Thursday, March 30, 2006

Those Crazy Conservatives

Lew Rockwell (whoever he is) on the Huffington Post thinks that conservatives are crazy. His reasoning? Conservatives think that domestically, government is bad but on defense, government is good.
Do you see the contradiction? Apparently it is not obvious to thousands of writers, activists, and thinkers, and not just today but dating back for decades. The problem is this: in the first paragraph, the government is rightly presumed to be the coercive enemy that takes from the people and saps their productivity. It cannot perform tasks as efficiently as property owners. It hurts rather than helps. Government does not know best. Our choice is government or liberty.
Of course, there are several problems with Rockwell's thesis. The biggest one is that he takes positions from various factions among conservatives and applies them to all. Yes, the Libertarian wing of conservatism thinks that big government is bad. This wing is consistent. The Libertarians as embodied by the CATO institute calls for an isolationist foreign policy. On the other hand, strong defense conservatives are uncomfortable with a hands-off internal policy.

There are conservatives who embody both points of view. Ronald Reagan was for smaller government but was big on defense. Was this a paradox? Not when you consider world events.

Looking back a couple of decades, it is hard to remember that we were at a constant state of hostilities with communism in general and the USSR for nearly fifty years. This conflict often broke into small-scale shooting wars and was usually conducted through proxies on both sides. This makes it easy to ignore but it happened. By the 1950s, the US saw itself as being seriously at risk. A small number of communists inside our country and entire nations of communists outside our boarders wanted our government overthrown.

For the first couple of decades this was not a conservative cause, it was an American one. It was liberals who started the fights to defend south Korea and South Viet Nam (and against fascists). It was only after public opinion turned against Viet Nam that liberals suddenly became the party of peace.

Reagan's philosophy was that communism and socialism were bad. He fought communism through a military build-up and by supporting allies. He fought socialist policies that had built up in our own government.

After a decade or so of peace, we have a new enemy - radical Islam. Like communism, its adherents think that they should control the world by virtue of their innate superiority and, like the communists, they believe that much of American life is decadent. They would change most of what we appreciate about our civilization. Conservatives recognize this threat and embrace a strong military to protect us. That in no way endorses stricter government controls over every-day life.

Note that under Bush, Libertarians have distanced themselves from conservatives. Bush is a big-government conservative so there is no contradiction there.

Now, what about the liberals? These are the people who think that the solution for every social problem is a new government program but, at the same time, insist that the US government is the biggest threat to the world. (Yes, I know I just lumped liberals together the same way that Rockwell did conservatives but I'm summing up.)

Someone is insane but I don't think it is conservatives.

No comments: