Reading Time: 5 minutes A personal experience is no reliable argument for a fundamentally rational and political question.
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Words aren’t set in stone and can mean whatever we want them to mean. As long as we correctly convey the intended message, right?


But often we get issues. And one of those issues is about “conservatism”, the basis of the issue possibly being wrapped up with seismic cultural shifts over the last one hundred years, and somewhere within that, the term “conservative” has had to sit, but necessarily adjusting as the whole frame shifts.

Catholic fellow blogger at Patheos called himself a conservative on a thread the other day in opining:

Is there such a thing as simply a “right-wing” or “conservative” political position, or are all of us to the right of leftism and socialism “far-right” fanatics and extremists (not to mention racists, sexists, homophobes, et al, ad nauseam) etc.? Just checking . . .

Can you have a conservatism both allowing for religion and atheism? The problem is that the label is broad. Are we talking social issues, or economic conservatism?

3lemenope replied, as astutely as ever:

You’ve probably already blocked me–heaven knows you’ve never, ever actually engaged with anything I’ve said to you–but perhaps the problem is that you have absolutely no clue where you actually fall on the spectrum. I’m a conservative, and many of your positions strike me as extreme Right without a scintilla of conservatism. Conservatism is a disposition, you see, not a menu of policy options, and you jumped on board the Trump train (and apparently never got off) and there is nothing about that guy or his approach that has a disposition of care or conservation regarding values, traditions, and goals. He was just a nihilist, clearly in the political arena not to serve but to self-enrich by plundering. Nihilism, unfortunately, can find a home anywhere, but today in the US, it has lodged firmly in the far-Right, and those that are there soothe themselves by calling themselves conservative because that school of thought has the gravitas and history that doesn’t draw a straight line back to fascism, ‮msizan‬, American confederacy, and other such monstrosities, which the current far-Right pseudo-populism most certainly does.

If you were actually checking, you probably start with some self-examination about whether anything you’ve supported actually can be described according to the philosophies and movements of historical conservatism. If you were actually checking, you may be surprised and woefully disappointed. Burke doesn’t know you, lukewarm, and he’d spit you out. That’s not even getting into the part where you’re apparently an arch-Catholic who somehow finds himself in league with the rich and the plunderers, instead of “the least of these”. Squaring that circle is, if anything, even more difficult than the one where you’re pretending to some principled political conservatism.

Cynthia, a fellow skeptic, also chipped in:

I’m actually a registered member of the Conservative Party, and I agree.

My take on policy is to have a healthy respect for facts and evidence and demonstrated expertise, to be prudent, and to take a clear look at how policies are likely to affect the economy.

Conspiracy theories, insurrection, demonizing actual medical experts, spreading ignorant BS and insisting that YouTube or Bitchute videos are somehow superior sources of medical information to doctors – that’s where my husband started losing it every time he watched a Trump press conference or had Facebook friends sharing and forwarding stuff.

Anyway, with economic issues, pragmatic conservatives look at whether something will objectively have a positive or negative effect on the economy. There is a good case to be made for things like universal healthcare, child benefits, etc. when people fall into extreme poverty, there are costs to the system. When people don’t receive decent health care on a timely basis, conditions can get worse, expensive emergency visits increase and you lose productivity if people are too sick to work or if people need to act as caregivers. If people need to be extremely poor to qualify for benefits and medical care, there is a perverse incentive to show that they are extremely poor and a disincentive to do anything that would lift them out of poverty and make them ineligible for benefits. When you have benefits more broadly available, you don’t suddenly lose out by working and people will find it easier to escape the poverty trap.

As well, if you give poor families more money, they tend to spend it. That money then goes back into the economy, usually locally, and they those businesses then have money to spend, and so on.

And while we’re here, I’ll add in J Enigma’s political point:

What frustrates me is that the welfare system in this country is broken. There can be no doubt. There are a huge number of perverse incentives in the system that seem designed to keep people poor and attached to the system: the welfare cliff, for instance. Or the fact that if you make above a certain amount – which isn’t nowhere near enough to survive on your own – you lose your benefits and so as a result, unless you know for sure you can make above that amount, there’s literally no benefit in trying to get out of it, especially when you consider the stuff that you can get in the system is much, much better than the stuff you can afford outside of it (unless you make over $50,000 a year and live in a good area). Like, Medicaid is superior in every way to private insurance, and I don’t have to pay for it. But if I make above a certain amount, I lose it, but there’s no way I could ever make enough to afford insurance that’s anything like Medicaid, so you tell me what the incentivization is.

The issue is that this isn’t a problem with public assistance. The Europeans figured out a way around this problem ages ago and they call it “universal healthcare.” If you opened up Medicaid for everyone regardless of income level that would go a long way towards fixing the perverse incentivization that exists in the system. And the solutions to these problems are that simple: a universal basic income to provide a basement nobody falls below, which eliminates a lot of the problems that trap people in the system and keep them from progressing. An NHS that is superior to private insurance, cheaper than private insurance, and available to everyone, not just those who make under a certain amount, which is a stupid metric anyway that produces results the opposite of what you claim you want the system to do.

But you can’t explain that to conservatives. Their very first reaction to anything I said is, “well, cut it deeper” without realizing that’s the same ‮gnikcuf‬ mentality that created this disaster in the first place. If the definition of “insanity” is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results each time then conservatives and the right have been insane since at least the 1980s and they’re dragging the rest of the country down with them. The only reason they get a pass is because this country venomously hates poor people. For some awful reason, the middle class are jealous of poor people and want to punish the poor every change they get. And if I didn’t know any better, I’d suggest that awful reason has something to do with the fact that the picture most people have when they think “poor” is an individual with darker skin. But I do know better, so I’ll come right out and confirm that.

Keep going, people! Good conversations

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...