Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Do Conservatives want a Meritocracy?

A redated post.

On one level, my political allegiances are somewhat more left than right, and in the present political situation I am inclined to vote for Democrats as opposed to Republicans. But I am not a real believer in the political spectrum: I think that interest-groups get a hold of the major political parties, rendering them capable of dumping their most fundamental principles if those interests are in danger. It is, for example, somewhat ironic that Michael Moore's movie about capitalism spends much of its time complaining about the massive bailout of the banks in mid-2008, a step that is one of the most socialistic things our government has ever done (in spite of the fact that it was spearheaded by Republicans). I read conservative thinkers and think they must surely have something fundamentally right, I see conservative politicians and remain convinced that whatever conservatism has right, these political leaders have no idea what it is.

I think a lot of issues strike me as only contingently liberal-conservative matters: I can easily imagine a world in which all the liberals are pro-life, (protecting the weak against the strong you know), I can imagine a world where the conservatives are the environmentalists, conservatives of another era would not have favored such things as the invasion of Iraq or the use of enhanced interrogation techniques (torture, for all you English speakers) against detainees.

One conception that seems popular is that conservatives, more than liberals, want to restore to the idea of merit a central place in our political thinking. Affirmative action, an idea popular amongst liberals and scorned by conservatives, takes advantages away from those who merit them, and gives them to those who lack such merit. But this piece suggests that meritocracy is a bad idea which conservatives ought to reject.


Jim S. said...

The political issues I care about most tend not to be intrinsically left or right, even though some of them have a strong association with one of the political parties.

Anonymous said...

Wait a second here.......A liberal Christian???? Now thats an oxymoron.

Victor Reppert said...

I would have thought a conservative Christian is an oxymoron, if anything. A friend of mine told me about a discussion in Dostoyevsky about whether a Christian, in virtue of being a Christian, must be a socialist. The answer might be no, but it is an issue that has to be taken seriously.

But, as I indicated, I'm not much of a believer in the political spectrum. So being on the side of liberals with respect to certain central political issues that are in place today is kind of a contingent fact about me and the current issues. When political correctness starts getting pushed too far, I tend to get in touch with my inner conservative, as I did when the APA wanted to scarlet-letter colleges who had codes of conduct that prohibit homosexual sex.

Conservatism and liberalism are terms that I would like to see defined more clearly if they are to be used.

Victor Reppert said...

Further, what counts as conservative or liberal is bound to vary from country to country. C. S. Lewis would be very much a conservative from the standpoint of British politics (insofar as he was political at all), but he ended up deciding that the National Health Service was better than the alternative of lacking one, and seems to be a strong supporter of preserving the environment. He also opposed the bombing of Dresden during WWII. These positions would be anathema to conservatives in the American political debate.

African-Americans tend to be more devout than whites, but also very solidly Democratic voters. So I guess it's a white Christian liberal that's an oxymoron.

kmisho said...

I think you're quite right about the indivisibility of many political issues.

I can be accused of clubbing too much with my own kind when I say that in my experience the tendency (or desire) to paint a stance on an issue as left or right is more typical of the right. I think this is so for many reason I wont' get into here, but it seems to me that self-consistency is an ideal that "liberals" take more seriously.

For instance, the Tea Party Patriots statement of core values (http://docs.google.com/View?id=dhsxmzm7_19fcdzskg5) speaks about the value of national sovereignty and free markets. The problem is that free markets are in themselves a threat to national sovereignty.

It just boggles my mind that they do not see that their core principles contain blatant contradictions. To the extent that their core values contain contradictions, it can be said that they do not have core values.