Friday, May 22, 2009
I used to be a conservative; I still am, though some would say otherwise. When I was in high school, early into the Bush administration, people called me conservative. I was basically “Mr. Conservative.” I was outspoken, debating liberals, and standing up for this country’s first principles of liberty and individual rights. Now people often ask me questions implying a lack of conservatism like, “Aren’t you more of a libertarian than a conservative?” But still I call myself a conservative because that's what I am (as well as a libertarian), but others are less and less calling what I am “conservative.” It isn’t that my positions have changed that much. Though I admit, they have changed some, but this change has been even more toward conservatism--more toward liberty.
Sadly, the “compassionate conservatism” of the George W. Bush Administration has done much harm to the name of conservatism and has confused many. Neoconservatives and fascist-light Republicans have tarnished the good name of conservatism by acting as modern liberals but still calling themselves “conservatives.” In order to remedy this confusion over labels, it is prudent to address the issue of political identifiers.
In the United States today we have two basic camps: modern liberalism and conservatism. Do not let the liberals fool you, modern liberalism has nothing to do with true “liberalism.” It is not liberal at all; its statist. In truth, it is modern American conservatism that is “liberal” in its makeup. The reason I can claim this is that the labels of liberalism and conservatism no longer hold the same meanings they once did. At the time of our nation’s founding, the ideas we formed around were guided by “liberalism,” but it was not the liberalism we know today. Rather, it is what we now refer to as “classic liberalism” (or what some would call paleo-conservatism or libertarianism) that provided the spark for the flame of freedom. This classic liberalism focused on the rights and freedoms of the individual with a emphasis on private property, individual responsibility, and personal liberty. Moreover, going along with this was a belief in free market capitalism and small limited government. If a people were to be free, it was up to them to foster a society through their own individual responsibility and initiative. If a people were to be slaves, it was big centralized government and those who relied on it that would provide the shackles. Clearly, this type of thinking is that of modern conservatives and libertarians, not liberals or even neo-conservatives (whom I consider to be merely modern liberals who don’t care for taxes). Though modern liberals do share a nominal attachment to our Fathers of old, this titular similarity is all that holds.
You see, modern liberalism is a reversion back to the ways true Liberals fought against. Modern liberals do not believe in personal responsibility, they believe in government mandates and control. They claim to desire individual freedom, but place Man under the shackles of the Sword. They claim to want individual rights, but instead, embrace corporatism, which subverts the individual to the masses and has no respect for minority rights. And in the place of limited government these “liberals” demand broad statism. Moreover, we see from this corporatism and statism a desire to do away with capitalism and private property in the guise of bringing equality. This equality, however, is not based one’s opportunities or faculties as supported by classic liberals, conservatives, and libertarians. Rather, it is a call for equality in failure. In a modern liberal’s system there is little room for meritocracy, hard work, and reward. Rather, the achievers must be beaten down to parity with those who lack achievement. No longer is there a protection of private property, but a pillaging of the “haves” to give to the “have nots.” Moreover, instead of protecting the inalienable rights of the individual, phony “rights” are fabricated and demanded in their stead. In the process, we all lose our rights.
What is even more appalling is modern liberalism’s success in demonizing conservatives and libertarians while claiming a connection to the classic liberalism of our Founding. They assert that they are for the individual and that they rely on the government because it is the only means to achieve the “rights” of society. These rights, however, bear no resemblance to the inalienable rights our Founders fought to protect. Our Founders understood there was no right to health insurance, housing, and others such things. They did want people to have many of the things these modern social liberals desired, but they understood that the state was not the actor to employ the ends and it was the free market and a free society that was to supply the means.
It is clear that modern liberals are not classic liberals and that true conservatives and libertarians are. But do we need a name change? Why do people with libertarian beliefs call themselves “conservatives?” Shouldn’t Ron Paul stop calling for a return to true conservatism and instead call for a return to libertarianism? Shouldn’t Barry Goldwater’s watershed book The Conscience of a Conservative be called The Conscience of a Libertarian? Why don’t we, as conservatives, call ourselves “liberals,” for truly we are?
Well, it is obvious that the title “liberal” has been hijacked by illiberal statists and corporatists on the left. Regretfully, the current nominal distinctions have been burned into the psyches of the masses. Therefore, we are bound by the knowledge of others. For example, I am a classic liberal, a Jeffersonian, a libertarian, a paleo-conservative, etc. My political convictions are firmly in the individual liberty camp, but when asked by most, I respond simply that I am a conservative because conservatism is a modern label given to classic liberalism. What I think is important is that we let people know where we stand rather than just bombarding them with labels. This has been the problem of the last eight years. People have been presented liberal policies in the name of conservatism, leading to confusion. Therefore, one can easily say, “Wait conservatism isn’t for liberty, it is for a nanny state and legislating one’s personal behavior!” But they would be mistaken; conservatism is for neither of these things. Sadly, neo-conservatism and a lot of what is going on in my own Republican Party do fit this accusation and have led to a tarnishing of the conservative brand. We must realize that just because someone calls themselves a conservative that does not mean that they are one. Already, we have seen that illiberals have no problem calling themselves liberals. Therefore, we should not be surprised when they just as easily adopt the name “conservative.”
So why is it still okay for conservatives to embrace their title, and why do I call libertarians (though not all of them) conservatives? The find the answer we must look to the Constitution. We must ask ourselves, “What are conservatives seeking to conserve?” Are they seeking to conserve statist policies and the large governments of empires? No; that would be modern liberals. Are they trying to preserve the rule of mobs (no) or of law (yes)? And most of all, are they trying to conserve the Constitution? Yes! In seeing this truth we find why I maintain true conservatives are classic liberals and in most cases libertarians. You see, if one is truly a conservative, he or she is a constitutionalist. The very thing a conservative tries to conserve is the Constitution of the United States, and the thing that Constitution seeks to protect is libertarian values—such as protection of individual liberty, private property, and other inalienable rights. Because of the libertarian values held in our Constitution, every constitutionalist (i.e. true conservative) is a libertarian to a degree. Ronald Reagan put it best:
“If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals–if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.”
So you see the labels have changed, but the facts remain. On one side are those who love freedom: conservatives, libertarians, classic liberals, or whatever label you choose. On the other side are those who would subvert freedom and put in its place the State: modern liberals, statists, and corporatists.
Before I leave you I would like to point out that not all libertarians are conservatives. Only those constitutionalist libertarians fall into this group. There are some libertarians whose general beliefs cause them to act inconsistently with our constitution based on broader ideological concerns, but those who truly want to protect life, liberty, and property for all as laid out in the founding documents of our Republic fall within the conservative camp. Moreover, we must always be wary of those who call themselves conservatives. Not all "conservatives" are classic liberals because not all so-called “conservatives” are actually conservative. Some are mere nostalgic liberals who seek to preserve tradition rather than conserve the Constitution.
Therefore, instead of labels, let us look to actions and support those who support our Constitution and all it protects.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
The other night I did a little detective work. One often hears about this congressman or that congressman being “the most conservative member” of his or her respective body. So I decided to look at what some of the major trackers of this type of statistics yield.
Before getting to the results, I would like to answer the question for you, for its answer is a simple one. Ron Paul is hands down the most conservative member of the US House of Representatives. He has been a stalwart defender of liberty and the Constitution that protects that liberty throughout his entire career, while exercising unwavering consistency in the positions he holds. Dr. Paul is 100% pro-life; pro-2nd Amendment; pro-small, limited government; and pro-individual liberty. Moreover, he has been committed to peace, freedom, and our founding principles even when others have failed to be so. It doesn’t take much to argue that Dr. Paul is the most conservative congressman serving; however, Ron Paul is found nowhere near the top of the list. He is far down it, in fact, with a liberal index of 39.8 and a 60.2 on the conservative index according to the National Journal.
How could this be? Many of you would say, “Well…Ron Paul is more of a libertarian than a conservative.” To that I would respond, “You need a lesson on ideological labels, my friend.” (Stay tune to my blog as I will provide that lesson in the coming days.) Of course, he is a libertarian, but that does not mean he is not a conservative. See no Constitutionalist can be a pure libertarian, for he is bound by the document to give up the exercise of some of his liberties in order to form a civil society. For example, no one can deprive another of life, liberty, or property without due process of law because of the parchment barriers set up by our Constitution, while in a pure libertarian sense one can do anything he pleases even if it deprives others of their liberties. Moreover, since Dr. Paul is a Constitutionalist, he seeks to conserve the principles set out in the document (and yes those principle are libertarian ones). You see, every true American conservative is a libertarian to some degree, and what we are conserving is libertarianism. Therefore, Dr. Paul’s libertarian views are completely consistent with American conservatism because they are not carried to the point of constitutional disregard. For example, Dr. Paul is absolutely pro-life because he sees no constitutional justification for it and actually sees the opposite. Most likely, a pure libertarian would be pro-choice in the matter. Look to Dr. Paul’s views on illegal immigration for further evidence in which he breaks ranks with pure libertarians and finds himself once again firmly in the camp of conservatives.
Dr. Paul exhibits all the qualities one associates with conservatism. Again, he is 100% pro-life; pro-2nd Amendment; pro-small, limited government; and pro-individual liberty. Why then do these trackers of “conservatism” not give him his rightful spot atop the list? Because conservatism has been perverted to mean something that it is not.
No longer is non-interventionism preached by so-called “conservatives.” Now people act as if war-mongering and hawkish militarism are conservative principles. They never have been and never should be. Moreover, so-called “conservative” are guilty of double speak when it comes to the size and roles of government. They claim to want limited government, but call upon the government, not one’s individual responsibility, to govern moral failings. They claim to be against a “nanny state,” but allow for government welfare when they deem the recipient noble. The problem is a lack of consistency. Until American conservatives become consistent and defend our Constitution, like Dr. Paul and other ostracized conservatives, there is no hope for the ideas we believe in, there is no hope for a return to first principles, and there is no hope for America.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
I just finished watching a documentary entitled In the Face of Evil: Reagan’s War in Word and Deed. It showcases President Ronald Reagan’s battle against communism and the evils of statism. I don’t want to review the movie, but I do feel it necessary to reflect on the man on which it focuses.
What made Ronald Reagan a great man was not just his ability to communicate; though he surely excelled in that manner. Reagan was blessed with an ability to take what he felt and convey it to the American people in a way in which they could not only understand, but which they could also get behind and trust. Furthermore, his greatness should not be measured in his policies; though many of his policies were very good (while many were not so great.) What made Reagan great was his ability to stand on principle—to stake a heartfelt conviction and work toward what he believed was right.
Ronald Reagan saw the Cold War for what it was. It was more than a mere competition between competing ideologies. It was more than one economic system versus another. It was a battle of good versus evil. In saying this, I seek not to imply that “good” and “evil” people are not found in each system; truly they are. The point is that if we view freedom as good, then there is no better word than “evil” to describe statism. Never was the Cold War a war between peoples of the West and peoples of the East. Rather, it was a war between differing systems—one system focused on freedom and one focused on enslavement. Liberalism brought with it a commitment to inalienable rights, private property, and the individual. For communism the focus is corporatism, government dominance, and individual inferiority to the will of the state. There can be no common ground for these competing systems. In fact, for Reagan, communism wasn’t even a system; it was madness. It stood for everything free men stand against. This is not to say that Reagan desired to eradicate the communists around the world. Rather, he wanted to eradicate communism as a system.
We all know how the events played out. Reagan worked toward a strategic plan to starve the Soviet system as it traded guns for butter. Meanwhile, he worked to spread the message of freedom throughout the world, calling for the Soviets to dismantle their “evil empire” and for the people of the world to embrace liberty.
Reagan understood that within the heart of each man is a desire to be free. No government, no system, and no individual can take one’s right to freedom, if free men are unwilling to be enslaved. Reagan was one of these men. He would not sit idly by while freedom was subverted to a system. He spent his life dedicated to bringing freedom to the individual. Therefore, may we all share in his fervor for freedom. May our pursuit of liberty be unwavering not only for ourselves, but also for all mankind.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Sunday, May 3, 2009
May 2, 2009
Today as I write this I am on my way to Washington DC. The reason I am gracing DC with my presence (I jest in my since of worth) is that I will be attending the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference (AIPAC)—a conference dedicated to fostering positive US-Israeli policy. I know many of you are thinking why I, a strong noninterventionist, am attending this conference. Well as those who know me are aware, I have wanted to visit our nation’s capitol since I was a child. Being the head of the University of the South Student Assembly, I was contacted by AIPAC and invited to enjoy a free trip to Washington. At first I was apprehensive, though I personally support the nation of Israel and think that their partnership is important, my political convictions don’t exactly line up with those of the AIPAC community. After some consideration and weighing the idea of a free trip to DC, I decided that AIPAC was an opportunity I could not turn down. Needless to say, I will not be going to the conference to stir things up, but rather, to observe the viewpoints of those who believe in strong, entangling alliances and enjoy the city in the short time I have.
So why am I opposed to the policies of AIPAC if I am personally pro-Israel? The answer lies in my commitment to a humble foreign policy that centers on self-defense, diplomacy, and free trade. In order to maximize the possibilities for each of these things, I believe that the United States must not be involved with any entangling alliances. This does not mean that we are isolationist or that we treat other countries with disrespect. Quite the contrary, we should engage other countries: in diplomatic relations and in free trade. Perhaps one day I will blog on the issue of noninterventionism and nonalliaceship, but for now I will merely justify this approach as applied to US-Israel relations.
The first major issue one must understand to have a proper view of the situation is that Israel is a big girl; she can take care of herself. There is no doubt that Israel lives in a dangerous neighborhood, but it is also no secret that Israel has done an excellent job fighting hostile neighbors off. The Israeli army is a well oiled fighting machine with some of the best technology and military professionalism available. Moreover, Israel has nuclear weapon capabilities and is able to use them as a deterrent and (God forbid) in action if needed. It is not only not in the United States’ best interest to entangle themselves in Israeli affairs; Israel doesn’t need us—at least not militarily.
Another major reason why current US-Israel alliances are so flawed is that they do not make either of us safe. Negative feelings about either of our countries are attached to both of us in the international community. Moreover, whenever Israel wants to act it always comes to the US for a blessing or permission. This practice should be an anathema for Liberal republics who value the concept of State sovereignty. If a nation wants to act, it can act. Of course, it must face consequences—good or bad—in the international community, but the decision should be fully theirs and fully based on their best interest. The United States does not need to be tied to Israel’s foreign policy and vice-versa. One cannot act in one’s best interest if that interest is tied to another’s foreign policy. May Israel continue to stand strong, but let it not be at the expense of the American people’s security and its own sovereignty.
I hope to blog some over the next few days about AIPAC. Stay tuned for updates.
Postscript: It is just before 1am (est). I just got back from a night on the town seeing the capitol. It was amazing. I will post photos on facebook ASAP. So far I’m having a blast.