Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Why I Am Not a Conservative, Part II

In the past five years, I've read countless articles and blog posts by paleoconservatives, libertarian-conservatives, constitutionalists, and "traditional conservatives" arguing that the Republicans are not authentic or true conservatives. These arguments strike me as similar to old English teachers who obsess over the use of "who" and "whom." In both cases, they fail to realize that words change. "Conservatism" may have once meant limited government, but it now does not mean that

I probably should have written my original post better, as most of the readers of this blog are probably self-described conservatives, rather than self-described libertarians. I should have focused on the hypocrisy of conservatives (i.e. supporting war while calling for lower taxes, attacking gay marriage while their 17-year old unmarried daughters get pregnant). I also should have focused more on my first criticism of conservatism and how it is a baseless, shifting, incoherent ideology. I also should have made it clear that I don't have a problem with paleoconservatives (although some of my criticisms would undoubtedly apply to them), but rather the mainstream conservatives.

Anyways, I have a lot to respond to. First, I will do so to Justin of The Truth Shall Set You Free:
For example, I would think you would agree that cultural and social libertarianism are abject failures, in fact, totally disgusting and destructive in their support of sexual deviance, for example.
I would argue that there really isn't such a think as social libertarianism. Libertarians believe that people should be free from government interference, but that doesn't mean they have to support the actions they perform.

Clearly, libertarians also fall under condemnation number seven, also being blind on racial issues, and they default to blaming minority pathologies on government programs rather than facing biological realities.
True, although during the 90s, the Rothbardians and Ron Paul understood race. Many of's columns from its first year (2000) hinted that their writers understood race - they even had a Rhodesian Bush War veteran write for them. Also, libertarians don't praise diversity to the extent that conservatives do.
As for number eight, don't libertarians also worship democracy? I can't think of any libertarian theorists who have suggested anything else, can you?
Hans-Hermann Hoppe, an Austrian economist and libertarian theorist, wrote a book called Democracy: The God that Failed, eviscerating the concept of democracy. His work is well received on, probably the most popular libertarian website. Most libertarians are critical of the 17th Amendment, including the beltway Cato Institute.
Can libertarians claim to have better moral values? Aside from Christian libertarians like Ron Paul, the only other libertarian morality I can think of is Ayn Rand-style Objectivist elevation of selfishness. Which of course lead us into the acceptance of all the moral degeneracy that makes cultural libertarianism attractive to the Left.
I was not saying that libertarians, conservatives, or liberals have better moral values than the others. I was critical of the fact that conservatives use "moral values" as a rallying cry, even though they have no better moral values than people of other political groups.

As for libertarian women's sluttiness, well, I dunno, are there women libertarians? :-) You must admit, they are few and far between. In my own sample, for what it's worth, the girls I knew who were into Ayn Rand were total sluts, and often consciously proud of it.
Female libertarians are rare. Some of them are almost hipster-ish, and hipster girls often seem less slutty than other women. But my criticism is that conservative women, especially young ones, are no less slutty than liberal ones, despite the fact that conservatives attack liberal culture for its sluttiness.
Maybe just being overly semantic here, but saying paleoconservatives aren't conservatives seems a bit unwarranted. In fact, as you seem to recognize, you fit the bill rather squarely as a paleoconservative yourself. I would say you are either a paleocon, or simply Radical Reactionary.
I don't think that paleocons are not conservatives. I just think that when most people imagine conservatives, they aren't thinking of Pat Buchanan and Jared Taylor, they are thinking of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, the kind of people who possess the views and characteristics I criticized.

Many of these points apply just as well to libertarians, yet you call yourself a libertarian.

I'd be curious to know why you are ok with the libertarian label.
Only 5 and 7 apply to many libertarians. I'm okay with just being labeled a libertarian because there isn't a term for a race realist who holds libertarian views.

Professor Hale (Rebellion University) wrote an extensive post to argue against my post. My response follows. The numbers in parenthesis were added by me and refer to which of my original points he quoted (I excised the quotations to cut down on the length of this post).

(1)You have made the fallacious argument that the core values of conservatism are unworthy because the practitioners of conservatism do not uphold those values. You are right to point out that censorship and the police state are not conservative values. But your proper conclusion should be that those people who claim to be conservative are not really practicing what they preach.
The problem is, what are conservative values? If you say support for limited government, peace, and liberty, with respect for every person's right to life, liberty, and property, then that would describe libertarianism. American conservatism seems to be a cacophony of various, contradicting ideas.
The size of the military budget is always open for debate among conservatives. But again, BEING conservative means opposing big government and higher taxes, even if that results in a smaller military. Being for a strong defense should always be predicated upon how much is necessary. I, as a conservative, claim we could certainly do with a lot less. A LOT LESS. See? That wasn’t so hard. The fact that other so-called conservatives are for expanding military budgets does not make me any less of a conservative. Conservative principles are against military adventurism, but FOR a strong national defense. Reasonable people can argue about where the boundary is between the two, but the principle is still sound and those who uphold the principle are no less conservative for doing so.
And how many conservative politicians or activists support gutting the military budget? Other than the paleons, none. Instead, they attack Obama for his cuts to the military budget. None of the Tea Partiers, save libetarians, have broached the issue of stupidity cutting taxes while maintaining an empire. Militarism is a tenet of modern American conservatism.

(2)Here you have mistaken the people of the military and its institution with the political powers that control it. It is virtuous to serve others at risk to yourself. Many of those in the military do so at great risk (notably those in the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan). None of those serving in uniform had any say in which countries would be invaded or why. The military service would still be praiseworthy if there were no wars and all of them were at Fort Bragg playing beach volleyball. But according to conservatives, there is no institution IN THE GOVERNMENT more worthy of praise than the military. Conservatives also admire other institutions like industry, church and risk taking. Still, claiming that conservatives "worship" the military is unsupported by your arguments. I tend to think of it as a career choice, like any other. Most of the jobs in the military are just jobs and no more praise-worthy than any other productive employment. The military police is equal in merit to the county sheriff. The nurse at the military hospital is equal in merit to the one at the local clinic.
Worship was hyperbole, but is not far from it. Last year, when Obama slightly cut the military budget, conservatives online and on talk radio were yelling about it for days. Conservatives often attack liberals and libertarians for being "anti-military." Don't forget the early days of the Iraq War, where they were accusing anyone who opposed the disaster as being "anti-American."
The US military is inescapably a part of the federal government. Despite being the most conservative part of the government, as evidenced by surveys of its members, it cannot escape the full control of politicians in congress and politically appointed leaders, who tend to be distinctively not conservative. The military is in no way more PC than other federal or state government agencies. The military is likely the only place in the country where it is still OK to discriminate against gays (for the time being).
Discrimination against gays is still legal in some states, although if a major company discriminated against gays they would end up getting boycotted by liberals. But military has lower physical standards for women than men. That strikes me as being a lot more politically correct than mere affirmative action in civilian departments, considering that physical strength and endurance is necessary in many parts of the military.

(3) I suspect your religious views are a lot less complex than you think they are, but they are not really relevant to this topic. Further, your provably incorrect view of Christianity being detrimental is likewise not relevant. What makes them so is that your initial statement “Conservatives are Christian” is only a half truth. Not all conservatives are Christian. Further, not all Christians are conservative. Our current president was elected by a strong majority of liberal church members. Members of Christianity are a widely diverse and energetic group. As such they are both at the forefront of refugee importation and at the forefront of opposing it. Similarly, Christians were at the forefront of upholding slavery and ending it. You would do better by seeking allies where they are. Defending our national sovereignty is a conservative value. The fact that some so-called conservatives fail at this, does not diminish the strength of the principle. Christianity is the largest religion on the planet. It would be foolish to presuppose that that makes all Christians alike, conservative or otherwise.
I don't disagree with what you wrote. But the fact is, conservatives in America are mostly Christian and I am a non-Christian. Thus, another difference between us exists. And where I live, conservatism and Christianity are thoroughly entwined.

(4) No. Politicians, some of whom claimed to be conservatives, expanded the scope and power of the state. Real conservatives opposed this. No child left behind was written by Kennedy (not a conservative) and passed by a majority of liberals in congress. It was signed by a president who was in practice more liberal than Clinton. Faith-based funding never really panned out and was likely nothing more than a fundraising stunt, but its principle goal was conservative: Faith-based organizations should be able to compete to perform public service contracts on the same basis as non-faith-based groups. Equality under the law is a conservative value. Patriot act has always been a red herring. It was overhyped by republicans for its terrorist-busting ability and overhyped by the democrats for its violations of freedom. In reality, it accomplished little and was no more intrusive than existing law. The homeland security act was in no way conservative. So your point is again comparing the acts of liberals as a failure of conservative principles. The principle of smaller, less intrusive government is still sound and is still conservative.
That's starting to sound awfully close like a No true Scotsman fallacy. What exactly is a real conservative? Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity seem like real conservatives to me, yet they supported Bush's government expansion. Regarding NCBL, it passed with overwhelming majorities: 384-45 in the House and 91-8 in the Senate. It wasn't just liberals who supported it. As for the Homeland Security Act, then why did so many conservatives support it if it's not conservative? Paleocons opposed (and continue to oppose) it, yet the mainstream conservatives promoted it.

That is the first time I have heard John McCain described as a conservative. He lost the election against Obama because he was never able to convince his conservative base that he was worth the effort. Conservatives in the Republican party are tired of holding their noses and voting for another establishment republican. So in this case, you are misrepresenting Republicans as conservatives. Alternate realities are pointless to argue about but there has been growing discontent among conservatives throughout the Bush presidency. That discontent directly led to the Obama presidency. If McCain had been elected, the result would have been further conservative discontent.
Conservatives weren't very discontent when Bush, who was similar to McCain, was in power. Instead they were chanting "Four more years!"

Sarah Palin energized the conservative base due to her conservatism. She meets most of the characteristics of conservatism I criticized. I predicted the alternate reality based on past events: the Bush administration. When Bush was increasing the size of the federal government, there were no conservative protests. Sure, there might have been a couple of articles in National Review, but there was no mass movement similar to the Tea Parties.
(5) As you point out, I don’t think any group is innocent of this. That does not refute the conservative principle that the free market is the best means for the distribution of goods and services and it is a conservative principle to restrain government from interfering in the free market.
I agree with that principle. The problem is, many conservatives conflate the free market with corporatism.

(6) You seem to be advocating that conservatives should use the power of the state to force people to accept their own cultural and social standards. That is not a conservative value. The conservative value is that government, even conservative-led government, has no role in shaping the culture. Those roles rightly belong to the church and other voluntary organizations.
No, I don't think that social and cultural conservatives should have used the power of the state to force changes in social standards. However, I think George W. Bush and conservative congressmen could have used their influence to promote their cultural and social standards, just as the Obamas are doing now.

(9)I am not getting your argument here. I am certain that liberals believe that their moral values are superior but since morality is defined by the user and not by any objective source, this can neither be measured nor rationally argued.
Conservatives generally act as if they have better moral values than liberals, but this is a myth, as anyone who has seen self-described conservative college girls on a weekend night can attest. I was criticizing conservative hypocrisy.

Since neocons have proven to be more “neo” than “con”, anything you wish to say about them is not really a good argument against being a conservative.
They were accepted as part of the conservative coalition during the Bush years. Even now they have not been purged. Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh, and other conservative talk radio hosts can be heard spouting out their talking points daily.

Unless it is their war. BTW, I reject that whole “lying to start a war” BS. But since it is not relevant to your argument I won’t bother to defend it here. The bottom line is that a government that is truthful with its citizens on the major issues facing the nation is a conservative value. All conservatives should embrace that value.
Yet from 2002, conservatives didn't defend government truthfulness as a value.

And your 11th point is another variation on a theme that because some conservatives are not “good conservatives” you can’t be one either.
No, my point was that conservatives tend to be white knights and I am not one, so I have yet another difference with conservatives.

In summary, the significant weight of your argument is that political leaders who are Republican are not upholding conservative principles so you deem the principles themselves at fault. In fact, if you identify with those principles (and you seem to) then YOU are the true and authentic conservative. This is exactly how the other authentic conservatives see it and why they claim to be conservatives, despite the failings of other people. Your arguments against Christianity are weak but in the end not relevant to the discussion of being a conservative.

If you understand what conservative principles are, and support those principles, then you should be a conservative, without regard to what other people, acting on other principles call themselves.
Most of the commenters on Professor Hale's post express an opinion similar to those in his last two paragraphs.

A good example of the stupidity of modern conservatism is South Carolina's 2008 senate election. a paleoconservative Democrat was running against Lindsey Graham. He lost 57-42 because the self-destructive conservatives voted for Amnesty Graham.

Conservatives allegedly wish to "conserve" the status quo. I doubt Professor Hale and the people reading my and his posts want to do so. Do you really want to "conserve" Third World immigration, federal income taxes, the degenerate culture, foreign wars, "civil rights" laws (including the Voting Rights Act), social services, and feminism?

I'm guessing they probably do not. Yet, conservatives do. They are fine with Third World immigration just as long as its done with the permission of the federal government. They may attack America's degenerate culture, while at the same time they partake in its degeneracy (see 9 and 10 in my original post). They may laughingly attack abortion ("Abortion hurts women!"), but they won't confront feminism. Instead, they laud it now with Sarah Palin, Nikki Haley, et al.

It should be obvious by now, in the era of Sarah Palin and the Tea Parties, that conservatism is subjective and its definition varies with time and location. A conservative in modern America is much different from the paleo hero Robert Taft. A conservative in Texas is different than one in New Jersey. A conservative in the 1991 Soviet Union would be considered far left in modern America.

Libertarianism, in contrast, is static with regards to location and time. Peace, limited government, and the rights to life, liberty, and property do not change. While circumstances are different - a 1980 libertarian would have had to advocate against much less government than a 2010 one, the principles are the same. But the principles and goals of the conservative movement are much more dynamic.

Perhaps self-described "conservatives" who support limited government (not just regarding economics), peace, and liberty should cease calling themselves conservatives. They are essentially holding libertarian views.


  1. I'd like to take a shot at convincing you that you are, in fact, a conservative.

    I don't disagree with anything in either of your posts. But I disagree that the modern "conservative" movement - which is really what you're criticizing - is "conservative".

    You cite Hoppe's book. In it, he argues that libertarians must be conservative and conservatives must be libertarian:

    "Thus, if one is indeed concerned about America’s moral decay and wants to restore normalcy to society and culture, one must oppose all aspects of the modern social-welfare state. A return to normalcy requires no less than the complete elimination of the present social security system: of unemployment insurance, social security, medicare, medicaid, public education, etc.—and thus the near complete dissolution and deconstruction of the current state apparatus and government power. If one is ever to restore normalcy, government funds and power must dwindle to or even fall below their nineteenth century levels. Hence, true conservatives must be hard-line libertarians (antistatists). . . .

    "The restoration of private property rights and laissez-faire economics implies a sharp and drastic increase in social “discrimination” and will swiftly eliminate most if not all of the multicultural-egalitarian life style experiments so close to the heart of the left libertarians. In other words, libertarians must be radical and uncompromising conservatives."

    Anyway, Hoppe was conservative. Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn was an early writer for National Review. I don't think you'd find much in his writing that you would disagree with.

    Or how about Albert Jay Nock on education? It's like reading a 1920s version of Steve Sailer.

    Or Mencken on women, which is like reading a 1920s version of Roissy?

    The problem is not that you're not conservative. It's that modern "conservatives" are not conservative. The movement began as a reaction against the New Deal. It's still worth opposing the New Deal, even if modern "conservatives" don't.

  2. I understand the importance of libertarians being culturally conservative, which is what I think Hoppe was saying. In the early 2000s, he was part of the paleolibertarian movement, which sought to combine libertarianism with cultural conservatism, although the movement has basically merged back into mainstream libertarianism (Lew Rockwell for example no longer labels himself a paleolibertarian, just a libetarian).

    I honestly haven't heard of Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn and Albert Jay Nock, but I am familiar with H.L. Mencken. He seemed pretty libertarian to me. If he was around nowadays, I'm sure conservatives would be attacking him for his views on religion and sexuality. After all, he was the man who coined the term "Monkey trial" to describe the Scopes Trial.

    "The problem is not that you're not conservative. It's that modern "conservatives" are not conservative. The movement began as a reaction against the New Deal. It's still worth opposing the New Deal, even if modern "conservatives" don't."

    I understand the argument about authentic conservatism, but words change over time. Conservatism may have once meant opposition to the New Deal, but it's now come to mean the Bush/Palin/Limbaugh mishmash of limited government, militarism, police statism, economic freedom, and Christianity.

  3. Basically, my point is that most "authentic conservatives"/traditionalists/paleocons/constitutionalists should shed the label of "conservative." Most of them are basically libertarians, albeit more culturally conservative than the typical libertarian (with cultural conservatism having little to nothing in common with the "conservative movement").

  4. I've written quite a bit about this topic too, and have also reached the conclusion that I'm libertarian. The problem with the conservative movement today, is that they're more anti-Democrat than anti-state, and more pro-Republican than pro-freedom.

    I can appreciate what Professor Hale says about the people in the military, but it's become bizarre how enthusiastically conservatives cheer on the wars, while simultaneously demonizing those of us who think nation-building is a utopian fantasy. Not to mention as a Christian I find it impossible to support such mass slaughter of human life (like those soldiers they supposedly honor). Nothing drives the movement like war and authority these days.

    Where are the conservatives standing up for the individuals being abused by cops and SWAT raids? They're silent, because ORDER, not freedom, has become the new battle cry. If you support freedom, you're a heathen. If you're against the war, you're anti-American.

    What? How can it be anti-American to disagree the government? After all, America is a creed, not a government.

    I could carry one here, but you get my point. I agree with most of what you've said. The conservative movement has lost it's way. Guys like Taft, Coolidge, Goldwater, even Kirk would be considered a libertarian by today's standards (and they throw libertarian around as if it's a bad word). They went from opposing the New Deal to simply opposing Democrats instead, leaving Republican politicians to get away with whatever they want.