Why Conservatives Make Me Crazy


This article will contain no colorized words, letters or pictures as conservatives recognize only black and white. Shades of gray will be assiduously avoided. Any accidental references to nuance are purely for the non-conservative reader. Finally by way of preamble let me say to any conservatives who may read this: yes, I know you’re right about everything and to the extent that I disagree with you about anything I will be wrong as a matter of immutable doctrine.

Let’s begin with some facts. On second thought, that’s probably not a good idea. Conservatives don’t give a rat’s ass what the facts are. No matter how many glaciers melt and no matter how the pace of the melt increases, global climate change is fiction. If we just close our eyes and de-fund all those scientists measuring increased ocean levels, it will all go away. If only we could find our way back to the halcyon days of Calvin Coolidge [or the Articles of Confederation], the problems of the modern world would evaporate…sort of like the glaciers in the fictional book of climate change.

To a conservative a fact is a falsehood that has been repeated often enough (by conservatives) to anoint it as true. Sort of like “Reaganomics works”. Or “the government never does anything right.” Tell that to the National Weather Service or the Centers for Disease Control.

Ok, enough of the needling. Let’s move on to the central premise. The conservative world view is fundamentally unrealistic. For illustrative purposes, consider two main mantras of conservatism, small government and states’ rights. For the non-conservative reader willing to be swayed by reference to reality, those trains have left the station on a one way track out of town. There’s good reason for that too.

We are no longer a nation of small shop keepers and self sustaining agrarian pioneers. “The government that governs least, governs best” is a catchy old saying. But being catchy and old doesn’t make it accurate. Not in today’s world.

A few things happened along the way. First was that bother called the Civil War. In addition to ending slavery, it served as a demarcation point in the battle between federal supremacy, preserving the Union, and the states righters. Robert E. Lee fought for the south because his first loyalty was to Virginia, not the federal government. As between those federal supremacists and the states righters, remember who won.

Along the way we as a people also made some value judgments. With industrialization and continental expansion, America needed transportation and communications systems. With the help of the federal government, we got them. That same need and that same federal involvement exists today though at a more sophisticated level. We noticed that with industrialization and urbanization of the population came intolerable working conditions, monopolistic practices and financing abuses. Because of the interstate nature of commerce brought about by industrialization, transportation and communication, it was left to an increasingly powerful federal government to regulate those abuses and insure the welfare of individual citizens. Teddy Roosevelt and his Progressives were heroes, not villains. And it was the power of federal supremacy that made it possible.

Our insertion into the First World War made us serious players on the world stage. It was the federal government that took us there. Conservatives tried to retrench after that with a series of electoral victories. Their unwillingness to use the powers of government to reign in corporate and financial market abuse resulted in something we now refer to as The Great Depression. Enter another Roosevelt.

Once again that value judgment that the welfare of the people mattered summoned the nation to support federal action. That conservatives still want to fight the New Deal 80 years later is part and parcel of their unrealistic world view. It happened. Deal with it. America made a judgment that people who spend their adult lives working to make their country prosperous should not suffer impoverished indignity in retirement, and that rural electrification and public works infrastructure projects were worth undertaking. And thank goodness we did.

With the end of WWII, we became a military super power. That pesky federal power again. We reclaimed moral credibility with the Civil Rights movement, led by federal action. World economic dominance grew with the helping hand of government policy as we rebuilt Europe and Japan as economic partners and continued our internal infrastructure projects to support economic development with ideas like the interstate highway system.

What we are today, what we have become as a nation is, in no small measure, the direct result of shunting aside states rights for big government. With big government have come problems, but without it we would be a loose collection of states fiddling at the edge of a global economy and the world stage. We compete in a world with other nations, not states and provinces. That requires a national presence.

If you want to argue for a more efficient or more effective national government, fine. But small government and states’ rights? Sorry, the 1780’s were more than two centuries ago. Today’s world is both interstate and international. The value judgments we have made over our history and the economic realities of globalism have brought us to a system of big government and the preeminence of federal supremacy.

As I said in my piece on liberals, there are many other examples that could have been used. Unrealistic views and unhelpful mantras will not move our country forward, be they small government, states rights, illegal immigration, tax policy, subliminal racism or sexism, corporatism or wealth idolatry. Progress does not come from moving backward or denying reality.

[Author’s Note: Like the article about liberals, the snarkier remarks are based on broad caricatures, not particular individuals. In both articles, I have used the other side’s stereotype of the opposition in presenting a point of view to exaggerate the foibles of each.]

Author: ELIJAH SWEETE

Contributor, aka tidbits

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68 Comments

  1. DLS

    Once again, my man you see only the left as the culprit. There’s been an equal right wing oil based line of political BS every bit as bogus. Sorry you’re blind to half the problem. You you wish to examine what we can do, give up your self-serving meme. I promise, it won’t hurt.

  2. Government is overhead.

    If by overhead you mean overhead to over ride chaos, I’m with you. Any other meaning is just buzz word, sound byte BS. Civilization is overhead. Food distribution is overhead. Self defense is overhead. Your opinion is overhead to cogent thought. See how that works?

  3. Dave Hemm, try ending the blindness (if not other faults, too).

    I resent your bogus charges which are often hypocritical, too.

    It may be too much, but just limiting yourself to this thread, take a look (I cannot confidently say, “again,” for multiple reasons) at the account of US nationalism and nationalists, which in practice is the same as conservatism and conservatives, provided by Anatol Lieven. If you can see and read (and understand), it is a critical account of such things, and it corresponds to some of what EJS was trying to say (returning to an earlier time out of nostalgia and out of hostility to change — which does not constitute progress innately — and to progress, and to a type of “defeat” (to liberals, “foreign elements and ideas,” and so on).

    Then remind yourself that I provided it here and have on other threads to show critique of conservatives and conservatism that I believe is, in a number of ways, accurate as well as good observation. (more, if you can read and understand) It is somewhat hyperbolic and fixates on a fraction of society and makes too much of it (among a number of goofs lefties make — and he even likes to speak of “bourgeoisie” and “proletariat,” so even if you can’t grasp from the context he’s a lefty, well, there are certain words that should be a tip-off), but he does give a good account of the nature of many conservatives, notably the social (and nationalist) and religious conservatives. (also the Cold War mentality)

    Here’s the fucking link again. The chapters you need to review even are linked to separately, under “Contents” (helping again)

    http://books.google.com/books?.....38;f=false

    You’re welcome.

    Now if you can, end the blindness (and perhaps worse) on other threads.

    Thanks in advance.

  4. Dave Hemmann wrote:

    If by overhead you mean overhead to over ride chaos, I’m with you. Any other meaning is just buzz word, sound byte BS.
    Civilization is overhead…

    You don’t understand (particularly when you go on to say “civilization is overhead”: No, taxes don’t buy “civilization”).

    What I wrote was clear as well as correct. If need be, re-read slowly as many times as needed until you understand it (truly).

    Especially if wrongly viewed as a service agency and family substitute rather than (properly) as a government (and redistribution functions involving individuals, cities and counties, and states as well as the federal government count here), it is overhead and it’s too much and too intrusive and ineffective or counter-effective overhead. Why “need” [sic; "want"] more, as some advocates believe is “necessary” [sic]?

  5. DLS

    Self serving definitions are not a good place to start

    from dictionary.com
    government – the political direction and control exercised over the actions of the members, citizens, or inhabitants of communities, societies, and states; direction of the affairs of a state, community, etc.; political administration: Government is necessary to the existence of civilized society.

    Overhead is your idea, not the universally accepted generic definition of government.

    Castigate and insinuate as you wish, cite my bias if you can. I’ll wait for your to demonstrate the truth of that charge.
    I expect crickets, but I’m open to being proved wrong.

  6. It’s not a self-serving definition, Dave. Sorry if you can’t (or you can but you insistenly won’t) understand what I have written. I’ll have to leave it at that if you can’t or won’t learn.

  7. Hemmann says: These comes from NCDS/NESDIS/NOAA and are not supported by any oil money. You do accept National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data, don’t you?

    Certainly I accept National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data… when taken in context with the background provided by the agencies you quote.

    Why didn’t you provide that information? (a rhetorical question)

    Probably because all those agencies are on-board with all major scientific organizations and they too agree that:

    1. Climate Change both is a major worldwide problem; and,
    2. That most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities

    .

    Here’s what the organizations you linked to actually say about Climate Change:

    NOAA says: Climate changes are underway in the United States and are projected to grow.

    Global temperature has increased over the past 50 years, primarily due to human behaviors that release heat-trapping gases, like carbon dioxide.

    Widespread climate-related impacts are occurring now and are expected to increase.

    Changes are happening in the United States, and elsewhere, but the impacts vary from region to region. These changes are affecting sectors of our society that cross regional boundaries. Already impacted are things that we depend upon; water, energy, transportation, agriculture, ecosystems, and human health.

    [...]

    Met Office says: Climate Change

    The term ‘climate change’ refers to a change in the average state of our climate and/or the variability of its properties.

    While there are noticeable highs and lows in year to year data, over longer periods of time there is a discernable warming trend across the globe. Natural causes can explain only a small part of this warming. The overwhelming majority of scientists agree that this is due to rising concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere caused by human activities.

    [...]

    And for extra credit…

    NASA says: Global Climate Change – Evidence: How do we know?

    The Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of human civilization. Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.

    The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years.1

    Earth-orbiting satellites and other technological advances have enabled scientists to see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate on a global scale. Studying these climate data collected over many years reveal the signals of a changing climate.

    [...]

    Global temperature rise

    All three major global surface temperature reconstructions show that Earth has warmed since 1880. 5 Most of this warming has occurred since the 1970s, with the 20 warmest years having occurred since 1981 and with all 10 of the warmest years occurring in the past 12 years. 6 Even though the 2000s witnessed a solar output decline resulting in an unusually deep solar minimum in 2007-2009, surface temperatures continue to increase.

    [...]

    The positions I take are as obvious to me as your positions are to you. I’m satisfied that science knows more than either of us and consider trying to argue against you industry based talking points a waste of time. Feel free to show us how ignorant (and political of course) NCDS/NESDIS/NOAA, MET and NASA have suddenly all become as I’m finished thread-jacking tidbits fine post.

  8. Enjoyed both your pieces, Elijah, and most of the comments. Look forward to the sequel, on whomever else “drives you crazy.” :)–although not too many left.

    Sent with a “centrist” slant from “la mitad del mundo.”

  9. NASA under James Hansen (whose blatantly political, and blatant, behavior nobody sane would question) was obviously political. The publications such as Nature and Science have been implicated in scandal, as has “scientific academia” with Climategate, not to mention people presuming to be learned, like celebrity leftist Al Gore. I don’t accept ignorance claims, though Hansen does, in “Dreams of My Children,” recall (unwittingly) instance after instance of blatant (and hystericist) political activism, and in this book for those instances, expresses wonder at what the reaction has been all about.

    Even the Union of Concerned Scientists (a far-left activist group), in recalling some “political mistreatment of Hansen” (by evil right wing syndicalists), unwittingly exposed the problem, both in the recollection of statements Hansen made, and NASA’s own stupid former mission statement, which included “to understand and protect our home planet.” (NASA’s mission is research and perhaps expert authority lent for other purposes, such as legislation; it has no legitimate activist role whatsoever. It’s left-activism, of course, which is the rule. Any “shills for industry” right-wing accusations in academia or government or the media are greatly dwarfed and really aren’t any problem.)

    http://www.ucsusa.org/scientif.....ansen.html

  10. Thanks, Dorian.

    Happy Father’s Day.

  11. Happy Fathers Day Elijah & Dorian.

    Thanks for helping me get my priorities straight.

  12. SteveK says:

    And where does the scientific proof for any of the opinions expressed in your links reside. It’s likely that AGW is the cause is not a scientific opinion, it is a political one. You should know the difference.

    And all quotes above reflect what my original position was. The earth is warming, and has been doing so for 1000s of years.
    CO2 has a physical limit as to the upward forcing of temperature that has and can be measured in laboratory tests. that’s science, and is irrefutable. The assertion of some kind of synergistic “sum greater than it’s parts” theory of run away heating has no experimental evidence to back it up. Show the peer reviewed paper or accept that the current theory you believe is true fails the first test of scientific proof.

    Make all the political arguments, consensus rants, or whatever; science requires proof.

    I stated that the warming trend has been a degree per century for hundreds of years. The graphs come from those who ask you to believe them or your lying eyes. Argue the graph, not the hype.

  13. “Would you have made the same answer to whether government needs to grow in say 2001?

    Hi Steve — Just saw this. Can you be more specific? Do you mean before the Bush disaster, or before 9/11, or do you just mean a generic decade ago? Also, are you talking about what my opinion was at the time, or what answer I would have given with me being me now?

  14. roro,

    Let’s just say the day that Bush took office. The Federal government was about 40 percent smaller than it is today at that point and I don’t recall many people arguing that Clinton needed to dramatically increase the size of government.

    Since then, we’ve had two Presidents who favor massive expansion of government. One favored it in matters security and bedroom related, the other in matters social and regulatory related.

    What I think we are learning is that it is far easier to expand government than constrain it because it appears hard to undo the expansion once it has occurred.

  15. Let’s just say the day that Bush took office. The Federal government was about 40 percent smaller than it is today at that point and I don’t recall many people arguing that Clinton needed to dramatically increase the size of government.

    Interesting theory… Unfortunately the facts paint a different picture

    FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CIVILIAN EMPLOYMENT
    BY FUNCTION: OCTOBER 1992
    http://www2.census.gov/govs/apes/92fedfun.txt

    Total Employees: 3,046,873
    Full-Time Employees: 2,736,962
    Total March Payroll: data not available

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CIVILIAN EMPLOYMENT
    BY FUNCTION: MARCH 2000
    http://www2.census.gov/govs/apes/00fedfun.txt

    Total Employees: 2,899,363
    Full-Time Employees: 2,425,898
    Total March Payroll: 11,484,971,535

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CIVILIAN EMPLOYMENT
    BY FUNCTION: March 2009
    http://www2.census.gov/govs/apes/09fedfun.pdf

    Total Employees: 2,823,777
    Full-Time Employees: 2,527,149
    Total March Payroll: 15,105,511,892

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Saying the same thing over-and-over-and-over doesn’t make it true… It’s got to be true in the first place.

  16. I realize that if you’re simply talking about ‘federal spending’ growth has occurred (preemptive attacks on sovereign nations ain’t cheap) but, contrary to the standard ‘rightie’ and Tea Party talking point, the number of federal employees is less now than it was in 1992.

  17. Actually SteveK, I was referring to government spending as a percentage of GDP, not the workforce. If I were simply going for effect, I could have used Federal government spending in nominal dollars (up over 100 percent for the decade) or the same controlled for inflation (up more than 50 percent for the decade).

    I don’t measure the size of government by the number of employees although I would point out that the Federal payroll is up more than 30 percent using the numbers you cited.

    Finally, to the point about “attacks on sovereign nations”, the increase in the budget from 2000 to 2010 in terms of percent of GDP is around 6 percentage points. Of that, about 1 percentage point is the cost of attacks on sovereign nations (as you put it). Not nothing but hardly the major cause of the 6 point swing.

    Clearly you didn’t read my comment. I recognize the expansion in the scope of government under Bush and the expansion under Obama. I also recognize that much of the expansion under Bush has not been undone by Obama and that much of the expansion under Obama will not be undone by the next President, whoever he or she may be. Which is exactly my point…those on the left claiming that government no longer needs to expand should let us know when they arrived at that point of view. Were it any time prior to 2009, they should be calling for government to contract in addition to reallocate.

  18. (Sorry I’m late back to the discussion. I was interested in the debate but didn’t have a chance to respond until now.)

    SteveK,

    I understand there may be some tea partiers who say the federal government employs too many people, that was not the point SteveinCH was making. Obviously, the federal payroll is a small fraction of the total federal budget and so when we talk about the size of government, we are talking about much more than how many people it employs.

    SteveinCH,

    While in general I agree with you I do have a nit to pick. I went to look up the numbers (http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/108.....dixF.shtml) and it seems to me that government spending, as a percentage of GDP, has remained mostly stable except for mandatory entitlement spending, which is mostly the result of external factors not directly related to any specific government action. Other than that, there has been some increase in military spending and some other discretionary spending, but in those areas we are roughly in-line with the historical trend, up until 2009 when the recession hit. You could make the argument that it has remained stable due to conservative pressure to constrain the size of government in opposition to the natural tendency to grow, but it’s difficult to make that argument for the same reason it’s difficult for Obama to argue that he has “saved” jobs.

    So, based on the data I’d make a slight variation to the argument you are making, which is, if I understand correctly, that if you are not actively constraining the size of government then you are, in effect, in favor of increasing the size of government. I’d say this is true mostly with regards to entitlements: if you are not in favor of constraining the growth of entitlement spending, then you are, in effect, in favor of increasing entitlement spending. For example, I don’t think you can be in favor of something like the ACA and then say that you don’t think government needs to grow, because implementing such things almost inevitably results in steadily increasing government spending (and therefore government influence), even if you believe that it is deficit-neutral due to corresponding revenue increases.

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