Thursday, November 06, 2008


What is Conservatism--Revised

What is Conservatism? An Outline of Key Ideas (as of: 11/6/08)


The two questions I have addressed in this outline are: 1) What is conservatism? and, 2) What ideas are at the heart of conservative thinking? This outline will in turn be a guide to further expansion of the topics identified in a systematic manner. It is apparent that each idea identified here is worthy of immense treatment, even a series of books and articles--many of which already exist, of course. Of special importance is the connectivity between these ideas that, when integrated into a whole, lead to conservatism as a full, working political philosophy.


A major connectivity is through the education that children receive. A second connectivity is their experiences in life that confirm the teachings of conservatism. Many of these ideas are found in the US Constitution, or are an integral element of the Christian way of life that permeates conservative thought. Participation in our political life is yet another connectivity path.


A definition of conservatism that I support is: The preservation of those principles, ideas, ethics, morality, laws, religion and institutions that are considered to be sound and sacred in the US, as proved over time, while also recognizing that there is a need for changes or evolutions as inconsistencies and new problems surface.

This does not mean acceptance of the idea of our Constitution being a "living document", but rather, acceptance that changes are inevitable but infrequent, and they should be evaluated carefully in a just process of amendment before incorporating the change.


So what are the ideas? There are nine major divisions of the conservative approach:


1. God and Transcendentalism,

2. Natural Law and Rights,

3. Justice,

4. Principles, Institutions, Traditions and Customs,

5. Freedom of Commerce and Intellectual Pursuits,

6. Right-Sized Federal Government,

7. Right-Sized State, County and Local Governments,

8. Charity,

9. Changes.


Each of these divisions will be expanded in outline form in what follows.


1. God, Transcendentalism

(Why does the Universe, Life and Man Exist At All? -C. S. Lewis) (Basics born in the far past that are still valid)

a. Existence of Sin and Evil, Imperfect Man,

b. Tribalism (Ethnocentric, Kinship, Survival, Customs, Rules, Worship of their Gods, Life Rhythms, Rituals, Conflicts...)(Language factor),

c. Simple, Practical Morality (Thou shalt not: murder; steal; commit adultery; covet; or lie),

d. Territorial Imperatives: and the notion of property ownership,

e. Revelation of One God,

f. Instruction of Children,

g. Judeo-Christian Religion, Dogmas and Morality,

h. Church Worship, Religious and Moral Instruction,

i. Envy-Free Motivation,

j. Virtue and its rewards,

k. Careful, watchful tolerance of other religions and non-religion religions such as atheism, agnosticism, Islam, and others, especially those that are a direct threat to our society.


2. Natural Law and Rights ( Rights given by God to man, and confirmed in our founding documents, especially the Declaration of Independence)


a. Equality in the Sight of God,

b. Life, Survival,

c. Freedom, Liberty,

d. Pursuit of Happiness,

e. Ensure Property Rights Remain Inviolate--Physical and Intellectual,

f. Equality of Opportunity,

g. The Golden Rule,

h. The Need for Order

(that preserves a way of life),

i. Equality before the Law,

j. Environmental Stewardship by All Citizens.

3. Justice (Essentially the protection of man under natural and civil law)

a. Freedom of Speech, Religion, Assembly, Press,

b. Rule of Just and Principled Law,

c. Equality Under the Law,

d. Trial by Jury,

e. Right of Self-Defense,

f. Your Home is Your Castle,

g. Penalties—Imprisonment, Death,

h. Common Law, Codifying Social Institutions,

i. Effective and Honest Law Enforcement.


4. Principles, Institutions, Traditions and Customs (Mediating and educating principles, maxims, organizations, churches, and parties that support natural law and justice in the nation)


a. Top level principles


1. Realism, not Relativism*,

2. Skepticism, not Progressivism ,*

3. Evolved Order, not Constructivism, *

4. Federalism, not Statism,*

5. Capitalism, not Collectivism, *

6. Theism, not Secularism, *

7. Sovereignty, not Internationalism,

8. Personal Responsibility, not Central Solutions to All Problems.


b. Mediating Structures


1. Marriage, Family, Education of Children,

2. Church, Education of Followers and Children,

3. Schools and Education of Children,

4. Neighborhood, City, County, State,

5. Individualism and individual responsibility,

6. Existence of Inequality in Men,

7. Responsibilities of Citizenship,

8. Groups, Associations, Orders, Think Tanks,

9. Particularly American Culture and Ways of Life.


c. Organization of Government and Guidance


1. Tripartite Governments,

2. Checks and Balances,

3. Contracts, and one's Word,

4. Subsidiarity—make decisions at the lowest level,

5. Simple and Fair Taxes,

6. Republicanism,

7. Laissez Faire Economics,

8. Change when proved to be effective, not faddist experimentation,

9. A Written Constitution and Bill of Rights: original intent,

10. The Declaration of Independence,

11. Assimilation of Immigrants,

12. Bringing Good Science to Global Warming,

13. Halting the Politics of Envy,

14. Firm Solutions to Illegal Immigration, including border control,

15. Reduction of Multiculturalism and Diversity for their own sake in favor of a strong, central American Culture.


5. Freedom of Commerce and Intellectual Pursuits

(Extending freedom and liberty to business and trade)


a. Capitalism,

b. Free Markets,

c. Research, Study, Experimentation Invention, Development,

d. Protection of material and intellectual Rights: Patents and Copyrights.


6. “Right-Sized” Federal Government

(Let the business of government be Liberty, and let it remain minimal to that task.)


a. Administration,

b. Justice,

c. Legislature,

d. Treasury,

e. Foreign Affairs,

f. Regulation of Commerce,

g. Defense,

h. Intelligence,

i. Nationwide Services (transportation, postal, roads, disease control, Border Patrol, etc.),

j. Rejection of all forms of Liberalism, Socialism, Pacifism, and Communism.


7. "Right-Sized" State, County, and Local Governments

(States have Rights to be exercised instead of the Federal government. See the 10th Amendment. Extending freedom and liberty to the states and localities.)


a. Administration,

b. Legislature,

c. Judiciary,

d. Education,

e. Public Services,

f. Regulation of Commerce,

g. Defense.


8. Charity

(Charitable contributions should not increase the national debt. Welfare-ism has blunted the individual's obligation to perform charitable works, which is a central factor and one of the greatest virtues in Christianity)


a. Individual Contributions,

b. Group and Church Contributions,

c. Business and Corporate Contributions

d. Local Government and State Contributions,

e. National and International Contributions.


9. Changes.

(Redirecting government to the conservative way)

Far from being change-adverse, conservatives desperately want changes in a number of areas:


a. Congress---Rules, Terms, Committees, Earmarks, Ethics, Lobbying,

b. Campaign Financing, Especially from Foreign Sources,

c. Revise and Restrict Tort Law,

d. Fix the Health System without Destroying Market Freedom,

e. Education System Needs to be Overhauled and Remove the Federal Government Entirely,

f. Proscribe Unions and Strengthen Right-to-Work Laws,

g. Tax System--Total Revamp, Flat or Fair Tax (but not both!),

h. Better and Larger Military Organization and Equipment,

i. Drill and Pump! Energy Production (Oil, Coal, Nuclear, Wind, Tides, Hydrogen),

j. Consider National Service for All High School Graduates--two years,

k. Return Laws to the Original Intent of the Constitution,

l. Prevent Justices from Legislating from the Bench (instead, they must interpret the law),

m. Reduce the National Debt,

n. Reduce Overall Spending,

o. Fix Social Security (Private Accounts, etc),

p. Departments--Revamp and Streamline all Government Departments, especially State, Labor, Agriculture, Intelligence, Homeland Security, and Interior,

q. Agencies, Boards, Committees, and Commissions--Revamp All 1,177, and force all of them to justify their existence, budget, and manpower,

r. Break the hold of government unions. Secret ballots,

s. Rescind Roe versus Wade, and devolve abortion to State control (it is not a federal issue),

t. Define Marriage as being between a Man and a Woman and bar same-sex marriages,

u. Consider how best to qualify candidates for President and Congress (a Quality Test?) What must a candidate know before running for office?

v. Convene a Constitutional Convention to clarify the ideas of: absolutely no separation of state and religion; close loopholes that allow Justices to reinterpret the law, and other matters providing loopholes for clever lawyers to exploit.


The objective of these changes would be to either eliminate unneeded or obsolete operations, improve those that remain, and remove duplication of efforts, while at the same time relieving the burden of over-regulation from small businesses. A new nuclear power plant proposal currently has to be vetted by no less than 24 different bureaucracies, for example.


These elements of conservatism cannot be achieved in a short time, but they must stand as the real goals of the conservative movement, and should be brought to bear on all legislation, taxation, budgeting, and spending in our nation, year in and year out. Make these elements objectives to be met 5, 10, 20 or more years hence, depending on the level of difficulty there is in realizing them. All things are possible to those who strive!


Those who do not believe that these changes can be realized have lost faith. There are many external movements in the world that could well lead us to rein in the laissez faire social policies of the present, simply because there may not be sufficient funds available to pay for the massive benefits being contemplated by some liberal politicians.


One could cite China as a potential financial enemy, if only because they may lose faith in the US Dollar, and begin to sell off their trillions of banked dollars. Then too, there is the combination of Social Security and Medicare entitlements that will currently be exhausted by mid century without substantial repair. It is certain that we need changes, but they must be of the belt tightening variety, not profligate spending.



* Adapted from Brad Miner in The Concise Conservatism Encyclopedia, 1996.




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