Sunday, August 27, 2006

Conservative Philosophy, Easter Bunnies and Serious Thinking

I love Tom Tomorrow's latest cartoon and it highlights one of the most annoying trends in current American politics, the belief that conservatives are the ones considered serious about world affairs and progressives are wild-eyed idealists. Unfortunately, this is not limited to discussions about current events, it is also indicative of the debate regarding political philosophies. Liberal political philosophies are cast aside as foolish, while the conservative philosophies are regarded as being academically serious. When you examine the underpinnings of the two big ideas within conservative circles, free markets and The Freedom Agenda, their beliefs are similar to any child's belief in the Easter Bunny.

First off, the great conservative belief in free markets. Within most American popular political discourse, the idea that there is an invisible hand which rules the economic landscape is taken as a given. If we just let the economy go on its own, then all things will work out because of its intrinsic rationality. When progressives mention that such systems are prone to corruption and put an undue burden on the poor, we are derided for being silly and unaccustomed to economic policy.

Secondly, the neo-con's universal embrace of the 'The Freedom Agenda". Within the Bush Administration and among their supporters, there is the belief that once we remove the tyrannical elements of foreign governments, freedom will bloom. As made famous by Donald Rumsfeld during the looting of Baghdad, there was no concern for the safety of the Iraqi people because "freedom is messy". We were told not to worry about the insurgency because there were elections and elections will bring security. Just like their faith in free markets, there is an intrinsic rationality associated with the spread of freedom.

In both of these ideologies, their vacuousness is never tested. Like the child who sees no need to question just how the Easter basket got into their home, conservatives (and the popular press) just shrug their shoulders and bask in their seriousness. And just like the parent that ends up cleaning the vomit after the child ate three pounds of candy, it is the job of the unserious to make things o.k.

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