Jump to content
The Education Forum
  • Announcements

    • Evan Burton

      OPEN REGISTRATION BY EMAIL ONLY !!! PLEASE CLICK ON THIS TITLE FOR INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR REGISTRATION!:   06/03/2017

      We have 5 requirements for registration: 1.Sign up with your real name. (This will be your Username) 2.A valid email address 3.Your agreement to the Terms of Use, seen here: http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=21403. 4. Your photo for use as an avatar  5.. A brief biography. We will post these for you, and send you your password. We cannot approve membership until we receive these. If you are interested, please send an email to: edforumbusiness@outlook.com We look forward to having you as a part of the Forum! Sincerely, The Education Forum Team
Andy Walker

My Political Ideology

Recommended Posts

Taxonomic Laxities and The Ambiguities of Edmund Burke

Tim Gratz writes: I consider myself a "traditionalist conservative" and goes on to identify his position as one derived ultimately from the late 18th century. He says that "the 'father' of traditional conservatism is the famous English statesman Edmund Burke." Apart from the fact that some would consider Edmund Burke to be Irish (the importance of the electors of Bristol notwithstanding) and not much of a statesman, Mr. Gratz's comments serve a good purpose by underscoring the difficulties associated with applying general labels to different sorts of political thought, especially when such labels are intended to interpret the ideas of previous centuries in terms that are understandable today.

Mr. Burke's ownership of the title, "father of traditional conservatism," can be justified in part by a consideration of his 1757 philosophical inquiry into the Sublime and the Beautiful. Ostensibly a study in aesthetics, it certainly establishes many of the elements of a political theory of traditionalism. Over thirty years later, Burke's ruminations on the excesses of the French Revolution add somewhat to this point of view. Outstanding is the following passage:

But now all is to be changed. All the pleasing illusions that made power gentle, and obedience liberal, which harmonized the different shades of life … are to be dissolved by this new conquering empire of reason. All the decent drapery of life is to be rudely torn off. All the super-added ideas, which the heart owns, and the understanding ratifies, as necessary to cover the defects of our weak and shivering nature, and to raise it to a dignity in our own estimation, are to be exploded as a ridiculous, absurd and antiquated fashion.

Between his youthful excursion into the philosophy of art and his reflections on the politics of France near the end of the century, however, Burke is remarkably inconsistent. His sympathy for the American Revolution is only one instance in which his attitudes might be considered distinctly "liberal" (his opposition to the imperialist exploitation of India is another). Indeed, he frequently expressed support of "bourgeois" values, the nascent capitalist economy and other matters that do not fit easily with "traditional conservatism."

There are some who regard his politics as hopelessly incoherent and possibly merely opportunistic. If nothing else, it is plain that his 1770 pamphlet attacking attempts to increase monarchical powers of King George III led to efforts (ca. 1780) to purge royal influence from parliamentary government - not a stance particularly associated with traditional conservatis. Burke was, moreover, an enthusiastic economic reformer in the bourgeois fashion. After all, by party affiliation - insofar as the term "party" applies - he was a Rockingham Whig!

Accordingly, though "traditional conservatives" claim him as their father, a case can be made that his alleged conservatism was apparent only prior to his entry into political life and after his career as a politician was effectively ended. His dyspeptic remarks about the French Revolution certainly do not go well with his speeches and letters on American affairs.

Were that not enough, I have found few paragraphs more eerily similar in their concerns than Burke's thoughts on abrupt social change (cited above) and the following comments written half a century later:

Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social relations, everlasting uncertainty and agitation, distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier times. All fixed, fast-frozen relationships, with their train of venerable ideas and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become obsolete before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and men at last are forced to face with sober senses, the real conditions of their lives and their relations with their fellow men. …

The author of the previous paragraph was, of course, Karl Marx.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Is George Bush a conservative?

This excerpt from a National Review Online column by Jonah Goldberg will either help explain the differences within conservatism or will serve only to confuse, but here goes:

Let's start with confusion. Contrary to most stereotypes, conservatism is a much less dogmatic ideology than modern liberalism. The reason liberals don't seem dogmatic and conservatives do is that liberals have settled their dogma, so it has become invisible to them. No liberal disputes in a serious philosophical way that the government should do good things where it can and when it can. Their debates aren't about ideology, they're about tactics. Indeed, the chief disagreement between leftists and liberals over the role of the state is almost entirely pragmatic. Moderate liberals think it's not practical — either economically or politically — to push for a dramatic expansion of the role of the state. Leftists think it would be a good idea politically and, despite all the evidence to the contrary, think it would work economically.

Within conservatism, however, there are enormous philosophical arguments about the proper role of the state. This debate isn't merely between libertarians and social conservatives. It's also between conservatives who are "anti-left" versus those who are "anti-state." Neoconservatives, for example, are famously comfortable with an energetic, interventionist government as long as that government isn't run by secular, atheistic radicals, and socialists (I exaggerate a little for the sake of clarity).

Think of it this way. One line of conservative thought says that public schools are bad because they are run by inefficient government bureaucrats who drain resources. Moreover, they might say, running schools is simply not the proper function of the government. Another line of conservative thought says that public schools are fine (and they're not going anywhere anyway). But they shouldn't be teaching crazy left-wing stuff about how America, traditional religion and capitalism are the unholy trinity of the world's problems. Don't get rid of public schools, they say, just make sure they get their values and priorities in order.

Now, no conservative can be a full-blown statist, and very few conservatives subscribe to one of these lines of thought to the exclusion of the other. Some libertarians probably don't mind government funding of museums but take offense at the idea of taxpayer-funded pornographic blasphemy. And, there are certainly many social conservatives who'd love to privatize the U.S. Postal Service. But the relevant point is that Bush is definitely more of an anti-left guy than an anti-state guy (his valiant efforts at Social Security reform notwithstanding). He's comfortable with a conservative welfare state, hence his expansion of Medicare. Recall that he famously declared that "when someone hurts, government has to move."

Libertarians spontaneously burst into flames when they say things like that.

What has so confused liberals, meanwhile, is that they are still talking about Bush like he's primarily an anti-state guy, a la Reagan or Gingrich, even as he's spent lavishly on education, labor and regulation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thoroughly enjoyed Howard's post about Edmund Burke. Burke, of course, did support the American Revolution. It is difficult at first thought to call someone who supports a revolution a conservative, but the values over which the American Revolutionary War were fought were certainly conservative values.

Primary among them are that the values most men value, life, liberty, etc. come not from government, whether it be a monarchy ala King George III England or a left-wing "utopia" such as the Soviet Union. Rather, those values are rights are given to men by their Creator and they are invincible, meaning no government has the right to strip them of those rights.

Conservatives also tend to believe (often for religious reasons) that man has an evil nature. Hence the wisdom of Lord Acton's famous maxim that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Which is another reason the founding fathers deemed it so important to put restraints on the exercise of government power.

I do not think it inconsistent for Edmund Burke to be a conservative and support the American Revolution, which was founded on conservative values.

Edited by Tim Gratz

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Is George Bush a conservative?

This excerpt from a National Review Online column by Jonah Goldberg will either help explain the differences within conservatism or will serve only to confuse, but here goes:

Let's start with confusion. Contrary to most stereotypes, conservatism is a much less dogmatic ideology than modern liberalism. The reason liberals don't seem dogmatic and conservatives do is that liberals have settled their dogma, so it has become invisible to them. No liberal disputes in a serious philosophical way that the government should do good things where it can and when it can. Their debates aren't about ideology, they're about tactics. Indeed, the chief disagreement between leftists and liberals over the role of the state is almost entirely pragmatic. Moderate liberals think it's not practical — either economically or politically — to push for a dramatic expansion of the role of the state. Leftists think it would be a good idea politically and, despite all the evidence to the contrary, think it would work economically.

Within conservatism, however, there are enormous philosophical arguments about the proper role of the state. This debate isn't merely between libertarians and social conservatives. It's also between conservatives who are "anti-left" versus those who are "anti-state." Neoconservatives, for example, are famously comfortable with an energetic, interventionist government as long as that government isn't run by secular, atheistic radicals, and socialists (I exaggerate a little for the sake of clarity).

Think of it this way. One line of conservative thought says that public schools are bad because they are run by inefficient government bureaucrats who drain resources. Moreover, they might say, running schools is simply not the proper function of the government. Another line of conservative thought says that public schools are fine (and they're not going anywhere anyway). But they shouldn't be teaching crazy left-wing stuff about how America, traditional religion and capitalism are the unholy trinity of the world's problems. Don't get rid of public schools, they say, just make sure they get their values and priorities in order.

Now, no conservative can be a full-blown statist, and very few conservatives subscribe to one of these lines of thought to the exclusion of the other. Some libertarians probably don't mind government funding of museums but take offense at the idea of taxpayer-funded pornographic blasphemy. And, there are certainly many social conservatives who'd love to privatize the U.S. Postal Service. But the relevant point is that Bush is definitely more of an anti-left guy than an anti-state guy (his valiant efforts at Social Security reform notwithstanding). He's comfortable with a conservative welfare state, hence his expansion of Medicare. Recall that he famously declared that "when someone hurts, government has to move."

Libertarians spontaneously burst into flames when they say things like that.

What has so confused liberals, meanwhile, is that they are still talking about Bush like he's primarily an anti-state guy, a la Reagan or Gingrich, even as he's spent lavishly on education, labor and regulation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Locke, Louis Hartz and the Centrality of Property

Although in more than one way I agree with the statement that the American Revolution was fought for conservative ideals, I think that the very desire to parse of the "ideals" may be one of the underlying problems leading to confusion as to what does or does not count as the stuff and substance of any particular ideology. I suggest a materialist alternative.

One way to cut through the confusion about who is or is not a conservative, liberal or socialist (or anarchist or fascist, etc.) is to re-focus on the term that provides the umbrella under which this discussion is taking place. The term is “ideology” and one of its seminal meanings is “false consciousness.” I suggest that the falsity of any particular political consciousness is not a simple matter of empirical truth, normative probity or logical consistency. Rather, it is a matter of the fact that the principal function of ideologies is to provide rhetorical justification for certain power arrangements. Thus, conservative ideas are useful to support the claims of landed and inherited wealth – or commercial and industrial wealth if it is composed of sufficiently “old money”; likewise, liberal ideas are supportive of innovative entrepreneurs and unabashed fortune hunters who rely on their wits and (occasionally) their hard work to succeed in market economies; and, likewise also, theories of socialism are constructed to provide a rationale for distributing worldly goods more equally and (socialists would insist) more equitably.

Each ideology, of course, is bound to have certain inconsistencies and unusual components that vary according to matters of time and space. We cannot expect conservatism, for example, to mean precisely the same thing in antebellum American states, the outback of Australia, Scotland in 1745 or Québec today, yet in some sense it may be possible to say that "conservatism" existed or exists in all four domains. The difficulty is to decide upon the common and essential elements of conservatism, and to determine which are contingent.

Some correspondents complain that this there is no platonic archetype, no matter how complex and variabled, that would stand a “litmus test” for any of the ideologies here named. That is as may be; however, since we use these terms both in ordinary and in professional educational discourse, it is required of us to contemplate their meaning. We may not come to any uncontested conclusions, but we can probably do a good deal better than to shrug off the question as unanswerable in the same way that philosophers such as T. D. Weldon dismissed “the vocabulary of politics” as meaningless back in the early 1950s.

The project I have in mind, by the way, is not “merely semantics”; it is SEMANTICS! I take this rather seriously because I believe that, if we are not clear about the meaning of our words, we will literally not know what we are talking about. The alternative to what may seem a tedious and potentially futile exercise in lexicography is verbal chaos, a heap of babbling in which the Humpty Dumpty theory of philology is supreme and the prospects for decent discussion (much less what Jurgen Habermas has famously called the "ideal speech situation" – a practical standard derived from his "universal pragmatics" and as close to a useful measure of democracy as I have encountered) are dim.

An interesting starting point is the United States of America. Today, although public opinion polls suggest that individual Americans favour such “liberal” measures as publicly financed health care, increased environmental regulations and gun control, the term “liberal” has become a term of opprobrium and even of abuse. George W. Bush and his followers utter the word with contempt and even “leftish” members of the Democratic party do all they can to dissociate themselves from the concept.

The peculiar nature of American political language is all the more curious in light of the belief that the American Revolution was fought for principles of Lockean liberalism. The US Declaration of Independence is commonly held up as an iconic liberal manifesto and few would gainsay the liberalism inherent in the US “Bill of Rights” — the first ten amendments to the Constitution.

In a classic (forty-year-old) analysis of American democracy, The Founding of New Societies, Louis Hartz declared that settler communities such as Australia, Canada, South Africa and the USA have been populated by immigrants who brought with them much ideological baggage from their homelands. Since the United States was mainly colonized by people of British (mainly English) origin and — more important — since the dominant institutions of such settler societies tend to be fashioned within a specific cultural context, those dominant institutions reflect the ideas that were in the minds of the “founders” of the new societies. In the case of the United States, that meant 18th century, Lockean liberalism.

At the time of the American Revolution and the constitutional documents it produced some years later, liberalism was primarily an ideology associated with private property ownership. It was revolutionary enough in its time, for it embodied the ambitions and “values” of a new, urban bourgeoisie in Britain. So, Americans spoke confidently of a divinely endowed “equality” (meaning equality of economic opportunity and not of condition) and a few “inalienable” rights including “the pursuit of happiness” (which was code for property, even though the revolutionaries only meant to guarantee the freedom of capital and not to ensure material equality or state-sponsored “entitlements” among citizens).

Conspicuously absent from the American Constitution was any sort of freedom for women (even in the late 20th century, the Equal Rights Amendment failed), the working class (universal male suffrage was not achieved until the presidency of Andrew Jackson, half a century after the signing of the Declaration of Independence) and, of course, slaves (who were constitutionally defined as 60% human and their progeny who did not win the right to vote until 1965, a century after the end of the Civil War that purportedly freed the Afro-American population. (American Indians, whose "property" was stolen to permit colonization in the first place merited no mention.)

What is plain about the US Constitution (at least from Hartz’s viewpoint) is that the United States was founded and pretty much remains an 18th century liberal nation in the sense that its “core values” are those of an emerging bourgeoisie on the cusp of the industrial revolution. For many gains in a “left-liberal” social agenda (“welfare” payments to the poor), there have been reversals (Clinton’s “workfare” and successful efforts to reduce the welfare roles not by reducing poverty but by canceling people’s eligibility) and atavisms (the current popularity of the religious right and its increasingly strident and distressingly successful campaign to combat the teaching of evolution in the classroom or the president’s justification of his most recent nominee for the Supreme Court on the principal ground that she is a reliable evangelical Christian).

The popularity of the words “liberal” and “conservative” will wax and wane.” (in the 1960s, liberalism was popular and conservatism was disdained.) The specific issues — both domestic and foreign — that catch the attention of the politically aware will come and go. The fundamental American mono-ideology — whether it is styled liberal or conservative — is apt to remain the same or to evolve tortuously slowly. In the case of the United States, the hegemonic ideology amounts to the primary freedom of capital to dominate not only the economy (narrowly defined), but also to a host of related social issues as propagated by a mass print and broadcast media complex that is owned and operated by massive corporate conglomerates. These global firms have the advantage of sustenance by an ideology that was formulated by Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson and others to help a market economy of small proprietors and artisans to escape control by courtiers, a landed gentry or mercantile colonial domination. By skillfully appropriating the rights of independent producers and applying them to large corporations (now treated as individual citizens under the law), the liberalism of early capitalism has matured as a species of "corporatism" and has produced in the transition enormous confusion about the meaning of terms. The confusion has grown to the point where political commentators and popular pundits freely suggest that the words "conservative" and "liberal" are obsolete, that contemporary politics has transcended even concepts of "left" and "right" and that the utility of seeking categorical distinctions among political ideas no longer has value. This embrace of terminal ambiguity is, I believe, monstrous.

In any case, it has been suggested that we add “reactionary” to the inventory of ideologies under scrutiny. At the risk of complicating matters further, I suggest that we also add “corporatism,” a word apparently coined in about 1890 and much appreciated by Benito Mussolini. Near the end of his life, Il Duce expressed regret that he had named his movement, his party and his government “fascist”. Since it uniquely combined the political authority of the state with the economic power of private companies, he opined that he might better have used the term “corporatism.” Though the pattern seems to be in the process of being globalized, his dreams may be being first and most fully realized in the United States, where liberals are decreasingly “liberal” and conservatives have little in the way of traditions to “conserve.”

PS As for George W. Bush's "statism" and his singular plunge into national debt, it should be remembered that Ronald Reagan tripled the US debt and Bill Clinton at least brought down the deficit. So it is that "fiscally conservative" Republican presidents run up bills that would embarrass sailors (drunken or otherwise) while "tax-and-spend" Democrats put their finances in order. Plainly, there is confusion about other terms and ideas as well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Howard I like that. Not sure I understand it all. In time maybe.

Are you familiar with Marxs dialectics? If so, could it be a useful tool perhaps to use to describe these 'shifting' concepts. What I'm getting at is the slide of something into its opposite over time. The revolutionary becomes the reactionary? And the seed of the reactionary within the revolutionary can be percieved, understood, predicted?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Perplexed libertarian social democrat

I was a late child and all my (extended) family lost the (Spanish Civil) war. When I was a kid, I could hardly understand why Franco did win the war. Everybody around was obsessed by talking about politics, trying to find some weakness in that endless dictatorship. My father was a Communist, my mother's first memory was Pablo Iglesias' (founder of Socialist Party) funeral in 1925.

I was a member of the Communist Youth organization the same year that, finally, Franco died. I shortly quitted. Since then, I have been voting Communist and then Socialist Party and I have been taking part in regular demonstrations against NATO... against Irak War...

I go on thinking that French Revolution motto "Liberté, Egalité et Fraternité" summarized what the Left is for. My (political) ideology is guided by simple principles: to think about persons, not about abstract ideas; to support every measure that aims at the best for a majority of people, to fight against political regimes that prevent people from being free...

However, I think that the current position of a lot of leftish people is condensed in this story:

"There was a drunk gentleman who, when arriving at his house, noticed that he had lost his key. Then, he came over by a lamppost and started to search for it. A policeman walked by and asked him:

Did you lose your key in this place?

No -replied the gentleman- but this is the only place I can see."

A lot of leftish people tend to be quite conservative as far as political ideas are concerned. They hang on to the old principles and repeat them away. It doesn't matter that reality has denied those ideas. I think that a genuine liberal socialdemocrat should search for ideas that help us to understand 21st century world and to change it. He should not cling to mental frameworks that were created for understanding very different societies.

I wonder which is the real leftish position before those topics:

Immigration (who, how many, in which conditions...)

Multiculturalism (Is the French government's ban on muslim scarf a leftish measure? If so, why Mr. Le Pen is so glad about it?)

Education (To which extent comprehensive education is helping our working class students? To which extent it is fostering new ghettos in public schools?)

International Policy (Is Chirac-Schröder (Why not Merkel?)-Putin position much more leftish that Bush-Blair?) I think so but, please, can somebody tell me which is the leftish way to deal with Al-Qaeda?

"Good" dictatorships (Cuba had the same GDP per capita than Spain in 1959, when Castro came to power... not to mention the lack of freedom in the Caribbean island. Is ir a leftish position to support Fidel Castro? Or, rather, to fight against him?)

All those doubts are related to leftish positions. As far as rightist stances, I have much fewer doubts, I reject them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Two Quick Thoughts on Hegel and Castro

I am indeed familiar with dialectics – both in their idealist (Hegelian) and materialist (Marxian) forms. The trouble is that when, I think about the subject, my head hurts. There is no doubt that when two social systems, political institutions, religious doctrines or what not clash, there is a possibility that something more advanced will come from the conflict. Thesis + antithesis = synthesis. I doubt, however, that Marx ever saw things in terms of such neat logical processes. Moreover, I cannot be sure, but I do not think that he ever used the phrase “dialectical materialism” (at least not in polite company).

My own impression is that history displays a good deal more messiness that can be accommodated in such a paradigm. History is quirky. It is ambiguous and many of its elements are not deterministically called into being but are best considered contingencies – not mere accidents and certainly not accidental events occurring ex nihilo but unforeseen and unpredictable nonetheless. (My Darwinism owes more to Stephen Jay Gould than to Richard Dawkings).

So, while I agree with John Dolva that “dialectics” may be a “useful tool,” I am too much of an “empiricist” to buy into the entire program. (My Marxism – such as it is – owes more to Edward Thompson than to the fast-fading French intelligentsia; my preference is for The Poverty of Theory, not Reading Capital.)

There is, by the way, another tool that can help with the “statics” if not the “dynamics” of political concepts such as those being discussed here. It is one of many applications of the semantic differential, developed half a century ago in the work of Charles Osgood (The Measurement of Meaning – University of Illinois, 1957 & Semantic Differential Technique – Aldine Atherton, 1969). But, that’s another story.

As for Juan Carlos, I appreciate the frustration that comes from listening to tired clichés and obsolete analyses. Still, I worry that people who are quick to condemn old socialist nostrums are merely trying to rationalize their abandonment of the left. Socialist apostasy is rampant; every generation commits treason anew. The struggle to get beyond the language of left and right is very often the struggle to shake off old friends, jettison old causes and join the people we used to despise – usually in a middle-level advisory position.

Fidel Castro is an interesting subject to bring up at this point. I first became seriously aware of the Cuban revolution in 1960 when I watched US television news broadcast images of firing squads and rows of condemned men pitching over into pre-dug graves. That soured me on Castro for quite some time. It was not until the US invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965 that I began to re-think the Castro regime. I have since visited the island (as early as 1973, before it became fashionable) and come to appreciate the degree to which the United States and its policy of economic embargo have contributed to the problems of the Cuban people.

I remain unsympathetic to the imprisonment of dissidents by the Castro government, but I also believe that, if the USA had displayed anything like the politics of “engagement” that it now champions with China, no such problem would exist. Unfortunately, despite the high-minded rhetoric of John Kennedy’s “Alliance for Progress,” the history of US policy toward Latin America has been one of almost unbroken endorsement of military dictatorships, domestic terror and torture, almost complete indifference to the well-being of the people and covert or overt hostility to even mildly reformist governments.

From the ouster of Juan Bosch, through the overthrow of Salvador Allende, to the support for the death squads in El Salvador and the “Contras” in Nicaragua, and on to the current hostility toward the ostensibly leftist presidents of Venezuela and Brazil, the US – under Democratic and Republican presidents alike – has weakened the possibility of democracy and prosperity throughout the region. None of this is to absolve Castro for his sometimes brutal repression, but it certainly provides a context in which the blame may be more justly apportioned.

That said, in answer to the question: Is it “leftish” to fight for Castro or against him, I can only say that it must depend on who is also in the fight. I do not think it is in the interest of the Cuban people to be handed over to the same kind of corporatist clique that (with much help from the military and the MAFIA) ruled Cuba until the revolution. Castro will pass in due course; the real question is: When (if ever) will an enlightened American government realize that its national interests would be best served if progressive government were in place throughout Central and South America – and, by progressive, I do not mean rule by unfettered free marketers and economic neoliberals.

Yes, there is repression. Yes, the economy has been devastated. However, the quality of life of the average Cuban cannot be much worse now than under Batista. Great wealth has disappeared, but the mass of the people were even poorer in the past. Now, they have some measure of education and health care. In the future, they could have much, much more. It all depends on whether the represents only evidence of dogmatic and “reactionary” thinking. The USA continues its policy of exclusion for two main reasons. First, although it cannot genuinely fears a “communist” menace to its south, its leaders do fear the political power of the (also aging) anti-Castro Cuban diaspora in its own country. Second, it cannot bring itself to admit that a forty-five-year policy has brought no practical benefits to the United States and given nothing but misery to the Cuban people. President Carter and President Clinton might have done something sensible, but they chose to maintain existing arrangements. Unless President Bush behaves in an even more astonishing manner that did Nixon with respect to China in 1972, nothing good will happen for a few more years. Still, as it is sometimes said: "This, too, shall pass" - though perhaps not dialectically.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Born summer 1953. In southern Indiana USA. Farm Country.

Grew up of working class parents both worked to build a life for us kids. Own a home etc. Taught the value of a dollar earned by the sweat of the working people.

Formative years spent working grandfathers farm after school and fulltime in summer and all that goes with 650 tillable acres and learning to drive at age 10 and shoot at age 12. Crops and livestock operations and the inherent love and respect for nature. 200 acres of woods that were my place to hunt and camp at will.

Interested in JFK assassination since 1965 when even at age 12 I found holes in the WC. Granted of "off and on" interest as the HSCA LIES 1979 broke my spirit and hope of ever getting the truth. I got back into interest about 1990.

4 year honorable service USMC 1972 - 1976.

Worked as high steel ironworker (UNION skilled trade) building "skyscrappers" and was disabled in 1992 fall on job. Only "profitable" education past high school was the 3 years in Ironworker's apprenticeship. So when I say the WTC steel couldn't have melted I know what I speak of without an "engineering" degree. A view from the open beam as opposed to a blackboard view of an engineer. I was once the poor guy that had to make the structure do what the print said it did from that office.

3 years post high school at major university IU (bio and poly sci and US history majors) I quit as I could see no future in a degree that at best could go places I didn't want to "live". Teaching in a high school is not for me, it is an honorable trade but not a match for me.

I had not the tolerance to stay in to go to law school. Had I done so I would be the poorest lawyer in the US as I would only take cases representing poor people against the Govt. and corporations as John Edwards did.

Working indoors at repetitive tasks is never a good job match for a country farm kid that hunted and camped all through growing up age and I still do so. Nor was wasting time in meaningless classes of material I would never use. Nor was being placed under the supervision of those that would not know a minimum wage life from the royal life of the favored.

From 1992 disablement I have been a political activist for Veterans and for low income and homeless citizens. For 6 years I had nothing and was homeless, no compensation for on the job dire injuries did I ever get until 1998.

I was sensitized to the issues of social justice the hard way. Indiana is a right to work state and enables employers to duck responsibility for injuries in this current age of Adam Smith Lessez Faire Economics. Sure I was angry at first then I threw the saddle on the anger and knew the "establishment" could do no more to me as I was already on the street and broke.

I became a radical socialist of that decade of pain and social degradation and the loss of home and land to pay the health care cost of hospital and a year of nursing home rehab. A doctor now owns my land and my lake that I built by damming a creek and built a home on my land. My working class "A frame" house wasn't good enough for a doctor I guess. It all opened my eyes to the issues and need for redress.

The roots of my own socialism which go back to seeing that even in USMC I served with only working class sons and a few upper class officers, (but those people were the best people I have ever been part of - Semper Fidelis) the fall injury only gave me back my roots and finished the polarization.

As time has gone on I have become active in political research as I have the time and ability to get to NARA on occasion. My partner common law wife Cindy and I host a Black Op Radio dinner on Thursday evening to listen to Len Osanic's BOR internet radio show and to discuss current events and JFK assassination research. We cook and enjoy the community aspects of the events. The host "place" cycles through the group as it makes it easier than our having to do all the cooking as it was at first.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A Last Stab at Conservatism

Before abandoning the discussion of the "true meaning" of conservatism, I'd like to look at Tim Gratz's contention that the values for which American revolutionaries fought were "conservative values" and that it is therefore possible for Edmund Burke (among many others) to claim to be, simultaneously "conservatives" and "revolutionaries."

I disagree. I do not think that the American War of Independence was a "revolution" and I do not think it was fought for "conservative values."

The leaders of the American cause were plutocrats - either southern plantation (and slave) owners such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson or members of the northern bourgeoisie (John Adams and Alexander Hamilton). The were not systematic proponents of civil liberties nor of democracy as their commitment to slavery and their denian of the vote to propertyless adult males attest. American society was not seriously altered by the so-called revolution; its main pertinent effect was the replacement of a British system of mercantile capitalism with a domestic form of proto-industrial capitalism in the north and free market agricultural capitalism in the south. In short, the American "revolution" was about what Marx and Engels called "that single, unconscionable freedom--Free Trade"! Everything else was hokum.

As for conservatism, I think the are three ways in which the terms can be plausibly understood.

The first is as a synonym for "reactionary" or "nostalgic" and it applies to people who wish to go back to some prior and preferred set of social arrangements. This accounts for such superficially silly notions as "conservative" communists in Russia who long for the alleged stability of Stalinism. While common enough in ordinary language, I believe this application is fundamentally flawed.

The second indicates a commitment to the status quo. Like the first, there is no necessary commitment to any particular "values" other than to the prevailing beliefs and practices extant in any given society. By these lights, conservatives are sceptical of change. So, again, in the late 1980s, it would be possible to call label Russians "conservative" who opposed Gorbachev's "glasnost" and, likewise, Americans in the 1780s who were "loyalists." I believe this application is fundamentally flawed as well.

The third associates conservatism with a set of "values" that are indentifiable and consistent. They include the privileging of tradition over innovation, religion over science and technology, social order over individual liberty, "prejudice" (in Burke's sense of the term) over rationalism, cooperation over competition, community harmony over individual rights, state authority over "free enterprise," moral obligation over individual freedom and so on. Those who believe otherwise and are committed to mainly to the second item in each of these polar opposites can be tentatively called liberals.

Now, like all ideal types, there are exceptions and contradictions. Ideas change. I would therefore put liberals into two different camps. One can be called "right-wing," 18th century liberalism which, among other things, restricted the benefits of liberty to property and had no interest in equality among citizens but only in freeing up capital. Right-wing liberalism (complicated in the United States by association with religious - largely Protestant - fundamentalism) can conveniently be called "neoliberalism" or in the USA (again because of its association with "family values" and its opposition to biological "evolution") "neoconservatism.

Its primary opponent in North America, at least, is "left-wing" liberalism, a 20th century phenomenon, often associated with the social and economic reforms of Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s, the civil rights movement of the 1960s and certain cultural changes of more recent vintage. On the essentials (individual freedom, the primacy of market economics and the commitment to technological "progress"), there is very little in dispute between - say Bill & Hillary Clinton on the one hand and George H. W. Bush & George W. Bush on the other. The former may be more inclined (at least rhetorically) generous to the poor, less openly aggressive internationally and more likely to talk about equal rights and fairness; however, all of them recoil from such obvious social interventions as universal, publically funded health care at home and anti-imperialism abroad. They may, as it were, attend different churches, but they worship the same god.

By saying that the Clintons and the Bushes (and the Democrats and Republicans) are all liberals in no way diminishes the depth of their disagreements nor the passion with which they defend their positions. It merely means that their differences are about shades of political opinion and not about fundamental differences of political philosophy. They are about pragmatics not principles.

Perhaps it would help to highlight two of Tim Gratz's statements in order to show what I think is an internal contradiction in his understanding of conservatism. On the one hand, he says that it is a basic tenet of conservatism to be sceptical of human nature and, to some substantial degree, to believe that humanity is basically evil (a position that can be attributed either to a religious notion of "original sin" or a sociobiolgical belief that our species is ruled by a genetic predisposition to aggression, territoriality and violence). One way or another, according to the Book of Genesis or Thomas Hobbes, we are by nature a nasty and brutish bunch. On the other hand, he claims that conservatism is committed to individual liberty and is generally unwilling to yield up personal rights and freedoms to the state. In short, by this account of conservatism, we are immoral thugs and the best society is one that allows us to behave freely in the absence (or minimization) of control by the authorities.

Sorry, but this view of conservatism is (in the common use of the term) "schizophrenic"! The matter cannot be had both ways. If we are evil, we need to be controlled; if we are to be allowed freedom, we are not evil.

Authentic conservatives are no strong supporters of capitalism and may (as Adam Smith certainly did) give enthusiastic endorsement to public education and the regulation of corporations (which he denounced as perversions of the free market economy!). Authentic conservatives treasure social harmony and set great store by the principle of noblesse oblige. They give short shrift to civil liberties but seek to compensate for this by insisting that wealth and privilege place obligations on the upper orders of society to care for and to share with the deserving poor as a matter of public duty and as a pragmatic defence against agitation and disorder. True enough, Edmund Burke sometimes sounded like a conservative (especially in his book about France) but his instincts were those of a cautious, right-wing liberal. If he contradicted himself, he was not alone, for the great liberal icon Thomas Jefferson not only wrote that "all men are created equal" but also owned slaves (a contradicted nicely finessed by having the US Constitution accept slaves as 60% human - cf., Edward Dumbauld, The Constitution of the United States [Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1964], pp. 203-204). Despite such exigencies and contingencies, it should not be impossible to construct an inventory of "values" to distinguish conservatism, liberalism and socialism as a prelude to further refining definitions and taking into account variations on several themes including "reactionary" and "libertarian" ideologies.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

×