Conversation with a Religious Socialist

Early on, this commenter was supporting Pope Francis’ attacks on free enterprise and pushing of the catastrophic anthropogenic global warming line. He claimed to have read Laudato Sí in the original Latin, and stuck to that when I pointed out that Catholic sites are reporting that there did not seem to be a Latin version. He quickly revealed himself as favoring the taking of money from people by force to give to other people.

“mastersamwise” despises individual liberty, the free market, and a constitutionally limited government. He favors a single world government providing everyone’s needs while strictly limiting what they do in order to protect the environment. Since he calls himself a conservative, and his ideas are so opposed to all other conservatives in the United States, he has decided that none of them were truly conservatives.

Thus, commenting on a post by Citizen Tom about Trump and conservatism, “mastersamwise” has his own notion of what conservatism really means, relying on one sentence written by Russell Kirk in 1953 and ignoring the rest of Kirk’s work and the rest of conservative thought. “mastersamwise” has decided that conservatism has nothing to do with politics and forms of government at all.

Here are small excerpts from the rather voluminous conversation, with his statements in quotation blocks and some comments by me after the fact in italics. He begins by quoting Kirk:

“The conservative is concerned, first of all, with the regeneration of the spirit and character—with the perennial problem of the inner order of the soul, the restoration of the ethical understanding, and the religious sanction upon which any life worth living is founded. This is conservatism at its highest.”–Russell Kirk.

Kirk wrote much more than this, of course, and was an early champion of conservative political principles of limited government and free markets. But this was where you chose to stop. More than a little disingenuous, I think, since you are using this stopping point to decide that no one but you is “conservative.”

Russell Kirk was a brilliant man, but rather an odd duck and somewhat inconstant, a famous conservative who voted for a socialist for president. He was afraid of cars, would (eventually) ride in them only away from major roads, and disdained mechanical devices of most kinds — but still (conveniently for him) found typewriters and telephones useful. His writings are rightly respected, but he cannot be said to have defined conservatism for all time, or even at the moment of his own writing.

Picking a Definition

You’ve picked a definition that you seem to like, and that’s fine — but when you attempt to impose it upon others, it just makes you look silly … even if you attempt to adopt the mantle of a famous conservative thinker for cover.

That definition is not the only one, and this applies to other political definitions as well. In fact, it wasn’t the only definition of conservative even for Kirk; note his six canons that range far from that narrow focus.

Definitions change, and many often exist at once. Sometimes two co-existing definitions of a word mean complete opposites of each other, such as “cleave.” Your proposal to tell Citizen Tom what conservative really means is too short-sighted and narrow to be of value.

Similarly, the term “liberal” means something quite different in American politics from its non-political usage, and even its political usage is nearly the opposite of its meaning two centuries ago. “Conservative” has changed less … but even so, the basic principles of conserving individual liberty through the construction of a restricted government allows individuals to develop their souls, or not, as they wish. You can encourage them to do so, and should, but to the extent you have been advocating ending or constraining the free market, your notions are counterproductive and wrong-headed.

Freedom Allows Enemies

For the free civil association you mentioned is in effect the free market, raising billions out of utter poverty and abject misery. This is far greater than mere “materialism.” Were you still eking out a hardscrabble existence from an unimproved earth in the absence of the tools of invention, you would have had no time — or even language — to ponder the socialist thoughts you’ve been advancing here, or consider the state of anyone’s soul. In a sense, the free market feeds its enemies by the creation of a society that has free time to think about things, and a reduced need to think clearly.

It is much the same in Saudi Arabia. There, the jihadists are not the poor slaves imported from Africa to do their menial work in utter poverty, but the well-off Saudi youth with time on their hands. Usama bin Ladin was a college kid studying architecture (and not very seriously) when Sayyid Qutb’s brother indoctrinated him into the ways of jihad. Bin Ladin’s ultimate new followers were similar young people with time to waste in such thoughts, all brought about by the free market he was being taught to hate.

Tainting the Language

In fact, Usama’s biggest complaint became the fact that the Saudi royal family was doing business with the West, selling oil and making money, and making the nation suddenly wealthy. (Such that they could afford to pay bin Ladin’s family large amounts of money for construction work, the source of his own inherited fortune as Son #17.) He despised this modernization by free trade, and wanted that free market exchange ended.

It is common for the American press to call jihadists like Usama bin Ladin “conservatives.” But this is not so much a considered use of a multifaceted term in an appropriate way as it is a method of making US conservatives look guilty by association, and taint the very terminology we use for ourselves. The same technique to the same purpose is used to call national socialists “right wing.” If they can make the label odious, they hope the ideas thus labeled will fall out of favor. That didn’t work, so now they just call us racists.

If it would make you happier, feel free to mentally prepend the adjectives “limited-government” or “small-government” or “Constitutional” to uses of the word “conservative” by conservatives like me or like Citizen Tom and others on this American site, and you won’t go too far wrong.

Conservatism and Socialism are the Same?

The issue I see with modern conservatism is that its first principles are almost indistinguishable from modern liberalism. Free market verse social market, though it seem fundamentally different, stems from the same principle: salvific materialism. Voltaire ironically pointed out that people don’t kill each other over religion or politics in the market place. Whether you support a free market or a social market, it stems from the same first principle i.e. that commerce can raise man to any sort of height besides material.

Since you don’t  really like to be called a socialist, you’ve decorated your acceptance of socialist thinking by pretending that it’s the same as conservatism. So the state ownership of means of production and control of who gets what, and who eats (what you call here the “social market”), is indistinguishable from what conservatives want?

You have one thing right, though you blow off your quote from Voltaire: A free market conducted internationally — i.e., free trade — does reduce conflicts between nations just as a local free market reduces conflicts between people. And when people aren’t killing each other and can gain from free exchange, they have an opportunity to pursue interests other than basic sustenance. They can pursue the development of virtue, and the improvement of their souls.

Or, in the world you prefer, they can starve, or stand in lines waiting for government handouts of bread and toilet paper. This is not what you have expressly wanted, but it always results from the policies you promote.

Conservatives do not think of individual liberty and the free market as “saviors.” But these are lofty goals, and they tend to produce, and have produced for billions around the world, better living conditions and better social conditions for mankind. That is worthwhile, and thus these objects of limited government are highly desirable … to conservatives.

Your “social market” is exactly the opposite — state controlled in price, selection, and availability, using a cadre of masterminds deciding what should be sold and to whom. It never works, both because governments plan so very badly and because your motivations for deciding what should be sold are based on false premises. You’ve already touted Pope Francis’ proposal to limit markets to avoid what he considers violence to “Mother Earth.” (It is surprising to me that the Catholic leader would so completely buy in to a competing religion, not surprising that you would do so.)

Immigration and First Principles

The conservative, I think, does not derive his first principles from material concerns such as immigration policy or even capitalism. Both are entirely materially minded. Instead, the conservative seeks the building up of man, collectively, through the free association of civil society.

Immigration policy and capitalism are not the sources of first principles, they are the natural result of them. Since a first principle (for all of America’s conservatives but you) is a Constitutionally limited government, and that government’s limited roles include protecting the nation and its citizens, the control of immigration naturally arises from that.

Uncontrolled immigration harms those in the US by costing them jobs, it risks attack because we know that a portion of these immigrants seek to destroy the US, and in the current welfare state scheme the influx of immigrants forms an expensive drain on resources. Some immigrants will be producers, of course, but not enough to offset these effects.

Obama versus Assimilation

There is another aspect to immigration often overlooked: The purpose of it (to the Constitution and to American conservatives) is to improve and strengthen the United States. This requires that the new arrival pass tests (now ignored) to make certain that he or she will not be a burden upon American society, and that the new US citizen pass tests (now downplayed) to demonstrate assimilation as well as allegiance to and understanding of American principles. You would struggle with this.

President Obama has downplayed assimilation, and White House-directed policy promotes to various immigrant special interest groups that assimilation is no longer a goal of US immigration policy. Before, you as a new arrival and aspiring citizen would change who you are, in a fundamental way. You can maintain cultural ties and traditions, of course, but where you used to be a Latvian or Nicaraguan or Indonesian, you would fundamentally change who you are to become an American.

But now Obama says: “It’s not about changing who you are, it’s about adding a new chapter to your journey… and to our journey as a nation of immigrants.”

You and Obama both have it very wrong.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle