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Jun 15, 2008

Reagan Conservatives, and George Wallace Republicans.

A couple of days ago I asked the question, “Are the extreme conservatives the descendents of the old Southern Democrats?”

Oddly the label ‘conservative’ seems to have been adopted by the Republican Party to the point that everyone from the relatively libertarian Jeff Flake, through to the most far right wingers are referred to as ‘conservatives’, with no clear concept of what it actually implies. Certainly, for such a wide cross section to fit comfortably within this description, its definition must be so loose as to be almost meaningless.

If Jeff Flake were used as an example, then it must imply a concept of individual sovereignty that is, that we are free to conduct our lives with the minimum of state interference.

The far right on the other hand, hold to a concept that freedom is some sort of license from the state that allows the population to conduct their lives in such a manner as to stay within the limits of the beliefs of the central authority, provided of course that the authority is the far right.

Essentially then the Republican idea of conservatism stretches itself to embrace everything from moderate libertarianism through to fairly extreme authoritarianism. I think the label should be dropped.

In my search for answers I came across an article in ‘Econolog’ “The Conservative, the Progressive, and the Masonomist” where the following was suggested as a definition:

The core belief of conservatives is that we are going to hell in a handbasket. Depending on who you talk to, this has been happening since the 1960's, or since the French Revolution, or since the fall of the Roman Empire, or since ___. Depending on who you talk to, our problem is that we have forgotten the teachings of Ronald Reagan, or those of the Founding Fathers, or those of Jesus, or those of Plato, or those of ___.
This was disputed in the comments section, where I found the following gem from Troy Camplin:

Troy Camplin, Ph.D. writes:
He's using the traditional definition of a conservative. Your terms have become so screwed up as to have become almost meaningless.

We have people who call themselves conservative who actually are conservative (Pat Buchanan), conservatives who are a combination of conservative and classical liberal (Rush Limbaugh), conservatives who are classical liberals (Ron Paul), liberals who are conservatives (Joe Leiberman), liberals who are Leftists (Obama), liberals who are progressives (Hillary Clinton), etc.
We need to clarify our terms, since we group people together who probably should not be together. Quite frankly, what Pat Buchanan wants economically is far closer to what Obama wants than to what either Ron Paul or Rush Limbaugh want -- but he's considered a conservative.

Now, to the extent that Buchanan's type of government-controlled economy (I have heard him say, "I am opposed to the free market system") is founded in much older thinkers than Marx, while Obama's is based precisely on Marx, that does make Buchanan a conservative in the European sense of the term, though the result of what he and Obama both want are practically identical. So we really need a clarification of terms.

Also, I think a less school-specific term than "Masonomist" would be preferred. My Masonomist world view was developed without having read anything by anyone from GMU -- except for a few articles and a book by Walter Williams. Still, my systems view of the world was developed primarily from other thinkers' work.
In concluding I will explain the term Masonomist. A Masonomist is an adherent of the economics Department of George Mason University Which appears to impart a remarkably (for a university) free market view: -

“Most economists favor the free market, with reservations. Masonomics rejects the reservations. If John and Mary are free individuals, and John trades with Mary, then John and Mary both are better off. End of story.

A great one for libertarians.

For follow up I recommend a great article by SJ Reidhead, "Out of Touch Conservatives" at the Pink Flamingo.

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