It’s easy for liberals, such as myself, to dismiss the philosophical ideas of conservatives and the Republican Party. When I read about Republican plans to cut taxes and cut social programs, I often wonder how they can be so greedy and selfish. Don’t they care about people? Aren’t most of these people claiming to be Christians and who love and give to those in need?
Conservativism and the Republican Party often seems greedy, selfish, uncaring, unloving, and conflicted with its own values. They often seem like a movement dedicated to making money for those who already have a ton of money. And it often seems that the rank and file of conservatism are naïve because they don’t realize they are not helping themselves; they are only helping the rich and hurting the middle class and the poor.
This is one liberal’s perspective. But I’m pretty sure it is wrong. Living in Texas I know plenty of conservatives. On reflection, I must admit they don’t seem to care much about those rich people who benefit so much from the tax cuts. They shrug them off with the rational that people should get what they earn; if someone invest wisely, they should reap the profits. And as for as low-income people, they don’t know any and cannot see how they struggle, so the low-income class are not even a consideration.
So what goes into their rational for being conservative?
The one word that sums up the American conservative movement is “individualism.” American conservatives believe in the power of the individual. Some liberals might think “selfishism” or “greed” or “no tax,” sums up the conservative movement better, but they are wrong. The one word that sums up the movement is “individualism.” American conservatives wants to believe in the idea of the individual. The idealism of the individual is a bit of a fantasy, but it is a powerful fantasy, which I’ll get back to in just a moment.
So, what is the thought process of an American Conservative? I believe there are three core ideas:
• Individual freedom
• Spontaneous organization (laissez-faire).
There are no reasons to be overly philosophical about these concepts. The American conservative believes a person should be free to do mostly whatever they want without the government telling them they cannot do it. They believe an individual is responsible for whatever they do and should suffer the consequences of their actions, good or bad. And they believe if we would just leave everything alone, without a lot of rules and regulations, society would evolve in the best possible ways.
I should stress again that I am not an American conservative, I am an American liberal. So, I hope my categorization the American conservative correct. I notably left out the ideas of the American religious conservatives. I left them out because the religious element, although important, is just baggage thrown on top of the core of American conservativism. True, for some people the religious aspect of conservativism is the more important part, but for the main movement of conservativism I am not sure it is.
Getting back to the three main principles of American conservativism, what is wrong with them? I, a liberal, would say nothing is wrong with them. I believe in individual freedoms, self-responsibilities, and the world is the result of spontaneous organization. The difference though is how I would spin these ideas, and what I would add to them.
As a liberal I would add this principle:
• Social responsibility
Human beings are both individuals and social beings. We need and deserve as much political freedom as possible. And we are responsible for what we do and should feel the consequences, good or bad. And our society does, on its own, seek the best possible answers. But I would also add that as members of a larger society we have duties to that society.
The individualism of the American conservative is a bit of a fantasy because it ignores the duty we owe to our society. We owe a duty to the individuals around us, and they to us. We owe a duty to respect their rights and they to respect ours. This duty changes how the American conservative should view their core principles. Yes, they should have as much personal, individual freedom as possible, but they have not right to trespass on the that same right which all others also have. The coordination of our right to individual freedoms between the many individuals that make up a society requires, unfortunately perhaps, laws and rules.
We are responsible for what we do. But everyone, at one time or another, does foolish stuff or has bad luck. As a society, we obligated to help each other to recover from failure whither if it is a result of stupidity or bad luck. Who doesn’t need help sometimes in their life?
Social responsibility is an insurance because even though you might be helping other people now, it is possible that some day it will be you who needs that help.
And finally, about social organization or laissez-faireism, the society and big government we enjoy right now results from social organization. In American it has resulted in a good amount of freedom, but that is not true everywhere. Dictatorships are a result of social organization, just as freedom is. No magical result will come from social organization or a laissez-faire society. We must actively, and constantly, try to create the best possible government and society.
I have a voice: I want to share my beliefs about how the conservative movement and the Republican party can regain its footing, because we’ve lost our way. Jeb Bush