Monday, June 2, 2008

Conservatism Defined - By Request

I decided to post this for several reasons. First, a request from a liberal blogger that proudly annoys me to no end by the name of John (AKA Toad734), came in that he is researching conservatism. Although his plans are surely nefarious and cruel and meant to crush us all, I shall oblige him. That's SPD in action, after all. Also, I think I had better clarify my positions a little more after giving the GOP my GFY post. That, and some of the liberal bloggers have mistaken my ditching the GOP as going Democrat. People, I have a brain. No need to lobotomize.

First, the research: Here's the articles on Wikipedia on Conservatism and Conservatism in the USA. After reading these articles, I had to clarify some things in my head, as there's a whole lot of redefinitioning going on. I also refer people often to the Heritage Foundation, as they are the most public repository for conservative thought. Also, like modern liberalism, conservatism can occasionally have conflict within itself and is not set in stone. And since I'm not pure conservative, having a lean towards libertarianism, there's a little bias. So here we go.

Conservatism today is defined best by four basic tenets:
1. Smaller government, less regulation.
2. More personal freedom, individualism.
3. Respect for tradition, moral values.
4. A strong military, economic, and diplomatic presence in the world.

Naturally, there are conflicts here. For example, personal freedom and tradition and moral values. Take an issue like abortion or gay marriage and watch the religious conservatives and the libertarians jump up in each other's shit. So here's my viewpoint on these four tenets.

1. The primary role of the federal government is to secure our freedoms, maintain a social structure, and get the hell out of our way. As we move to the states, there is a little more to state involvement in our lives. Then as we get to county and local governments, this is where we exercise most of our control, subject to limits set forth by the state and federal government. As for size, the smaller, the better, although there is probably a lower limit where the government.

2. Each individual possesses unique talents, gifts, perspectives that make this country what it is. We need to harness this individuality, rather than trying to clump people into monolithic groups based on skin color, or size of your checking account, or ideological bent. And while we will all maintain group identities, no one can live up to their potential unless they can function as an individual. The role of the government is to secure our freedoms, up to the point that we infringe on another's freedom. An example of this is drug use. While the individual does possess the right to destroy themselves, the do not have the right to hurt others in the process.

3. While the government must be careful not to crush individual freedom, a great respect must be paid to the traditions that define us as a people, as Americans. As opposed to groups that exclude, the American identity is defined by the recognition of universal right and wrong, by a belief in something greater than ourselves, by an eternal optimism, appreciation of the value of our labors, and respect for those that see these ideals differently. But traditions do not make laws; these are powers best reserved to the closest forms of government.

4. Because of the successes we have achieved over our short history, America is unrivaled in her power in the world. But to borrow from Spider-Man, "With great power comes great responsibility." We must open our doors to the world, engaging in trade with all who seek to grow. We must be the beacon of freedom, using our prestige and power to push for the natural rights of all Men. We must lead the world, not be led by it. And when evil rises to threaten the world, we must be ready to crush and destroy its ass completely, giving evil no quarter once we are committed.

That's as clearly as I can articulate conservatism. I hope I did it justice. Now as for those of you who don't really like conservatives, remember that what I have set forth is an ideal. It is up to the individuals we elect to carry this out. How far we have fallen from these ideals, though, is another post....


Name: Soapboxgod said...

"I'm not pure conservative, having a lean towards libertarianism..."

If we look at back at Conservatism in the twentieth century, it wasn't so much Reagan as it was Goldwater that pioneered it. Goldwater's brand was much more libertarian in nature. In fact, he many times came up against the social conservatives and the establishment in his outspoken style (of course this may be in part why he faired so poorly in '64). Regardless, the ideology which Barry espoused was taken by the likes of (one of Goldwater's acolytes) Paul Weyrich (who co-founded The Heritage Foundation) and re-tooled. It was then that the religious aspect was thrown into the mix leading to prayer in school, the abortion issue, et al.

Goldwater never intended that. And, while a great many tout themselves as "Reagan Conservatives", I personally have always sort of maintained that I lean more towards a Goldwater brand myself.

And, despite that they indeed do some very very good work at The Heritage Foundation (I too have them listed under my "Political Portals" section) it is for that very reason that I've always kept an eye of skepticism upon them.

Toad734 said...

Well then, we might as well make it a public debate. Again, didn't mean for it to be a debate but just wanted to hear someone sum it up for me and I didn't want the answer to involve Jesus or unintelligent design.

I know you don't necessarily feel this way but here are the top of my head flaws and contradictions in these principles:

1. Smaller government, less regulation. As you know, the government has grown by leaps and bounds under one of the most conservative presidents ever. We have only seen more regulation in our personal lives, the media and the power of the power of the government. It's a tough sell correlating conservatives and small government.

2. More personal freedom, individualism. Again, how does keeping someone from
getting married, do drugs, watch titties on TV, oppressing Muslims, tapping phones, searching without warrants, funding only faith based, aka Christian organizations add up to more personal freedoms and encourage individualism? And perhaps that’s why you are no longer a Republican

3. Respect for tradition, moral values. Again, respect for your moral values and your traditions, not other peoples values and traditions. Certainly not Muslim
values and traditions, Mormon, or weirdo Cult values and traditions or even urban gay people who don't want to get married and like to stay out late and not go to church. When I say "you", I don't mean you personally but the collective you of conservatives. And tradition is not always a good thing. The American tradition of slavery and segregation isn't a moral or tradition I would have wanted to uphold and it took liberals to step in and point out how wrong these were and a federal government to end them. Under your conservative philosophy, had it prevailed, we would still have these institutions which people used their Bibles to defend. We also had a tradition of women not being able to vote, child labor, etc. Again, just because it's the way your grandparents were brought up doesn't make it right.

4. A strong military, economic, and diplomatic presence in the world. How is that less government? If you want a strong military you need a big government which will need a lot of tax resources and that government, with its strong military will be very powerful, not only against our enemies or people who have the oil we want but also against you.

ON your second round of points, especially number 2, doesn't that sound a lot like communism? As far as 3 goes, what is an American? What does an American look like? What kind of food does he eat? What kind of music does he listen to? Who does he pray to? What kind of family structure does he live in, what kind of work does he do? What does he do during the Holidays, what are his most important holidays? What does he like to watch on TV, how does he view sexuality, and what kind of art and literature does he enjoy? You don't really have to answer; it’s just something to think about.

4. So we open our doors to trade but not people whom we are trading with? Why, what’s the difference? Both benefit some in some ways and both hurt both in some ways. How do you choose to let Mexicans make our jeans for us but not let them have a chance to be the one on this side of the border to be the owner of his own jeans company? I agree that we have great power and along with it comes great responsibility but why do we have to "lead" the world?? Why not Canada or someone like China who has the largest population, or Russia who has the most land, lead? Who said that was our job to lead and police the world? Is that something Thomas Jefferson put in the Declaration of Independence? Is it in the Constitution?

Name: Soapboxgod said...

"...As you know, the government has grown by leaps and bounds under one of the most conservative presidents ever."

Are you referring to George W. Bush?

Dave Miller said...

Soapbox, the gov't grew under Reagan as well. It is a function of gov't to grow.

It is almost as if it is written into the charter.

Some nice points Toad.

Name: Soapboxgod said...

Be that as it may let us be reminded:

Real economic growth averaged 3.2 percent during the Reagan years versus 2.8 percent during the Ford-Carter years and 2.1 percent during the Bush-Clinton years.

Real median family income grew by $4,000 during the Reagan period after experiencing no growth in the pre-Reagan years; it experienced a loss of almost $1,500in the post-Reagan years.

Interest rates, inflation, and unemployment fell faster under Reagan than they did immediately before or after his presidency.

Moreover, his administration proposed to abolish the Department of Education in 1981.

More objective analysis can be found here:

Toad734 said...

Of course I am talking about Bush.

Where did you get those figures??

First off, Reagan was elected during a recession with escelating fuel prices, such as today, and the Economy really couldn't go anywhere but up.

Here are some facts about Reagan.

A. The national debt under Reagan tripled.
B. Deregulation of Savings and Loans led to the largest and costliest venture in public misfeasance and larceny of all time.
C. The S&L bailout was subsidized by the Federal Government to the tune of 124.6 Billion dollars and may have encouraged lenders to make high risk, sub-prime loans which affect the housing crisis of today thus exposing the dangers of unregulated capitalism.

Under Reagan, the number of families living under the poverty line increased by 1/3. So much for trickle down economics.

Personal Income doubled during the 1990s compared to 1990 levels.

Under Clinton and Gore the economy grew at an average of 4% per year as opposed to 2.8% under Reagan.

Under Clinton, more jobs were created than in any administration before him.

There was a 4% unemployment rate in the Clinton 90s, Reagans unemployment figures peaked at 10.8% in 1982. That rate was the lowest in 30 years.

From 1993-1999 median family incomes rose by $6000.

The national Debt under Reagan increased from 700 billion to 3 Trillion. He certainly wasn't shrinking the government with that debt.

That's the real Reagan, the Reagan I remember. Those were some fun times standing in the unemployment lines with my Mom. Thanks Reagan, I will cherish those memories always.

Name: Soapboxgod said...

"...As you know, the government has grown by leaps and bounds under one of the most conservative presidents ever."

"Of course I am talking about Bush."

To be completely honest, your assessment couldn't be further from the truth. Save for the "Life" issue and that of tax cuts, George Bush hasn't a Conservative bone in his body. Hence why, in much the same fashion as his father who called for "Kinder, Gentler Nation", this Bush ran as a "Compassionate" Conservative.

If the current Bush is truly a Conservative as you assert, then why might we suppose there is so much discontent within the party? Why might we suppose that so many Conservatives have come out blasting the President, as did Peggy Noonan, asserting:

"George W. Bush destroyed the Republican Party, by which I mean he sundered it, broke its constituent pieces apart and set them against each other. He did this on spending, the size of government, war, the ability to prosecute war, immigration and other issues."

If George Bush were a conservative, and McCain (as it's been asserted by many) is then deemed a "3rd Bush Term", then why on earth are Conservatives not enamored by him???

I'll tell you why.

Because George Bush isn't a Conservative. Nor is McCain a Conservative. While they may be "Neo" Conservatives or "Compassionate" Conservatives or "Moderate" Conservatives, that is not to say they are indeed Conservatives.

Because, any true blue Conservative will tell quite matter of factly that Conservatism (in its purest form) needs no modifier.

Dave Miller said...

Soapbox, even with all of your stats from the Reagan years, and even though he did call for the elimination of the Dept. of Education, nonetheless, government did grow, substantially under Reagan, as did the deficit, which a real conservative, by definition would have opposed.

A true conservative would have held firm on deficit spending. How does one spend money they do not have?

Name: Soapboxgod said...

"Where did you get those figures??"

Mine has previously been cited. And, though compiled by Cato, the data therein comes from a myriad of sources.

Contrary to your assertions, such findings include:

- GDP growth per adult aged 20-64 in the Reagan years grew twice as rapidly, on average, as it did in the pre- and post-Reagan years.

- Median Household Incomes. Real median household income rose by $4,000 in the Reagan years--from $37,868 in 1981 to $42,049 in 1989, as shown in Figure 2. This improvement was a stark reversal of the income trends in the late 1970s and the 1990s: median family income was unchanged in the eight pre-Reagan years, and incomes have fallen by $1,438 in the anti-supply-side 1990s, following the 1990 and 1993 tax hikes. Most of the declines in take-home pay occurred on George Bush's watch. Under Bill Clinton's tenure, there has been zero income growth in median household income.Chris Frenze, "Reagan Income Growth versus Clinton Crunch," Joint Economic Committee of Congress, March 1996. Based on U.S. Census Budget Data.

- Employment. From 1981 through 1989 the U.S. economy produced 17 million new jobs, or roughly 2 million new jobs each year. Contrary to the Clinton administration's claims of vast job gains in the 1990s, the United States has averaged only 1.3 million new jobs per year in the post-Reagan years. The labor force United States has averaged only 1.3 million new jobs expanded by 1.7 percent per year between 1981 and 1989, but by just 1.2 percent per year between 1990 and 1995.Alan Reynolds, "The Seven Lean Years," Hudson Institute Policy Report (Indianapolis, Ind.: Hudson Institute, 1996.)

- Hours Worked. Table 1 (available via the Cato link I provided) confirms that hours worked per adult aged 20-64 grew much faster in the 1980s than in the pre -or post-Reagan years.

- Unemployment Rate. When Reagan took office in 1981, the unemployment rate was 7.6 percent. In the recession of 1981-82, that rate peaked at 9.7 percent, but it fell continuously for the next seven years. When Reagan left office, the unemployment rate was 5.5 percent. This reduction in joblessness was a clear triumph of the Reagan program. Figure 3 shows that in the pre-Reagan years, the unemployment rate trended upward; in the Reagan years, the unemployment rate trended downward; and in the post-Reagan years, the unemployment rate has fluctuated up and down but today remains virtually unchanged from the 1989 rate.

- Productivity. For real wages to rise, productivity must rise. Over the past 30 years there has been a secular downward trend in U.S. productivity growth. Under Reagan, productivity grew at a 1.5 percent annual rate, as shown in Figure 4. This was lower than in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s but much higher than in the post-Reagan years. Under Clinton, productivity has increased at an annual rate of just 0.3 percent per year--the worst presidential performance since that of Herbert Hoover.

Now, you may of course wish to refute the claims or assessment of data herein. That is surely your prerogative if you wish. But, what you cannot legitimately refute is the qualifications of those who've assessed this data or the sources of said data.

Moreover, according to Policy Report #139 from the Institute for Policy Innovation:

Name: Soapboxgod said...

It is one thing to look at Debt. It is quite another to look at Debt as a percent of GDP.

Any idea what our debt was as a percent of GDP coming out of WWII??

Any idea what it was throughout the 1980's and then again throughout the 1990's??

Name: Soapboxgod said...


Moreover, according to Policy Report #139 from the Institute for Policy Innovation:

"$271 Billion is the amount of deficit spending in the Reagan years that was solely the result of Congress."

"Bill Clinton is the first president in over twenty years who has outspent Congress."

And, while it is true that "...the Reagan administration certainly shares the blame for the doubling of the national debt in the 1980's...The budget deficit would have been $30 Billion lower each year if Reagan's budget requests had been taken seriously.

Conversely, given that Clinton's appetite was larger than that of Congress, the reductions during the 1990's is more appropriately credited to Congress than with Clinton.

"Facts are stubborn things. And, whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."

Name: Soapboxgod said...

"How does one spend money they do not have?"

While I'll concede that I don't think it ought to become a matter of practice, sometimes it is necessary (namely during a time of war) or when purchasing a home.

Toad734 said...

Thanks for proving my point that conservatives just sell you on being conservative becase they hate fags but aren't really conservative.

Ya, the Cato Institute, exactly what I figured. I also like your figure that used only half of Clintons Presidency as a guide line but all of Reagans years. And zero growth? You know that's bullshit. With regards to unemployment rates, you can't look at today's unemployment rates and say that is Clintons work. As I showed, Clinton had lower unemployment that Reagan, its not Clintons fault that Bush came around and muffed everything up.

Look, there are so many ways to manipulate these stats, you can talk about job growth but if unemployment stays the same or rises what does that say? YOu can also look at numbers with or without taking into consideration inflation. A conservative think tank such as CATO is going to cook the books as much as they can to champion their ideas. I have looked to them in the past as I do agree with their position on Subsidies but even those numbers were way off from what I found elsewhere. They cook the books to make the numbers look scary and they manipulate the other variables I talked about to make it look like their ideals are what work.

And i was wondering if that Reagan job number counted the 11,000 jobs he eliminated when he union busted the air traffic controllers union? Again, sells you on small government but practices big government.

Forbes Magazine rated 10 of the last Presidents according to economic accomplishemnts.

Here is what they found:

As far as GDP:
Lyndon Johnson 1st
JFK 2nd
Bill Clinton 3rd
Jimmy Carter 4th
Ronald Reagan 5th

Bill Clinton ranked 2nd, over Reagan in Employment and Unemployment

Clinton obviously ranked 1st in Deficit Reduction

And yes, due to inflation Clinton ranked 5th in Real Diposable personal income and Reagan ranked 4th but under Clinton, personal incomes on their own rose more than under Reagan.

Clinton's average rank was 3.2 compared to Reagans 4.3.

George H.W. Bush ranked last in almost every category and I am sure his son has been worse.

Name: Soapboxgod said...

If the Cato Institute merely culls data from other sources (of which I've provided) in a report, do pray tell how exactly that is deemed "cooking the books"????

Patrick M said...

Soap: I really don't know a lot of the Goldwater conservatism. I'm just casting my thoughts in the modern perspective.

But it is the religious right that tend to damage greater conservatism with the abundance of moral laws where the government should choose silence.

Toad: I told you it was going to be something I was going to post. We'll still keep some of it offline, though I reserve the right to use anything I think will make a good post and get us both more readers.

To your points.

1. The problem with the current GOP is that they're not conservative.

2. Again, this is part of the conservative/GOP split. Although the wiretapping is part of the national security that hopefully will prevent an attack or a war.

3. Again, you confuse the GOP with true conservatives.

4. If the government is smaller everywhere else, this is one of the areas where we can concentrate the smaller tax burden.

As for the second points, those were just interpretations of my conservative points for liberals. I leave it to you to define liberalism more clearly.


Now, as I have been away for a whole day, let me add a couple more things.

Conservatives don't hate fags. That's just the religious right.

Reagan worked with a Democrat congress. Clinton worked with a GOP congress. Maybe there's a formula there that works.

And despite the constant growth of government, W has been the worst. Therein lies the problem with both the GOP and the Democrats.

Name: Soapboxgod said...

"Soap: I really don't know a lot of the Goldwater conservatism."

If you're ever up for it, read "The Conscience of a Conservative".

But, to summarize, Goldwater [in the book] describes what conservatism is and what it is not:

Unlike the liberal, he says, the conservative believes that man is not only an economic but a spiritual animal.

Conservatism "looks upon the enhancement of man's spiritual nature as the primary concern of political philosophy." Indeed, he states, the first obligation of a political thinker is "to understand the nature of man."

He proceeds to list what the conservative has learned about man from the great minds of the past:

1.Each person is unique and different from every other human being; therefore, provision must be made for the development of the different potentials of each person.

2.The economic and spiritual aspects of man's nature "are inextricably intertwined." Neither can be free unless both are free.

3.Man's spiritual and material development cannot be directed by outside forces; "each man," he declared with all the conviction of his Jeffersonian soul, "is responsible for his own development."

Given this view of the nature of man, Goldwater writes, it is understandable that the conservative "looks upon politics as the art of achieving the maximum amount of freedom for individuals that is consistent with the maintenance of social order." But the delicate balance that ideally exists between freedom and order has long since tipped against freedom "practically everywhere on earth."

Even in America, says Goldwater, the trend against freedom and in favor of order is "well along and gathering momentum." For the American conservative, therefore, there is no difficulty in "identifying the day's overriding political challenge: it is to preserve and extend freedom."

Toad734 said...

4. so you say its ok to have a big government with a big budget when it comes to killing Arabs but no where else? I am sure there are plenty of "conservatives" who would even disagree with that point. By the way, what do Libertarians think about Iraq?

And you said that conservatives don't hate fags, only neocon God Bob Bush types do but you also say that true conservatives champion tradition and values. Would tradition mean one man one woman? Wouldn't family values mean they don't like people who take it in the pooper?

I get your definition of a conservative but now we have to define morals, tradition and family values.

Name: Soapboxgod said...

I'll take that one if I may.

While we can debate the legitimacy of the war in Iraq, what is not open for debate is whether, as a whole, Iraq and Afghanistan and everything else which comprises the Defense budget is a legitimate function of government and government spending.

Despite your personal position with respect to the war in Iraq and the costs therein, defense spending accounts for not quite 20% of the Federal Budget.

So, when you ask if it's okay to have a big budget with respect to "killing Arabs...." (an immature statement at best), what you're forgetting is that when Federal Budget grows, even though the defense portion of the budget has too grown, is has not grown quite as exponentially as the other areas of the Federal Budget.

And, mind you, those other and much larger portions of the Federal Budget are without question severely lacking with respect to legitimacy.

You cannot legislate morality. I am not opposed to gay marriage or whatever acts a homosexual or heterosexual couples chooses to engage in within the confines of their bedroom.

If gays want to marry and their respective church permits it, then by all means go ahead and marry.

But, I will tell you that yes traditionally a family in this country has been comprised of a mother and a father.

This is not to say that a gay couple cannot sucessfully raise a child. Moreover, it would be far more beneficial to have a gay couple raise a child in a safe and healthy environment than it would be for a straight couple who fights all the time and is abusive towards the child.

That is not to suggest however that we should undermine the staple of what a family is or what tradition is.

A great number of studies have shown that the most beneficial environment for a child to be raised is in one where there is a mother and a father. The child learns specific traits and attributes from one that they do not learn from the other.

Where we get on a slippery slope in a political sense, with respect to legalizing gay marriage, is to then permit legal benefits to a special class of citizens.

Of course the argument from gay marriage proponents is that a heterosexual couple shouldn't be the only ones afforded present tax benefits and the like. Be that as it may, any such benefits arguably exist for the sake of raising children and not solely for the sake of financially benefitting the heterosexual couple.

Patrick M said...

Soap: That's what I would have said had I not had preschoolers crawling on me. 'Nuff said.

Name: Soapboxgod said...

Thanks. I'll pick up the slack while you're asserting that traditional family values thing. LOL

Toad734 said...

Why is the defense budget not up for debate? 10.4 Billion is being allocated for the Missile Defense System in 2009. 651.1 billion is estimated for the entire defense budget. We have 525 billion allocated for Iraq this year alone as opposed to 140 Billion in Afghanistan.

To put that into perspective, HUDs Budget is 89 billion.

Departement of Education: 57 Billion in 2007

I think the only department which requires more revenue is Dept. of Health and Human Services. At least we use that to keep people alive as opposed to killing them. And yes, by them, I mean Arabs and Muslims.

We spend almost 10 x the amount in Iraq as we do Education and you say that isn't debatable? That, I think defines conservatism more than anything else written in this post.

Name: Soapboxgod said...

Go read the Constitution. Once you've done that, then go pay the Congressional Budget Office's website a visit and take a look at some of the specifics with respect to our most recent Federal Budget and precisely the allocation of funds. Once you've done that, then feel free to come back here and we'll have a legitimate discussion about Government spending (legitimate and or otherwise).

Moreover, your comment with respect to the HHS portion of the budget affirms that which defines Liberalism which is "Feeling".

You "feel" as though, whatever its costs, it is justified because you assert that it "keeps people alive". Be that as it may, is its existence a legitimate Constitutional role of government?

And, let me remind you that while HUD's budget may be $89 Billion, you ought to remember that by Constitutional legitimacy, it's lucky to be even that.

National Defense, I'll assert yet again, is a legitimate function of government. And, despite its increasing costs, it doesn't hold a candle to the combined costs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (none of which I'll remind you are Constitutionally legitimate).

Patrick M said...

The problem with most of government is that is is trying to do things it shouldn't be doing. We can list all the things people should have and create a government agency for them. The problem is that by doing this, less control stays at the local level and is instead fed to the bloated pig that is Washington.

Let's look at education, for example. I don't have exact numbers, so if anybody does....

Back when the country was founded, it fell to the local communities to hire a teacher to teach the children. Some learned very little and took up manual labor or shit (shoveling) jobs. Some learned more and took up trades or local merchant jobs. And those who excelled moved on to college, where they learned the skills necessary to legislate or lead or heal (theoretically, as 18th century medicine was not that damned refined).

Look at today's system by comparison. We have an insane bureaucracy that has tentacles mandating this and mandating that in every school in the country. And the kids don't seem to be learning shit.

And the cost has gone off the rails. Compare the price involved in homeschooling (not just for the scary religious types anymore), versus the amont spent per pupil in a small town like mine, compared to the tens of thousands of dollars per student spent in the larger cities. Who gets the most bang for their buck here?

This is why the Constitution was designed as a document to limit government and empower people, not limit people by empowering government. Unfortunately, we're headed for the latter and have been so for a long-assed time.