Total Control

Twenty-five years ago I was sitting in a political science class listening to the professor explain how the extreme right and the extreme left end up in the same place - Totalitarianism. At the time I was taken by surprise. How could the extremists goals of two completely opposite ideas result in the exact same result?

From time to time that same circular diagram that that professor drew on the black board pops into my head. The diagram continues to remind me that moderation may be the best action with the most reasonable results. But, the diagram also has its subtleties. For example, are government interventions always bad? How much government intervention is too much? Can one side of the political aisle claim to be the party of less government? Isn’t it true that extreme conservatives will eventually demand the government to take control - like the Fascists of World War II?

Unless one is a true libertarian, which is a very small portion of the American electorate, Americans actually want our government to take some control. The argument isn’t really about more government and less government as the Reagan Conservatives claim. The argument is about which things the government should have a hand in. Religious conservatives want the government to control the culture. Fiscal conservatives want the government to control the working class. Environmentalists want the government to control those who feel they have a right to rape the heartland. Whoever believes in the law wants laws enforced by the government.

So, if most people want the government to intervene in some way, the question should become “What do we want our government to do?”

When we finally stop arguing over the false dichotomy of whether we want more or less government we need to begin to construct an honest idea of what we want a functional government to do. Then we can begin to move in a direction toward a solution that the majority can agree to.

Liberals and Conservatives already have many positions on many issues, and these positions suggest what the total function of government might be. The majority of Americans will agree that government needs to create laws the majority can agree to except to live by. But, what should the purpose of these laws actually be? Should laws be created to restrict the general population, because the general population can not be trusted. Or, should laws be created to restrict those who have power, because those with power can not be trusted? Or, should laws be created to empower the weak because they are at a disadvantage? Should laws be created to protect the weak? Should laws be created to protect property so that the wealthy will not be able to lose their property, even if they are careless with it? Should the government encourage or discourage risk and investment? In the simplified view, should the government control, encourage, discourage or ignore what we do as citizens in order to protect us?

I think that it is interesting to study the two paths in which extremists on the left and on the right eventually come to the conclusion that totalitarianism is the solution. Totalitarianism is type of government that controls all aspects of our lives.

Extremists on the political right are Fascists. Even though many conservatives of today claim that they want less government, they certainly do not want to do away with laws and law enforcement. If these conservatives truly believed in the idea of more freedom and less government they would be happy to be placed in the middle of some failed state like Somalia. In Somalia people are at the will of he War Lords that maintain control by force without law. In reality laws do exist, because the War Lords create their own personal laws to suite themselves. The power of force - be it military, monetary or religious is placed over those forced to obey. Many conservatives view the world based on an extension of this view. Leaders are strong and powerful and they enforce their will by creating rules enforced by power. Since this is the nature of the world the only problem with it is the way in which the rules and laws are created and enforced. If the laws could be created and enforced more fairly everyone could live in peace. Conservatives can see that the main problem is that many different leaders created many different rules and laws. If there were a way in which one universal system of rules could be created then our problems could be solved. Religious conservatives already understand that the problem is solved, because God has given us the universal guide to law. Not all conservatives agree to this. In fact fiscal conservatives believe that business should be free of law and workers should be made to conform to society’s needs. Fascists take the conservative idea of laws to an extreme where every possible law is created in order to make society run a smooth as possible. Whenever a problem is encountered, then a new law is created to fix the problem. If people don’t comply with the rule or law, then the penalty is increased until society conforms and becomes efficient. The government ends up taking control of every aspect of life.

On the other hand the left begins with the idea that workers should be able to live a reasonable life with very little constraint. Workers should be able to have the jobs that they chose to do and be paid a reasonable amount for the work that they do. Immediately we realize that there is a problem here. How can workers demand to be paid for doing a job that society does not need or want? If every person decided to run his or her own company we end up with all chiefs and no Indians to use a politically incorrect metaphor. One way to fix the problem is to demand that people are allowed to do this work and be paid to do it by law. Extremists on the left quickly find that the utopia must be created and fueled by the government. And, the people quickly find that they are forced to do work that the government needs to be done and they are paid what the government decides to pay. The leaders will continually explain that this totalitarian government is only temporary until people realize that what the government is forcing them to do is what they wanted all the time anyway. However, the future never comes and the government wouldn’t know what to do if it did come anyway. The goal ends up becoming creating rules and laws until society conforms and becomes efficient. Which means that the government ends up taking control of every aspect of our life.

So, in America we praise freedom and liberty as a check on either type of extremist. Freedom of speech allows us to question the extremists before they build up enough momentum to make all of the rules and laws that end up controlling our lives. Under the Republican controlled congress and the Bush administration our liberties and freedom were beginning to be stripped away. This is the first step in the direction of either extremist movement. Fortunately the election of 2006 was able to wrest away the congress from the extremists. Similarly, if the left were to begin to make laws restricting our freedoms and liberties another election would give some check to the right. And, once again we would see that the checks and balances of American democracy really does work.

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Don’t forget what Stephen Colbert said, “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Reflection

17 Responses to “Total Control”

  1. me Says:

    Sorry, Doctor, but none of the fascists of WWII were conservatives. Not one. They were, to a man, leftists, socialists. Read Goldberg, Jonah, Liberal Fascism. They were radicals. They desired nothing so much as to tear down the existing political, social, and religious institutions — rather startling actions for conservatives, which is to say that calling Mussolini, Hitler or Stalin conservatives is nonsense on stilts — and the policies they enacted or wished to enact were leftist progressivism. Don’t believe it? Find a conservative in America in the 10s, 20s, or 30s touting either the policies or the means used by Mussolini, Hitler or the Soviets. You’ll come up pretty empty. Now the Progressives of that era loved Mussolini, admired Hitler and had a hard time deciding whether Soviet Communism or Mussolini Fascism were the closest to utopia and should be copied by the next US administration. Mussolini was their darling and the totalitarianism he instituted and the means he used to institute them were all the rage. The New Republic was a big fan.

    This is the oldest trick in the book and the oldest lie, first perpetrated by the Bolsheviks to discredit anyone who dissented from the Party line: call them Righties and Fascists. The fact is that the main difference between Communism and Fascism was that one, Communism, was international in nature (”Workers of the World Unite!”, and Fascism was nationalist in nature. There were local differences between Fascism in Mussolini’s Italy National Socialism in Hitler’s Germany (Mussolini wasn’t antisemitic for one thing) but both were nationalist variants of global Communism. They were, in short, competitors for the same leftist constituencies.

  2. me Says:

    And how far to the right do you have to go to find Righties who WANT the government to take control? Seems to me, the further you go to the Right, the less governmental control they want. That is, the more they see ANY government action as an encroachment upon personal liberties. See, for example, Ron Paul, further to the Right than any politician that I am aware of that was ever to be seriously considered for President of the United States. His life’s goal, as a Congressperson, it seems, is to vote against any and all legislation that empowers the government to do much of anything.

    I do think you’re right, though, that the traditions and institutions of America make us more immune to Fascism (although, Goldberg makes a pretty solid case, I think, that America, during WWI, under Wilson, WAS a Fascist state. He does not claim that Wilson in any way was the moral equivalent of Hitler but that Wilson’s administration, replete with American progressive types, used Fascistic tactics, including propaganda and violence and control (though not expropriation) of corporations, to institute Fascistic ends in America. The Progressives only complaint was that, after WWI, Americans would not put up with a continuation of such policies during peace-time as they tolerated at war-time.

    America IS different from nations like early 20th century Germany, Italy, Spain and Russia. We more successfully resisted Socialism and have even been less willing to completely fall in with Socialism’s successor: Nanny-statism than, say, France, Germany or England. But it has been due to the efforts of those on the Right, such as Friedrich A. von Hayek (whose Road to Surfdom forewarned that governmental interference in markets leads to ever expanding governmental direction, resulting in totalitarianism) and Milton and Rose Friedman valiantly arguing for free markets and people like lately departed William F. Buckley (who admittedly had his blind-spots) who ardently stood athwart history and shouted, “Stop”, arguing strenuously for classical liberalism over those who had taken the name ‘liberal’ and made it something quite different, that are most responsible for resisting Fascism in America.

    In my honest opinion, that is.

  3. me Says:

    And since when is not wanting to do away with law and law enforcement the equivalent of fascism? How, in fact, could liberty be maintained without laws and law enforcement? Remove all laws restraining human nature and see how long individuals stay free from coercion by their neighbors. It is true that there are those on the right who wish to legislate morality (outlawing abortion, at least delegitimizing homosexuality, etc.). I’ll give you that but there are those on the Left that wish to legislate things like what you eat (laws banning foods with trans-fats), what you drink (laws banning carbonated soft-drinks in schools), what you can and cannot wear (tee shirts with messages that can be deemed in any way negative toward gays in schools). In Canada, the so-called human rights commissions, provincial and federal, are being used to punish expression of opinions that might, in any way, lead some hearer or reader to have a negative opinion of special interest groups like Muslims and Jews. They are being used by Righties (mostly by Muslims who have not totally bought into classical liberal values, particularly when they themselves become the topic of conversations with which they are not comfortable, and by Jews who fear antisemitism, largely from Muslims) but those commissions that they are using are the results of liberal policies and, for the most part, applauded by liberals in Canada for exactly the purpose of restricting anything that they view as hate speech. It is those on the Right, in Canada, who have lead the fight to strip such commissions of power to punish speech in this way (although liberals, particularly in the press, both in America and in Canada, are beginning to see the danger in using such commissions for the suppression of unpopular opinion).

    My point is that those on the Right are hardly the only ones who want to restrict individual freedom for what they see as some greater good.

    I will answer my own question from above, though. I asked how far one has to go on the Right to find people who want to give control to government? Most of the various Muslim countries are, indeed, both Righties and favor giving government total control over dress, speech, appearance in public by women who are not covered from head to toe and accompanied by a male member of their family or her husband, who wish to punish those perceived to be insufficiently pious, and on and on. There are also Christians who seem to wish to set up communities which legally enforce Christian values who are unquestionably on the Right. So I guess I would agree with what I read as the main contention: that if one goes far enough to the left or the right, one comes up against those who would use the force of government to control society in ways that they favor.

  4. Christopher Radulich Says:

    I though fiscal conservatives want a balanced budget.

    And yes Hitler and Mussolini were conservatives. The defined themself as the new barbarians

    We are the joyous Hitler youth,
    We do not need any Christian virtue
    Our leader is our savior
    The Pope and Rabbi shall be gone
    We want to be pagans once again.”

    - Song sung by Hitler youth

    “They refer to me as an uneducated barbarian. Yes, we are barbarians. We want to be barbarians, it is an honored title to us. We shall rejuvenate the world. This world is near its end.”

    - Rauschning, Hitler Speaks, p.

    One thing most americans seem to agree with. We want government to do all sorts of things. We just don’t want to pay for it.

  5. manapp99 Says:

    “I though fiscal conservative s want a balanced budget.”

    I thought everyone wanted a balanced budget.

    “And yes Hitler and Mussolini were conservative s. The defined themself as the new barbarians”

    Where have you heard conservatives describe themselves as “new barbarians”?

    “One thing most americans seem to agree with. We want government to do all sorts of things. We just don’t want to pay for it.”

    Not overpaying for government services would be a good start. We could keep the same programs and cut billions from the budget if the government would get serious about cutting out waste and fraud. I, for one, do not want the government to do “all sorts of things” I want them to do a few things and do them efficiently.

  6. me Says:

    Christopher,

    Sorry to break this to you but barbarians is not the equivalent of conservative. Hitler was decidedly not a conservative in any sense of the term that does not make utter hash of language. Conservatives wish to conserve, as their name implies. Hitler, even as your little ditty proves itself, wished not to preserve but to tear down religion. Hitler created the youth movement in the desire to tear down the family, children spies who would inform on their parents. Only by destroying language can you contend that Hitler was a conservative and Nazism (National Socialism for God’s sake) was a conservative movement.

  7. me Says:

    I’m not certain where the notion that fiscal conservatives want government to control workers comes from. We want both workers and corporations to be a free as possible (Friedrich A. Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty is excellent on this point): workers to trade their work for remuneration commensurate with what the labor market will bear and corporations to be as free as possible to adjust the size of their labor force to ever changing conditions of the market for their goods and services. I for one do not object to the formation of unions. I certainly don’t want the coercive power of the government brought to bear to prevent unionization. Of course, I don’t want coercive force used to force those who do not wish to unionize to join a union in order to find work. Unions should not be allowed to operate as a monopoly that forms a barrier to entry to the job market within industries for any person to contract for labor at terms mutually agreeable to both the prospective employee and the corporation. I find coercion upon individuals’ liberties of this sort to be totally averse to individual freedom.

  8. me Says:

    And like most fiscal conservatives, the number and range of things that I want the government to do is quite limited, and government outstripped those limits back around the time of FDR, so that doing those things would be well within the government’s ability to pay for out of taxes that I would be happy to pay. This notion that we want the government to do all sorts of things that we are unwilling to pay for is hog-wash, as well. We are unwilling to pay precisely because the government is doing all sorts of things that we don’t want government to do and we object to being coerced to pay for the illegitimate (in our view) use of our money.

  9. me Says:

    About fiscal conservatives wanting a balanced budget, no. I think not. Just as borrowing for individuals can be a good thing, I see no objection, as a fiscal conservative, to governments borrowing money. It can, and has been, taken to extremes, of course, and, just as this is bad for individuals and families, it can be bad for governments and their populations.

    The problem arises when you get a president who is not a fiscal conservative. Here’s a hint. Just as ‘barbarian’ is not the equivalent in meaning to ‘conservative’, so ‘fiscal conservative’ is nearly the polar opposite of ‘compassionate conservative’. You’re confusion arises perhaps from thinking that Bush is a fiscal conservative. Fiscal conservatives have been pulling their hair out quite a bit throughout Bush’s term in office.

  10. Christopher Radulich Says:

    con·serv·a·tive /kənˈsɜrvətɪv/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[kuhn-sur-vuh-tiv] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
    –adjective
    1. disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.

    So yes both Italy and Germany were conservatives.

    As

    “The main plank in the Nationalist Socialist program is to abolish the liberalistic concept of the individual and the Marxist concept of humanity and to substitute for them the folk community, rooted in the soil and bound together by the bond of its common blood.” (4)

    “The state is a means to an end. Its end lies in the preservation and advancement of a community of physically and psychically homogenous creatures. This preservation itself comprises first of all existence as a race… Thus, the highest purpose of a folkish state is concern for the preservation of those original racial elements which bestow culture and create the beauty and dignity of a higher mankind. We, as Aryans, can conceive of the state only as the living organism of a nationality which… assures the preservation of this nationality…” (5)

    Since this is a democracy we all get to pay taxes for things we do not approve of. I would never want to pay for a sports arena, but I have. I would have cut the military spending. Not on people but on weapontry developement and I certianly would not pay for Iraq.

    Fiscal conservatism is a political phrase term used in North America to attack government spending and advocate instead lower spending and a lower federal debt; it may also include higher taxes in order to lower the debt. It does not necessarily denote advocacy of free market economics as a whole, and is a distinct concept from that of neo-liberalism.

  11. Christopher Radulich Says:

    Try the Hitler reference again.

  12. Dr. Forbush Says:

    Craig,

    I realize that many conservatives have their own personal definition of what a conservative is. However, in this piece I have used the traditional definition of conservatism. Of course when you come down to specifics many conservatives do not agree on all of the issues. But, regardless of that there are many aspects of conservatism that tend to tie these individuals together. And, the specific aspect of my piece dealt with extremism. Like every idea some adopters of the idea are bound to take those ideas to the extreme limits. In this case extreme conservatism tends to move toward Fascism as not only I have pointed out, but many scholars much more educated in the matter than myself.

    So, even though we can not agree on what the definition of conservatism is, we can certainly know exactly what Fascism is, because Mussolini, the creator of the term, defined fascism as being a collectivistic ideology in opposition to socialism, liberalism, democracy and individualism.

    First off, conservatives will agree with the first two points. Conservatives in general oppose socialism and liberalism. Now, of course I am talking about the extremist version of conservatives as I pointed out before. And, I am certain that no extremist conservative would argue with me on that point.

    So, then we are left with the ties to the conservative opposition to democracy and individualism.

    Well, as you pointed out Ron Paul is no Fascist. And, I would agree. Ron Paul is not really an extremist conservative as you suggest. He actually calls himself a libertarian. And, a libertarian is opposed to government in many more ways than the traditional conservative. For example, libertarians have been mocked for years because of their general belief that drugs of all kinds should be legalized. However, traditional conservatives on the other hand are not only in favor of controlling drugs but also making them illegal. This extends to many additional areas of personal freedom and liberty such as prostitution, pornography, property rights, as well as the conservative favorite of no taxation. Basically libertarians believe that the government should do as little as possible and the individual should have the responsibility to make the right choices.

    Of course conservatives like some of these ideas. Traditional conservatism is based on the idea that things worked well enough in the past and so they shouldn’t be changed. In the past we should remember the wealthy property owners made the rules to benefit themselves. And those traditions have been passed down through the generations. In this context conservatives like the idea of individual freedom when it pertains to the owner of property such as a corporation. The conservative belief is that the owner is the King of his domain and the government should not interfere. However, tradition also has it that the owner should be able to hire desperate workers willing to work at the lowest possible wage. As long as the owner deals with each individual in a one-on-one basis the fear that another worker will take the job for lower pay keeps wages to a minimum. So, the conservative position is against the individual’s freedom to organize and bargain for a living wage. So, as a conservative becomes more extreme he supports his own individual rights but becomes more opposed to the individual rights of the general population. He knows that free speech, freedom from search and seizure, privacy and freedom to organize work against his goal of maintaining a cheap labor force. As governments more to more extreme areas of conservatism individual rights are replaced with national security interests.

    The final opposition, the opposition to democracy can be seen in subtle ways. For example the simple argument made by many conservatives that we live in a representative republic and not a democracy is the first point. Conservatives have a fear that mob rule would bring down the nation. Democracy is the principle that every man has one vote to vote on every issue. For example, if the issue came up that we should redistribute the wealth of our nation and we put it to the people, then the majority that live paycheck to paycheck and have no personal assets would certainly be in favor of this. In order to prevent such a suggestion we elect officials that are swore to uphold the interest of our nation as a whole. This very idea is actually a move away from democracy. And, this less equal method of rule is favored more highly by conservatives in general. In fact, looking at the nominating process of the two political parties demonstrates this by the use of proportional representation in the Democrat party while Republicans use the winner take all method. Proportional representation gives a voice to the minority point of view, therefore making it more democratic. And, of course as conservatives become more extreme they become more certain that they know the proper way and the lower class has no idea how the world works. The arrogance of the current administration is a case and point on this issue. The administration has been trying to circumvent democratic process for the last seven years.

    Of course the point of my piece was how the extreme ends of both liberal and conservative ideology end up at totalitarianism. This is not to say that all conservatives are fascists, just like all liberals are not advocates of central planning by the state. Our great nation will continue to be great as long as we maintain a straight rudder and steer down the center.

  13. me Says:

    Doctor,

    I mostly agree with your last paragraph. However, I think we’re confusing ‘right wing’ with ‘conservative’ as if they were perfect synonyms and described groups with coterminous borders and who’s members can be matched on a one-to-one basis of identity; that is, that all conservatives are right wingers and all right wingers are conservatives. It is against this (what I view as an) identity fallacy that I object and against which I argue.

    A conservative looks at what is and says, “I mostly like it; most of what I don’t like, I can live with/tolerate; what I don’t like enough that I want it changed, I prefer minimalist changes that preserve as much of what has proven useful but could achieve the change that I desire, with a minimal chance of negative unforeseen consequences, to total overhauls; and what changes others would institute to what I like about the present system, I will argue against.”

    As an illustration, I think that the US revolution was in large part a fight against what was perceived to have been attempts by England to deprive the colonists of what they viewed as traditional English rights. It could be argued that loyalists were more conservative still but the revolution was to conserve what was viewed as being lost. The French revolution, on the other hand, was something different. Edmund Burke, who defended the rights of the US colonists against the King’s and Parliament’s policies toward the colonists, absolutely opposed the French Revolution precisely because it was not a conservative revolution to preserve traditional rights but one that destroyed what had been in order to replace that with something new and radical, untried and which spurned individual rights in favor of collectivist notions of equality and liberty and rationality. So, of course, conservatives can and do fight but to conserve, not to destroy that which has come to exist through many generations.

    An Al Qaeda type who wishes to turn society’s clock back to the seventh century by violent means is certainly a right winger but to the extent that they wish to overturn existing societies and established institutions by violent means to bring about more or less instant and radical change can hardly be termed ‘conservative’. They are reactionaries, violent reactionaries who despise everything modern and wish to turn back all advances all at once, and do so wherever they are allowed to gain control. It is in this sense that I do not consider them to be conservative. Al Qaeda types do not wish to conserve the present world in which they find themselves or to bring about slight and slow changes. They wish to destroy it and every bit of individual liberty that classical liberals have spent the last several hundred years securing. Conservatives do not blow up existing institutions or alter them dramatically to either gain some progressive vision of a future utopia (extremist left wing progressives) or some utopian vision of the past (extremist right wing reactionaries).

    So as a matter of definition, I would exclude Hitler and Nazism from the definition of ‘conservative’. They were entirely too radical in their policy goals (which progressives of the 30s largely applauded here in America), and means (Nazis went about attempting to, within a generation or less, destroy religion, the family, existing democratic political institutions). No one who wishes to make such total and quick changes in the present system ought not to be allowed to take or be given the name ‘conservative’ in my opinion.

    Perhaps I am the one who’s wrong. I’m not above admitting that there are plenty of smart people who disagree with me on defensible grounds. Perhaps I am fighting for a definition of conservative which expresses desires to conserve rather than destroy. The Oklahoma City bombing duo were not conservatives, to my mind. They were radical right wingers who left the conservative camp when they decided to destroy rather than institute slow, organic, experimental change.

    This is perhaps the most reasonable basis that I can think of for the general acceptance of a definition of ‘conservative’ which excludes Hitler and his Nazis: Isn’t the word ‘destroy’ the exact antonym of ‘conserve’? If so, I don’t see how Mussolini or Hitler were conservatives. They and theirs were not bent on conservation but on destruction.

    Having picked on Al Qaeda types, I’d also like to say a word about non-violent Muslims who may seek to bring about changes in our society but not through violent means but, rather, through established political means and institutions such as religious freedom, free speech and press which seeks to alter the discussion to their point of view rather than terrorize and destroy…these are mostly what I WOULD consider conservatives. I do not, to be sure, share the desire for a world dominated by people who have willingly subjected themselves to Allah but I do see them as working within conservative means to conservative ends, for although the ends are completely different from society as it exists now, they seek change through slow, conversion by conversion and reasoned argument by reasoned argument means. This is the difference, for me. That majority of Muslims, to the extent that, although they favor an end that shares fundamental similarities with what the Al Qaeda types seek, they seek it through the use of modern, democratic means, which is to say, a long-term, gradual, multi-generational process, are conservative in a way that Al Qaeda is not because they seek it through destruction and upheaval.

  14. Dr. Forbush Says:

    Craig,

    For the most part I agree with how you portray conservatives as trying to conserve tradition. You elude to the idea that some conservatives see that tradition originating in a different way than other conservatives. Different tradition separates different conservatives. Therefore I can understand how you would not identify with Germanic tradition and therefore not conclude that the Nazis actually were looking to their Teutonic roots in their search for conservative values. This tendency is a conservative search for meaning whether it is a Native American throwing off the mantle of Christianity looking for his ancestral culture or the Catholic Monk throwing off the control of the Church looking to the early Christians for a more ideal Christianity. Both of these actions seek the romanticized vision of an earlier time for the solutions to today’s problems.

    Conservatism in a broad sense is based on the idea that the solutions to today’s problems exist in yesterday’s traditions. Each individual possesses his or her own understanding of what this means. Today’s conservatives have a wide range of understanding of how they see solutions. For example, an entire group of baby boomer conservatives believe that the cultural revolution of the 1960s has destroyed the country. This group maintains that we need to reverse as much of this as possible. Older conservatives believe that the “New Deal” destroyed our country by stealing from the wealthy and giving to the poor. Some conservatives believe that the government unfairly broke up monopolies and placed too many regulations on monopolies that had every right to continue their monopoly. In fact, the 20th century is littered with social progress that many conservatives continue to protest.

    Even though it would be difficult to find a present day American conservative that rejects the American Revolution it is difficult to imagine it as a conservative movement. Conservatives might have acted in self defense, but the major instigation came from “free thinkers” and “deists.” Thomas Paine went on to work in the French Revolution and tried start a similar revolt in Britain. One should remember that the conservatives of the time believed that God had given the King the right to rule regardless of the justice in that rule. Only the taste of freedom because of the distance to the King persuaded the few brave progressive colonists to object to the King’s injustice. You confuse me when you justify the American Revolution as a defensive act of violence while you denounce the French, Nazi and Al Qaeda violence as too quick a change to be considered conservative. The point here is that most of these groups (not the French) desired to turn the clock back in order to solve the current problem - the main conservative motivation. The French were looking for a new paradigm where the peasants would tell the useless aristocracy where to go.

    I like your play on words with “conserve” and “destroy.” These are adjectives, and you need to ask the next question - what noun do they modify? Conservatives intend to conserve tradition. Therefore conservatives in their extremist version are willing to destroy what gets in the way of conserving that tradition. If the tradition that they value is the church, for example, then they would be willing to destroy a government that is repressing the church in order to preserve that church. In the case of the Nazis, they wanted to bring back an ancient Teutonic culture void of Christianity and foreigners. They were willing to destroy whatever it took to do that.

    I appreciate your complement to “non-violent Muslims who may seek to bring about changes in our society but not through violent means but, rather, through established political means and institutions such as religious freedom, free speech and press which seeks to alter the discussion to their point of view rather than terrorize and destroy…” However, I find it difficult and perhaps insulting to imagine that they should be called conservative. They are trying to make progress by pushing to bring their culture up to Western standards. That would be like saying that Americans that want government sponsored health care are conservative because they are trying to bring the United States up to the standards of Europe. From a European point of view this may be true, but it is an insult to the Americans that are working hard to make it happen.

    In conclusion, you may be right that there is a difference between conservatives and the right wing, but I don’t really see it. Right wing zealots that are racist want to go back to segregationist times. Right wing zealots who want the government to control our personal lives want us to go back to the Puritan times. Perhaps the only right wing group that doesn’t want to take us back to some distant time is the group that wants to remake the Middle East in the image of America.

  15. christopher Radulich Says:

    Roget’s New Millennium™ Thesaurus - Cite This Source - Share This
    Main Entry: conservative
    Part of Speech: adjective
    Definition: moderate
    Synonyms: bourgeois, cautious, constant, controlled, conventional, die-hard, fearful, firm, fogyish*, fuddy-duddy*, guarded, hard hat*, hidebound, holding to, illiberal, inflexible, middle-of-the-road*, not extreme, obstinate, old guard*, old-line, orthodox, quiet, red-neck, right, right-wing, sober, stable, steady, timid, traditional, traditionalistic, unchangeable, unchanging, uncreative, undaring, unimaginative, unprogressive, white bread*
    Antonyms: incautious, left-wing, liberal, progressive, radical, revolutionary
    Source: Roget’s New Millennium™ Thesaurus, First Edition (v 1.3.1)
    Copyright © 2008 by Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. All rights reserved.
    * = informal or slang
    Roget’s New Millennium™ Thesaurus - Cite This Source - Share This
    Main Entry: conservative
    Part of Speech: noun
    Definition: moderate
    Synonyms: Tory*, bitter-ender*, classicist, conserver, conventionalist, die-hard, fossil, hard hat*, middle-of-the-roader*, moderate, moderatist, obstructionist, old fogy, old guard*, old liner*, preserver, reactionary, red-neck, right, right-winger, rightist, silk-stocking*, standpat, stick-in-the-mud*, traditionalist, unprogressive
    Antonyms: left-winger, liberal, radical
    Source: Roget’s New Millennium™ Thesaurus, First Edition (v 1.3.1)
    Copyright © 2008 by Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. All rights reserved.
    * = informal or slang

    Roget’s New Millennium™ Thesaurus - Cite This Source - Share This
    Main Entry: liberal
    Part of Speech: adjective 1
    Definition: progressive
    Synonyms: advanced, avant-garde, big, broad, broad-minded, catholic, detached, disinterested, dispassionate, enlightened, flexible, free, general, high-minded, humanistic, humanitarian, impartial, indulgent, inexact, interested, latitudinarian, left, lenient, libertarian, loose, magnanimous, not close, not literal, not strict, permissive, pink, radical, rational, reasonable, receiving, receptive, reformist, tolerant, unbiased, unbigoted, unconventional, understanding, unorthodox, unprejudiced
    Antonyms: conservative
    Source: Roget’s New Millennium™ Thesaurus, First Edition (v 1.3.1)
    Copyright © 2008 by Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. All rights reserved.
    Roget’s New Millennium™ Thesaurus - Cite This Source - Share This
    Main Entry: liberal
    Part of Speech: adjective 2
    Definition: giving
    Synonyms: Santa Claus, altruistic, beneficent, benevolent, big, bighearted*, bounteous, bountiful, casual, charitable, eleemosynary, exuberant, free, generous, good Joe, handsome, kind, lavish, loose, munificent, open-handed, open-hearted, philanthropic, prince, prodigal, profuse, soft touch, softie, unselfish, unsparing, unstinging
    Antonyms: strict
    Source: Roget’s New Millennium™ Thesaurus, First Edition (v 1.3.1)
    Copyright © 2008 by Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. All rights reserved.
    * = informal or slang

  16. me Says:

    Doctor,

    The desire to conserve is not the only defining characteristic of conservatives, at least of conservatives of the western tradition which finds its ancestry in Edmund Burke. Another is that they are naturally adverse to rapid and wholesale change. They distrust it because, and this is another defining characteristic, they have a negative view of man, man’s nature, and of the extent and limits of man’s reason. They distrust wholesale displacement of what has served society, in their view, so well because, unlike Paine, they do not believe that man’s reason is up to the job of replacing what has served so well for so long wholesale, stripping away what was passed and replacing it with something altogether new. It was Burke, supporter of the colonialists, who was the one looked to by conservatives. If conservatives could not support the revolution but only perhaps fight in self defense, how is it the revolution in America had Burke’s support? No. I think that conservatives, even loyalists, recognized that England was tyrannically encroaching upon the traditional rights of Englishmen and, I imagine, a fairly large number of them supported the revolution as an act of self-defense in the sense that preserving their traditional rights was worth more to them than their life without those rights.

    Also, I reject the term conservative for Nazis of Germany because there is no sense of the term ‘conserve’ which can fit a movement that wishes to bring back something that had been gone for more than a thousand years. You cannot preserve what is extinct, except in the sense of making displays of the fossilized remains of what is long dead, putting them under glass, within modern buildings for curious moderns to look at and wonder. But that’s a far different thing from sweeping away more than a thousand years of tradition to bring back to life traditions that died out ages ago because, in the scheme of history, those traditions failed as did the Tyrannosaurus Rex. Recapturing the traditions of a thousand years ago is not conservation, it is rejectionist and reactionary, two words that just don’t fit any definition that any conservative has ever applied to his or her political philosophy.

    But I reject it also because the desire to conserve is not the only defining characteristic of a conservative: the rejection of wholesale change, the sweeping away of millennia of tradition that has stood the test of time because conservatives also distrust human nature and the limits of human reason to be able to comprehend the full consequences of wholesale change, including the reinvention of what failed long ago when finding itself within a modern world. For one thing, it failed back then when the rest of the world had not had a thousand years and more to advance, why would a conservative, who trust existing tradition precisely because it has proven itself to work over the long lost traditions of the past, find going back to a failed past to be in the least appealing, especially in a modern world? This is why I reject the conservative label for Hitler and Mussolini.

    As for the non-terrorist Muslims that I was referring to above, I did not express myself in such a way as to be successfully understood for I was not referring to all Muslims who are not terrorists. I was not referring, either, to those who wished to bring their religion and culture into the twenty-first century and westernize. I was, rather, referring to those who still see the goal of being a Muslim, one who surrenders whole-heartedly to Allah, as working to extend the Islamic faith to the non-Muslim world, who still see Sharia as the ideal of law not only for Muslims but for all people; for those Muslims, in short, who see their peaceful jihad as converting the non-Muslim world into a Sharia observing Muslim majority world. They do not commit acts of terrorism, shrink from such acts, may even turn in prospective terrorists from among their community — because the terrorists tend to make things worse, not better, for the rest of the Muslims — but who, nevertheless, see a Muslim majority world under Sharia as the goal of their lives, of their children’s lives, and of their children’s children’s lives. They have simply chosen modern and peaceful means to achieving what they view as their Allah subservient goals. Not all who reject violent jihad reject the ends of those who do not. They are the conservatives of which I speak. Those of which you speak, rightfully rejecting the term ‘conservative’ for them, are Muslim progressives. Just because I identify the former as conservatives does not mean that the ends that they seek appeal to me but, certainly, their means appeal. Because they reject the quick sweeping away of the present, they satisfy the second characteristic of conservatives — they reject the quick and wholesale change sought by the violent and radical rejectionists.

    I do not contend that the revolution was a conservative movement; it was a movement that fought for conservative ends. By the time of the revolution, you see, an unfettered monarchy had been rejected in England and Parliament was taking power from the King that had formerly been the prerogatives of the King. The civil war that largely accomplished this was a century earlier than the American Revolution. For this reason, Burke and other conservatives could support the American revolution precisely because it was a protection of what had, by that time, become well established rights. Burke rejected the French revolution because it was too radical, overly rationalistic, and, for all its talk about the rights of man, it rejected the traditional rights of individuals for equality, and an instant equality at that. That is to say, America had conservative elements to it that were lacking in the French revolution; not because its leaders were or were mostly self-identified conservatives.

    Anyway, I’ve got to go now. I hope to rejoin tomorrow sometime. G’night all!

  17. me Says:

    Hmmm…I appear to have made the same point twice in my previous comment. I had left my comment partially written and, when I came back, I wrote what I thought I had only planned to write when I broke. Sorry about that! :-(

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