Posts Tagged ‘Conservatism’

Pro-family vs. anti-family conservatives

October 18, 2018

The conservative blogger Rod Dreher put up an interesting post this morning quoting an evangelical Christian man who says he and his wife can’t afford to have children because of corporate business practices and neoliberal economic policies supported by both Republicans and Democrats.

He and his wife are both employed in STEM fields and earn six-figure incomes, but their employers constantly remind them that they can be replaced at any time by immigrants from India willing to work at one-third their salaries.  Losing a job would mean losing health insurance, which might mean bankruptcy.

A cousin actually went bankrupt because his newborn had a rare disease, and his insurance company decided that the medical staff on duty that day were not in its network, even though the hospital itself was in-network.  Then there is the cost of education, which can bankrupt even an affluent family.

The most interesting part was his contrast of European and American conservatives.

Europe’s conservatives actually are pro-family there and support pro-natalist policies. The US media as usual is embarrassingly confused about populists like Matteo Salvini, Victor Orban, the AfD in Germany, the NF in France, Vox in Spain, the Sweden Democrats and the conservatives in Denmark, Poland, Austria and the Netherlands.

These aren’t racists like the media claims, in fact quite the opposite, they are not the ones calling for invasion of foreign countries, but rather for the preservation of their own native European Christian cultures, Christian values and distinctive identities within their ancient homelands. And above all for supporting the family unit. [snip].

Europe’s populist conservatives all favor universal healthcare, low-cost childcare, free or low-cost tuition for colleges, 6 weeks of vacation (great for bonding with the family) and protection of the local labor market and wages. When I worked in Europe all Americans and other foreigners (including many tech workers from India) were paid the same or higher wages than locals, and if any employer tried to undermine the local labor market and wages, he’d be greeted with a prison term.

Source: Rod Dreher | The American Conservative

If somebody like that doesn’t think he can afford to live what used to be considered a normal life, what about the rest of us?

I’m reminded of Chris Arnade and his contrast of the “front-row kids” and “back-row kids”—the ones who get ahead because they value education, adaptability and individual success most, and the ones who are left behind because they value family, tradition and community more.

This is a good example of the coming together of the cultural conservative critique and economic radical critique of our current political economy.

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The assumptions and logic of neoliberalism

November 14, 2015

There is no such thing as society.  There are only individuals, and their families.      ==Margaret Thatcher

∞∞∞

Neoliberalism is the philosophy that economic freedom is the primary freedom, economic growth is society’s primary goal and the for-profit corporation is the ideal form of organization.

It is the justification for privatization, deregulation and the economic austerity being imposed on governments by lending institutions.

What follows is my attempt to understand the thinking behind neoliberalism.  I welcome comments, especially from those who think I am wrong or unfair.

17149339-Abstract-word-cloud-for-Neoliberalism-with-related-tags-and-terms-Stock-PhotoGovernment is by definition coercive.  All governmental authority is ultimately backed by armed force.  The role of government should be limited to protection of life and property and enforcement of contracts.   

Private enterprise is by definition free choice.  Privatization by definition increases freedom.  All income deriving from the private sector, and not involving force or fraud, is earned income.

Most people are good judges of their individual self-interest and bad judges of the common good.   People generally make good decisions as consumers and poor decisions as voters.  Consumer choice is more meaningful than the right to vote.

Free markets, though the law of supply and demand, coordinate individual choices without the direction of any particular people or group of people.  The free market is more impartial and just than any system of planning or regulation could be.

A capitalist dictatorship that protects property rights is better than a socialist democracy that attacks property rights.

Economic growth is the key to increasing economic well-being.  Growth is produced by capital—that is, by investment in machines, factories and other human-made goods that generate new wealth.  

In a free enterprise economy, capital is invested by private individuals based on the law of supply and demand.  Whatever diminishes the ability of individuals to accumulate wealth or respond to the signals of the free market diminishes capital and retards economic growth.

Money spent on welfare and charity may temporarily alleviate distress, but it will not cure poverty.  Only capital investment and economic growth will do that. 

Capital investment and economic growth should take precedence over public education, public health, the environment and other so-called pubic goods, because they are the means of generating the wealth that pays for the public goods.

Banks, investment firms and financial markets are the key institutions of society.  They must be preserved in order to support investment and economic growth.

Monetary obligations are absolute.  Any person, organization or government that borrows money has an absolute obligation to pay it back, no matter what the sacrifice.  People who don’t repay their debts or fulfill their contracts are parasites on the system.

Inequality is a good thing.  To break up accumulations of wealth that have been acquired by legitimate means is not only unjust because it destroys the just reward for achievement.  It destroys the capital by which new jobs and wealth are created.

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The new assault on the liberal arts

June 2, 2015

A generation or two so, liberals and conservatives fought over the nature of a liberal arts education.  Now there’s a question as to whether the humanities will survive at all.

education-in-liberal-artsOnce conservatives were represented by people such as Secretary of Education William Bennett, was that the purpose of a liberal arts education was enable American students to understand the roots and moral values of their civilization—the Western civilization, based on the Bible and the culture of ancient Greece, which emerged in western Europe.

The common progressive view was that Western civilization was one of many civilizations, and students should try to understand them all.   This was a political as well as a cultural question, because defending Western civilization was supposedly one of the goals of U.S. foreign policy.

But now liberal arts education is under attack by certain self-described conservatives on the grounds that it contributes nothing either to the lifetime income of individuals nor to the economic growth of society.  They equate conservative values with money values.

The problem, from the standpoint of self-described liberals, is that many of us are intellectually disarmed by the idea that there are no objective values to defend—only certain personal preferences that are conditioned by society and mostly serve the purposes of the powers that be.  Stanley Fish and Richard Rorty are examples of this kind of thinking.

Money values are not the highest values, but money values have the advantage that they can be measured and nobody doubts they exist.  When all other values are taken down, it is the money values that are left standing.

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The passing scene: November 8, 2014

November 8, 2014

What the Election Means for the Republican Brand by Daniel McCarthy for The American Conservative.

Can a party philosophically defined by Fox News win millennial voters and the electorate of the future?  Daniel McCarthy wrote that they can win only if there’s no-one well organized enough to complete with them.

The well-oiled machinery of movement conservatism remains in the hands of those who think the only trouble with George W. Bush is that he didn’t go far enough, McCarthy wrote.

Lame duck Obama’s brave new world by Pepe Escobar for Asia Times.

Election of a Republican majority in the Senate means no possibility of agreement with Iran on nuclear weapons and fighting ISIS, no possibility of agreement with Russia on Ukraine and Middle East issues, and no possibility of action of climate change.

On the brighter side, Republicans, out of spite, will probably the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, with its investor-state provisions to block environmental and financial regulation.  The one thing the GOP and Obama administration will agree on is the so-called global war on terror.

As US and China meet at APEC summit, a drama involving billions in trade by Peter Ford for Christian Science Monitor.

China, which is excluded from the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, will launch a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific agreement as an alternative.  All 21 members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group will be eligible to join.

The New York Times doesn’t want you to understand this Vladimir Putin speech by Patrick L. Smith for Salon.

The Hidden Author of Putinism by Peter Pomerantsev for The Atlantic.

Vladimir Putin is right to insist on the rule of law in international affairs for everyone, including the United States.  The fact that the rule of law is not observed in Russia’s internal affairs is a separate question.

The Hospital’s Duty of Care by Greg Pond for MRSA Topic, a blog devoted to infectious disease.  (Hat tip to Mike the Mad Biologist)

About 8,000 Canadians die every year of hospital-acquired infections.  That’s because physicians and nurses are too under-staffed and over-worked to have time to wash their hands after every interaction with patients.   I’m sure that U.S. hospitals are no better.  This is a much more serious public health threat to North Americans, at this point, than Ebola.

Nicholas Berdyaev on conservatism

August 4, 2014

The meaning of conservatism is not that it impedes movement forward and upward, but that it impedes movement backwards and downwards—to chaotic darkness and the return to a primitive state.

via The American Conservative .

Three definitions of conservatism

August 3, 2013

Not all self-described conservatives believe the same thing—no more than all self-described liberals, progressives or anything else all believe the same thing.  I myself am conservative in many ways, in that I want to defend existing good things and restore good things that have been taken away, and that I resist committing society to untried experiments.

But I came across links on a back page of Avedon’s Sideshow to three articles that I think accurately define the mainstream of contemporary conservatism and what is wrong with it.   They all date from the days of the Bush administration, but I don’t think anything important has changed since then, except loss of the illusion that electing Democrats will in itself change things.

Conservatism is cheap labor.

Conservatism is domination of society by an aristocracy.

Conservatism is antipathy to liberalism.

Whether you agree or not, I suggest you click on the links and read the supporting arguments.

What is your definition of conservatism?  What is your definition of liberalism or progressivism?

The geography of American conservatism

February 23, 2012

Self-described conservatives outnumber liberals in 49 states, according to Gallup.  That’s true even in the state colored light green on the map—all except Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia.  Strangely, the poorest states are the most conservative.  Liberals are strongest in states whose residents contribute the most in federal taxes in comparison to the benefits they receive; conservatives are strongest in states who benefit the most from federal programs in comparison to the taxes they pay.

There are 26 states in which more than 40 percent of those polled by Gallup call themselves conservatives, including three (Mississippi, Utah and Wyoming) in which conservatives are more than 50 percent).  In no state do self-described liberals get above 40 percent, and only in Massachusetts and the District of Columbia do they get above 30 percent.

New York state, where I live, is one of the more liberal states.  It is five to three Democratic in registration and gives President Obama a net favorable approval rating.  Yet in a Gallup poll, self-described conservative New Yorkers outnumber self-described liberals, 32 percent to 26 percent.  (An additional 37 percent of New Yorkers polled told Gallup they are moderates.)

Gallup’s data indicate that:

• Conservative states are considerably more religious than liberal-leaning states, and the correlation between conservatism and religion is increasing.

• Conservative states have a smaller proportion of college graduates, a larger concentration of blue-collar workers and a smaller concentration of “creative” and “knowledge” workers.

• States with more conservatives are less diverse.  They have a smaller percentage of immigrants or of gays and lesbians.  However, it doesn’t seem to matter one way or the other what percentage of the population is black, white or Hispanic.

• States with more conservatives are considerably less affluent than those with more liberals.  Conservatism is correlated with lower state income levels and even more so with lower average hourly earnings.

Within states, the higher-income people tend to be economic conservatives and social liberals and the lower-income people tend to be economic liberals and social conservatives.

My guess is that the Gallup respondents defined themselves in terms of social issues rather than economic issues.  That is because they are offered a meaningful choice on issues such as gay marriage, abortion rights, prayer in the public schools and the like.  On economic issues, not so much.  Liberal Democrats are as much in thrall to Wall Street as conservative Republicans.  Neither faction offers any hope of doing anything about outsourcing, downsizing, foreclosures, declining wages or other material concerns of average Americans.  Only in the so-called moral and cultural issues is there a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties.

We don’t know that average-income voters necessarily consider social issues more important than economic issues.  They might or might not, if given a choice, but they are not given that choice.

The next charts show how ideological differences among the states and among voters within states.

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The enduring power of conservatism

February 23, 2012

Self-described conservatives outnumber self-described liberals nearly two to one nationwide.  If you look at this graph, it is easy to understand why the Republican candidates emphasize their conservatism, while Obama and the Democratic leaders emphasize their moderation.    Republicans can win nationally if they get all the conservative voters and a third of moderate voters.  But Democrats can’t win unless they get a large majority of moderates.

In the long run, the perceived lack of appeal of liberalism becomes self-reinforcing.  If liberals insist that they’re really moderates, and not all that liberal, how can anyone take liberalism seriously?  The “movement conservatives” don’t do that.  Even in 1964, when American conservatism seemed washed up, they stuck to their principles and eventually came back.

Click on Conservatives Remain the Largest Ideological Group in U.S. for more from Gallup and the source of the top chart.

Click on State of the States for more from Gallup and the source of the bottom chart.

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A traditional conservative vs. neo-conservatives

June 23, 2011

Hat tip to The American Conservative.

Who’s writing the laws?

March 31, 2011

William Cronon is an outstanding historian on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin.  I own two of his books, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists and the Ecology of New England, and Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West. Both made me see the relation of history to geography and the natural world in a new way.

William Cronon

Recently Prof. Cronon turned his attention to Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker and the Republican legislative program, and found some interesting things about where they’re coming from.  Among other things, he found that the laws of Wisconsin are being drafted by an outfit called the American Legislative Exchange Council. I never heard of it before, but evidently it has been drafting model legislation for conservative legislators for 40 years, and claims a good success rate in getting its ideas enacted into law.  Proposals such as Gov. Scott Walker’s union-busting law don’t come out of nowhere.  They are part of a concerted nationwide effort.

As Cronon emphasizes, there is nothing wrong with people banding together to advance a political program they believe in.  The rise of the conservative movement in the United States in the past 50 years is a remarkable success story, and worthy of emulation by those of us who want to move the country in a different direction.  At the same time, I wonder why I never heard of the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Cornon posted his findings on his new web log.  I won’t try to summarize his post.  Click on Who’s Really Behind Recent Republican Legislation in Wisconsin and Elsewhere? (Hint: It Didn’t Start Here) to read it.   I strongly recommend reading the post in its entirety.

Wisconsin’s Republicans haven’t taken Cronon’s writings lightly.  The Wisconsin Republican Party has used Wisconsin’s Open Records Law to subpoena any of Cronon’s messages on his university e-mail account that may relate to Republicans and politics; they won’t say why.  Click on A Shabby Crusade in Wisconsin for the New York Times comment on this.

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Soul brothers: Carter, Clinton, Obama

September 15, 2010

Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were white men who were Governors of Southern states.  President Barack Obama is a black man who was a Senator from a Midwestern state.  Yet in their politics and policies, they are more alike than they are different.

All three ran for office as outsiders.  They had little or no experience on the national scene, but they turned that liability into an asset.  They said they would break with politics as usual in Washington, and bring about a new era.  Once in office, they claimed to transcend partisanship, and to have got beyond traditional liberal vs. conservative thinking.

In fact, none of them represented a break with the past.  They filled their Cabinets from the ranks of the Washington establishment.  They weren’t exactly failures.  They all had certain accomplishments.  But neither Carter nor Clinton was a transformative President in the way that Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were, and I expect the same will be true of Obama.

Presidents Carter, Clinton and Obama have been outstanding in their intellectual mastery of the details of policy and government – much more so than Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush.  But Reagan and Bush knew something more important.  They knew their own minds.  They had guiding philosophies which informed their judgments and the judgments of their superiors.

Carter and Clinton were pragmatists, as is Obama. They rejected “ideology.”  Their aim, like Obama’s, was to support whatever produced the best results.  But in practice, they seemed to flounder.  In contrast to the Reagan and Bush administrations, their administrations lacked direction.  Pragmatism was un-pragmatic.  It didn’t work.

Reagan and Bush met the “elevator speech” test; you could state their principles to somebody on an elevator before the person got off at the next floor.  Their basic principle was that government was evil and its activities should be minimized, except in regard to national security and preserving order, in which case its powers should be absolute.  I don’t agree with this philosophy, but it is understandable.  I could not give an elevator speech explaining Carter’s philosophy, nor Clinton’s, nor Obama’s.

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