them?

Clay, as Hyper pointed out, liberalism is not inherently secular. I suggest you google "Sojourners" for a current case in point, and "Dorothy Day" for a more historical example.

To argue that the use of the term "socialist" in the name of their party makes the Nazis liberals is a superficial analysis.

"Second, Hitler's superman, the eugenics movement, and his virulent Antisemitism are logical straight shots from Darwin and Nietzsche - hardly icons of conservatism."

Logical straight shots? I think not. That Darwin posited that evolution was driven by the survival of the fittest (now established science) does not at all mean that human beings should not protect the weak. As you point out, it is science devoid of morality that results in atrocity, not science.

Interestingly, in Mein Kampf, Hitler did not at first come out and say Jews are "non-human." What he did out the outset was talk about "Karl Marx, that Jew," and then subsequently use Jew and Communist as synonyms. Which political camp in America today attempts to demonize their opponents by calling them Communists?

Further, Hitler exploited the long European Christian tradition of anti-semitism. The Reformation did little to rectify
Roman Catholic anti-semitism. Martin Luther wrote a pamphlet entitled "The Jews and Their Lies," in which he warned that next to Satan, the Jew was the Christian's greatest enemy.

Finally, I find it ironic that the "survival of the fittest" is posited as a "liberal" concept. It seems to me that social darwinism is an inevitable result of conservative attempts to eliminate the social safety net. And isn't the law of the marketplace the law of the jungle?

I am a liberal fundamentally because I don't believe that the lions should get to eat the lambs.

P.S. The U.S. eugenics move... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

P.S. The U.S. eugenics movement of the early 1900's was enthusiastically supported by "progressives" such as Margaret Sanger and Theodore Roosevelt.

"The scientific reputation of eugenics started to decline in the 1930s, a time when Ernst Rüdin used eugenics as a justification for the racial policies of Nazi Germany, and when proponents of eugenics among scientists and thinkers prompted a backlash in the public. Nevertheless, the second largest known eugenics program, created by social democrats in Sweden, continued until 1975."

Dave Noble,"It ... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

Dave Noble,

"It seems to me that social darwinism is an inevitable result of conservative attempts to eliminate the social safety net.

Wrong. Charity is a virtue. Voluntary charity is the only kind and works wonderfully well. As necessity is the mother of invention, poverty is a good motivator. Forced equal outcomes stifles the human spirit and leads to totalitarianism. It is not the progressives' instinct to selflessly help the poor [typically only in the abstract - sad but true] that bothers me, it is their desire to arbitrarily distribute from the coffers of others. From each according to his ability... Haven't we already seen where this leads? Why do you find it so difficult to do your good work within a free social construct?

Clay, as Hyper pointed o... (Below threshold)

Clay, as Hyper pointed out, liberalism is not inherently secular.

I didn't say it was. So, don't bother assigning homework.

Jeff;What I said was... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

What I said was a challenge, not a statement. Far from "asking others to think for me," I'm asking you to rack your brain and come up with one example of a conservative effecting positive change. If you can't, just say so.
I hate when people get off on the Hitler tangent, but let me explain. I say Nazism was a conservative movement because, A. it was supported financially by conservative business interests, and B. it was an attempt to return to an idealized and imaginary "golden age" of German (or "Aryan") virtues, when men were men, etc., etc, and to purify society of non-conformism. This is analogous to current American conservatives' wish to return to the days of Ozzie and Harriett, forgetting that Ozzie's kids went to segregated schools, that Harriett was excluded from meaningful work, and that Ricky would have committed suicide if he had suspected himself of being gay.
By the way, you are correct about the eugenics thing.

Clay,Please look a... (Below threshold)
Dave Noble:


Please look at your own definitions: "accountable to God" for conservatism, "accountable to humanity" for liberalism.

"Voluntary charity is the only kind and works wonderfully well."

Really, then how come there is so much poverty in America? And how come 47 million Americans don't have health insurance? And why are our infant mortality rates higher, and our life expectancy rates lower, than virtually any other First World nation. Laziness and moral laxity? That's the conservative knock on the poor, but it's so overly simplistic it's a lie.
And talk to the operators of charities. They are being overwhelmed by the need out there, especially in the current economic downturn.

"As necessity is the mother of invention, poverty is a good motivator."

That's a great in theory, but in reality it's heartless cant. Poverty is also a good destroyer of health and of families. You can't pull yourself up by your bootstraps, if you don't have boots.

And no one is talking about forced equality. That's the false choice of conservative economic rhetoric. There are not two choices: laissez-faire capitalism or Communism. Virtually every other First World nation would be characterized by most conservatives as socialist. That is, having a substantial social safety net, substantial government regulation, and universal healthcare.

We've been giving money to ... (Below threshold)

We've been giving money to the poor since the '60s. What's the saying - "We've spent $4 trillion on the War on Poverty - and Poverty's Winning"?

Of course, we keep giving it with strings attached - broadly speaking, you'll get enough to survive on, but any attempt BY you to earn more so you'll be able to gradually get out of the situation you're in will result in your benefits being reduced. So you can't earn more money to get yourself out of poverty if you're accepting government money. You can't have a functioning, two-parent family if you're getting money from the government - you've got to be a single mom - and if you get a job you'll see your benefits drop.

If you have more kids, you'll see your benefits increase. Kind of a no-brainer there, isn't it?

You have to accept the fact that even if you manage to save up enough money on the dole to GET out of where you're at, you'll lose access to the services you're depending on.

In the mean time, the schools are failing to provide a good education to the people who need it the most, and the importance of that education in bootstrapping yourself out of where you are with salable skills or knowledge is pretty much ignored.

We've managed to create a mentality among the poor that they're pretty much trapped, and their own efforts to get out of their situation are going to be blocked by the organizations providing it. It's a real problem that won't be solved by just throwing more money at it - there has to be a significant rethinking AND a cultural change.

JLawson,I agree.</... (Below threshold)
Dave Noble:


I agree.

Bruce Henry,"If... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

Bruce Henry,

"If you can't, just say so."

I already have. Your ideology blinds you.

Nice, that was my next point. Trillions spent and no success. The welfare state is a dignity sapping prison. A Faustian bargain of the worst magnitude.

"accountable to humanity... (Below threshold)

"accountable to humanity" for liberalism.

Except I didn't say that, did I?

Jeff: You did? <br /... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

You did?
If you don't mind, repeat the one example of a conservative effecting positive change that I asked you for. I swear I haven't been drinking. I just don't see the example anywhere above, from you or anyone else. Was it on this thread, or some other that I haven't read?
If you're talking about Mother Teresa, Wilberforce, or Bonhoeffer, are you saying that those people were conservatives, as we understand the word today? Because if you are, I asked for a discussion of that very question right before getting hit upside the head with a lot of insults.

If you don't mind, repea... (Below threshold)

If you don't mind, repeat the one example of a conservative effecting positive change that I asked you for.

The founding of this great country.

Clay: I'm afraid you... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

I'm afraid you'll have to elaborate on that.

Clay, I stand corrected.</p... (Below threshold)
Dave Noble:

Clay, I stand corrected.

Here is your exact quote:

"Conservatism is the belief that the moral values of an inevitably flawed society should be preserved and individuals should take responsibility for their lives and their government because they are *accountable to God.* Liberalism is the belief that the moral values of a perfectible society should be changed and the state should take responsibility for its people because it is *accountable to the progress of humanity.*

Let me then paraphrase my comment using your precise words:

Conservatives believe government is "accountable to God"

Liberals believe government
is "accountable to the progress of humanity"

The latter, particularly in contrast to the citation to God in the former, sounds like secularism to me.

Ummmm.....let's see, the fa... (Below threshold)

Ummmm.....let's see, the fall of the soviet bloc, suppression of international terrorism, the economy of the 1980's & 1990's, South Korea, The non-socialist united states of America, Free Iraq (we're still working on that one), 8 years of REAL aid in Africa (still working on that one too), an elected government in Afghanistan ( still trying to get that mess straightened out), and of course, the internet. Darpa and the armed forces have a pretty heavily conservative lean for the most part.

Chad,The Cold War ... (Below threshold)
Dave Noble:


The Cold War lasted for 40 years and was waged by liberals, conservatives, Democrats, and Republicans. No matter what party had been in office on 9/11 there would have been a war on terrorism. According to conservatives, the United States is socialist - Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare - and we just elected a Marxist president. The internet as a conservative achievement - that's almost as incredible as saying Al Gore invented the internet.






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