Fascist Temptations

I’ve met a lot of social conservatives over the years.  It should come as no surprise; after all I’m one too.  For some people, the desire to promote all, or a specific, issue(s) in the social conservative agenda is their modus operandi, his or her specific driving force in politics.  It could be:  abortion, school prayer, gay marriage, obscenity, or a host of other issues relating to social or religious norms.  We believe despite the general liberalization of laws and society that we speak in favor of the “silent majority” of citizens who agree with our positions but do not exercise their political voices.  In addition, most social conservatives support legislation, as an extension of their religious beliefs, to shape the world in a manner, which they believe, would be pleasing to God.

The problem comes when social conservatives look to the federal government to promote their agenda.  By doing so, they put themselves in conflict with both the fiscal conservatives and limited government conservatives.  Under a strict interpretation of the Constitution, the federal government has been severely restricted in its powers and involvement in societal issues.   The 10th Amendment is, without a doubt, the most neglected amendment and yet, so much of our freedoms and liberties rest with this amendment.

Relying on the federal government is a two-fold problem.  First, it grants the government authority that the Constitution doesn’t allow. For example, suppose we pass a pro-prayer in schools law.  Once we allow the federal government the power to act on social or economic issues, what happens when the liberals get into power and enact legislation that is contrary to our own?   Perhaps they pass a law not allowing prayer in schools or a law, which is favorable to some religion other than our own.  What can we do?  What is our defense?  We can no longer claim the government has no authority to act in such a way, because we just used the might of law to enact our own social legislation when we were in power.  And so the federal government continues to grow, at the expense of the rights of the states and the individuals.  I ask you consider also the track record of federal government in social issues.  Do things get better or worse?  Let’s take abortion.  Since the federal government claimed jurisdiction over the issue in 1973, have the number of abortions inn this country increased or decreased?  A silly question I know.  Did it not overturn a number of state laws, including the laws of Virginia, to allow for a far greater number of abortions?  We must strip this power from the federal government and allow the states to decide.  Will abortion still continue?  Yes…I’m certain that a number of states will allow this practice to continue, but at least we can eradicate or vastly reduce this plague in Virginia.

There are a number of otherwise well-meaning social conservatives that will throw the other strains of conservatism aside in order to achieve their social agenda.  Although seemingly well meaning, this line of thinking is dangerous to both the social conservative movement and to freedom and liberty as a whole.  We all have some sort of grand vision for society, but using the might of the federal government to enforce a worldview leads to trouble.  I’d like to see society transformed where violence and profanity are drastically curtailed in the media and the rest of life.  A world without abortion…a world where the family is protected…a world where everyone acts morally and honor God.  A nice vision I think.  But if I use the heavy hand of government to enact such a goal, do I not destroy freedom and create a fascist state?  Some might retort, “Who cares?”  However, what happens when we enact a fascist theocratic state where some faction is in charge? What happens to the protected rights of those people not in power?  Could the Catholics persecute the Protestants?  Or the Protestants persecute the Catholics?  Or how about the Muslims, Jews, or non-believers?  The next thing you know the enemies of the state are quarantined or are even executed in the search for order, uniformity, and stability.  Is this the kind of society you desire?  Alas, as a result of neo-conservatives, both the nation and the conservative movement have been sliding in this direction.  Conservatism can succeed, but, with so many other problems in life, the federal government is the problem, not the solution.

I know the temptation to seek help from the all-powerful federal government, but as citizens in a supposedly free society, we must reject these tactics.  Although we may achieve success via these means, such success will only be temporary.  We will end up yoking ourselves to this totalitarian state and end up begging our masters to promote some sort social order.  Our liberty will be lost and we will have only ourselves to blame.

The 31 Flavors of Conservatism

I realized from a recent comment on my blog that the term “conservative” could mean many things to many people.  Although I consider myself a conservative (hence the name Virginia Conservative), others may consider themselves conservative and have considerably opposing viewpoints.  Like a political Baskin Robbins, conservatism can take many forms, many flavors. The purpose of this article is to sort out some of the differing kinds of conservatism and what type of philosophies or aims that they embody.

Traditional Conservative– Dictionary.com defines conservatism as, “disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.”  Even though this definition likely applies to all Conservatives to some extent, it is by no means all encompassing.  For example, in the American Revolution those in the colonies who supported the British were called the Tories or Conservatives.  They opposed separating from Great Britain and favored the monarchy.  Now do all conservatives support a return to the monarchy today?  Hardly, though it is true that many of them hold notions of some sort of supposed idyllic past be it the 1980’s, 1950’s, or even the 1850’s.  Classic Conservatives do oppose change for change’s sake and embrace the old ways, customs, and traditions.

Fiscal Conservative– Someone who believes that they have a greater claim to their own money than the government.  Although fiscal liberals would often label them as greedy and selfish, a Scrooge McDuck (if you want a popular culture reference), that negative stereotype is often incorrect.  Many are quite generous with their funds but they believe that they should decide how to use their money, not someone else.  They see any form of wealth distribution as a kind of state sponsored theft.  They favor low taxes and little to no government spending when it comes to aid (be it personal, corporate, or international).  They hold to the ideals of capitalism and free markets and believe the government should neither regulate the supply, demand, or price, of goods.

Social Conservative– These type of conservatives believe that the government should take an active role in protecting and even promoting the traditional cultural values.  Although not necessarily overtly religious, certainly most in the movement wear their beliefs, to some extent, on their sleeves and their activism is an extension of their strongly held convictions.  Key issues to social conservatives include:  opposition to abortion, opposition to gay marriage, school choice/privatization, some level of religious promotion in society and government, support gun ownership, and are against affirmative action.

Constitutional Conservative– A conservative who opposes the significant expansion in governmental power, especially when it comes to the United States, or federal, government.  They favor limiting the government to mainly the expressed powers given to it in the Constitution while curtailing or eliminating the implied powers granted by the courts or outright taken by the legislature and the executive branch.  They also support the system of checks and balances as a means to further restrain the government.  The question for Constitutional conservatives is if these powers were stripped from the federal government, to whom should they go?  States-rights Conservatives would favor greater power to the states and the people, while Libertarian Conservatives would favor giving the power almost exclusively to the people.  Both, I think, support a strengthening/stricter enforcement of the 10th Amendment.

Foreign policy.  When it comes to foreign policy, there are two competing schools of thought, the neo-conservative and the paleoconservative.  Unlike other kinds of conservatism, these two stand in stark contrast to each other as they battle for the title of “true conservatism”.  One cannot be both a neo and a paleo at the same time.

Neo-conservative– Seeks an active role for the United States in world affairs.  Like the Social Conservative, seeks to promote his values on his own nation, as well as others, often tying opinions and relationships of other nations to their internal policies such as form of government and human rights.  In the trend of Woodrow Wilson, believes that we need to make the “world safe for democracy”.  Willing to use various forms of manipulation including diplomacy and military force to affect internal changes in nations.  Supports nation building and instillation of new, pro-U.S. governments.  Wishes to establish bases in many parts of the world, especially volatile regions in order to increase U.S. security.  In domestic affairs, is more tolerant of big government as long as the increase serves some sort of greater good such as to promote society’s values or increase internal stability.  Favor close ties with the state of Israel.  Practically all are strong supporters of the war in Iraq and prefer increased immigration.  Often labeled by its detractors as imperialistic and militaristic.

Paleoconservative
– Wishes in the words of Rep. Ron Paul a “more humble foreign policy”.  Opposes nation building and meddling in the internal affairs of other nations.  Promotes trade with other nations, often times including ones with non-democratic governments and poor track records on human rights.  Against the League of Nations and the United Nations.  Practically all are opponents of the war in Iraq.  Usually support strict limits on immigration.  Labeled by its detractors as isolationists and xenophobic.

Well, it may not be 31 varieties, but my point is that there are many kinds of conservatism out there and that often a person can adhere to one form without embracing another.  So the next time someone calls him or herself a conservative, bear in mind that that does not necessarily mean they support limited government, pro-life legislation, an end to corporate welfare, and winning the war in Iraq.  The simple term “conservative”, just like the word liberal doesn’t hold too much meaning without getting into a discussion on the heart of issues and the individuals who hold them. One last thing, if I’ve failed to include a particular variety of conservatism or you feel I’ve misrepresented any term, please let me know.