Answering Klaus on The Meaning of Conservatism
Using this site’s readers as a surrogate for conservatives, commenter “Klaus” put forth this question about the meaning of conservatism…
My understanding is that the denizens of this site generally advocate low taxes, little or no gov’t regulation of industry/commerce, and are opposed to any sense of redistribution of wealth.The answer is that the statement is not accurate. Most conservatives would agree that low taxes and a government that does not involve itself in redistributing wealth are ideal, but there will always be areas where some regulation is necessary. The difference between a centrist conservative and a centrist liberal is that the conservative wants to give markets the benefit of the doubt wherever possible, while the liberal says that some things are “too important” to be left to markets, e.g. educating children, even if there is no evidence that strict government regulation of individual behavior, e.g. a geographic monopoly school system, does any good. To use another example, can you point to one mainstream conservative (or even one non-kooky libertarian) who advocates dismantling the SEC or repealing child labor laws?
Is that a fair and accurate statement?
In general, conservatives don’t believe that high taxes are a good thing in and of themselves; they believe that taxes should be collected to pay for the few things that government needs to focus on. The liberal view, on the other hand, rests on the assumption that given infinite resources, government will do infinite good. That is a much more ideological view of the world than the more pragmatic conservative view, which holds that power over others should be decentralized wherever possible, so that no small oligarchy can really mess things up for lots and lots of people.
The question back to Klaus is does he believe that there should be any limits on the power of government?
Finally, in posing his questions, Klaus opened with…
I would like to ask one question. If you can give me a satisfactory answer, I will never darken your doorstep again. How’s that for incentive?Even though I (and other AR commenters in the original post) have answered Klaus’ question and helped set him straight, we really haven’t done it out of a desire to drive him away. Unlike progressives, conservatives do not expect a final ending to policy debates, where a cadre of enlightened expert bureaucrats will determine the perfect formula for running everyone’s lives. Conservatives expect that a dialog reflecting the rich diversity of human experience will always be necessary for determining the truth.