On Conservative Democracy
I would like to discuss a serious writing: Conservative Democracy
Liberal principles have brought us to a dead end by Yoram Hazony January 2019:
The author begins as follows:
The present moment is one of growing discomfort, both in America and in Europe, with the regnant liberal political theory often described as liberal democracy. It is frequently said that the only genuine alternatives to liberal democracy are Marxism and Fascism, but I don’t believe this is true.
The author continues discussing “the Western nations disintegrating before our eyes” stating:
The most significant institutions that have characterized America and Britain for the last five centuries, giving these countries their internal coherence and stability—the Bible, public religion, the independent national state, and the traditional family—are not merely under assault. They have been, at least since World War II, in precipitous decline.
In the United States, for example, some 40 percent of children are today born outside of marriage. The overall fertility rate has fallen to 1.76 children per woman. American children for the most part receive twelve years of public schooling that is scrubbed clean of God and Scripture. And it is now possible to lose one’s livelihood or even to be prosecuted for maintaining traditional Christian or Jewish views on various subjects.
The author continues says that the primary focus of European and American political elites for decades has been the United States been: “an ideologically anti-religious, anti-traditionalist universalist power seeking to bring its version of the Enlightenment to the nations of the world, if necessary by force.”
The author describes rising nationalism in the U.S. stating that: “Perhaps 70 percent of President Trump’s votes came from Evangelical Christians and conservative Catholics”. He talks then of “two powerful movements” in the U.S.: a dominant “liberal” movement and a resistant nationalist movement.
In describing what he sees as the “liberal establishment” in the U.S. (and Western Europe) he states:
The three axioms on which the liberal system is founded are these:
1. Availability and Sufficiency of Reason. Human individuals are capable of exercising reason, which “teaches all mankind, who will but consult it” (as Locke puts it). By reasoning, they are able to discover universal truths that hold across all human societies and in every historical time frame.
2. The Free and Equal Individual. Human individuals are by nature “perfectly free” and “perfectly equal” (as Locke puts it).
3. Obligation Arises From Choice. Human individuals have no obligations to political institutions until “by their own consents they make themselves members of some politic society” (as Locke puts it).
Continuing he states:
But the crucial point is that none of these things—God, the Bible, the family, and the independent national state—can be derived from liberal principles. That is, there is nothing in the liberal system that requires you, or even encourages you, to also adopt a commitment to God, the Bible, family, or nation. If one is committed to these things, it is for reasons that are entirely “external” to the liberal political system.
The author then talks extensively of the two worlds which he sees as alternatives to fascism and Marxism: the liberal and conservative worlds.
In describing an ideal conservative democracy he refers to its views as including:
1. Public Religion: a strong biblical tradition in government and public life which does not require: “a wall of separation between church and state”.
2. Law: a rejection of “universal reason of judges, which often amounts t o little more than acceding to passing fashion” with a respect for “the Anglo-American political tradition as a whole-with its roots in Scripture and the English common law-which alone offers a complete picture of the English and American legal inheritance”.
3. Education: “Liberals believe that schools should teach schools to recognize liberty, equality, and consent as the universal aims of political order” while “Conservatives believe education (…) should focus on the historical development and advantages of the Anglo-American constitutional and religious traditions with its roots in the Bible…”
4. Economy: Liberals seek a “level playing field” between nations in trade, while “Conservatives regard the market economy and free enterprise as indispensable for the advancement of the nation in its well and well-being”. Additionally conservatives see the market economy as hurting: “traditional institutions based on mutual loyalty-including the family, the nation and religious tradition”. Conservatives also see “economic arrangements” varying from country to country seeking to gain advantage for its people.
5. Immigration: Liberals support large-scale immigration from countries very different from the U.S. while conservatives only support such immigration where the immigrants seek to assimilate and integrate into existing national traditions,
6. Liberal Empire: Liberals believe that countries should be pressed and even at times coerced into becoming liberal democracies. Conservatives believe that such actions often cause more harm than good, bringing about collapse and chaos.
7. International Bodies: Conservatives see international bodies having power over countries tending towards arbitrariness and autocracy as opposed to liberals supporting such bodies.
I have a lot of difficulties with much of what this author posits. I’m a little unclear as to what this reality was, that has disappeared due to “liberalism”. In looking at Great Britain I see a country that at the end of World War II was still holding on to India, with the second largest population in the world as its colony.
In looking at the United States following World War II I see a country where legal discrimination against non-White Americans was common. Even where it wasn’t common in the North, “Sundown Towns” existed. As late as 1967 the following is noted (referring to Norman, Oklahoma):
George and Barbara Henderson were told that when they moved to Norman in 1967.
They were the first African-Americans to buy a home in the town when George got a job at OU, becoming the university’s third full-time African-American faculty member.
"They said, 'Don't go. Norman is not a place for black people.' He said, 'Don't go. You'll be miserable,'” said George and Barbara. …
" People would come and throw dirt, throw trash on the lawn. A feeble attempt at making a cross was thrown on the lawn. And I had a car that was egged,” said the Hendersons.
There was even a serious threat against their young daughter, who was only 5-years-old at the time.
"And our daughter was threatened with a gun. 'If you step on our grass again,' he said, 'I'll kill you, I'll kill you,'” remembered George and Barbara.
This seemingly idolized United States was a country, where women had few rights in relation to men, Gay/Lesbian/Trans people were hidden, with the threats of loss of job and worse if they were exposed.
Religion was allowed to be taught in the schools.
Current figures of the religious affiliation of the population of the U.S. shows that:
70.9% of the population is Christian.
25.4% are Evangelical Protestant.
20.8% are Catholic.
14.7% are mainline Protestant.
6.5% are historically Black Protestant.
1.6% are Mormon.
5.9% are non-Christian faiths, including:
.9% are Muslim.
22.8% are “religion none”.
It would appear that those whose religion is: “none” are nearly as common as those who identify as: “Evangelical Protestant”.
I do not see a “liberal” ideology or perspective that one can readily contrast with either a “conservative” or “nationalist” perspective.
I see a “pro-business ideology” which commonly supports minimal business regulations and low business taxes as well as lower tax rates for high income individuals.
I see an ideology which is best personified by support of the National Rifle Association which as a strong, single issue perspective, exercises power far beyond its numbers opposing politicians who support legislation limiting or banning ownership of assault rifles and similar weapons.
I see a coalition of interests which support various arms sales worldwide as well as posing as protectors of the United States against various deemed enemies. Such interests focus upon support of the Israeli Government and strong opposition to the Iranian Government. In addition to the Iranian Government there often is a general hostility to Muslims. At various times these interests strongly oppose the North Korean, Venezuelan and Cuban governments.
I see a coalition of interests which focus upon “minorities” and “economic justice” issues. This coalition includes a steadily decreasing number of union members and supporters. This coalition of interests is often portrayed as being far more powerful and influential than it actually is. At times this coalition of interests has serious divides often related to racial divides between White and non-White people. The “economic justice” participation also has divides between “radicals” and “liberals”.
There can be strong conflicts between parts of the latter coalition of interests and “conservatives” and/or “nationalists”. Political elites often support policies including both economic and foreign policy issues which can create divisions and conflicts among significant numbers of Americans.
Foreign policy issues include strong U.S. support of the Saudi Arabian government leadership. Past similar issues have included interventions in various countries including: North and South Korea, Israel, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Cuba, Panama, Nicaragua, Grenada, South Africa, etc.
Economic issues can include: changes in taxation policies for individuals and corporations, issues related to the coal industry, issues related to global warming, deregulation of various regulations of American businesses such as related to car emissions limits, required increases in automobile gas mileage and various other issues.
Obviously, there can be differences between: “liberal” and “conservative” as there can be between: “democrat” and “republican”. Some issues show clear divides; some not.
Clearly there can be differences in how “law” is viewed. Conservatives commonly find it important to protect businesses and business interests. Liberals seem more focused upon protecting “the little guy” vs. either “the big guy” or large business interests.
Conservatives do value “traditional” education more than liberals do. Liberals seem more interested in helping others learn to learn. Conservatives seem more focused upon socializing children into a society they see as established and clear.
There are often differences in how the economy and economic interests are looked at. Conservatives seem much more accepting of (sometimes brutal) dictatorships, if there are profits to be made. Liberals seem more interested in fairness, though there can be splits over “free markets” vs. “protectionism”.
Immigration perspectives are often more confusing than the author of this article speaks of. Conservatives commonly are more interested in “economic” interests related to immigrants. They want “cheap labor” and the ability to bust the remaining union interests that exist.
Liberals are more concerned with refugees and states of oppression that immigrants may face in their home countries. Conservatives seem much more open to stereotyping immigrants in various negative ways. Liberals see how immigrants help our economy and help be fair to the rest of the world. Conservatives seem much more focused on “fear of the other” and some to hostility towards Muslims and often other people of color.
Liberals do look more frequently at oppressiveness in some foreign countries than conservatives do. They seem less swayed by economic interests in ties to dictatorial regimes. Both sides seem often to get caught in trying to be pragmatic and make the best out of difficult situations. Neither side seems to be able to avoid costly situations where U.S. bullying of foreign leaders and/or collaboration with oppressive leaders backfire later on.
There often is a totally different perspective on international law particularly in relation to both the U.N. and the International Court of Justice. In both instances conservatives seem scared of massive distaste of U.S. bullying of other countries and their leaders. Democrats tend to trust the U.N. and the International Court of Justice.
Religion seems to be the big dividing point that the author of this writing is concerned about. There seems a deep faith in religion, though how this is applied is often not clearly explained.
Liberals do tend to want a separation of “church and state”. Some conservatives seem to want religion involved in state actions. Conservatives often love public funding of private, often religious schools, particularly for middle-class, white children. They seem to see the public schools as some “liberal hotbed”.
The seeming love of religion and feeling that it is very important in public life seems to often create situations where conservative business interests can profit and dictate public policy.
Religion can be a force for both good and bad. Activist religious leaders can push conservative agendas through the guise of being unbiased. Other activist religious leaders can show a concern for social action that is admirable.
I do not see how the activist religious involvement that this author seems to strongly support can move away from pushing an Evangelical Protestant (Conservative) agenda. It often says that the 25% of the country that are Evangelicals should dictate much in our lives.
I think that this has little to do with true conservatism and liberalism.
Conservatives such as this author seem to value particular people and their values much more than others, who are different.
Traditional marriage advocates with their hostility to GLBT causes predominate. Racism is often not addressed and when it is dealt with, it commonly is not taken seriously. There is a predominance of respect towards traditional relationships with older, male, (usually white) domination.
Lost in all of this is a lot that is important to me. Undue respect for patriarchal leaders can lead to the hiding of abuse by these elders. A number of rabidly homophobic, conservative white male leaders, have been found to be closeted gay men.
I live in a world where I increasingly become less and less important and I accept that. People of color are becoming more and more important. Younger people are opening up new worlds that those of my generation never had heard of. We never had to deal with the pronouns and their choice – to be addressed with. I was always: “he”. Case closed!
I do not fear the changes that are coming. Conservatives such as this author fear change. They prefer the orderliness that ignores diversity and alternate views of the world(s) around us.
I do not, however, see this clear, liberal leadership which the author talks repeatedly about around us. I do not see a clear split of worlds between the “nationalists” like Donald Trump and those who oppose him and many things that he represents. Plenty of business leaders and others are in some areas seen as “liberal”, while their interests are really quite conservative and traditional.
I see good, positive activists around me, who may well not be “liberals” at all. Plenty of seeming “liberal” people are racist, sexist, homophobic or simply obnoxious.
I don’t want to return to a world of the past. I do have concerns about the future. There are no assurances that good decisions will be made by those around us. We need to stay connected, critical and concerned.
I am optimistic and pessimistic! It is interesting and will continue to be interesting. I have no faith in the Republican Party in the U.S. The Democrats are weak also.
We need to push for what we want and need. Thanks!
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