Why I'm not a Conservative

Sunday, February 26, 2006
William F Buckley, famously, said the conservative movement was "Standing athwart history, yelling 'Stop!'".

Well, if that's being a conservative, I ain't one, and I don't want any. But see what Thom Barnett says today:

But I am being too harsh here: those industries are appearing across the dial in America. We just need to revamp a lifelong educational system to make American labor confident enough that we can collectively migrate our skills and labor to what comes next, instead of vainly trying to hold onto what came before.

Yes, yes, easier said than done. But what do these “far-sighted” protectionists offer us instead? Look closely, because upon further examination it comes off as a sort of economic back-to-the-future escapism that comes uncomfortably close to Osama’s arguments for civilizational apartheid: “Don’t deal with this challenging future; instead retreat into a more homogenous imaginary past.”

We need confidence now more than ever because we are closer—now more than ever--to the global future we’ve been crafting for decades and decades. I feel a huge debt to the Greatest Generation, one that requires I keep pushing the pile throughout my career. I have never felt more connected to both past and future as I do today, and it fills me with a sense of great optimism.

But optimism requires confidence. You have to see the world you’ve created. You need to feel a pride of ownership and a sense of parental satisfaction.

And at some time you have to let go of your fears. You have to accept countries for what they’re becoming, not what they’ve been. You need to seize the opportunities to turn enemies into partners and partners into close friends.

We are at that moment in history.

We need that confidence and that optimism that’s defined America’s past and will shape this world’s future even more.

We all live in a world of our making. Some deride that self-awareness as naïve or delusional.

I call it real power and tell all the fear-mongers to f--k off.

Thomas P.M. Barnett's Amazon blog.


truepeers said...

I don't think much of Buckley's definition. Yes there is a kind of conservatism that is, well, paleo, but also a kind that in today's context is radical. Conservatism can be radical because to succeed in a fast-moving marketplace (not that i have much 1st-hand experience) it often helps to have both some kind of personal moral discipline, and to share in ethical seriousness with others - hence conservatism to radical effect. I consider myself a conservative, in large part because the conservatism i value (in opposition to the craziness that has resulted from the decay of 20thC. liberalism and left) is i believe the defense of the center, of serious, normal, widely-applicable, ethics.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

There are lots of liberals today who could equally be the objects of Barnett's criticism. Which is part of why I've become dubious about calling myself a liberal.

Seneca the Younger said...

Rich, you're damned right; what passes for "liberal" has become amazingly illiberal.

terrye said...

I feel like a political orphan. If Bush had been more like Buckley I would not have voted for him. There is nothing American about saying STOP to the future.

I guess that makes me an Independent.

When you think of how America came to be, all the peoples and cultures that came together we learned early on that even if the other guy was different..you could still get along if everyone played by the rules.

It seems to me that we need to approach the world more like that.

Rick Ballard said...

"Standing athwart history, yelling 'Stop!'".

True - read the entire essay and note that Buckley's famous quote was an "inside joke" from the gitgo.

Hegelian historicism/Marxism = history. Not exactly a sidesplitter but I'm sure that he has enjoyed everyone's consternation down the years.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

Richard Lawrence Cohen,

I still consider myself "liberal"; fighting against illiberal regimes like the atrocity that is Saudi Arabia is part of what "liberals" used to do. I think it is a huge strategic mistake for us to renounce the label at this time. I believe we're in the middle of a significant paradigm shift; I had an epiphany today and hope to get a chance to write this up tonight. Watch these pages....

truepeers said...

Yes I see, Rick. Buckley is saying what i just said. mea culpa

Rick Ballard said...

I don't see any culpa involved. Most people who call themselves conservatives have no idea what Buckley meant. In fact, his brand of conservatism reaches back to Aquinas and church doctrine in the same manner that Kirk's does - although Kirk worked backward to it while Buckley's was inculcated from birth. Barry Goldwater couldn't pass a quiz on that aspect and he's theoretically the "father" of modern political conservatism as it applies to the "practical" side. I think Reagan understood Buckley but I don't think he agreed with him.

truepeers said...

It's really quite surprising to see how much of BUckley's rhetoric is still alive and kicking fifty years later. I suppose this testifies to the resiliency of certain truths, e.g. how we need true visions of the established human order - of both our universal anthropology and our particular society's theology or constitution - in order to engage with that which is ever-changing.

Alan said...

I posted this on Althouse's blog:

~~~begin quote~~~

In trying to define conservatism, a few years ago, a caller offered Rush Limbaugh this definition:

Eric in Cape Cod: Why wouldn't you say conservatives believe in the conservative use of government and liberals believe in the liberal use of government?

Rush Limbaugh replied: Well because conservatives, and I've always made this case, conservatives are for big government in many cases. They want big government to make sure that there's not abortion. They know they've got to have a government agency or a law or something to say that. Conservatives are not just...they're not anti-government, they are anti-intrusive government. But the things they want government to do are things that are oriented toward those things the Constitution orders the government to do. Which is basically defending and protecting the Constitution itself, the traditions and institutions that made the country great, the law...and you need people and agencies and things to enforce the law and elements of the Constitution...that's the best answer I can give you to that.
~~~end quote~~~

I've always considered myself conservative. But by Rush's definition I'm not. The sad thing is the GOP is becoming more the reflection of Rush's definition and thus making me become a political orphan like Terrye.