Friday, February 12, 2010

An Island of Thought

Our absurdly large amount of defense spending, and the fact that Republicans rarely criticize it (where are you Ron Paul?!!), is fascinating to me.  Especially because it presents such a good refutation for many conservative arguments about big government. 

Basically, if they don't believe in a government program, they say the "market" can do it better.  Yet if they believe in it, the fact that the market can't is simply assumed.  So, the silliness of relying on a private military to protect every citizen is off the table.  Yet expecting private health care, parks, libraries, schools, mental health services, forestry, etc., etc. to guarantee equal access doesn't seem silly at all.

It seems fundamentally childish to not accept that in a democracy we have different preferences, yet this is what conservatives are always arguing.  Defense spending = good, everything else is socialist pork.  Yet liberals could just as easily make the exact opposite argument.  To the extent that liberals don't, at the risk of sounding superior, I honestly feel that it is a simple lack of chauvinism on the part of liberals.  In fairness, this ad hominem suggestion has less to do with an innate character flaw in modern conservatives, but that the conservative philosophy deprives from those who accept it many of the means of thought from which temperate, reasoned thinking is derived.  The absolutist nature of conservative thought is contrary to the relativist aspects of liberalism, thereby always pushing it into a didactic posture of defensiveness.  Not only is the philosophical trajectory one of enormous self-infatuation, but it puts the self in the position of always having to put up a "fight".  In other words, "I am right, therefore you are wrong and a threat to me."

Conservatives have much more difficulty with heterogeneity.  Certainly on an individual level, with regard to specific issues, they can be very "tolerant".  But it is no coincidence that the most boorish, chauvinist opinions are always found in higher levels on the right.  Pick any social issue and you'll find a tendency toward myopia, not plurality. 

This is of course, conservatism's strength.  Conservatism is frequently exactly what is needed to temper liberalism's more dangerously deconstructive tendencies.  But to the extent that its insular traditionalism is its weakness, it can make for a very undemocratic political and social conversation.

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