Conservatism – The Most Misused Word In Politics

todayOctober 18, 2013

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Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – I have a very intriguing thought to add to this discussion about intellect and about what conservatives ought to do.  As a nonconformist member of the worst generation, I think the major problem we have today is we’re not smart enough to have studied, or we’re not studious to know what words actually mean.  We use many words out of context.  The most bastardized and abused word out there is the word conservative.  Check out today’s transcript for the rest…


Begin Mike Church Show Transcript

Mike:  I have a very intriguing thought to add to this discussion about intellect and about what conservatives ought to do.  As a nonconformist member of the worst generation, I think the major problem we have today is we’re not smart enough to have studied, or we’re not studious to know what words actually mean.  We use many words out of context.  The most bastardized and abused word out there is the word conservative.  I think the word liberal is actually applied correctly in most instances, or in many instances.  The term progressive is applied correctly in many instances.  The word conservative is misapplied in many instances, if not most instances.  The reason is because the conservative movement today consists of a — you might as well call it the conservative industry, because that’s what it is, an industry.  You are conservative because it is good for business.  You are conservative because it’s good for television and radio ratings.  You are conservative because it’s good to rack up website hits.  You are conservative because it’s great for how many likes you have on your Facebook page.  You are conservative because of how many followers you have on Twitter.  You are conservative for a variety of reasons, none of which have anything to do with the Burkean or Kirkian definition of conservative.

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The first hurdle you have to cross for this — and Brad Birzer does a great job of writing about this at The Imaginative Conservative website last night, posting under the title “Conservatism Is Not An Ideology.”  Brad, this would explain why you’re not a frequent guest on O’Reilly, because you don’t have an ideology, and if you don’t have an ideology, then you must stink.  How can you participate in any of the great debates of our time if you don’t have an ideology, if you’re not ideological?  That’s actually not that difficult of a question to answer.  There’s only one man that I have read that has tried to answer or define what ideology is, and that is Robert Higgs in his seminal book, which you should all have a copy of, Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government. 

One of the first things he does in an early chapter is define why these parties line up on these sides of these battles.  He gets into the discussion by saying we need to define ideology.  Higgs’ definition of ideology is very verbose and gets way in the weeds, so I’m not going to get into it here.  Birzer does a really good job of breaking this down so the common man can understand it.

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Russell Kirk deserves special attention on the topic of ideologies. In his twenty-nine books on politics, history, constitutional law, literature, social criticism, economics, and fiction, the legacy of the French Revolution and the loosening of the ideologues upon the world haunted him at a profound level. Tellingly, Kirk’s most important influence was Edmund Burke, the originator of conservatism in the post-medieval world and the most articulate spokesman against the French Revolution. Following the careful scholarship of Raymond Aron, Eric Voegelin, Christopher Dawson, and Gerhart Niemeyer as well as the social criticism of Eliot, Kirk argued that one could define ideologies through three of its “vices.” [Mike: See if the following three acts of ideology’s vices can be applied to your favorite “conservative.”

road-to-independence-BH-RTIDE2-detailFirst, ideologies are political and secularized religions. They take with them the symbols and energy of religions, but they focus almost exclusively on the material and on man rather than on the spiritual and on the Judeo-Christian God.

Second, by polarizing political and social thought, ideologies render the virtue of prudence impossible. False absolutes dominate, nuance withers, and compromise—the essence of prudence—becomes impossible. As man naturally desires something greater than himself, ideology assumes the dogma of established religions.

And, third, being puritans, the ideologues quickly attack ideologues representing other ideologies and especially the deviants from their own ranks. [Mike: How many “conservatives” personify and practice those three or are illustrative of those three vices?]

Usually, Kirk contended, the half-educated (or even “quarter-educated,” as Kirk sometimes called them) and the bored in the West were the most susceptible to the lure of ideologies. But, as modernity, and now post-modernity, continue to make inroads, ravenously mocking and devouring history, tradition, and religion, more and more persons become prey for the seductiveness of false absolutes and easy answers. They crave something greater than themselves, but have missed the opportunity to embrace true religion and right reason. They latch onto the first thing that presents itself as truth. When one adopted “truth” conflicts with the adopted “truth” of another, modern and post-modern man either falls into a bizarre subjectivism, as with Supreme Court Justice Kennedy, claiming each man can proclaim his own truth, or, as in the case in the Middle East, he sends teenage girls, strapped with bomb on their backs, onto public buses or into market places. The sane, educated man finds neither option appealing or acceptable.

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Unfortunately, as American history has demonstrated over the past half century or more, ideologies do not politely contain themselves within revolutionary tyrannies; they have slowly infected all of the West, especially in its literature and politics.

Some Americans during the twentieth-century have embraced democratic egalitarianism as a somewhat benign (though not innocent, Kirk warned) ideology. Others, especially those on the political right, or so they believe, have embraced a form of consumerism as an ideology. And, to the horror of Kirk, some on the right have even claimed conservatism as an ideology. In Kirk’s mind, conservatism is the antithesis of ideology, for it upholds tradition, religion, and history.

As Cicero wrote:

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True law is right reason in agreement with Nature…it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting; it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrong-doing by its prohibitions. And it does not lay its command or prohibitions upon good men in vain, although neither have any effect upon the wicked. It is a sin to try and alter this law, nor is it allowable to attempt to repeal a part of it, and it is impossible to abolish it entirely. We cannot be freed from its obligations by Senate or People, and we need not look outside ourselves for an expounder or interpreter of it. And there will not be different laws at Rome and at Athens, or different laws now and in the future, but one eternal and unchangeable law will be valid for all nations and for all times, and there will be one master and one rule, that is, God, over us all, for He is the author of this law, its promulgator, and its enforcing judge.

[end reading]

Mike:  Wow, Brad, way to lay it out.  You can find that essay in today’s Pile of Prep.

End Mike Church Show Transcript


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