Yesterday, George Will made his case for “conservatism.” This mainly involves making the case against Mayor Quimby, the corrupt and degenerate mayor of the fictional town of Springfield on the Simpsons. For in making the case for conservatism, Will presumes there is only one alternative–his. There may indeed be two major parties, but hardly anyone at this point can claim that they divide along the lines Will suggests–one is for freedom, the other for equality. The one that ought to be for freedom–the conservative one–openly advocates the rollback of plain-language constitutional guarantees; while the one that’s for equality over freedom, often comes out for freedom over equality. If we had more patience with this, we’d say what Will means is the freedom of individuals (which includes corporations, but not unions of workers) to make money without government restraint; but not the freedom of individuals to seek redress through the courts. Someone else can make that case. We’d just like to point out the silly straw man, and consequent false dichotomy. Someone really ought to make the case for “conservatism” in a way that does not presuppose some dumb-ass liberal view. Liberalism after all has its John Rawls.
Here’s the straw man:
>Liberals tend, however, to infer unequal opportunities from the fact of unequal outcomes. Hence liberalism’s goal of achieving greater equality of condition leads to a larger scope for interventionist government to circumscribe the market’s role in allocating wealth and opportunity. Liberalism increasingly seeks to deliver equality in the form of equal dependence of more and more people for more and more things on government.
>Hence liberals’ hostility to school choice programs that challenge public education’s semimonopoly. Hence hostility to private accounts funded by a portion of each individual’s Social Security taxes. Hence their fear of health savings accounts (individuals who buy high-deductible health insurance become eligible for tax-preferred savings accounts from which they pay their routine medical expenses — just as car owners do not buy insurance to cover oil changes). Hence liberals’ advocacy of government responsibility for — and, inevitably, rationing of — health care, which is 16 percent of the economy and rising.
>Steadily enlarging dependence on government accords with liberalism’s ethic of common provision, and with the liberal party’s interest in pleasing its most powerful faction — public employees and their unions. Conservatism’s rejoinder should be that the argument about whether there ought to be a welfare state is over. Today’s proper debate is about the modalities by which entitlements are delivered. Modalities matter, because some encourage and others discourage attributes and attitudes — a future orientation, self-reliance, individual responsibility for healthy living — that are essential for dignified living in an economically vibrant society that a welfare state, ravenous for revenue in an aging society, requires.
Right. Now the false dichotomy:
>This reasoning is congruent with conservatism’s argument that excessively benevolent government is not a benefactor, and that capitalism does not merely make people better off, it makes them better. Liberalism once argued that large corporate entities of industrial capitalism degraded individuals by breeding dependence, passivity and servility. Conservatism challenges liberalism’s blindness about the comparable dangers from the biggest social entity, government.
Liberals pro-government. Government bad. Conservatives anti-government. Anti-government good. Conservatism good.