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2012 ElectionPhilosophy

Conservatives: Wielding Power or Limiting Power?

It is a beautiful, sunny day in Texas and I am proudly flying my Nyberg Three Percenter flag outside my home for the 1st time. I am sure the surveillance drone has already registered my insolence. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “pardon my freedom.”

I thought about what that flag symbolizes and how our Republic exists because of the bravery of a very small minority of the colonists. Then I wondered: how many of that minority would actually call themselves
“Conservatives” if they were alive today? Would they be proud of the rules the “Conservatives” have followed and are following given the growth of our government, national debt, and continued erosion of individual liberties both before and after Obama?

The rules Conservatives follow.
One of my favorite lines, from one of my favorite movies, comes from Cormac McCarthy’s psychopathic killer, Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men. Just before dispatching one of his victims Chigurh asked, “If the rule you followed brought you to this, of what use was the rule?”

Months ago I asked myself, what rule have I followed in regard to my political beliefs and actions? Being a Texan and former Air Force Captain, I always considered myself to be very conservative. Naturally I believed that the left was evil, they must be blocked by any method possible, and the Conservatives up in Congress will take care of that for me while I go about my business.

Increasing alarm about our country, coupled with quite a bit of self-education has led me to realize my rule needed to change. I have to become an active part of We The People. The first step was becoming a delegate to the Texas GOP Convention. I witnessed lots of “Conservatives” there. As a matter of fact, I think everyone there believed they were a “Conservative.”

As I tried to answer this question about what it means to be a “Conservative,” I turned to F.A. Hayek and I was amazed at how someone writing so long ago could actually tap into what I knew, reflecting my current political state of mind. He argued about the existence of three distinct groups: progressives, conservatives, and the variously named old-school Continental liberals (i.e., Libertarians, Old Whigs…). Below are a few of his points on the subject.

Hayek’s “decisive objection” to conservatism was*

that by its very nature it cannot offer an alternative to the direction in which we are moving. It may succeed by its resistance to current tendencies in slowing down undesirable developments, but, since it does not indicate another direction, it cannot prevent their continuance. It has…been the fate of conservatism to be dragged along a path not of its own choosing…the tug of war between conservatives and progressives can only affect the speed, not the direction, of contemporary developments.” Though there needs to be a brake on the progressives, he noted, “I personally cannot be content with simply helping to apply the brake.

“The conservatives are inclined to use the powers of government to prevent change or to limit its role to whatever appeals to the more timid mind.”

He noted the better way was realizing that

self regulating forces of the market will somehow bring about the required adjustments to new conditions, although no one can fortell how they will do this in a particular instance. There is perhaps no single factor contributing to people’s frequent reluctance to let the market work as their inability to conceive how some necessary balance…will be brought about without deliberate control. The conservative feels safe and content only if he is assured that some higher wisdom watches and supervises change, and if he knows that some authority is charged with keeping the change ‘orderly.’ This fear of trusting uncontrolled social forces is closely related to two other characteristics of conservatism, its fondness for authority and its lack of understanding of economic forces.

He (the conservative) believes that if government is in the hands of decent men, it ought not to be too much restricted by rigid rules…his main hope must be that the wise and the good will rule not merely by example, as we all must wish, but by authority given to them and enforced by them.

Those espousing the better way deny,

that anyone has authority to decide who these superpeople are. While the conservative inclines to defend the particular established hierarchy and wishes authority to protect the status of those whom he values, the (Continental) liberal feels that no respect for established values can justify the resort to privilege or monopoly or any other coercive power of the state in order to shelter such people against the forces of economic change.

Like the socialist, he (the conservative) is less concerned with the problem of how the powers of government should be limited than with that of who wields them; and like the socialist, he regards himself as entitled to force the value he holds on other people.

The chief evil is unlimited government and nobody is qualified to wield unlimited power.

Reading Hayek left me with more unanswered questions to ponder:
1. If everyone on the right running for office claims to be a Conservative, what does that even mean?
2. What does a “Conservative” stand for? Doesn’t conservative mean, “tending to oppose change”? Is that good given our current state?
3. Do they actually agree with the GOP platform and if so, how do they prioritize the platform issues?
4. How do we reconcile their profession of beliefs vs. actual actions once elected?
5. If they say they want to balance the budget, are they willing to actually take on reduction of Medicare, Social Security, and military spending as there seems no way to really balance otherwise?
6. Are they more interested in playing the game, doing as they are told, not making waves, and bowing to the hierarchy to stay in office?
7. Are they more interested in simply battling the Left as a diversion rather than attacking the debt and risk angering their constituents?
8. Is the debt really even the priority issue for them?
9. Though it looks like they want to audit the FED now, what will they actually do with what they find? Are they just pandering to the Libertarians and Tea Party groups?
10. Are they well read in economics? What are their views on Keynes and Hayek’s theories?

Hayek’s criticism of the Conservatives and modern-day Liberals and Progressives seems to fit well with my general disgust aimed at most of Washington.

*Hayek quotes come from, F.A. Hayek’s chapter “Postscript: Why I am Not a Conservative” found in, The Constitution of Liberty: The Definitive Edition.

G.C. Mandrake

GC Mandrake is the pen name for a psychologist, former Air Force Captain, and a strong advocate of the constitution, a balanced budget, and individual liberty. Website:

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