Conservative Ideology A reaction against radicalism Traditional Conservatism Developed in reaction against the excesses of the French Revolution (the Reign of Terror). Conservatives blamed the bloodbath on the Enlightenment idea that political society could be consciously created by humans. Founder of Traditional Conservative Ideology Edmund Burke British writer & Member of Parliament in Late 18th century Edmund Burke Born and raised in Dublin; studied law in London. Left law to be a political writer. Served in Parliament; rose to prominence in Whig Party because of his eloquence. Strongly opposed to the government of Lord North (PM from 1770 to 1782) because of its corruption and extravagance. In particular, opposed North’s attempts to coerce the American colonies. Supported American revolution; opposed French revolution. Traditional Conservative: Differences with liberalism 1.The origin of political society. Conservatism argues that political society develops gradually over time out of human experience and custom. It is not the product of conscious human effort or rational thought. There is no social contract. Differences with liberalism 2. Human nature is not rational. People’s ability to reason is severely limited. Nor is the world is understandable and malleable as revolutionaries assume. Therefore, efforts to improve a society will likely have terrible unanticipated consequences. Differences with liberalism 3.The acceptance of authority. Members of political society need to accept their roles in order for the whole society to be healthy and strong. People who assert their rights and question authority break down the social order and undermine the security and happiness for everyone else. There is no right of revolution. Differences with liberalism 4. Human beings are naturally unequal in their abilities. This has several implications: politically, people should defer to natural rulers to govern. socially, problems like inequality and poverty are an inescapable part of the human condition. Differences with liberalism 5.The purpose of government. Government’s goal is to provide for human needs, not natural rights, particularly needs for order, stability and control. Chaos destroys people more than tyranny ever did. Key values Tradition - including religious values – important; they are grounded in generations of reflection on ethical questions and therefore have greater weight than the ethical decisions of any individual. Authority hierarchical. Government should be strong in law & order, to control the unruly elements in society. Morality and religion are important sources of order. Traditional conservative thinking about the economy Opposed to free market capitalism because it broke down old social roles. Destabilizing Acceptance of social welfare for the poor. The elite - the higher and better class - had a responsibility to take care of the “less fortunate” [noblesse oblige]. No fear of an active large government becoming tyrannous; the elite would be the governors. Helps to explain his different views about the American and French revolutions. Burke’s contradictory positions on revolution Burke thought British society had become crassly commercial, and had lost sight of English tradition. Americans sought to reclaim this tradition (including the idea of rights), so their revolution was “conservative.” In contrast, France's revolution was the first modern attempt to consciously re-make society. No tradition of rights in France, so the revolutionaries had to invent rights. Old traditions rejected. Attitude about change Change is possible, but should be gradual, a slow evolution. Conservatives are not fascists, people on the extreme right of the political spectrum. Fascists believe human will can remake society. Fascists are radical reactionaries. Contemporary conservatism Conservative thought in the U.S. different because it grew out of classical liberalism, including support for capitalism and suspicion of government power. Since WWII, U.S. conservatism has influenced conservative ideology elsewhere. Contemporary conservatives See justice as equal opportunity, not equal outcome; Advocate market incentives to achieve socially desirable goals, rather than the state; Prefer state and local government action over federal, which is potentially tyrannous. Example of a contemporary conservative Barry Goldwater Arizona senator Candidate for President in 1964 Contemporary conservatism Developed after WWII in response to: Soviet communist threat The rise of the government welfare Political protests The civil rights movement Urban riots. How was government welfare dangerous? How was government welfare dangerous? Created high expectations about entitlements Created a giant bureaucratic state Created a culture of permissiveness; society blamed & not individual failure Can the U.S. achieve equality? Can the U.S. achieve equality? Equality means equal opportunity Can be achieved through the free market Affirmative action programs unfair What role does government play? What role does government play? Role of government limited but powerful in its sphere - national security and domestic order. Should support free market mechanism. Not worried about a large government in itself; more concerned about the danger of too much individual liberty and moral license. The New Right in the United States Emphasis on traditional moral values Strongly oppose abortion, homosexuality, and sex education in the schools. Strongly support state-supported prayer in public schools. Critical of women’s rights movement for producing higher divorce rate, more juvenile crime, increased teen pregnancy and other social problems associated with lax morality and parental oversight. The New Right in the United States Shares many attributes of traditional conservative ideology Importance of religion, morality & tradition Suspicious of talk about rights The New Right in the United States Breaks with some attributes of contemporary conservatism: Critical of free market & global economy Less concerned with individual rights than moral values Not concerned with large, active government, if it promotes moral values. Example of a New Right conservative Patrick Buchanan Served in 3 White Houses Ran for GOP Nomination in 1992 Compare & contrast Contemporary vs. New Right What role should government play? Compare & contrast Contemporary vs. New Right What role should government play? Contemporary: limited - economic liberty; law & order New Right: activist - Christian morality Compare & contrast Contemporary vs. New Right Should welfare benefits to single women who have children be cut? Compare & contrast Contemporary vs. New Right Should welfare benefits to single women who have children be cut? Contemporary: Yes; tax relief important New Right: No; it might encourage abortion Compare & contrast Contemporary vs. New Right Should government policies treat homosexuality like other civil rights? Compare & contrast Contemporary vs. New Right Should government treat homosexuality like other civil rights? Contemporary: Yes; government should be small & stay out of private lives. New Right: No; it violates morality & undermines the family Compare & contrast Contemporary vs. New Right Support for NAFTA and free trade? Compare & contrast Contemporary vs. New Right Support for NAFTA and free trade? Contemporary conservatism Yes, policies support capitalism & economic growth New Right No, policies cause economic disruptions for American workers Conservatives & drug policy Former Governor Gary Johnson pushed for reform of drug policy, to decriminalize marijuana and possibly heroin. He argued that the war on drug has failed. He is a Republican; what type of conservative is he? Conservatives & drug policy A contemporary (classical liberal) conservative. He argued that legalization would lead to reduced crime and permit some government regulation and taxation. He did not mention morality.