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Conservatism or fascism

by on March 7, 2010

The first time I read Oakeshott was the first time I realized that conservatism did not equal Rush Limbaugh.

It seems that conservatism, as the media portrays it (now), has for the past ten to thirty years (take your pick) has been equivalent to what we used to call fascism.  Make no mistake; the media does not call conservatism by the name of fascism, but that’s just in an effort to be fair and balanced.

But conservatism isn’t really a bad thing – and I mean conservatism, not the just-mentioned but usually not-uttered fascism.  Take, for instance, Andrew Sullivan, who calls himself a conservative. I sometimes have my doubts about that, but perhaps that is due to the corruption of conservatism he discusses:

From the green shoots of Hayek and Oakeshott and Friedman to the final blooming of Thatcher and Reagan, this regenerated conservatism really did restore the balance between state and society toward society and away from the state. It harnessed traditional impulses – nationalism in Britain, evangelicalism in America – but it never fully gave into them. Its pragmatism remained in the Reagan tax hikes, Thatcher’s retention of socialized medicine, their mutual outreach to Gorbachev, and Thatcher’s insistence on international law. In some ways, I believe, the pinnacle of this conservative achievement came in the presidency of George H W Bush and the premiership of John Major.

I have never been convinced of the goodness of Reagan. Then again, I haven’t liked almost any policy since the creation of the National Security state. However, if you want to look for conservatism in government, I suppose Reagan is your best choice. A good article on conservatism, by Freddie DeBoer, said,

In any event, the slow-change conservative is dismissed as an out-of-touch dissident, and the slow-change conservative movement is no more. What we have, instead, is the People’s Revolutionary Party of Conservatism. The temperate conservative victory of the second Clinton administration, restraining a president and Congress somewhat inclined towards broader and deeper change than they achieved, has been replaced as a basic template for success by the large-scale conquests (both attempted and achieved) of the Bush years. That these large measures seem to have led to short-term disaster for the Republican party is generally regarded as a consequence of Bushism, and not symptomatic of the drastic but unheralded changes in the right’s tactical regime. Lurching from fight to fight and election to election, the Republican Party is not always sure of where it wants to go, but it is certainly in a hurry to get there. This is part of what makes internecine battles within the American right so shockingly angry; decisions made within the policy apparatus no longer lead to small steps and modest goals but rather to the vast expenditure of money, political capital and man hours. Conservatism is on the march.

I cannot join call myself a conservative, but I can understand that the idea is not a bad idea. Oakeshott, Burke, and all classical conservatives will tell you that it is the desire to keep things as they are – or to not change to the unknown – is the central tenet of conservatism’s ideology.

With that, I can take philosophical issue. And I do.

From → Politics, US Politics

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