Over the past six to seven weeks, I have been dissecting “conservative political philosophy”.
I don’t believe conservative political philosophy is effective enough for our present age.
I am a firm believer in the value of having aggressive debates between liberal and conservative positions. But there’s no denying that conservative arguments need to be reworked if they are to be a viable alternative at a national political level.
It’s understood that the foremost conservative theorist of the past century was Russell Kirk. William F. Buckley considered him the backbone of conservative political theory.
For that reason I have been taking Kirk’s writings and challenging them. To this point I have found them backward leaning. My sense is that today’s activist conservatives have taken Kirk’s writings and used them as tactics to go to war with the federal government, and to reinforce conservative ideological views which support the most regressive views I have been exposed to in my life.
On even the simplest of points like the “birther” issue, conservative logic is tortured and downright mean spirited.
But it’s one thing to criticize a position and another to take a position. It’s time for me to take some long views on political philosophy. So here’s my attempt.
1. Human development is long and complex. However, the modern political mind senses that the arc of human progress bends slightly upward.
Humans have a history of cruelty. They also have a history of enlightenment. The modern political mind has made it clear that the former is unacceptable and the latter is preferable. And so, the modern mind works to bend the arc to our better angels.
2. The evolution of government along the lines of checks and balances, citizen rights, minority protection, and rule of law are among the highest achievements in human history.
The great test in life is how people behave when they are in positions of power. The modern political mind has manifested a determination to pursue shared power and equality. The modern mind has internalized a fundamental idea: “equal means equal.”
3. The advent of digital information as manifested by such things as the Internet has materially enhanced the process of democracy worldwide.
The modern political mind strives for the greatest openness and freedom possible. Untethered information reaching as many people as possible is evidence that Moderns will go to extraordinary lengths to guarantee that openness and freedom are protected.
4. The modern political mind has learned how to manage the reality of self interest. Compromise and cooperation have allowed for diverse views to exist alongside each other.
Over time the modern mind has comprehended that it is more productive to talk than to fight. We cannot always have our way, and it is delusional to think that others should never have theirs.
5. Left alone, governments will evolve to enhance their own survival to the detriment of its citizens.
The modern political mind knows this and constantly pushes government to create benefits for its citizens. Government must always be active in protecting its citizens and ensuring that opportunities exist so its citizens can successfully compete in the new global community.
6. Pluralism is the greatest asset any government enjoys in assuring the advancement of its citizens.
The modern political mind is inherently suspicious of concentration of power in the hands of elites – conservative, liberal, or otherwise. Diverse social, economic, intellectual, and cultural backgrounds are needed to ensure the success of any government. We govern by the will of the governed.
7. Humans thrive when given the opportunity to advance beyond their present condition.
The modern political mind believes deeply in the ideal of the American dream. It understands that this ideal is accomplished by individual initiative and creativity. Owning the results of one’s efforts is deeply important to an American’s sense of well being.
The modern mind accepts the important balance between the possible risk of failure in pursuing one’s dream, and the need to ensure that opportunities exist in order to succeed.
8. Human progress is not static, and has advanced exponentially with the arrival and implementation of science.
The modern political mind is, above all else, pragmatic. It bows to what works. Scientific advancements have won the modern mind’s approval and trust. And science stands on the platform of innovative advancements in public and private systems of education.
9. Humans stubbornly strive to preserve local values and customs, while allowing exploration to take place.
The modern political mind understands the pull of culture and continuity. But, it also realizes that there comes a time to break camp and move on to new and unexplored opportunities.
10. The American experiment in self government may be the most successful in human history.
Through blood and tears America may be the most authentic democracy yet created. The modern political mind has been forged by extraordinary events, among these are: the painful 200 year process to ensure the freedom and full inclusion of African Americans into American life, and by extension other underrepresented groups.
The modern political mind is not willing to give up on these gains.
Now there, it’s done, my ideas on what the modern political mind is.
I am incapable of crafting what the new conservative mind is. I no longer trust conservatism.
I started out thinking I was crafting a document for the moderate political mind, or the progressive political mind, or even the liberal political mind. It didn’t work out that way.
Personally, I have been all over the political board in my life. If anything, I consider myself a modern thinker. Of course, I did not realize this until I started this article.
Those of you who consider yourself to be conservative, try your hand at refining conservative thought. It’s needed. Right now it is left wanting. It needs your input.
Maybe you can start by critiquing my above ideas to see where you stand.