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Hogarth judge

November 2017

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Hogarth judge

There can be no "conservative movement"

Paul Krugman has written:

But we may be seeing the downfall of movement conservatism -- the potent alliance of wealthy individuals, corporate interests and the religious right that took shape in the 1960s and 1970s. This alliance may once have had something to do with ideas, but it has become mainly a corrupt political machine, and America will be a better place if that machine breaks down.
Conservatism will always be with us, mostly because it is not an ideology at all, it is a habit of mind, a disposition that things are better left alone. "Movement conservatism" is almost an oxymoron. People who join movements, become activists, and compile enemies lists are the perennial foes of conservatism.

I have always considered myself conservative. A religious conservative, in fact. But my religion is one of grace rather than law. Its only real political dimension is this: I believe that the Golden Rule forbids using law and government to reorder my neighbours' lives in ways I'd be inclined to consider improvements. I'm a foe of abortion bans and smoking bans. I don't support gun control, not because I believe in Second Amendment rights, but because I prefer to leave folks to the enjoyment of their dangerous toys in hope that they will leave me alone with mine. Activism is a plague; the cause doesn't matter.

So I haven't seen much actual conservatism in the "conservative movement" of the last thirty-odd years. An alliance among military adventurists, big business, and the so-called "religious right", a pack of social reformists seeking to rebuild their lost Eden, is an alliance of the least conservative forces in society. By contrast, the worthiest achievement of the "1960s liberals" was the clearing away from the lawbooks of foolish laws born of forgotten moral panics. The 1960s liberals were more conservative than "movement conservatism."

Conservatism abides; that's what it does. The rediscovery of conservatism by the Republicans would be a good thing. They need to once more become the party of fiscal responsibility and clean government, and they need to dump the cults.

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