T Nation



What is it? I see neoconservatism, social conservatism, fiscal conservatism, paleo-conservatism, crunchy conservatism, front porch conservatism, etc.

A couple of questions to stimulate:

  1. If a conservative can be a social libertarian and a 'fiscal conservative' why isn't he simply a libertarian? In my experience fiscal conservatism is used to mean 'economic liberalism.' So, if one is both a social and economic liberal, why does one choose the label conservative? Why is it more accurate than libertarian? Is it libertarianism hijacking conservatism?

  2. Now if fiscal conservatism (economic liberalism) isn't the distinguishing feature, is not social conservatism then the necessary identifier in discerning between the two, libertarianism and conservatism?

  3. Does conservatism even require a certain economic philosophy? For this question, allow me to suggest (though it can be argued in following responses) that conservatism tends to look to the local. That is, it's not so much the individual, but perhaps instead community, local institutions, small-local businesses, civic society, which are to be held in the highest regard. If we do accept this, what economic philosophy serves? Does big, global, multi-national, capitalism do it? Or does it have a debilitating effect on community? Does it turn once friendly and familiar neighbors into strangers-consumers? Does it leave a wasteland of disenfranchised working lower class, who in their weakness, see no recourse but to turn to a powerful central state?

  4. What exactly are conservatives trying to conserve? Are we simply trying to conserve a position today, that the left abandonded yesterday as they lurched further leftwards? Or, do we have something in mind?

  5. Do conservatives see any value in 'conserving' the natural beauty of this nation and it's surrounding oceans? To pass on to the next generation?

Guys, what the heck is a conservative?


I think a uniting feature is the politics of decline- that somehow, the golden years exist in the past, and the polity should return to that time period by engaging in certain policies.

This, I believe, is 'a', not 'the', defining feature.


The term has indeed lost its meaning. Here's your problem area right here:

I describe myself as a fiscal conservative but a social libertarian. Over the years a person with this philosophy has been described as a Rockefeller Republican, Nixon Republican, liberal Republican, moderate, or libertarian. Today we're just called RINOs. The dividing line seems to be the social issues. Unless you're on board with the social planks of the Republican party, then you're a RINO and no longer welcome.

Given my vigorous defense of evolution in the other thread one would think I was a raving Democrat. Nope. I used to be a registered Republican - shocking isn't it? I'm now an independent. Last election I voted for McCain because I believe he was, and continues to be a moderate. I thought Sarah Palin was, and is, an idiot. I don't think conservatism has been hijacked by libertarians but just the opposite - the libertarians within the Republican party have been pushed out by the radical conservatives. These radical conservatives are made up of - wait for my favorite phrase - batshit crazy religious fundamentalists.


Did our conversation in the other thread spur this on? In any event, this could be a good and useful thread.

If one is socially liberal and economically liberal (in the classical sense), then they may be some form of libertarian. However, I wouldn't classify myself as a libertarian unless I was strictly liberal on pretty much all issues. There is something in between, like I mentioned in the other thread, which IMO is classical liberalism. This allows a liberal economic philosophy with a mix of liberal/conservative social philosophy (for example: pro-life and pro-legalization of drugs). Libertarianism is only hijacking conservatism because conservatives aren't conservative anymore!

I mean, I look around these forums and I see conservatives constantly attacking the libertarians... on ECONOMIC issues. That's the one place where they're supposed to agree! I think we have to sacrifice some of our ideal in order to be practical and get something done.

Yes, and a more extensive foreign policy (which again, I believe a classical liberal can subscribe to).

I think you're confusing a free market for a state regulated market. I know it's difficult to do, since a completely free market has never existed, but it is something to strive for. I think almost all of the effects you listed above are because of state intervention (whether under the guise of capitalism or not), and not capitalism itself. However, there is one true thing about capitalism, if the people don't have initiative, compassion, and self-reliance they will almost always turn to the state.

This is one of my huge problems with conservatism. What time are you guys trying to get back to? The time when economic liberalism was more pronounced and greedy social programs didn't infect the nation? That also happens to be the time when blacks and women were oppressed. For that reason alone, this conjures up images in peoples' minds that conservatism is bad and backwards.

Not sure what this has to do with conservatism. Of course most people would in some sense like to conserve the natural beauty of the earth. But they also want cars, houses, and other things that triumph over the environment. In any event, I don't think this is as pressing an issue as most make it seem.

I don't know, but if you happen to find one, let me know.


I guess what I was getting at, with that particular question, is why don't you consider yourself a libertarian?


I generally agree with this organization: http://www.republicanmainstreet.org/

It's interesting that there needs to be a special group within the Republican party to support centrist ideas. I'm sure that this group would be accused of being composed of RINOs.


Ok, that's twice someone has commented about conserving a certain time in history. I'm not sure why. I'm thinking principles, virtues, and other things which aren't tied down to a time. Perhaps ideas or standards more commonly found at an earlier time, sure. But an entire way of living? No. Not at all. We're not talking about throwing out the computer, if that's what you mean.

But, take family (a topic I bring up a lot, for good reason) for example. Does anyone argue that the status of intact families, both parents in the home, has not changed? Does anyone question the socio/economic costs? Look at the central welfare state. Despise it? Well, hate to inform the 'fiscal conservatives' of this, but it's not going anywhere. It's the new replacement daddy. Then there's the elderly. Soc. Sec. and the Medi-C programs aren't going anywhere. Or do we actually believe that today's citizen wants to support his parents? Heck, no! Cut them a check and keep them in their own home until they're too weak or unawares to resist being enrolled into a nursing home (costs offset by some program).

Obviously there's more to say on family values alone, but I'm just providing an example. We're talking about principles, standards, morals, culture, values, virtues, whatever you want to call it, that reduces the want--no, the need--for a large central state. We're talking about conserving what should be seen as enduring values. Not freezing time at some year.


Well, I was trying to make clear that people have a perception that conservatives want to conserve some time in history. It just so happens that the policies of conservatives were in place during a time of extreme racial tension and violence. There were also good aspects of society, like the intact family that you mentioned. I completely agree with everything else you wrote, but I fail to see how eliminating the welfare state requires putting more restraint on capitalism (as if it isn't a big enough restraint itself). Yes, we need to rediscover conservative values to some degree, but we must also focus on the economic aspect as well. Sad fact is, there are many social conservatives today who are NOT economically liberal (free market), so they don't go as hand-in-hand as I think you think they do.


I'll respond to the rest somtime tomorrow. But for now, I'm not sure what this was supposed to mean. There were alot of things that existed during 'a time of extreme racial tension and violence.' Not sure what you have in mind, exactly. As of now, you might as well have said baseball was around then, too.


Of course I know that. I'm just saying what an outsider observes as a problem with conservatism. But are you really saying that baseball and public policy are comparable in terms of their effect on society? For some reason, people have a notion in their heads that because we had 'X' economic policy and 'Y' social policy, we had racism and segregation. I do not believe this, but it nevertheless continues to be a factor in peoples' minds. I do think however, that conservatives tend to want to go back to some time in the past, even if that is not the intent of their label. This is just what I've observed personally.


I have only used the basic definition of conservative. That a conservative wants a smaller, less intrusive government, which is opposite of a liberal who wants a larger, more... let's say... helpful government.

And a libertarian would believe in an even further reduction in government power.

I find myself somewhere between conservative and libertarian, sliding more and more toward libertarian.

A neo-con is simply a term used by liberals because they think it is similar to neo-nazi. At least that is the only definition I have been able to believe. There are a million definitions out there so I do not give any credence to the use of the term.

Being a Republican or Democrat has no real relation to being a conservative or liberal, although they are more likely to fall within the obvious parties. G W Bush is a great example. He expanded the roll of government, so was a liberal. There were a few things that might have qualified as conservative, but he was a liberal.

It does seem like conservatives tend to be prudish. Me, I like boobies.


One problem I keep finding in both conservatives and liberals is that they will too often accept any science or pseudoscience that promotes their beliefs, and dismiss or disagree with any science that refutes their belief system.

Hopefully I have annoyed everybody.


wow - really? You obviously drank the kool-aid . . . The historical perspective of conservatism is not based on the claim that "the golden years exist in the past", but and acknowledgement that the limited American government that was originally established should be adhered to so that our future can be even brighter and more glorious than any period in our past.

It is a recognition that a free people are a productive people. It is an awareness that a government with great power results in less liberty for its citizens. It is an exaltation of the individual with all of his faults and all of his potential. It is an exhuberence of the possibility that something great will come of great education and the freedom to try new ideas. It is a reminder that the best protection of the individual is his own mind, not a government nanny.

Conservatism demands accountability of the individual and lives only by the will of the people united in common defense. It is the rush of new concepts, the excitement of new dreams and the freedom to engage in whatever pursuits you choose for yourself. It means you can eat all the red meat you want, and drink all of the beer you want and smoke all of the cigarettes you want and party with whomever you want. It means freedom to pursue wealth, pursue farming, pursue art, pursue llama farming at your own whim!

It is the sober reality that a people dependent on a government are slaves to that same government, but a people dependent upon themselves are their own masters. It is freedom to be charitable by choice or a ungrateful jerk as well. You can kind or mean, generous or stingy, giving or mizerly - you are free to choose your own actions.

Conservatism acknowledges that a government that can tell you that you cannot smoke or wear religious jewelry is a government that can tell you how to do anything. it is an awakening of the intellect to the potential for growth, the opening of new doors, exploring new frontiers - nothing is off limits to a free individual.

It is a restricting of bureaucracy, the death knell for government control, the bane of the socialist and the dread enemey of fascism. It is the tortured nightmare of those who seek to dominate others, the screams of horror of the communist dictator, and the muted whimpers of the weak and cowardly who need a government to make them feel needed and useful.

Conservatism is the hope that man can learn from the past, the belief that the individual should be lifted up and the government debased, and the expectation of a bright, glorious future for mankind.


Ok. But couldn't you have substituted libertarian for every instance of conservative found in this post? What sets the conservative apart?


the differences between Libertarian and conservativism, as you know, is not differences in goals or values, but in actual policy/legislative realities - mainly around military policy and war from what I can see. also the Libertarian does not allow for local community restrictions, whereas conservatives do


What would you consider Local Community Restrictions? I have never gotten into politics and just starting to try and understand all the different view points.


A perfect example is alcohol. Conservatives allow for a community to choose to restrict the sale of alcohol within that communities jurisdiction - note that this is a restriction of the commercial activity. The result is a dry city or a dry county. The libertarian would not allow for such a community restriction, whereas the conservative would agree that a community (not the federal government) can act according to the wishes of the people to restrict certain economic activities.


How does this not fly in the face of your definition of Conservatism?


It's not a total federal prohibition, nor is it a personal prohibition against the possession and consumption of alcohol. Under the conservative perspective home-brewing is prefectly fine, drinking is perfectly fine - but if a community want to keep liqour stores out of its community - it has the authority of the local population to do so. If you want to sell liqour, you still have the freedom to do so right outside the city limits (and outsid eof city taxes/regulations) and still serve that community, and the freedom to petition your fellow citizens to try to change the law if you just have to be within th city limits.

Please don't hang up on this specific example - it was merely for demonstration purposes only. If the community wanted to restrict lumberyards it could do the same. It is an acknowledgement of the authority of the direct democracy available wthin a local ORGANIZED community.


These your words Irish?


Afraid so - i get a bit wordy every now and again