Notes From Babel

Conservatives vs. Progressives

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Here are some interesting observations about Conservatives versus Progressives.  Just taking this list on its own, one would be led to believe that members of these two camps don’t really have any coherent ideology, they just pick and choose big-sounding ideas (i.e., big government vs. free market, paternalism vs. individual choice, traditionalism vs. modernism) when it suits their needs.  I don’t think that is the case for Conservatives, however.  At least, not as far as my own Conservatism goes.  A hint as you review this list: consider not what each side is after so much as how they mean to achieve it.

  • Conservatives talk of the unsustainability of our economic and social welfare policies, and that our political systems will be crushed under their enormous weight.  Progressives talk of the unsustainability of our environmental policies and that our ecosystem will soon be crushed under the weight of the trillions of pounds of human flesh we’ve irresponsibly allowed to proliferate.  Conservatives and Progressives both chuckle at each other as being hot-headed alarmists.
  • Conservatives complain of government growing too heavy-handed in domestic affairs.  Progressives can’t seem to fathom this gripe, while they complain the government is too heavy-handed in foreign affairs. They both accuse each other of being shills for a form of governmental Leviathan.
  • Conservatives wince at land use planners roping off our free choices concerning where we can live and work and what we can build, even if this means the slow decay of the traditional city.  Progressives long for the hey-day of the early 20th century, which defined the ideal planning model of “walkable” cities and thriving smaller towns, even if this means middle- or lower-income families will be foreclosed from the opportunity to live in spacious houses with their own yards.
  • Conservatives tout economic liberty and strong property rights, but are accused of not similarly championing  privacy and personal liberty.  Progressives take up these latter liberties, but think little of the individual’s right in his property or in his economic decisions.
  • Conservatives fear big government because of its power to deprive individuals of life, liberty, and property, because that power is of necessity wielded by men, and because, despite the best efforts of our Framers, its machinations are largely opaque.  Progressives instead fear big corporations and insist that the market is not a suitable alternative reservoir for social control, for the curious reason that corporations are in cahoots with big government.
  • Conservatives tout the free, unregulated market, but sometimes struggle to explain the crash of 1929.  Progressives tout a tightly controlled economy that they say led to the boom of the middle class in the 1940s to around 1980, but at the same time complain that this profligate growth led to the sacking of traditional cities and the ghastly phenomenon of “suburban sprawl.”

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Written by Tim Kowal

May 1, 2010 at 9:24 am

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