Thursday, May 13, 2010

What Type of Conservative Are You and Why it Matters

by Freddie Boisseau

The first step in fixing a problem is to identify the problem. To do that you have to be honest to yourself about what the problem is. The conservatives in this country suffer from the problem of ignoring the different types of conservatism and how those parts can work with and against each other. To resolve this problem we first need to be honest about who we are and resolve the conflicts between our different factions. Split asunder we are used against each other, and thus, made weak.

From my perspective, the three factions of conservatism are political, fiscal and social. They each have their good points and their own unique weaknesses. These weaknesses can and must be tempered by the strengths of the other forms of conservatism. This can only happen if we understand those strengths and weaknesses, and that is what I hope to develop with this article.

I would like to start with Political Conservatism, or what can also be called originalism. This group tends to believe in the principle of limited government that our Founders setup for us. They tend to support personal freedom and liberty, negative rights, and the free market system. They are the defenders of the Constitution and the Republic. They truly understand the ideas of John Locke and the republic that Madison designed, but they also understand the concerns the Founders like Patrick Henry expressed about that republic. Unfortunately, they do not have the whole answer to our problems, they have their own weaknesses.

The Political Conservatism policies are not necessarily bound by fiscal or social boundaries, and this is where they make their mistakes. For example a Political Conservative could be lead astray to supporting major military expenses, because they are authorized by the Constitution. Without the restraint of Fiscal Conservative principles, there is nothing to restraint their belief that the expense is legitimate. They need the beliefs of the other two to keep them from falling into traps like this one.

Fiscal Conservatives are the members of our society that watch the pocketbook. They tend to support limiting government spending and thus they prefer lower taxes paid to the government. They also seem to support other sound fiscal policies dealing with money, such as borrowing and rules dealing with banking. They also are the primary supporters of the free market and the principles set forth by Adam Smith. They understand the differences in views of Jefferson and Hamilton regarding the central bank.

But their primary weakness mirrors that of the Political Conservatives, they are not as beholden to the Constitution as their Political Conservative brothers. They can and have been led astray in supporting programs that are unconstitutional, because they sound good and the expense is zero or very low. For example, a Fiscal Conservative would have no problems with implementing regulations eliminating home schooling, as long as the additional cost to the government and citizens are low or non-existence. Since they are less bound by the Constitution, they have no problem violating the rights of parents to educate their children as they see fit. They need the Political Conservatives’ ideals to help them recognize when they go astray.

I left the Social Conservatives for the last, because, to me, they are the most important, though they are also the most likely to be led astray. They are the heart and soul of the conservative movement. They hold and promote the rules that we use to define how we treat each other and it is from these rules that we formed our Constitution and our republic. They are the ones that promote our morals and helping of those in our society that are less fortunate. They are the heirs of all great religious leaders that have shaped our world for the better. This is where we draw our greatest strength, and it is also our greatest weakness.

It is our greatest weakness, because while their beliefs were used to create our Constitution that the Political Conservatives hold dear, they are not bound by it. They are not also bound by the beliefs of the Fiscal Conservatives; they have a higher purpose to uphold. It is this purpose helping those less fortunate than them that can be very destructive. If they lose focus because while we should be a moral people and help each other, those charges are individual in nature. We cannot force people to live up to those standards, nor can we protect people from their own destructive behavior. We must realize that while some of the beliefs and values expressed by Social Conservatives are good for both the individual and society as a whole, each of us must come to those beliefs and values willingly.

Finally, I have been speaking as if these three type of conservatism need to be brought in balance in the group as a whole, but actually these three types of conservatism need to be in balance in all of us. If they are in balance in all of us, then they are in balance in whole. For example how many of you have not helped someone who asked for and needed help when you could? Have you lied to a police officer if you broke a law, even speeding? Is doing that holding to the principle of a Social Conservative, helping other people and upholding social norms?

How many you have promoted not allowing someone to express their opinion because you disagreed? How many of you have discounted or persecuted another religion because it was one you disagreed with? Is that holding to the principles of a Political Conservative, protecting the rights of others given to them by the Creator?

How many of you spend money that you do not have? How many of you live from paycheck to paycheck? Is that holding to the principles of a Fiscal Conservative, not building up debt and controlling spending?

I know that I cannot answer no to all of the above. I know that I have failings, but acknowledging that fact is the first step to recovery. I know that I have a lot of work to do to bring myself in balance, but I also know that I can count on you to help me do that, just like you can count on me to help you.

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