Conservatism Explained, Again

While digging through our archives I found something I decided needed a little dusting off; a little revision and re-iteration, if you will.

One of my first posts at Liberty’s Torch, back then called “The Spitcracker Picayune”, was a defining of Conservatism as a mindset, a way of life, and a lifestyle. There are very clearly established principles we live by that shape our perception of the world around us. What I wrote on the 22nd of November, 2012 may not be everyone’s definition of Conservatism, but it is mine, and it is shared by those of us at Liberty’s Torch, and many in The Conservative Union.

Take a few minutes to digest my thoughts, edited and shared again.


From my original post, dated 22NOV12, Conservatism Explained:

There isn’t a lot of push within what most Americans would think of as the bastions of Conservatism to actually express what being a Conservative means. I believe the GOP’s biggest problem over the course of the last 30 years and more has been a blurring of morality; a penchant for personal gain, regardless of means, if you will. Politicians find very shortly after election that they’re able to amass a vast amount of power and wealth in a relatively short amount of time if they only go along to get along inside the Beltway.

Conservatism isn’t about one aspect of one’s life; Conservatism it is a lifestyle. People who are Conservative believe what they believe to be true because over the course of history and the expanse of observation of human nature the core aspects of Conservatism have been proven over and over again. To espouse Conservatism isn’t the be all and end all of what it means to be a Conservative. It is simply a beginning. One must live their lives within the confines of moral and ethical purity; to do the right thing every time, especially when no one is looking. What one does when no one is there to witness their actions is the simplest measure of the quality of one’s character, and the willingness to hold oneself to being ethically and morally pure even when temptation would cause human nature to prompt us to take care of Number One at the unknowing expense of humanity, in whole or in part, is anathema to Conservatism.
Once the ethical and moral litmus test comes back positive for Conservatism there are a few Core Values that Conservatives apply to their lives. These Core Values, much like the Core Values of our military services, shape the lens through which a Conservative views the world around them, and guides them through the tumult that invariably stands between humanity and prosperity.Conservatism’s Core Values are:

  • Constitutional Republicanism, or the preservation of the true representative republic under which all Americans are supposed to be governed by, as outlined in the Constitution
  • Limited Federalism, or the intentional hobbling of the Federal Government so as to purposefully prevent a totalitarian tyranny from springing up within the centralized aspects of government that are necessary
  • Sovereignty of the States over the wishes of the Administrative State, except where the Constitution outlines enumerated powers held exclusively by the Federal Government
  • The Right to Ownership of Personal Arms, or the right to own a means of protecting oneself from assault, regardless of source
  • Fiscal Conservatism, or the application of proper and just stewardship of the public trust that is accumulated by the Government through taxation and tariffs as a means to fund the necessary functions of Federalism
  • Peace Through Strength, or the forming, training, supplying and sustaining of a strong military force as a means of deterrence to aggression to enemies foreign and domestic as well as a means to stand by and defend our allies from the same
  • A Strong Currency, made and kept strong through the application of all of the other Core Values.

Our Nation lives and breathes these Values in some shape or form. Although not every American is able to identify with more than a few of Conservatism’s Core Values, most will find that they believe in at least one of these keystones that make up what it means to be a Constitutional Conservative. Sadly, temptation, always the enemy of every man, woman and child in this great nation, pulls the attention of even the most devoted Conservative away from the application of these values to their lives. Diversion of attention isn’t a failing. Allowing for temptation to spur action in the hearts of man, at the expense of others, is a severe failing, and can be traced as a direct causative factor in nearly every detrimental aspect of American life.

The path toward solving the problems that face America today is very much the same as it was during the founding of the United States following the Revolutionary War. Many of our problems stem from what temptation causes man to do unto his fellow man. Application of Conservatism, Constitutional and otherwise, is a spectacular first step down the path toward restoring America’s greatness, and protecting it for generations to come. Many have already begun taking this step.

Will you join them, and us, in starting down the path toward restoring America?

The Change From Political to Philosophical

constitution_quill_penAs we approach 2014, and the gear up for the never-ending battle of campaigns, I wanted to reflect on how the change from the simple political parties to the philosophical, the ideologies, the line in the sand.

The American Liberal, has subverted the original Liberalism of the 18th and 19th century. It is no longer on Individual Liberty, but on the Group Equality. While in Classical Liberalism, Equality was a core value, it was never intended to be what it has been twisted into today. Locke had it perfect: it was the “Equality of Authority“. As he writes, “state . . . of equality” as one “wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another, there being nothing more evident than that creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another, without subordination or subjection . . . .”. It was intended not for all people to be equal materially, fiscally, but in Authority.

No longer seen that way.

With the ever-growing state, of the dependency on  the government for housing, food, college funds, clothing funds, we are developing a society that values fiscal equality over liberty, that wishes to reduce from those that have more, because “It’s not fair”

How do we change that mindset? How do we, as Conservative Constitutionalists show the light to others that Liberty gives birth and grows Equality, whereas Equality over Liberty, will strangle the individuality and ability to be prosperous? How can we show that being Fiscally Responsible is common sense?

Stay tuned, folks, I’ll be discussing that in the coming weeks.

Why Hatred is Such a Useful Tool for the Left

A very clear difference between the Left and Conservatism is that the Left has shown itself to be very adept in the use of hatred as a political motivator. In polite conversation most Americans would happily acknowledge that racism, sexism, and all of the other -isms that are active components of discrimination and prejudice are very dark parts of humanity’s collective gestalt, and would very much like for these aspects of human nature to cease to exist.

What won’t be discussed in polite conversation, however, is the application of the emotional response to publicized hatred as a means of control of a political point of view. Take, for instance, the over the top coverage of the George Zimmerman murder trial. If an analyst were to take apart my words here today I’d be accused of being a racist because I didn’t refer to the case as the “Trayvon Martin murder trial”. Well, while that attitude wouldn’t have a lot of merit even while the trial was still in progress, the audience receptive to that sort of dangerous rhetoric would be incited to call me down for my racism, and it is entirely possible I would be the target of some of the death threats Zimmerman faces even to this day.

The fact of the matter is Zimmerman is not a racist, as evidenced by the FBI’s admission that they were not able to find any sort of racially charged motivations for his following Martin the night of the incident. That, however, isn’t critical to the core of the message from the hate-baiters that Zimmerman is a racist, that hatred fueled his murder of Trayvon, regardless of the facts being found to prove no murder took place in a court of law, and that anyone who supports Zimmerman is a racist just as guilty of spreading hatred and danger to the communities of America as those very lynch mobs who murdered so many black Americans in decades passed.

The Left doesn’t even try to square their use of hatred as a tool against the realities presented to the public they’re trying to drive toward their goals. The general theory on the Left is that the public either isn’t paying enough attention to reality, or that the public will listen to the Left’s version of reality before thinking for themselves. Sadly, this directed use of hatred as a political motivator has shown itself to be extremely effective throughout humanity’s history.

Conservatism doesn’t allow for hate to be a component of our psyche because hate is damaging to the soul. Of course we all feel hate from time to time, and Conservatives engaged in politics often feel it most when battling Statists, or when confronting infringements on individual sovereignty by an ever strengthening government. We simply know how to shunt that emotion out and channel the adrenaline rush it gives us into a productive avenue. For a Conservative, to give into an emotional response generated by a stimulus and allow for that emotion to motivate our discourse is anathema to our moral core. There are those who allow emotion to control their actions, but one of the planks of Conservatism is to address negative stimulus with a rational, measured response.

The Left truly knows how to channel hate. They know how to enrage a populace to action using hate as the progenitor to violence, all while sitting back and allowing for the incited rage to be blamed on the people and not the politician or media figure. A mob is a very effective tool because it substitutes the will of the individual for the will of the mob, thereby eliminating rational thought about the motivations of the mob by any of the individuals that make up its numbers. Because mob mentality can be so very successful in accomplishing a goal, regardless of the moral efficacy of that goal, the Left has seen fit to use hatred as a driving force for much of their rhetoric. Think about the “war on women”, the “war on poverty”, the “war X”… The Left paints their opposition as waging wars against everything the Left is for because it galvanizes their constituencies into joining up against the oppressive opposition.

A prime example would be the “war on women” rhetoric during the Sandra Fluke fifteen minutes of fame. Conservatives do not want to prevent women from being able to obtain contraception. That has rarely been the case, and most certainly isn’t the case in the modern era. The Left, however, neatly painted Sandra Fluke as being oppressed and that the Right was denying her access to free contraception because the argument at the time was that forcing religious organizations who provide private health coverage for their members and employees to fund the purchase of contraception violates the religious organizations freedom to practice their religion as they see fit, even if that practice denys insurance funding for contraception. This isn’t a stance grounded in hate, as the Left would purport, but a stance grounded in faith and the religious interpretation of the Bible by Catholics and other organizations. This doesn’t deny contraception; individuals are entirely capable of obtaining low cost contraception absent funding from their employer’s health care coverage. The opposing view is that contraception is a civil right to women, and that the college Fluke was attending owed it to her to provide it free of charge based on this premise. The stance that free contraception is a civil right for women is an untenable stance to hold, as there is no language in the Constitution or the Civil Rights Act that protects a woman’s right to free contraception. The Left’s rhetoric, though, was very effective in making it seem like the Right hates women because of their defending of religious organization’s First Amendment rights.

Of note, this issue has yet to be adequately resolved. Instead of addressing the issue head on, the Administration and Congress has deigned to delay the potential issues this creates until after the Affordable Care Act is actually stood up, since the potential of infringement of a protected right is not an actual infringement, and thus the religious organizations suing the Government to resolve this issue have been found to not have standing due to their rights not currently being infringed.

The Right doesn’t see hate as an avenue to success because hate is dangerous. There is no way to prevent it from being felt by humanity, but there is a way to stymie the effects it has on rational thought. Conservatism’s goal is to empower the individual. A single individual consumed by hate isn’t dangerous to society as a whole. Plainly put, a group of individuals seeking a common goal will focus on the goal because the accomplishment of that goal is the motivator for the individuals making up the group, not the emotional response their hatred may have on their state of mind. Groups of individuals are also self policing. If the goal is shared by all in the group those who harbor hatred as a motivator within the group will be quelled or removed based on the damage their hatred causes to the goal’s odds of accomplishment.

The Left, on the other hand, wants to focus hate because hate clouds the rational responses of human beings. Without rational responses to stimuli people tend to be very malleable when grouped together and focused, lending themselves to a mob mentality. The Left will do everything it can to subsume the individual in order to create a mob mentality that will be driven by hate toward a common goal, absent rational thought about that goal within the mob, and thus more likely to accomplish the intended goal without resistance to the methodology by which that goal is accomplished. This is especially true when that methodology is detestable, as most hate-baiting is seen to be when addressed in polite discussion.

This is one of the many diametrically opposing characteristics that separates Leftism, or Statism, from Conservatism.

What is Wealth, really, and why is the Left so Obsessed with Taking It from You?

The Left would have us believe there is only a finite amount of wealth and that wealth is tied directly to the monetary supply of the world. This is, of course, entirely false, but it is critical for Conservatives to be able to understand what this argument means, and how to disarm it.

The distinction between wealth and money is subtle, but it is clear. Wealth is the accumulation of material and immaterial things of value within a societal construct. Money is a system through which a currency is used, in varying values, to be bartered with in order to obtain items associated with wealth. Money in and of itself can be an item of wealth, and the accumulation of it is generally accepted as a means of measuring the wealth of an individual within a societal construct.

Human beings have an inescapable compulsion to measure everything around them. We are unable to ignore that there are those with more wealth and those with less. We’re also involuntarily predisposed to compare one another to the whole of society, and individuals against other individuals. These measurements create divisions within a society. Divisions create a basis for jealousy, and when jealousy is allowed to fester these divisions create fissures that can demoralize and destabilize regions, markets, and eventually the entire economic system of a society.

These fissures are why the Left wins the argument when posing these sorts of  notions to their Low Information Voters. The idea that wealth and the monetary supply aren’t directly tied to each other, and that the monetary supply can be increased without action from the Government is often too complex a concept to be grasped by those who are easily sated by handout legislation or promises thereof. Its easy to coerce someone into believing there is only a given amount of money in the world, and that the rich have so much of it that the poor will never be able to rise above their situation to claim their share because the class warfare concept incites jealousy against those who have more than another. This is the core premise behind wealth distributive socialism; the rich will never give up their share of the wealth so as to allow the poor to prosper, so Government must take that wealth from the rich and distribute it evenly to the poor. The Left will never concede that the rich gained their wealth through the creation of wealth which didn’t exist before they became successful; allowing for the idea that wealth can be created independently of Government interaction (i.e.: the printing of money or the regulation of markets) destroys the entire belief system the Left would have their voting base subscribe to. Their premise is that that any accumulated wealth was stolen from the whole of society at the time the wealthy became successful, and that their (the Left) just and righteous leadership is the only means of ensuring the playing field is level again.

Another point to make is that the Left sees and portrays the world in terms of “fair share”. This is a fallacy as well, as it implies that there is only so much energy that an individual can expend to influence their livelihood, and since there are those who have taken more than their fair share of that energy from the system the only just and right thing for them to do is give back what they don’t use. Success isn’t directly tied to the value of the possessions and/or wealth one consumes throughout their lives. Instead, mistakenly, wealth is directly associated with material accumulation above and beyond what is necessary for a “middle class” family to survive. Note, I didn’t say “thrive”, but to simply survive. The “middle class” is generally defined as those working class individuals who, through the progression of their working lives, have been able to develop enough personal purchasing power that they are able to take time away from work in order to enjoy that purchasing power. Simply put, if you are not living from paycheck to paycheck, forever tied to an occupation, regardless of its fulfillment and enrichment of your life, and you can take time off without a penalty to your quality of life, you are considered “middle class”. This creates a general societal hatred from those who haven’t been able to leverage their labor output into a career that supports an ability for the pursuit of leisure toward those who have, and even more so, toward those who have leveraged their careers into something more lucrative than a “middle class” existence.

Class warfare is something we, as Conservatives, are generally unable to defend ourselves against. Conservatism typically doesn’t recognize class warfare as a relevant argument when discussing economics because, in the economic systems we support, there are no barriers to upward mobility for those who find themselves at the relative bottom of the economic food chain, as it were, nor are there barriers to failure for those who find themselves at the top. The CEO of Apple today can find themselves unable to pay their mortgage due to failures on their part next month in a truly Free Market Capitalistic economy, the same as the janitor the Apple CEO used to employ could find themselves the CEO of their own billion dollar corporation as time progresses.

The Left has utilized the instruments of Government to reward their friends and punish their enemies. The primary tool is the Progressive Tax Code, which is specifically designed to levy a heavier tax burden on those whose incomes are above certain benchmarks. The argument supporting this type of system is “the rich have enough money, so they are better able to afford to pay their fair share of the Government’s obligations.” That sounds all well and good, unless you’re wealthy. Then it sounds like you’ve been singled out for your success, which is what has generated the money you have access to. According to the Left, if you make more you can afford more, so you should pay more. This ignores barriers that your income creates should you choose to attempt to access many of the Government social safety net systems that your wealth is being confiscated in order to fund. As a wealthy individual, your income taxes are all that the Left are interested in. Your access to means tested wealth redistribution programs designed solely to support those without your means is irrelevant, regardless of the language used to motivate the voting base to cast ballots that condemn you to a lifetime of supporting systems that do not support you.

Jealousy is such a strong emotion. The Left is able to show the stark disparity between the haves and the have-nots by creating a rift between their definition of the socioeconomic lower class and the classes they’ve designated above the poor, thus winning the argument. All the while they’ll hide the truth about what wealth creation really means, because to allow for their Low Information Voter base to understand the true power they hold is to risk the possibility of those voters realizing they do not need to support the Dependency State. The Left’s goal isn’t to tell the truth about how wealth is created, but to mislead the Low Information Voter into conceding their individual rights to the greater whole in return for a promise of normalcy and equality.

News of the Possible

S.E. Cupp for mayor of New York? It’s a possibility. The Daily Caller reports:

S.E. Cupp, the lone conservative voice on MSNBC’s afternoon show “The Cycle,” is being urged to run for mayor of New York City as a Republican, The Daily Caller has learned.

But Cupp tells TheDC that despite the urging from political operatives, she’s not interested in leaving her TV gig for Gracie Mansion.

If Cupp isn’t interested, why is this news? (Note: Hillary wasn’t interested in a Senate run, either. Not that I’m comparing Cupp to Clinton…just throwing it out there.) The Daily Caller’s Jamie Weinstein noted in today’s DC Morning:

If Cupp changes her mind and runs, she wouldn’t be the first conservative pundit to run for the office. The late, great conservative icon William F. Buckley, Jr. made a run for New York mayor in 1965 on the Conservative Party ticket in order to inject conservative ideas into a race that pitted a liberal Democrat against a liberal who called himself a Republican. When asked by a reporter what he would do if he won, Buckley famously quipped: “Demand a recount.”

Meanwhile, a women’s advocacy group by the name of  WAM!, or Women, Action and the Media (we’ve never heard of them either), is auctioning “a one-on-one strategy session with [Sandra] Fluke to help get the bidder’s campaign off the ground.” Among the top bidders so far are The Daily Caller and Breitbart’s Joel Pollak. While TheDC has to my knowledge been quiet about their bid, Breitbart hasn’t, and I love them for it.

Seeing either of these scenarios play out would be wonderful. It’s nice to see conservatives putting the left on the defensive instead of playing the victim. Keep up the good work, friends!

They Hate Us. Now What?

What is it with GQ lately? First there was the Marco Rubio interview, and the ensuing kerfuffle. Here’s the relevant quote:

GQ: How old do you think the Earth is? 

Marco Rubio: I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.

Then came the inevitable media response:

How old is the Earth? Scientists say 4.5 billion years. But Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) isn’t a scientist, so he’s not sure….

…he’s a politician, and a member of a party that long has pandered to biblical fundamentalists, including “young Earth creationists” who insist that the Earth is between 5,700 and 10,000 years old. Dissing Charles Darwin is second nature to Republican politicians who should (and maybe do) know better.

Yup, Rubio is either stupid or he’s a science hating Bible thumping fundamentalist. Or both. Whatever.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, GQ (there they go again) has recently placed Mitt Romney at the very top of their list of the Least Influential People of 2012. Talk about kicking a man while he’s down.

Tony Lee has an excellent post over at Breitbart detailing the Rubio kerfuffle and other recent media tactics aimed at discrediting Republicans (War on Women, etc).  Lee does a good job of detailing the problem, but stops just short of the most important question: So what?

It’s one thing to recognize media bias. Despite claims to the contrary, media bias is a fact. You can’t have a majority of TV executives and employees donating to Obama and the Democrats in 2008 and expect their bias not to creep into their reporting. But what do you do about it?

The first thing the GOP needs to realize about the mainstream media: THESE PEOPLE ARE NOT YOUR FRIENDS. I don’t care how nice they are to you at any given time. I don’t care how positively they seem to receive you and your message. I don’t care what they offer you. When it suits them, the media will turn on you. They will try to bury you. The sooner Republicans understand and accept this fact, the better.

Second, STAY ON MESSAGE. This is an area where Democrats excel. Don’t let the person interviewing you pull you down a rabbit hole. How old is the Earth? Do you want to ban contraceptives? How’s your family? Seen any good movies lately? Stay on target. If a particular question doesn’t pertain to the topic at hand, skip it. If it is otherwise irrelevant, call them out for asking something so blatantly ignorant.

Third, DO NOT FEAR THEM. A big part of the GOP’s media problem is the fear of any kind of backlash from a “wrong” answer. Republicans want the media to like them. I got news for you: It ain’t gonna happen. No matter what you do, no matter what you say, they will hate you. Be strong, be solid, be conservative. In short, be everything they don’t want you to be. That message will carry beyond anything the media can throw at you.

(Don’t believe me? Take a look at some recent moderate presidential candidates: George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, John McCain. Know what they have in common? They were all moderates, and they all lost. The media hated Ronald Reagan. He won in two landslides.)

David Wu
Remember me?

Finally, LEARN TO CIRCLE THE WAGONS, NOT THE FIRING SQUADS. For better or worse, Democrats are known for their willingness to defend their own as long as possible. David Wu and Anthony Weiner both eventually resigned in the wake of scandals. Key word: Eventually. They denied everything as long as they could, until their respective scandals grew too big to ignore. More importantly, the Democrat leadership covered for them as long as they could, too. While I am NOT advocating turning a blind eye to any and all wrongdoing, I do believe Republicans are a little too quick to eat their own.

The same concept can be applied to conservatives in the media; Limbaugh, Levin, Hannity, Breitbart, Malkin, etc. These people are very vocal. As a result, they are heavily attacked. All too often, the knee jerk response from Republicans is to distance themselves from these “extremists.” Knock it off. The Old Media hates your guts; you need friends wherever you can find them. The New Media is on your side, if you’ll allow them to be.

The time for being submissive and defensive is over. The GOP must learn how to deal with a media that wants to defeat them. The list above is just a start.

Why Conservatism Matters

Three words: Richard Milhous Nixon.

In 1970, Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency–one of the most destructive government agencies there is–by executive order. That same year, he also signed the Clean Air Act of 1970 into law, which “greatly expanded the federal mandate by requiring comprehensive federal and state regulations for both stationary (industrial) pollution sources and mobile sources. Federal enforcement authority was also significantly expanded.”
Richard Nixon
In the same year, Nixon signed a bill creating the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) “to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.” While everyone wants a safe work environment, an expensive, overreaching federal agency is not the way to make it happen.

Nixon was a Republican. According to Wikipedia, Nixon favored a “New Federalism,” defined as “the transfer of certain powers from the United States federal government back to the states.” That all sounds great on paper. However, the legacy he left with OSHA and the EPA alone tell a different story.

Bottom line: “Republican” does NOT equal “Conservative.”

The Fallacy Of “You Didn’t Build That”

While being old news, the statement (and more so the agreement with the statement) of “You Didn’t Build That” sticks in my craw to this day. The statement (and don’t even start with me about the taking in or out of context sham) demonstrates a deep misunderstanding of the roles of production and consumption in our economy. As a builder, the sentiment is more aggravating than stepping on a Lego and tripping over the cat at midnight on the way to the bathroom, and not nearly as comical in hindsight.

Let’s lay out a little demonstration. A client approaches me for a project. The initial concept first must be drawn out. That in and of itself is an act of creation, billable creation, even before physical work begins money is changing hands. Materials must now be procured. The gas tank must be filled, the taxes built into the price of that fuel to get the materials from the supplier(s) and bring them back are used for the roads. The sales tax is dispersed out to “the common good” (pfft) and the cost of the materials has helped pay the employees of the supplier as well as the supplier himself and back through the supply chain to the initial harvest of the lumber or mining of the ore to make steel. Now the material is on site. There is no governmentally provided workforce to manufacture this product for me, therefore I make said product myself or hire on X number of hands to achieve the project/product. I get to pay taxes on the wages that I disperse to the employee AND the employee gets to pay taxes on the wages received, not to mention the taxes that the employee gets to pay for living their life and consuming all the things that they consume because I was oh so kind enough to provide him currency in exchange for labor. (That I hired, not the State or the Fed) I deliver the goods to the client, using more fuel, the client pays a sales tax on what I just manufactured for them and the cycle goes on and on and on. Production and consumption, BAM!

Now where exactly is the contribution of the asshole that rode his bicycle down to the coffee shop to suck on a cup of fair trade mud and bitch about Capitalism on his laptop on the free WIFI that the owner of the coffee shop is providing him? 

On A Conflict of Visions

During times of political crisis such as these, I find myself reaching for two books that inspire me and help put things into perspective.

One of them is The Federalist Papers, a book which needs no introduction. Possibly the most important of our founding documents, it offers a glimpse into the original intent of the US Constitution as envisioned by those who actually wrote it. Hamilton, Madison and Jay published the these 85 essays anonymously in order to garner support for ratification of the Constitution. I was introduced to this book as a college freshman taking an Intro to Politics elective (taught, of course, by a self-described radical). It was pretty much the only book assigned to the class that made any sense to me. I ultimately switched my major from music to political science in large part because of this book. Perhaps more on this at a later date… For now, if you don’t already own The Federalist Papers, click here. Now.

My Number One go-to book, however, is Thomas Sowell’s classic, A Conflict of Visions. It distills all political debate down to two fundamental groups — those who have a ‘constrained’ view of human nature and society, and those with an ‘unconstrained’ view. It helps understand the dichotomatic worldviews held by conservatives and liberals, and why, as the author declares in the opening paragraph, “the same people line up on the opposite sides of different issues.”

Those with a ‘constrained’ vision believe that human nature is limited, that we are inherently selfish and operate out of self interest without regard to the well-being of others, and the societal good is derived through the unintended consequences of our actions. This is the cornerstone of Adam Smith’s economic philosophy as expounded in The Wealth of Nations, the founding document of free-market capitalism, and is at the root of libertarian-conservatism as it exists today. It holds that humans are flawed, that we are not naturally inclined to do anything other than what is in our self-interest, yet by doing so within the constraints of human nature we can (and do) benefit others by our actions.

The ‘unconstrained’ worldview is one in which man is inherently virtuous, that all of the unvirtuous things we do are a result of flaws in society, and that through actions that are designed to improve society we can approach perfection. Results and intentions are all that matter, and preferred outcomes can be accomplished by government policies with as long as they are enacted with good intentions. There is no limit to what we can achieve as long as our intentions are pure and we are willing to sacrifice our self-interests for the interests of all.

Sowell admits that no one really exists at either extreme; rather, people tend to occupy a place somewhere in between, possessing either a “more constrained” or “more unconstrianed” worldview. Yet A Conflict of Visions clearly illustrates the diametrically opposing worldviews held by conservatives and liberals, a brilliant analysis of the classic struggles between left and right, whether in the past, present or future. It puts all of our current policy debates into clear perspective.

This interview on YouTube was recorded just before the 2008 election. Sowell demonstrates how the two visions can be applied to concerns over judicial activism, the Iraq war, the economy, the election, Sarah Palin, and academic “intellectuals”. It’s just under 40 minutes long, but well worth the time. Widgets

We Hold These Truths to be Self Evident…Part I

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The Founders of our country had it right.  They put forth that certain truths were self-evident, and truly needed no explanation. It became the core of who we were as Americans, part of the glue that banded us together as a people, regardless of what countries or faiths we had originated from. 

This was the first in many of things that would define us as Americans.

Abraham Lincoln argued that the Declaration of Independence was a statement of principles through which the Constitution should be interpreted. It was the looking glass through which the Law of the Land should be measured.

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”

Here it was outlined that the Duties of government was to Protect and Secure those rights; that they were just because the People had gathered together and willingly surrendered small parts of their Liberties to be governed so as to protect those rights as a whole. Putting it clearly that government served the people and not people the government for the sake of protecting those unalienable Rights.

So now we have he beginnings of a philosophy:

1) We have a right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That these are a few of the rights accorded to us by creation. All of those rights with roots in the concept of Liberty.

2) Man created governments to protect those Liberties. Notice that in the writings of the 18th century, during the Age of Reason, philosophers, emphasized on Man’s Liberties. It does not speak of the right to the State to provide for its citizens, but rather, to allow for man to provide for himself and to balance that power of government with as least damage to man’s Liberties as possible.

Whereas it may be acceptable to wear the Boot of Socialism (medicare, medicaid, social security), you cannot wear it without the Sock of Liberty else we chafe ourselves and bleed.

But more on that in Part II

~ Salvum fac Republic