Friday, September 16, 2011

The Death Of "Compassionate Conservatism"

 When George W. Bush was elected president in 2000, he proclaimed that he was a "compassionate conservative." This week, during the second Republican candidates debate, it became clear that the party -- post Bush -- has rejected that moniker. When Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul if a hypothetical young man -- who refused to buy health insurance -- should still be cared for, Paul attempted to say that religious orders and other private charities existed for that purpose.

The audience, however, drowned out the good doctor. When Blitzer pressed further and asked if the young man should be left to die, the crowd enthusiastically answered, "Yeah!" The exchange, writes Paul Krugman, in this morning's New York Times, indicates that "at this point, American politics is fundamentally about different moral visions."

Modern conservatism  has come along way from one of its spiritual godfathers, Friedrich Hayek, who declared  -- in The Road to Serfdom -- that he favoured  "a comprehensive system of social insurance."  "Now," writes Krugman,

compassion is out of fashion — indeed, lack of compassion has become a matter of principle, at least among the G.O.P.’s base.
And what this means is that modern conservatism is actually a deeply radical movement, one that is hostile to the kind of society we’ve had for the past three generations — that is, a society that, acting through the government, tries to mitigate some of the “common hazards of life” through such programs as Social Security, unemployment insurance, Medicare and Medicaid. 

Conservatives argue that they are for old fashioned values. The truth is that there is nothing old fashioned about their values. Like Cain, they reject the notion that they are their brothers' keepers.


Anonymous said...

Holy shit. I thought that they hated socialized medicine because of a naive belief that church and private charities would provide. But cheering for random young men to die in the street? That's just incredible and horrifying.

Thingumbobesquire said...

Complete and utter coverup of the fact that Obama's bailout of Wall Street amounts to the same thing. Remember his opinion that his grandmother could have done without her hip replacement. Harvard is full of this sheep in wolf's clothing tripe...

The Mound of Sound said...

Owen, I'm unconvinced that today's Right is actually conservative. We make a big mistake when we assume that the political spectrum to the right ends at conservative when, in fact, it simply continues to ever more authoritarian, corporatist regimes that eventually abandon democracy for totalitarianism. The same dynamic applies to the left. In either direction one goes from democracy, which is inherently progressive to some degree, to totalitarianism.

When you read the writings of the fathers of conservatism, beginning with Edmund Burke, it is plain they embraced progressivism, even environmentalism. Today's neo-conservatives do not share those instincts.

It was telling that Harper's first order of the day on the merger with the PCs was to strip "progressive" from the name of the united party. That wasn't, as some hoped, symbolic.

Owen Gray said...

It has reached the point where you can no longer have a reasonable argument with these folks.

They are beyond facts and floating in a twilight zone of self-imposed certitude.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Mound, that today's "neo-conservatives" are not conservatives at all. The late Dalton Camp tried hard to drive that argument home.

And you're right. Edmund Burke would not be impressed.

From where I sit, these folks look like disciples of Ayn Rand -- who, if one places her books against the life she lived, was simply a fraud.

And, yes, there have been tyrannies from both the right and the left. When voters refuse to reign in the foolishness of their representatives, they will live to regret their own failures.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, "Bob," that Obama -- in many ways -- has been hugely disappointing. He consistently underestimates those who oppose him.

That said, I shudder at the alternative. Just as I'm thankful that nothing happened to George W. Bush -- and Dick Cheney never became president -- I still believe that people are better off without a President McCain or the other Republican dwarfs who are presently vying for the job.