Election Time and Beginning Thoughts on Conservatism

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

So, the course continues, the debates are done, and the decision coming around the bend. At the college a few colleagues and I are having discussion related to the election. They stem from Romney’s exposition on the 47%, ponderings on the issue of inequality across the states, and energy.

I my opinion the later two issues are the issues of the day.

My current concern is an issue I’m trying to get going on campus and that’s a discussion of the parties and what they mean for the day to day in the United States. Since 2000 and earlier, perhaps even going back to Goldwater, it seems to me that the Republican Party as a thread of the conservative movement has crumpled to an unfathomable blob of odd ideas. This crumbling does’t explain the current polls, as of this day, or the positions of either candidate, which are fairly clear to me but, rather, the persistence of tropes attributed to our moiety system. True or no, conservative tropes are difficult to list as real factors in our politics.

One trope, for example, which forms the central image of the economic narrative is taxation as a means of defining a relationship between the individual, the state, and the federal government. I have yet to be convinced by friends that taxes provide a good measure of political position attributable to a party. “We need to lower taxes” as a question of identification with a position is difficult for me to understand. Why? Because one could associate with liberal or conservative ideals and have no opinion about the question of taxes. The story goes that autonomy is affected somehow by the federal government’s taxing power, that taxes are somehow related to freedom of movement, autonomy, and many more values. Conservatism has become associated with local control and the effective power of money as the means of maintenance. Local control becomes a trope when the image of individual autonomy butts against an external abstract force.

The conclusion here defines the problem, as this conclusion would require that conservatism and liberalism merge as a common notion or conflict whose core is the individual. Is sustainable economics “conservative,” “liberal,” “progressive”?

In Burkean terms, which would require an anachronistic set of definitions, in my opinion, there is no liberalism against which the ideas of an early conservatism would apply. Conservatism has gone through a series of reformations. The Glorious Revolution shifted Tory focus of sovereignty onto the new divisions of Parliament, following “whose the authority of the day” syndrome, if such a syndrome makes any sense.

But that’s just a small part of the history. What serves as a marker is to create a broad brush division in England after Restoration: those who supported rule my monarchy and those who defended rule by the new construct of “the people.” Which, of course, should lead back to James Madison or to supporters of 19th century laissez-faire capitalism.


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