Political Economy, Politics

Conservatives & the Ideology of Americanism

conservatives-the-ideology-of-americanismI have argued that progressive liberals adhere to political ideological abstractions at the expense of reality. Some of the primary pillars of these unconstrained ideals would be the secular dogmas of individual autonomy, pluralism, egalitarianism, and multiculturalism. These dogmas can never be adequately implemented because they are resting upon the flimsy foundation of philosophical liberalism. John Kekes captures the inconsistencies of liberalism in the preface of his book, Against Liberalism,

“This books is a criticism of liberalism. Its thesis is that liberalism is incapable of achieving its own aims because it is riddled with inconsistencies. Some of these inconsistencies result from the liberal commitment to two incompatible aims, one negative, the other positive. The negative aim is to avoid evils, such as dictatorship, torture, poverty, intolerance, repression, discrimination, lawlessness, and so forth. The positive aim is to create conditions in which individuals can make good lives for themselves.

Liberals think that first among these conditions is individual autonomy, which is fostered if a state guarantees the rights of individuals to make free choices about how they live, equal concern and respect for their endeavors, a just share of the resources the need, and a generous plurality of options.

The evils that it is the negative aim of liberalism to avoid are evils because they endanger good lives. The values of autonomy, freedom, rights, equality, distributive justice, and pluralism that it is the positive aim of liberalism to realize are valuable because they are thought to be necessary for good lives. Liberalism is inconsistent because the realization of these liberal values would increase the evils liberals want to avoid and because the decrease of these evils depends on creating conditions contrary to the liberal values.

Another respect in which liberalism is inconsistent results from the incompatibility of the liberal conception of equality, justice, and pluralism with good lives. It is destructive of good lives to create conditions in which good and evil people are treated with equal concern and respect; in which justice is taken to involve the redistribution of resources without regard to whether their present holders and future recipients deserve them; and in which pluralism is restricted to options that conform to liberal preconceptions.”

Kekes continues,

“The political programs that liberals favor differ, of course, from context to context. The discussion of specific programs must therefore be restricted to a specific context. For the purposes of illustration, it will be restricted here to the contemporary American context and within that to domestic rather than international affairs. These programs are the redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor; graduated taxation; mandatory particiapation in the social security plan; strong government control of the economy, including business and finance; the extension of rights protecting freedom to include protecting welfare; greater racial and gender equality; the legal enforcement of integration; multiculsturalism; affirmative action programs; the preferential treatment of women and blacks; government supported universal health care; the widest possible system of secular public education; the mainstreaming of people with physical and mental disabilities, especially children; freely available abortion; the opposition to the legal enforcement of morality, particularly concerning consensual sexual practices among adults; sharp separation of church and state; increased funidng for welfare and decreased funding for defense; strong procedural protection of accused criminals; and the aggressive pursuit of these programs by the federal government.

Such political programs reflect deeper attitudes that liberals typically hold. For example, with respect to the redistribution of wealth, they care morea bout the needs of the recipients than about the rights of the donors; in affirmative action and preferential treatment, they are more concerned with the victims of past injustice than with the present victims of these policies; in criminal justice, they focus more on avoiding the punishment of innocents than on assuring the punishment of the guilty; in education, they prefer special programs for those with low intelligence to special programs for the talented; in regulating pornography, they focus on the importance of free expression rather than on outraging the prevailing sensibitlity; in the seperation of church and state, they stress the freedom not to worship at the expense of the freedom to worship; in welfare legislation, they concentrate on what people need rather than on what they deserve; in multiculturalism, they emphasize the benefits of diversity, while de-emphasizing the hamrs of lack of unity.”

Donald Trump’s election has exposed the fact that conservatives suffer from the same self-imposed political affliction as their progressive rivals; contemporary conservatism, unmoored from traditionalism and its historical post-WWII roots, is infected with numerous inconsistencies. These inconsistencies are, but not limited to, a dogmatic view of individualism at the expense of the community, upholding markets over tradition and culture, viewing America as an idea at the expense of her territory and peoples, and opposing social engineering in domestic affairs while simaltaneously committing to a fervent international militarism seeking to transorm foreign nations into liberal democracies. According to this brand of conservatism, the errors of Lockean liberalism are overlooked because they are associated with the deified founding fathers. So understood, classical liberalism is supposedly different from Rawlsian liberalism, but in reality they are participants of the same ideological spectrum. This oversight prevents the necessary and proper self-examination contemporary movement conservatism so desperately needs. Instead of stepping back, and scrutinizing why a “constitutional conservative” was unable to defeat Trump for the G.O.P. nomination, they are desperately clinging to the same old economic narrative since Ronald Reagan, and most recently since Bush II in the foreign policy arena. This is most properly exemplified by the Mark Levin/Sarah Palin cult of personality that is perpetually afflicted with the “American exceptionalist” narrative rather than embracing a robust political realism in pursuit of truth, beauty, and goodness. A significant discovery that a politically realist examination will uncover is that not only did Donald Trump smash the Clinton political machine; he soundly defeated the elitist, establishment conservative vanguard.

The flawed ideological lenses conservatives are wearing can be exposed by the apoplectic insanity surrounding their narrative concerning the Trump/Carrier situation.

If we are to believe that tariffs are the fountainhead of leftist economics, socialism, crony capitalism, statism, economic centralization etc.; and these are all evils that the founders were seeking to prevent from becoming realities as conservatives routinely boast, then we are at an extreme argumentative, factual, and historical impasse. The entire history of the G.O.P. is one of protectionism, until at least Ronald Reagan who in turn violated his own free trade commitments to protect Harley Davidson from foreign imports flooding the market. Moreover, the G.O.P. beginning with Lincoln, inherited their protectionism from the Federalists, most notably Alexander Hamilton.

This creates a problem for the contemporary movement conservative.

If a conservative is going to throw around these pejorative terms in a facile, haphazard manner, they must denounce the very people they most often champion as political demigods if they are to remain intellectually honest. The argument that protectionism is antithetical to federalism or the constitution is not only factually incorrect, it is philosophically incoherent. Were the supposed geniuses of the founding era too stupid to realize the economic policies they sought to implement violated the very document they had just ratified? Was Lincoln such a dolt that he couldn’t see that tariffs would eventually destroy the Union he was attempting to preserve?

In addition to this, are these same conservatives ready and willing to paint President Ronald Reagan as a statist, leftist, socialist, crony capitalist, and mercantilist? Are these conservatives prepared to give a hat tip to the Austrian/Rothbardian critique of Reagan, which strongly suggests that he was an unhinged statist that grew the government and propelled the country towards socialism?

Or

Could it be that the ideologically purist libertarians, classical liberals, and conservatives are ignoring a mountain of historical data reducing such claims to utter absurdity?

These questions expose the inconsistencies of movement conservatism’s commitment to the secular religion of Americanism.

 

– Lucas G. Westman

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4 thoughts on “Conservatives & the Ideology of Americanism

  1. I have always held a slight disdain for conventional “conservatism” because it does not seem idealistic enough, and has a weird obsession with the individidual. What is the point of being an individual anyway, without a community to support him/her? Plus, all these talks about “the free market” sounds very sterile to me. The free market does not ignite an inch of passion in the hearts of men, because it is either too abstract or too non-human (“the market” = non human goods). Also, I have always held to the believe that human beings should take care of each other (without getting into Leftist pathological altruism). This is why I was a leftist for a long time. They at least will fight for a community of human beings in the name of some higher ideals, some higher moral principles (at least from their point of view) of helping others and helping the poor, and pursuing justice. That is, until I discovered the Alt Right.

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    • I think you are hitting on a lot of important themes that mainstream conservatism leaves behind. I have attempted to explain this to many of my conservative friends, especially concerning economics, is that the left at least attempts to humanize the economy, while conservatives and libertarians work endlessly to make it into an impersonal abstraction.

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