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Conservatism Is Not What We Need

If you are going to listen to Washington politicians at all, it is always best to listen to the party that is currently out of power. After each election, it is the job of the losers to try to attack the winners in any way they can. Often, they inadvertently advocate genuine principles of liberty in the process.

During the 8-year nightmare that was the Bush administration, it was the Democrats that stumbled upon these principles in their efforts to regain the throne. It was they who pointed out that the government should not be spying on its own citizens, that the president was assuming un-delegated powers through executive order, and that it was neither morally justified nor prudent to invade a third world nation that had committed no acts of aggression against the United States and lacked any reasonable means to do so. Their hysterical mouthpiece, Keith Olbermann, even went so far as to cite a long-forgotten document, the U.S. Constitution.

Of course, it is now abundantly clear that these arguments were made simply out of expediency. With the Democrats in power, it is now the Republicans’ turn to “fight City Hall,” and they have rolled out their usual rhetoric about small government, free markets, and traditional family values. Moreover, they, too, have rolled out the U.S. Constitution and waived it around in opposition to the Democrats' plans to “spread the wealth around.”

Let’s take note that the Republicans are now correct in opposing the main tenets of the Democratic agenda, including expansion of government involvement in health care, “Cap and Trade,” and other wealth redistribution schemes. Amidst all of the usual noise coming from Washington and its media pundit class, it is only the Republicans that are making any sense at all.

Unfortunately, this is shaping up to produce familiar results. There is a growing movement for “change” that promises to “throw the bums out” in the next two elections. However, those who are part of this movement do not stop to consider what the Republicans' true agenda will be once they regain power. As they have for over 100 years now, Americans are dashing to the other side in their perennial political game of “pickle in the middle.” They still haven’t learned that the pickle never wins.

The Republicans are having remarkable success in painting President Obama’s agenda as socialist and their “conservatism” as its antithesis. Most average Americans who identify themselves as conservatives accept this argument. If socialism redistributes wealth through the force of government, then conservatism, being its opposite, must oppose such redistribution of wealth. If socialism means that the economy will be centrally planned by government “experts,” then conservatism, being its opposite, must leave those decisions with private citizens. If socialism results in big government, conservatism, being its opposite, must result in small government. These are the assumptions that inform the political decisions of most conservative American voters.

There is only one problem. None of them are true.

The conservative-liberal dichotomy is as old as politics itself. It was present at the founding of the American republic. However, despite the Republicans’ claim to represent America’s founding principles, America was actually founded upon radically liberal ideas. The secession from the British Empire was in essence a complete rejection of conservatism.

Most Americans today believe that the primary motivation for the American Revolution was a separation from the British government. However, the revolutionaries only acquiesced to the necessity of complete separation as a last resort. Even after Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill, the colonists were still making attempts to settle their differences with the British king and remain in the British Empire. The primary objection of the colonists was not the British king being their executive, but the conservative, mercantilist economic system that the British government enforced. The colonists objected to the policies of corporate welfare, protectionist tariffs, a central bank, militarism, and the taxes levied upon them to support these and other aspects of the worldwide British Empire. Had the British not imposed this system upon them, they would have been content to remain British citizens.

As soon as the Revolutionary War was won, the exact same debate erupted within the new American political system. Alexander Hamilton and his Federalists wished to replicate the British mercantilist system under an American government that would closely mirror the constitutional monarchy of Great Britain. The Federalists were the party of big government, national debt, corporate welfare, militarism, and central bank inflation.[1]

 They wished to preserve the status quo insofar as the role of government and the nature of civil society was concerned, which benefitted a privileged, wealthy elite. They were the conservatives.

Socially, this party was the less tolerant of dissenters and tended to promote religion as useful in informing public policy. During Adams’ presidency and with the Federalists in control of Congress, the Alien and Sedition Acts were passed, making it illegal to criticize the government. These also are core conservative principles.

Their opponents, Thomas Jefferson and his Democratic-Republicans, promoted exactly the opposite ideas. They wished to radically change the role of government in society to one that was strictly limited to enforcing the non-aggression principle of liberty, most importantly economic liberty. They were opposed to corporate welfare or any other government redistribution of wealth, railed against the dangers and injustice of standing armies and the national debt, and opposed the central bank. Over and over again when asked about the role of government, Jefferson consistently applied the non-aggression principle to arrive at an unambiguous answer. Always his answer supported each individual’s right to do as he pleased as long as he did not violate the rights of others, and to keep the fruits of his labor.

Jefferson and his followers insisted upon a “wall of separation” between church and state and denounced the Alien and Sedition Acts. They advocated free speech, civil liberties, and tolerance. These are core liberal principles.

While the conservatives gained the early lead due to George Washington’s election as president and subsequent appointment of Hamilton as treasury secretary, it was not a decisive victory. Washington, who along with Vice President John Adams was certainly a more moderate Federalist, also appointed Jefferson to his cabinet as secretary of state. This set the stage for an epic battle between the two ideologies after Washington departed from politics. Adams eventually broke with Hamilton and his party, costing him the 1800 election, and resulting in a decisive liberal victory by Jefferson and his Democratic-Republicans. For the next 60 years, it was the liberal ideology of individual liberty, limited government, and economic freedom that dominated federal politics.

During this time, the conservatives constantly fought to establish bigger government, the central bank, and the other tenets of mercantilism that defined American conservatism. After the Federalist Party disbanded, they were replaced by the Whigs, a party made up of the same people and advocating the same principles as the Federalists. By this time, Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans had also had a split, and had emerged as the Democrats.

The Whigs were never successful in achieving their goals, and eventually disbanded. However, as before, the same people and the same principles of big government were back again in 1860, this time calling themselves “Republicans.” They finally won a decisive victory in electing Abraham Lincoln to the presidency and a majority in Congress. Immediately, the Republicans began implementing their agenda of corporate welfare, protectionist tariffs, and higher taxes. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it was this economic agenda (particularly the tariff) that motivated the southern states’ secession from the Union, not a disagreement over slavery.

It is vital to understand that the Republican Party was born as the party of big government, inheriting traditional, conservative big government principles from its conservative philosophical ancestors, the Whigs and Federalists. For most of its history, it has remained true to these principles, up to and including the Bush II adminstration. Barry Goldwater’s more libertarian platform during the 1960’s was a divisive anomaly in the conservative movement. Its popularity was later exploited by Ronald Reagan’s administration to implement the usual conservative philosophy of bigger government, militarism, and debt.

The problem for Americans today is that there is no longer an opposition party that represents a true antithesis of these principles. By the dawn of the 20th century, the Democrats had completely abandoned their core principles of individual liberty and economic freedom and adopted a socialist, democratic ideology of popular wealth redistribution. Where the Republicans continued to promote a system which plundered the many for the benefit of the privileged few, the Democrats no longer objected to government as an instrument of plunder and now merely fought to divide up the loot differently. They were no longer truly liberal, although they perverted that word in popular culture to mean exactly the opposite of what it really means. Since then, Americans have had to choose between two parties whose ideologies are fundamentally hostile to liberty.

One week ago, Congressman Ron Paul gave a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that both mainstream Republicans and Democrats disagree with. Of course they do. It was an eloquent articulation of America’s founding principles of individual liberty and limited government. Like Jefferson, Paul consistently applied the non-aggression principle of liberty to every aspect of government, concluding that we must end our worldwide military empire, end the welfare state (both corporate and popular), and get rid of the plundering Federal Reserve.

Socially, he advocated tolerance, civil liberties, and the right of every American to express his or her opinion, even if those opinions contradicted Paul’s own most preciously-held beliefs. Despite being likely the most truly Christian person in any branch of the federal government, he never once made any allusion to religion during his entire speech, except for a purely philosophical reference to Thomas Aquinas’ principle of the just war (he alluded to this as part of his anti-war argument). Young Americans for Liberty, an affiliate of Paul’s Campaign for Liberty, invited a gay pride group to the conference, invoking a bigoted outburst from one of the younger conservative speakers just before Paul took the stage. Paul’s followers roundly booed him out of the auditorium.

Ron Paul pitched his ideas as “conservative,” but they are not. During one point in the speech, libertarian radio commentator and publisher of Liberty Pulse, Kurt Wallace, turned to me and exclaimed delightedly, “Ron Paul is a radical!” He is. Like Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and the rest of the most pro-liberty founders of the United States, Ron Paul is a radical liberal (in the true sense of the word “liberal”). He is also an extremist, in the true sense of that word. He refuses to compromise his principles regardless of the political consequences.

Average Americans elect Republicans because they believe that Republicans will give them small government, low taxes, and economic freedom. They are mistaken. What they are yearning for has nothing to do with the Republican Party or the more general ideology called “conservatism.” What they really want is radical change. They demonstrated this in giving Ron Paul a victory in the CPAC straw poll. They also proved once again that they are wiser than the political class in Washington. At this critical juncture in American history, there is only one thing that can bring America back from the brink of social, economic, and political collapse: radical, anti-conservative change from leviathan government to extreme liberty.

[1] Thomas Dilorenzo’s books, Hamilton’s Curse and The Real Lincoln document the true roots and history of American conservatism superbly.

Check out Tom Mullen’s new book, A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America. Right Here!

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© Thomas Mullen 2010



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I think spam is in order

For the above two posts.They are creative though.

If I disappear from a discussion please forgive me. My 24-7 business requires me to split mid-sentence to serve them. I am not ducking out, I will be back later to catch up.

Thomas?

You actually tried it?

If I disappear from a discussion please forgive me. My 24-7 business requires me to split mid-sentence to serve them. I am not ducking out, I will be back later to catch up.

Absolutely...

some newbie rolls up and that their tagline is a link sure I check it out. Second thing I did was look at his post's...nothing of value there...hmmmm looks like another one to me...vigilance always wins.

That bag"o"wind rhino is gone and it was a combination of people continually calling him on his nonsense and Michael finally having enough of him I think. We are being overrun right now by people that are not on our side and it is going to get really ugly here in the next few months and I really wonder if this site will survive the onslaught that is coming for 2012...

If everyone after 10,000 was removed from the site we would be 10X more effective...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_eYSuPKP3Y

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_eYSuPKP3Y

"You are a den of vipers and thieves."

I mean to rout you out!

-Just because you are among us, does not make you with us

-The door is wide open, anything can slither in

Next time Ron's running, we

Next time Ron's running, we should take clips of top Democrats criticizing what Bush did and then intersperse them with Obama announcing his intentions to do what those clips criticized Bush for doing, then run those ads on national TV!

Let's see the big Obamunists swallow that one!

I am out of touch with most Americans precisely because I am not out of touch with reality.

I ended up with pretty much

I ended up with pretty much the same picture after reading Dilorenzo's books and Rothbard's Great Depression. There is nothing new about "neo-conservatism".

What is a conservative. It's a brand some carry or the label they stick on others. Is there an idea beyond mere personality or caricature? What is conservative thinking?

Mathematical studies are furthered by conservative thinking. Tradition and education. Tradition can be mathematically verified.

Free includes debt-free!

I am not talking about the

I am not talking about the conservative minority who occupy the right of the American political landsacpe (geology). They are occasionally wise, stable and astute.Personally I am an independent and somewhat right of centre in some of my views and left of centre in others so I can't be accurately pidgeon-holed or labelled. What I object to in this man's actions is the extremism and anti-democractic attitude represented by that loser (Joe Stack) who believed that what he did promoted, in some bizarre twisted way, your democracy and preservation of the Union.

Which is why

I advocate a sustainable & viable third party orgainization that is more than just one man..A true Party

The Boston Tea Party

The first tea party was a revolt against the Tea Act of 1773. This Act was designed to create a monopoly and guarantee a return to profitability of the British East India Company. A company that was the most powerful company in the world at the time. The Tea Act would have actually reduced the taxes on tea. Again, as today, we are fighting a special interest. Today's giant; Goldman Sachs.

Dr. Mike Vasovski
South Carolina Campaign Chairman, Ron Paul 2012
The SINGLE vote in the SC delegation for RP, GOP Convention, Tampa, FL
2010 Candidate, US Congress SC-03
Past Chairman, Aiken, SC County Tea Party

Much education is still needed...

for most people to go beyond the labels bestowed upon them by the establishment...Liberal, Radical, Libertarian, Conservative, Democrat, Republican, Fascist, Communist, etc. etc. Those labels have one thing in common: They are invented and invoked to keep us divided.
I would like very much for all of us to honor our first amendment and engage in the honest discussion about what all those labels mean, but I would also like us to engage in another discussion that involves the natural rights and the relationship between the state and the individual.
I also know that it's going to take very long time for this to happen.
Since the author of this post references DeLorenzo, before delving into DeLorenzo's work, I suggest the primer that will really put all these things in perspective: Murray N. Rothbard - For a new Liberty.

In Liberty!

Agreed Ddrove-Good Comments

Thank you.

Labels are crutches for the lazy-too lazy to think for themselves as individuals.

Labels are, as you say, tools for unscrupulous anglers for power to dupe the lazy into granting them their natural power by proxy.

Free discussion of wide ranging topics including history, political economy theories, etc. demonstrate a healthy use and respect for natural free speech rights.

Navel gazing as to which labels one should brand and enslave oneself with or arguing about which PTB approved label to slap on this sucker we call a R3VOLUTION to me is counter-productive, futile and encourages missing the point about the ultimate goal we are trying to attain. Free Individuals, free again to be their own leader, party. political economy theory, religion, etc. of one. Consideration and being a label person is destructive of Free Individual thought; being resistant to Labels/Branding is constructive of Free Individual thought.

If we are truly seeking to be free to live as individuals we might want to begin exercising our Free Individual muscles so we don't screw it up again.

"You are a den of vipers and thieves."

I mean to rout you out!

-Just because you are among us, does not make you with us

-The door is wide open, anything can slither in

Confused between Neo-Con and Real Con

I think the author is confused on the Neo-Con values and real conservative values. We can see why the colonists are real conservatives in terms of preserving their freedom and self government. Thomas Woods's Political Incorrect Guide to American History explained it very clearly. The American founding fathers were not radicals, but they were conservatives in trying to preserve liberty, rule of law and self government. It was the British Parliament that imposed several acts that broke the rule of law by imposing the Stamp Act and Quarter Act, allowing British soldiers to write their own warrant. So it was the "liberal" and "neo-con" policies of the British that caused the Colonists to rebel. The true conservatives believe in limited government defined by the Constitution. In that sense we are all conservatives that wants to preserve our liberty and right of self government.

Exactly right, gsmiro

Neocons (as Buchanan called them, "boat people from the McGovern revolution") are NOT conservatives at all.

Ron Paul is a true conservative, as was Taft, as was Goldwater, as were Thomas Jefferson and Washington -- i.e. small government and nonintervention.

It appears the author is very confused because the definition of "conservative" has been co-opted and skewed by the welfare/warfare state neocons.

Tom Mullen's picture

The conservatives were neo-cons in 1789

I took great pains to explain that and these comments ignore that I addressed this in the article. I am not at all confused - I believe average Americans who call themselves conservatives today are confused by party rhetoric that completely contradicts the actions and platform of the Republican Party (which hasn't changed since Lincoln) and the conservative movement in general (which hasn't changed much since Hamilton).

Thomas Jefferson was NOT a conservative. EVerything about his life fit the description of a liberal. He was mistrustful of religion, especially believing that it impeded the progress of science and knowledge, he had a long, interracial relationship, he advocated maximum power in the hands of the people, etc.

Hamilton was a conservative. Immediately after the colonies freed themselves from British mercantilism, he looked to restore it (the "status quo")that existed under British rule. He also favored a system which would benefit a wealthy elite at the expense of the rest of society. This has been the conservative position since at least the Roman senate.

I would agree that the "liberals" of today are in no way liberal, but the conservatives are still pushing the same platform that Hamilton and later Lincoln did: protective tariffs, corporate welfare, elitism, and the central bank.

Let's not confuse people.

This is a bad title for the home page. The article is thoughtful, but it twists things and ultimately ends up using labels itself.

What's wrong with labels?

Labels can be useful as they condense.

When applied to people, labels are devisive.

Not helpful for the common interest of liberty.

Thank you for drawing

Thank you for drawing attention to the definitions of liberalism and conservatism.

Liberalism and libertarianism are synonyms, both from the Latin "libertas", of freedom. Google "liberalism" and you will discover that it means a belief in the importance of individual liberty. This definition is often attributed to classical liberalism to distinguish it from the hijacked version of liberalism in widespread use.

Conservatism is not an informative word unless one defines what is to be conserved. A liberal, a libertarian, and a Declaration of Independence-conservative are pretty much the same thing.

Poison: Conservative and Liberal are Poison

It's the Constitution, Stupid!

Conservative is a word to hide behind, to draw in the ignorant vote, nothing more. Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, John McCain, Dick Cheney, Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck are conservative. Anybody with a smile and a cute wink is a conservative.

The United States Constitution reaches every elected official directly, iron-clad, thru the Oath of Office. None can escape it. It is branded on their forehead day one of office. THIS is the litmus test. Measure them against their Oath. Period.

Abortion, small government, are words to confuse, polarize, derail the argument away from the Constitution.

It's a cheap 'out' to say he/she supports the Tenth Amendment. Demand ALL 10 Amendments. Don't let them cherry pick just to wiggle inside the door of 'conservative', where they can warmonger, torture, kidnap, assassinate, bail-out, spy, lie, etc.

Show me a candidate who will follow the Constitution and I'll show you a candidate who will represent properly, regardless of different slants on various topics.

The Bulshavics wanted

Change..change is not always for the better of mankind..Watch what you ask for you may get it.

the meanings of party type is backwards

Conservative means you want control .. Liberal means you let people do their thing, individualism ..
You see they have you confused from the get go.
They work in relationship with each other.
Two headed dragon or two horns.I saw the beast & the false profit in a dream..Many years ago..Tell me if you know.. What does a green & white striped shirt symbolize ? And a blue Captains uniform ?

con/lib

imo
conservative means maintain the status quo, liberal means change it. Neither really has to do with Liberty, or Libertarian type things...

The terms have been twisted yes, and as perspectives change, so should the labels personally.

But I'd agree with the OP's use of the terms.

You presume

the parties actually fight each other.

facepalm: There is a reason

facepalm: There is a reason why RP uses the world conservatism.

Ventura 2012

Political pandering

I would say is his reason, unfortunately.

ok, we get it, Ron Paul bad,

ok, we get it, Ron Paul bad, anarchist do-nothings good. Have a nice life.

Ventura 2012

BUMP...

...for TEACHING ME what Christian tolerance means....above ALL ELSE; seek to let every man EXPERIENCE his FULL God-given due Liberty...regardless of the political consequences...

My subscription to a more fundamentalist Biblical Christianity is an anchor unto myself to help restrain me from vices common to mankind; it is therefore my job to only be a witness and exemplify that personal self-restraint and a proper, equal, reciprocal respect for the life, liberty, and property of others as a professing Christian; not force my beliefs on others, or preach that Christianity is the religion for only an elitist class of wealthy individuals...

If I say that I am a Christian, and I think I have the right to regulate and CONTROL the opportunities, freedoms, and prosperity of others in the name of "fairness" while in elected office - I am a hypocrite to that faith, and everyone will be able to cite my preferences, discern my special interests, and rightly suspect I have been influenced by money; and serve money, and not the Creator of ALL men.

I am still learning "politics" and my civic responsibility; and to this day, nothing has changed after having typed tens of thousands of words...all I can do...is control myself.

reedr3v's picture

You have looked at the issues honestly

and have learned fast and well. Good for you, may you spread your insights to others in the same struggle.

Acts

4:12
Politics & Christianity today do not mix..That does not mean that you being a Christian cannot influence politics.. Everyone influences politics.

True

Christians are not of this world. We can be concerned about the earthly politics, but we don't need to be consumed by it and overwhelmed by it. Everything is in the hand of God and He is in total control (Psalm 2). But we should perform our civic duties as long as they are not contrary to the Word of God.

Being Christian, with true light of God, with illumination of the Holy Spirit, we should love all things good and all things true! And that is why many true Christians are against the evil and corrupted powers in politics.

Ditto

!

. @ @ . Power to the People!
@ O @ -----> PEOPLE
. @ @ . NOT Corporate Entities!

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