The Declaration of Independence - one of the anchors of my conservative thought.
This is the third part of a multi-part article (see part 1
or see part 2
) about why I am a conservative. In this series, I explore the various fundamental roots of my own conservatism.
In part 2
, I talked about anchors, the idea that society needs to attach itself to the best ideas of the past in order to have a stable base from which to make changes. To detach from historical anchors (such as the Declaration of Independence or the original intent of the Bill of Rights) is to cast off the best thinking of our forebears.
Here's an example of what I mean: Let's say we want to build a house. A conservative would look for proven technologies to construct it, relying on past experience to guide the design based on proven principles. On the other hand, a modern liberal would start with the most innovative and forward looking architectural plans he could find, with no regard to the architect's past abilities, to sound construction principles, or especially to the costs.
The conservative builds his house and it provides the basic necessities of such a structure: it protects from the weather, it is utilitarian, and it will last a long time. The modern liberal, however, takes one look at the structure and laughs at how ugly and backward it looks. "Your house isn't friendly, doesn't feel good, and doesn't even allow wheelchair access."
The modern liberal's house, from the outset, runs into cost overruns. "That's OK," reasons the liberal. "All we need is to put a little more money into it and it will work." Then, because the architect paid no attention to past designs, the foundation of the house doesn't support the walls. "That's OK," says the liberal. "The idea is a good one. We'll just keep putting more money into improving the walls so they'll stand up without a foundation." Then, the roof is leaky and doesn't cover the whole house. "That's OK. We'll just keep adding more layers of roof on top until we cover everything."
What does this have to do with government? The allusion to spending should be obvious enough, along with the idea of continuing to pump money into the house in the hopes that somehow the outcome will be different. The idea is that progressive thought far outweighs retrogressive thought (or as liberals would put it, "regressive"). When progressive thought doesn't achieve the desired results, the problem always relates to not having spent enough money.
Here are more examples. See if you recognize a few of these:
Progressive teaching means looking at how many dollars are spent for each child. As long as the dollar per child ratio is high, the education process must be working. If a student performs poorly, the implication is that the school didn't spend enough money per child to create success.
Progressive welfare means making sure welfare recipients have enough money to be able to live comfortable lives. There is no relation, in progressive welfare theory, between unemployment and welfare handouts.
Getting at the Roots
Progressive laws create programs to try and solve social problems. If a city park contains drug dealers and prostitutes, the city needs only to spend more money to improve the area and attract other people to play in the park.
If teen pregnancy grows, progressive laws spend money on education programs and abortion outlets. Teen pregnancy isn't seen as the problem. Lack of sufficient funding is.
The root problem with these examples isn't related to spending money to try to fix social issues. The problem is the absolute rejection of foundational anchors or historical roots to evaluate and suggest solutions. Modern liberalism rejects historical solutions in favor of "progressive" solutions.
Why would anyone reject out of hand the combined experiences of thousands of years of history and millions of social experiments which have, over time, produced pragmatic and proven results, just for the sake of some new ideal?
This holds especially true of social morals and values which have been long held and considered foundational to the survival of society. However, modern liberals practically froth at the mouth with any suggestion that society and laws should be based on moral standards of the past. To modern liberals, of course, it goes without saying that anyone who holds such "regressive" morals are pariahs in the current system. We only have to look at MSNBC's treatment of the tea party protests (with constant and unsuitable references to sexual practices) or Perez Hilton's hostile response to Miss California's belief in marriage, to see examples of these "modern" thinkers. They represent a reprehensible society, adrift in a sea of immorality.
As I mentioned in Standing for Something, Part 1
, the utter rejection of past moralities and values stems from the modern liberal's moral imperative of indiscriminateness. The modern ideal of removing prejudice, however, only produces a people who lack the very skills to correct the problems of prejudice. As Allan Bloom puts it:
But trying to prevent [judgment] by removing the authority of men's reason is to render ineffective the instrument that can correct their prejudices. True openness is the accompaniment of the desire to know, hence of the awareness of ignorance. To deny the possibility of knowing good and bad is to suppress true openness. (Bloom, Closing of the American Mind, p. 40)
Beyond Good and Evil
In our modern society, there is no impulse to the Good, or even to the Better because moral expediency denies the historicity of both absolute good and absolute evil. Indiscriminateness leads to moral relativism. The modern liberal cannot concede a moral or religious good because that would imply an equally certain evil. The only thing that modern liberalism considers wrong is to call something else wrong.
Hence, teen pregnancy isn't wrong but to call it wrong is wrong. Homosexuality isn't wrong but to call it wrong is wrong. Same sex marriage isn't wrong but to call it wrong is wrong.
This lack of anchor into the moral past creates a delusional understanding of the founding concepts of the United States. The ideal of liberty, for example, had at its roots a desire to the Good - to produce the most good for the greatest number of people. However, since in modern minds there is no such thing as "the Good," liberty becomes the modern ideal of "freedom to choose." There is no heed or care in the choice itself, the freedom to choose becomes its own moral imperative. Hence, a woman is free to choose death for her child. A child is free to choose a contraceptive drug without prescription. A man is free to choose to carve and scar his body with piercings and tattoos. We best not sneer or scoff at any of them, because that was their choice.
What this leaves is people at the mercy of propagandists and ideologues. With no sense of past anchors, modern liberals cannot judge anything but by the standards set for them by conspiring men.
The modern man forgets the past, and finds himself at the mercy of technocrats, propagandists, and snake-oil salesmen. The postmodern man is no longer aware that he has any past to forget. To remember and honor the hard-won achievements of our civilization is to have a fair chance of freedom; to forget them or despise them is to have no chance at all. (Esolen, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization, p. 293)
More to follow....