Time to Rethink Conservatism

Interesting quote from Mark Morford on The San Francisco Chronicle’s website made me think about the sorry state of conservative thought in America.

The GOP, on the other hand, sucks hard from the teat of ignorant extremism, splashes gleefully in the shallow mud puddles of Sarah Palin’s battered grammar, draws much of its power from the worst the human spectacle has to offer. Simply put, the modern Republican Party would not exist without its army of high school dropouts drunk on Rush Limbaugh and sexual dread. It’s not difficult to imagine “Burn a Quran Day” becoming a new Texas state holiday.

Yes, it’s progressive demagoguery at its finest, but the meta-message for those of us disaffected conservatives should ring true. The GOP has gone from being what I would consider thoughtfully conservative (in the wilderness years of the late 1970s) to populist reactionary.

The only way to stop the polarization of the nation is for conservatives to begin taking the high ground again. That does not mean defending ideas that belong in the same historical dustbin as racial segregation, isolationism, and laissez-faire, nor does it mean defining a political movement by what one does not believe.

It does mean laying out a fabric of ideas that provoke thought, debate, and careful consideration that offer a way forward in the 21st Century, but that do not divorce themselves from the values laid forth in the founding documents.

There are many flavors of progress. The progressive side of the political spectrum has had a chance to advance theirs (although, I have to say in all fairness, they probably didn’t get a full chance, given that their agenda has been hijacked by a self-interested party apparatus.) It is now time for some more flowers to bloom, for a new school of thought to contend with the progressive vision.

And may the best vision win. But that can only happen when there is a didactic in the nation that rises above naked populism and political opportunism.

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The New Fiscal Conservatism

The new fiscal conservatism is matching every dollar spent with a dollar of revenue, and the wise, careful, and effective expenditure of the public treasure.

Independent Fiscal Conservatism does not mean being opposed to taxes. Outright opposition to taxes qua taxes is appropriate only for an anarchist. A patriot understands that nothing worthwhile is cheap…or free.

But spending public funds for the private good or allowing money raised from the people to be wasted for lack of appropriate care, however, is unacceptable. Waste, inefficiency, and entitlement are what we should fight.

No, Government is Not a Business

Government wastes money. Some of that is unavoidable. A degree of wastage is implicit in every human endeavor. Efficiency is essential, but it cannot become an obsession in any human enterprise whose goal is the betterment of society.

So much to the chagrin of businesspeople like me, you cannot run a government like a business.

That does not mean, however, that you cannot or should not hold individuals and institutions to account. Every dollar spent in the public interest needs to be assessed as to its benefit and its opportunity cost.

The Reality of Fiscal Conservatism

Fiscally conservative is a code word in the popular American mind for cautious spending on social programs and regulatory enforcement, but utter profligacy with tax cuts and a silent enablement of shockingly bad defense procurement spending.

True fiscal conservatism is program- neutral. It insists in a dollar or more of revenue for every dollar spent.

Libertarians

My problem with Libertarians is that greater liberty is not the answer to every political and social conundrum. A careful reading of our history suggests that the consensual surrender of some human freedoms builds a bulwark against chaos.

There is, naturally, a fine line. But a dogmatic devotion to as much liberty as possible is as dangerous as a dogmatic devotion to security, to stability, and to the pursuit of happiness.

Time for Thinking Conservatism

The worst part of the neo-conservative/Tea Party/Fox News axis is the tar it casts upon those of us who think of ourselves as thinking conservatives. What this crowd is spouting is not what it means to be a conservative or even a Republican in 21st Century America.

It is time we recognized that there is a growing reactionary axis in American politics that is every bit as extreme and odious as their cohorts on the Left side of the dial, and adjust our collective mental spectra accordingly. And for those of you who feel the same, how about we start staking out some intelligent ideological turf so as to distance ourselves from the reactionary right?

Les Gelb: Egypt and the US Establishment

As a part of a rundown of expert opinions on the situation in Egypt, Tablet Magazine spoke to Leslie Gelb of the Council on Foreign Relations. Gelb was asked a question about how well the U.S. Foreign Policy establishment was dealing with the crisis. His response:

“The naivete in the foreign policy community here is astonishing. For the moment, they’re intoxicated by democracy, at the total expense of U.S. security.”

The phrase “intoxicated by democracy” is superb. Clearly Gelb doesn’t think much of Tom Freidman’s belief in World Peace Through Local Elections.