Sunday, April 03, 2005

2 Topics For One Low Post: Darfur and Conservatism

On Darfur: Some centrist Democrats I've been following online, especially at have suggested that we can't send troops to Sudan right now but that Democrats in the US, who still have credibility with the leaders of "old Europe" might be the most able at getting the Europeans to handle this problem. Sounds like a good solution to me.

Now, on conservatism: I think the conversvative movement in America might be worthy of some mourning from those of us on the left. I'm not talking about the Bible thumpers who believe in limited government that has unlimited authority over the bed room. Nor am I talk about the Tom DeLay conservatives who are really just corporate shills (and hey, quite a few Democrats are like DeLay in that department.)

I'm talking about the people who believe in limited government because they have a rosy view of human nature. There was once a group of people who believed, quite simply that people were best left alone, to follow their own devices and to follow their own aims and that, with all individuals doing that, a larger good would emerge.

That's kind of naive view of people and the way things work, of course. It fauls utterly as soon as one person's goals trample on another's. But, it strikes -- me as healthy that our society once debated issues in these terms. There was once debate about how to achieve a greater good. Conservatives argued for individual action with collective results. Liberals argued for collective action with collective results. Arguments were largely won on a case by case basis.

These days, the debate has become rather warped. The thinkers on the right tend to represent either corporations or religions. Adam Smith, often credited with first defining capitalism and once an infuential figure on the right, was skeptical of both corporate and religious power in society.

What's happened to conservatives? I think that they've been, for the past two decades, defining themselves as against "government" but in favor of other forms of authority such as the corporate and the religious. It's too bad. These folks used to champion individuall liberty against any intrusion, not just the government's.

I don't know what all of this adds up to, but I'd point out the growing Republican hatred for our independent judicial branch as a symptom of a way of thought that completely lost its way. And, though I'm not a conservative, I think we're worse off for this deviation of the right.


At 9:42 AM , Blogger adriana said...

Thanks for helping me to understand the founding ideas of conservativism. It helps me to have compassion and understanding for the ideal (however naive, like you say). Too bad it's been corrupted and twisted.

I see what you mean about Sudan, and I wish things were as idealistic and simple as I see them in my head. I agree that there should be a volunteer world peacekeeping force but clearly we are nowhere near ready as humans to get that together properly (not to utterly lambast the UN).

PS- so how about that Kofi getting acquitted of wrongdoing?


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