Transcript: World Views, Dec 07 2006

The core differences between the conservative worldview and the liberal worldview.

Thom's "World Views" rant 7 December 2006

Russell Kirk, in his book, "The Conservative Mind", he writes about Sir Edmund Burke and all this stuff and he really defined and framed the modern conservative philosophy in a whole variety of ways. He said, for example, that the starting point is a belief in God and an order that is more than human. And there's really two points to that. I think that it's possible to believe in God and yet also think that humans can do things for themselves, rather than thinking that everything must, you know, it was basically a theological argument, He was basically suggesting that well, in fact, here:

"The belief in God and a belief in an order that is more than human, which rules both society and individuals".

In other words, society should be subordinate to Religion.

He went on to say, "Real progress consists in the movement of mankind to ward the understanding of norms, and toward conformity to norms."

In other words, everybody should be the same.

"Real decadence consists in the movement of mankind away from the understanding of norms, and away from obedience to norms and authority."

These are the key tenets of moderate conservatism. You know, I'm trying to present them in a relatively neutral context, I mean, we need to understand this. For example, Russell Kirk believed that the so-called free market was a moral foundation of society. He said that economics cannot be separated from morals and character because material prosperity depends upon moral convictions and moral dealings. In Russell Kirk's world there was no Ken Lay. Because at the time he was writing, you had Dwight Eisenhower, good conservative republican president, who believed that there should be a 90% top income tax rate and that corporations that commit crimes should go to jail or that, you know, corporate criminals. Corporations themselves should be dissolved.

In this he was quoting Sir Edmund Burke in the 1790s, conservative thinker. He said, "Ordinary integrity must be secured by the ordinary motives to integrity. Men and women are industrious, thrifty, honest, and ingenious, in economic life, only when they expect to gain certain rewards for being industrious, thrifty, honest, and ingenious"

In other words, the only way that you can cause people to behave well is to provide them with some reward for good behavior. People are not intrinsically good. This is one of the core tenets of the conservative world view.

And I would say one of the core tenets of the progressive or the liberal worldview, the one that came out of the Renaissance and the one that came out of the Enlightenment; the one that caused the creation of the United States of America, is that in fact people will behave in an altruistic way. People will behave in ways that help other people even when sometimes it doesn't serve their own best good, because the nature of people is to be intrinsically good. And that we don't need to have a society that is ruled by a religion, by a revealed religion. It's a wonderful thing to have religions within society - that's a fine thing - but not running society.

Kirk, Russell Kirk also, you know, quotes Samuel Johnson. He says,: "A man is seldom more innocently occupied than when he is engaged making money." "Innocently occupied", as if making money in and of itself is a totally neutral thing. Again, look at Ken Lay. Look at all the crimes that have been committed. Look at our health care system right now which has been mangled in the name of making profit. William McGuire, just fired from United Health, I mean, after $2 billion in compensation. Now the guy's the bad guy, right. There's a piece about it in today's Wall Street Journal.

So I think it's important, I think it's really incumbent upon all of us to understand the core differences between the conservative worldview and the liberal worldview; between the traditional European kingdom-based worldview - the conservative worldview - and the liberal worldview that came out of the Enlightenment and that caused the United States to come into being.

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