Dec 16, 2012
Charles Cooke writes When Words lose their Meaning in National Review Online, 12/13/12:
The two key taxonomical terms that we use in American political life are largely meaningless. Whether it is a case of thought corrupting language or language corrupting thought, our politics is suffering as a result. I contribute to the problem as keenly as anyone by identifying myself as a “conservative” when I am a “conservative” in no meaningful way. My opponents do the same thing, describing themselves as “liberals” when they, too, are no such thing. It is one big conspiracy of ease.
Like Hayek, who wrote the seminal essay on this subject, I believe that the great joy of a free people is their dynamism. The relentless innovation that occurs in environments of liberty is the very opposite of traditional conservatism, at least in the reactionary, European sense of the word. The rise and fall of ventures and ideas — left to salutary neglect and subjected to the arbitration of free consumers and citizens — is the perfect opposite to the stasis of intrusive government and of the command economy. Look at the American computer industry to see this principle in action.
In this respect, I am a “liberal.” By and large, it is “the Right” that is happy to allow Schumpeter’s creative destruction to take its course, and “the Left” that advocates the use of force to prevent it from doing so. It is the Right that wants to abolish federal departments and to free up schools from federal and labor-union control, and the Left that wants to keep things exactly as they are — if not indeed to reinforce that control. It is the Right that was happy to let General Motors sink into history, and the Left that speaks of the American car industry as if it were 1957. It is the Right that wants to reexamine the New Deal and Great Society on both philosophical and actuarial grounds, and the Left that will permit neither reexamination, all pieces of the state that have thus far been built being untouchable. And so on, and so forth. Who, one might ask, are the “conservatives”?
I am a “conservative” insofar as I wish to conserve America’s radical Constitution and to keep intact its classical-liberal provisions and presumptions — those of limited government, local control, free markets, freedom of speech and assembly, the right to bear arms, trial by jury, blind justice, and so forth. But you can see the problem: When a radically liberal framework exists, as it does in the form of the United States Constitution, one ends up being both sides of the terminological coin. To be a radical liberal, one must also be a conservative in order to keep the framework. Thus the radical becomes the conservative, and those who would prefer the European principles of government unlimited by static values, an enlightened ruling class, and centralized control — and who are opposed to the maintenance of the radically liberal framework, as “progressives” (another thorny word) have always been — become the liberals.
Since my first blog entry I have carried the position ‘Beyond Left and Right’,. This has angered and disappointed some readers as they seem unable to judge an idea until it is labeled or identified to a speaker’s name. The classical liberal is a mind of scientific reasoning, individual rights, and limited government. This is contrary to some on the right who promote creationist ideology and theologically based government policies. But it is also contrary to many on the left who restrict freedom and reasoning to the politically correct and expand government power in the name of social justice at the expense of individual freedom.
The greatest tyrannies of the twentieth century came from those who rejected the classically liberal values. Without the moral or rational basis of a free society science is debased into a political goal. The study of human biology lead to the theory of eugenics (which was American in its origin) which lead to the holocaust.
Is it conservative to wish to maintain a radically liberal framework? Is it liberal to intimidate free speech to serve the politically correct? Is it conservative to insist on equality before the law? Is it liberal to use the government to dispense special favors to the politically connected elite?
Orwell would have loved the way “justice” as in’ social justice’ or ‘environmental justice’ has been perverted to crush individual rights, due process, or equality before the law.
A Republic replaces a monarch with an elected leaders who is restrained by a constitution. Without that restraint a democracy can turn popular will into tyranny as it has throughout history. The language will be used to rationalize and justify actions as moral when it is nothing more than a blatant power grab.
As their power dwindles they turn to the government to maintain a status quo. Change is the last thing they want, whether it be unions or crony capitalists.