Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Inconsistancy of Conservatism

"Republicans believe that all of society, whether your town, the nation, or the whole world, is divided between those who adhere to the law and those who are inclined to break it. These they define as good guys and bad guys, but it is not always true since the law these days is not the law written on our hearts but rather the rules as laid down by state masters." -- Lew Rockwell, Republicans and their Doomed Ideology

There is a glaring inconsistncy in the ideology and political methodology of modern conservatism. In contemporary conservative thinking, in theory, we should have a non-interventionist domestic policy, and therefore "limited government". However, simultaneously, the conservative believes that we should have a heavily interventionist foreign policy at least in the short-term. One finds that if the conservative espouses a principle with respect to restraining domestic government policy, they tend to espouse precisely the opposite principle with respect to foreign policy.

On one hand, the conservative argues that domestic spending on social programs is "big government". On the other hand, they simultaneously propose just as expensive or more expensive programs with respect to foreign policy. On one hand, they speak negatively of welfare for the poor. On the other hand, they speak positively of corporate welfare for anyone connected to the military-industrial machine. Indeed, if someone were to propose cutting funding for the military machine, they would be demonized as "liberals"! On one hand, many conservatives claim to be pro-life. On the other hand, many conservatives are virulently pro-war. On one hand, conservatives do not believe in population control. On the other hand, many of them share a sentiment against immigration.

There are inconstancies within domestic policy as well. On one hand, the conservative thinks that tax cuts are great. On the other hand, they support massive spending increases when its on their own interests, which necessitates future taxation. Afterall, just like how the left's pet programs create "entitlements" that have massively growing, spiraling future costs, so does the right's. The laws of economics apply to all government interventions in the economy, wether from the left or right. Conservatives like to talk the talk about a limited domestic policy while simultaneously proposing to centralize executive power, create new and expensive intelligence and so-called "defense" bereaucracies, subsidize religious institutions, remove commonlaw protections of suspected criminals and use the federal government to intervene in a family's medical decisions. This list barely scratches the surface of domestic intervention supported by conservatives.

The conservative fails to understand a number of things. They fail to understand that their advocacy of a "strong" foreign policy is inconsistant with their own rhetorically stated principles such as limiting government and support for free market capitalism. They fail to understand that the effects of their prefered foreign policy bleed over into domestic policy, so that the conservative is not even supporting a restrained domestic policy anymore. Indeed, an active and aggressive foreign policy inherently strengthens the government's power domestically. It necessitates increases in inflation, spending, future taxation, debt, increased central government surveillance of the domestic populace, government contracting of big buisiness, etc.

In the name of a fighting foes abroad (and at home), wether real or imagined, the conservative winds up supporting a police state at home and further exaserbates the rise of economic socialism in their own country. While many conservatives rhetorically oppose socialism, they support a peculiar brand of it: war-socialism and "market socialism". War-socialism is much like the fascist pattern that the Nazis adopted. The term market socialism is, of course, a contradiction in terms. What is meant by market socialism is socialism that functions under the veneer of being capitalism. Private property might exist in name, but it is so regulated and redistributed that there are barely any legitimate property titles. Such a system is not capitalism at all. It is socialism that tries to sell itself as "government regulated capitalism", another contradiction in terms.

Many conservatives take up a "lets run the government like a buisiness" mentality. But this is wholly ignorant of the most basic aspects of the calculation debate. In the calculation debate, it was demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt that government, any central planning agency, simply cannot economically calculate. It has no profit/loss mechanism and it functions on the basis of conscripted money without regaurd to the "consumer's" demand. For the same reason why socialism fails, the conservative attempt to run government like a buisiness fails. If it functions on the basis of profit and loss, uses its own startup capital, is dependant on the consumer's demand, then it is not a government. If it has none of these traits, then it is a government. It can never be both a buisiness and a government; government cannot be run like a buisiness, and buisiness cannot be run like a government.

Many conservatives seem to be convinced that government contracting out buisinesses is superior to government ownership of the means of production. It must be first be realized that the nature of government contracting does bestow at least partial ownership of the means of the production on the part of the government. Government contracting of buisiness is often really just joint ownership of the means of production between buisiness and government; as a collusion between government and buisiness interests. In certain respects, this could be considered welfare just as much as the left's social legislation is. Afterall, it is still wealth redistribution, as these contracts are funded at least partially through taxes, which means that the tax-payer is having their wealth transfered to someone else parasitically.

Modern neoconservatives have a peculiar obcession with democracy. Not merely democracy, but the idea of global democracy. This is curious, first, because the initial meaning of the term "Republican" was in referance to the Republic type of system of government, which was different than a democracy in that it has checks on mob rule, it has a rule of law and meaningful decentralization of powers. It is also curious because it is globalist, while one would expect a conservative to be more nationalist. In either case, a democracy can only be properly interpreted in two ways: unrestrained mob rule in violation of individual rights, or a minority government (and all governments are minority governments in that they are constituted by a minority of people in comparison to the overall population) that pretends that it is based on the majority or "the people" as a totality (a collectivist fallacy).

The rise of the contemporary American "religious right" movement is somewhat mysterious. To an extent, it could be argued that before the 70's, "social issues" and religious matter were not what the conservative movement concentrated on. The rise of fundamentalist "christian conservatism" into mainstream politics changed all of this. The agenda of this brand of conservatism is full of proposals for radical expansions and abuses of governmental power. The entire purpose is to legislate their particular interpretation of a religion (which is not even shared by many Christian Americans) into the federal law that everyone else must abide by. Instead of looking ascant towards public schools, these people would rather decide that everyone else must be taught their opinions in the public schools. The agenda of this group is expressly inconsistant with any idea of restraining the government domestically.

"Law and order" conservatives tend to support anti-capitalistic prohibitions on the sale and use of products and services that they do not personally like. This includes the current existing and attempted prohibitions on drugs, prostitution, gambling, "gay marriage", so-called "assisted suicide" (which just means, for example, that someone has it in their will that if they are in a vegetative state, please put them out of their misery in a humane way), and any kind of censorship. The thing to realize about all such prohibitions is that, first, they are government interventions in the market, and second, that they merely create a black market for whatever is being prohibited. Such prohibitions do not actually get rid of the problem, they make it worse by introducing crime into it. At this point our "law and order" conservative's response would be to buff up police powers even more, instead of removing the cause of the criminal activity on the black market.

That conservatives still try to hold onto the rhetoric of "limited government", "personal responsibility", "individual liberty" and "free enterprise" after their support for an endless list of statist activity is ridiculous yet amusing. What's even more ridiculous, however, is that many on the left are duped into taking this rhetoric at face value, and thus they become opposed to the conservative's rhetoric as opposed to their actual deeds (lack thereof, that is) in practise. As such, this energizes the left-wing against the idea of a less powerful government, while in practise the conservatives are busy expanding the government just as much or more than them. The conservative movement has not only mislead people who do value those stated principles, but they have mislead the entire contemporary left-wing movement into opposing them.

If conservatives believe in free trade, how come we still have tariffs after 6 years of a Republican dominated one-party state of professed "conservatives"? My father is certainly not a right-winger, he is a leftist of sorts, yet he told me the other day that ideally he would like to abolish all tariffs. Why can't the contemporary right-wingers, who rhetorically paint themselves as champions of the free economy, at least minimize them meaningfully, if a "leftist" can call for the abolition of tariffs? Well, it's kind of hard to persue a policy of reducing tariffs when you're occupying foreign nations non-stop, thus making them hostile to you, isn't it? If Pat Buchannan is the best model of a paleo-conservative that we have, then the entire conservative movement is in big trouble, especially considering that Pat Buchannan believes in heavy protectionism.

What about conservative's records with regaurd to banking and the money supply? Horrendous. Most conservatives roughly adopt Milton Friedman's earlier positions on monetary policy - which means an active support for monetary expansion and interest manipulation, with an extreme hostility to the idea of commodity money and the gold standard. Those who are not monetarist types are most likely to be keynsians, which is no better if not worse. While conservative politicians may tend to cut some taxes, they make up for this by simply having the federal reserve print up more money or borrowing more from overseas. To generalize, the formula for Democrats has most often been increased taxes + increased money supply + increased borrowing, and the formula for Republicans has most often been decreased taxes + increased money supply + increased borrowing. Both are flawed and combine cumulatively to bring about an endless and unecessary cycle and expansion of government.

Some conservatives define themselves as one who wishes to preserve traditions. There is nothing inherently wrong per se about wanting to preserve a tradition. But the question becomes: exactly who's traditions do we wish to preserve, and what is the best way to preserve them? The starke reality in many cases is that the conservative is not preserving their own traditions, but suggesting that the government be used to enforce those traditions onto everyone else coercively. What they are conserving in practise is the state; and their traditions may actually be eroded by the state becoming involved with them. For example, government involvement in religious institutions does not preserve those institutions and their traditions. To the contrary, it brings political influence into the picture, which threatens those institutions and their traditions. Using the state to subsidize your "traditions" just corrupts them.

Contemporary conservatives seem to really adore executive power. To the conservative, the purpose of the executive is to be a strong man who expresses "our power" and conserves it. The chief executive is thought of as a manifestion of "the nation" and all of its greatness. The military is worshopped jingoistically. People who are payed tax payer money to shoot innocent people and impose governments on them half way across the world are viewed, in orwellian fashion, as defenders of freedom. Most conservatives would have trouble finding a single war or two in American history that they think should not have been fought. But how can the conservative be an exemplar of "order" while boldly supporting the utter chaos that results from war? Most modern conservatives seem to have no problem with both pre-emptive and perpetual warfare.

When WWII ended, the foundation of the American warfare state was already long-since set into place. But there was a sort of "vacuum" of "enemies". Into this vacuum came the cold war - the WWII central planners had to come up with some kind of enemy in order to continue their political employment, so they used communism as the hobgoblin. The conservative movement (which included many of the Democrats at that time, mind you) was mislead by this and became total war-hawks; cold-warriors. When the cold war ended, the same situation occured again. The foreign policy planners faced another void, and into this void they placed "terrorism" and "radical islam". The conservative movement was once again mislead into being war-hawks. The conservative movement has been duped all along for this entire ride, supporting just about every foreign and domestic intervention involved.

Today, the hardcore "base" of the Republican Party is dominated by people who essentially support the idea of American empirialism. They support the idea that we have a "duty" and "right" to impose social democracy and "our way of life" on foreign lands "for their own good". They support nation building and hegemony with dictators. They support pre-emptive police powers without regaurd for "innocent until proven guilty" and sensible commonlaw standards dating back to the middle ages. So long as it is done in the name of going after what is deemed "the enemy", the conservative will support government force and expansion and everything that comes with it. There is always a double standard with the contemporary conservative, wether it be opposing gun bans while calling for a buff up in drug war spending or supporting a war of aggression while claiming to be a valiant supporter of human life.

The results of 6 years of a "conservative" one-party state is as follows: a 3 trillion dollar federal budget, a 1 trillion dollar defense budget out of that 3 trillion, overextension of the military, an unjustified war coupled with a nation building project, most of the world pretty much hates America, the passage of laws that can easily be manipulated to deny domestic citezens their property rights, an expansion of the left's entitlement state, the use of ex post facto presidential signing statements as executive legislation, an inflationary boom that is destined to pop, domestic spying on citezens, the centralizaiton of federal intelligence agencies under the department of homeland security, ramptant government contracting of buisinesses for foreign policy purposes, etc. Essentially, the government has at least twice (if not thrice) as much power as it did only about 6 years ago.

In practise, the contemporary conservative position boils down to this: "We must tolerate a leviathan state in the short term in the name of the war on (insert hobgoblin here: terror, communism, homosexuals, secularism, drugs, islamo-fascism, the "robber barons", attack of the 50 ft. pedophile, etc.)". Their favorite buzzword is exactly what they stand for: "big government". They ultimate do not value liberty as their central principle. Rather, they value imposed "order" (their own questionable definition of "order", that is). They view the state and ad hoc authority as the foundation of civilization rather than liberty and private property. To the modern conservative, liberty must be sacrificed to make us more "secure". In reality, they are willing to sacrifice everyone's liberty just to give themselves a false sense of security. In short, all that the conservative movement has managed to conserve is the state's power.


kblair7 said...

Well come on, this is common knowledge to most people who study ideological development. Republicans are a sad lot. They remind me of that whole police subculture deal, everyone is guilty.

Brainpolice said...

It's this false "law and order" dychotomy they have going on - those who follow the low and those who don't. But it's too generalized to be accurate.