Tyler Cowen, while at a Conference in Israel, posts : “The influence of the Tea Party seems on the decline.”
But that doesn’t mean what most people will take away from it.
I’m sure Tyler knows this, but other people may not: Movements need ideologies. All ideologies are progressive. Tea partiers are conservatives, and conservatives don’t use an ideology.
Conservatives NEED an ideology. They need a means of competing against creeping totalitarianism and socialism. They need a fully rational framework that proposes a fully rational system of government. WIthout that framework, they rely upon tradition, history and moral arguments. They rely upon the constitution, the founders, and law. And they have failed because of those forms of reliance. And they have lost by relying upon something that they appreciate, and value, but largely do not understand how to advocate through science, logic and reason.
Today, Conservatism is not an ideology. Conservatism is a sentiment at the very least, and a philosophy at the very most. But it is not an ideology. It prescribes no program. It simply sets hurdles by which changes should be implemented due to the limits of human reason.
Conservative philosophy consists of a very simple set of propositions:
1) Human reason is something to be skeptical of at all times. History and tradition are the tools by which we test our ideas and protect ourselves from hubris.
2) Because reason limited, change should be accomplished through merit in the market by people who conform to established moral codes, and are humble about their accomplishments.
3) People who attempt change by political means are charlatans who want to take from hard working people in order to glorify themselves.
And Conservatism consists of a limited number of sentiments:
1) Long term group persistence: This is a primitive human sentiment that encourages some portion of the population to give very high regard to saving – concentrating all forms of capital. It is universal to all societies. Some authors express Group Persistence as “loyalty”, which attributes only arbitrary emotional meaning to what is an important evolutionary strategy.
2) Hierarchy as a form of natural order. Hierarchy is mistranslated as obeying someone, rather than what it really means to conservatives is that “People are very different in knowledge and ability. Even if they have similar abilities they have differences in knowledge, and upbringing that mean some people are better at some things than others.” Conservatives do not see ‘following a leader’ as anything other than a practical necessity driven by the differences in human beings.
There are three other universal human political sentiments:
3) Fairness ( Reciprocity and it’s corollary Fidelity / Sincerity)
4) Nurture / Training : Taking care of others and protecting them from harm, and the objective corollary “training” and “educating”.
5) Purity. Avoidance of unclean foods, habits, places and thoughts.
Conservatives place equal value on all five of the sentiments (See Jonathan Haidt.) Progressives give their entire moral and emotional weight to just two sentiments: Nurture and Fairness. Conservatives have a more complex problem, becuase they place equal weight on all five values.
SENTIMENTS VERSUS PHILOSOPHIES
Thomas Sowell, in his two works on political differences “A Conflict Of Visions ” and “The Vision of The Anointed”, states that the only substantial difference between conservative and progressive philosophies is in their assessment of the potential of human reason.
Progressives: The Unconstrained Vision
Or the “Utopian Vision”.
In Sowell’s opinion, the unconstrained vision relies heavily on sweepingly optimistic assumptions about human nature, distrust of decentralized processes like the free market, impatience with systemic processes that constrain human action. Sowell often refers to them as, “the self anointed” people with a progressive political view.
Conservatives: The Constrained Vision
Or, the “Tragic Vision”.
Sowell argues that the constrained vision relies heavily on a reduced view of the goodness of human nature, and prefers the systematic processes of the free market, and the systematic processes of the rule of law and constitutional government. It distrusts sweeping theories and grand assumptions in favor of heavy reliance on solid empirical evidence and on time-tested structures and processes.
My view is that progressives get a discount on intellectual labor by artificially simplifying the problem of social orders, and that they justify their simplification by taking emotional pleasure from the fact that involuntary transfers are forced between producers and non-producers.
Conservatives simply account for more variables, and therefore are more pessimistic in the face of complexity. Furthermore, conservatives see involuntary transfers as failing to train people, not taking care of people.
Because english heritage is european, and european heritage is Aristocratic, conservatism favors the aristocratic system of politics. Aristocratic politics is fundamentally military and hierarchical in it’s view of the world. Aristocracy can be loosely translated as “a system of order for controlling and holding a body of land.”
The first principle of aristocracy is the Fraternalism. That is, the idea that each of us has his home or farm or Manor (plantation), and that we gather together to create a market, and a city around that market, and defend it together. But that we do not, under any circumstances, surrender our sovereignty over ourselves or our land. This is what makes the west unique: cities are the result of fraternal cooperation by land owning warriors who are required to supply their own arms, equipment and soldiers. In other words, cities were joint stock companies.
Aristocracy is not limited to a social or economic class. There are plenty of people, males in particular, in the middle and and upper proletariat classes, that are intuitively practitioners of aristocratic sentiments. Freedom, as it is used in libertarian circles is the remnant of aristocratic philosophy.
As such, the sentiment of conservatism has been confused with the philosophy of aristocracy, and the political system of classical liberalism. Sentiments, Philosophies and Political Systems are three different things.
RIGHT AND WRONG CONSERVATISM
There are good conservative ideas and bad conservative ideas. Southern conservatism over the elimination of slavery was obviously a self-interested bias masquerading as conservatism. Anti-communism and anti-socialism was clearly the correct proposition given the hundred million people it murdered, and the prosperity that the world has achieved by adopting consumer capitalism. Even McCarthy turned out to be right about quite a few things, after all. Conservative concerns over immigration will very likely play out as correct – the nation will divide either gracefully or violently at some point in the next century. Conservative preferences in health care are only that if it’s to be done at all, it should be done without expanding the government bureaucracy. And conservatives are right on that issue as well.
Conservatism is not an ideology. It is a skeptical philosophy that has biological, historical, and rational philosophical origins. The Tea Party, as a conservative movement, does not seek power. It seeks to prevent radical changes to the social order that are conducted in hubris, and where the consequences are dire.