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.]

ELIJAH SWEETE
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PATRICK EDABURN, Assistant Editor
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Two very enjoyable posts.

The sad part is I am sure there are some readers who will consider this one pure fact and others who will feel the same of your prior post.

DLS
Guest
DLS
5 years 3 months ago
Another excellent description, I must say. (I have nothing to fear as a non-liberal because I’m independent and more libertarian than conservative, and unlike my critics arrive at my views of various issues from reasoning and thinking about them.) Just a quick note that reforming our government system to go back toward proper federalism is not a back-to-the-1700s quirk. We’ll have a modern welfare state with a federal component to it (I’ve told EJS elsewhere the real legal reasoning to support it, having to do with the relation between the federal government and its citizens — we’ve been federal citizens… Read more »
DLS
Guest
DLS
5 years 3 months ago
EJS — the “destruction of distance” with modern transportation and communications (the conservatives you describe would insist on use of only the second word, as the old meaning includes both kinds of movement) and the development of life centered mainly in metro areas really mean the idea of states, or provinces(!), or jurisdictional and administrative districts still remains (and in most people’s minds is even more hierarchical than is the actual case with our form of government — i.e., most people think there’s even more presumed federal supremacy than there truly is or should be) should simply be revised. Certainly… Read more »
DLS
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DLS
5 years 3 months ago

EJS, regarding conservatives,

I’ll refer you to the following book. Consider that some might really want to return us to the golden 1950s…(and that there is some possible resentment at being “defeated” in the 1960s)

It’s caricatured, somewhat, but you’ll recognize conservatives, easily:

http://books.google.com/books?id=FeGe5dD1GmUC&lpg=PP1&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false

ProfElwood
Guest
5 years 3 months ago

The problems with both concepts:
1. Power corrupts.
2. People adapt to their environment.

Both groups drive me crazy by trusting their leaders, thinking that a single vote every 2 to 4 years controls that leader, and by constantly being shocked when a program exceeds its estimates. Our current situation isn’t new — it’s ugly end is predictable.

“Who watches the watchers?” is still a valid problem.

adelinesdad
Guest
adelinesdad
5 years 3 months ago
You make some good points, but for some reason I found this post slightly less enjoyable than the first.;) With regards to climate change (yes, unlike many readers of your first post, I realize that wasn’t really your point), I absolutely agree. Conservatives do drive me crazy for too often accepting self-serving sound-bites as facts. If I hear one more person cheekily asking “what happened to that global warming?” on a cold winter day I’m going to poke my eye out with the plastic fork I’m eating my lunch with. But on to the more substantive matter of states rights:… Read more »
Indefatigably
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Indefatigably
5 years 3 months ago

One can agree the world has changed, and government must adapt, while still holding to an ideal of keeping government as small as possible, and reserving to the States those powers the Constitution did not award to the Federal Government.

I also agree that change should come from the proscribed Constitutional methods.

Finally, is there anyone, other than those of Kathy’s political world-view, that think that the current US Federal government is still too small and lacks enough power and authority over its citizens, the States, and commerce in general?

JSpencer
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JSpencer
5 years 3 months ago

What Patrick said. Needless to say, I’m biased… maybe that’s why I enjoyed this one more. 😉

rudi
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rudi
5 years 3 months ago

As for arguments to do things by constitutional amendment, I’ll risk repeating myself. That has become a virtual impossibility in our hopelessly divided nation and given the ideological chasms that I described here and in the liberals article.

We also don’t want the Reagan or Brown California citizen initiative model either…

JSpencer
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JSpencer
5 years 3 months ago

Any vaguely functional government would do.

dduck
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dduck
5 years 3 months ago

I liked this one better than the first, especially the pre-history beginning paragraphs.
But I’m afraid that “thinking”, meaning non-lemming type Dems and Reps, are becoming the minority, and your stereotypes the majority.

casualobserver
Guest
casualobserver
5 years 3 months ago
  “My view. If we wait for the Constitution to be amended to progress to the future, we will end up a third world country.”   Are you operating out of rant mode here or truly trying to convince?   I hope the former, because I take you to be much more pragmatic than to believe this  sentence  wins hearts and minds of conservatives.    I’m trying to tie this sentence into your OP, so it must have something to do with the globalizing economy?   If so, a more globalized economy is only a threat to those that feel unable to… Read more »
Zzzzz
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Zzzzz
5 years 3 months ago
You should try living in the third world, casual. You would find it enlightening. I am not being snarky. The world really has changed from the world our founding fathers envisioned. For example, I can’t say I know anyone who really thinks of his or herself as a citizen of their state. People move all over the country for opportunities. Ties to a community going back generations are rarer and rarer. Further, the big and fundamental political differences are no longer between the states. They are between rural and urban. People living in L.A. are going to have a lot… Read more »
DLS
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DLS
5 years 3 months ago

All of us who have insisted on viewing federalism intelligently (which the Left despises) have been right (i.e., correct, and the unintended pun is relished — though so normally and often the two are, in the real world, synonymous — also relished).

As to the concern that having to wait to make something legally (and otherwise) legitimate before realizing what someone (on the Left, 99.999999999999999%) wants, is, of course, trying (and failing) to rationalize that the means justify any and all ends (typical on the Left) because the ends are desirable (to them, at least, which to them settles the matter).

Indefatigably
Guest
Indefatigably
5 years 3 months ago

I will ask my question again in defense of Conservatism and supporting a reduction in the role of the Federal government –

Who here thinks the U.S. government currently is too small and lacks enough power and authority over its citizens, the States, and commerce in general?

That is, in the end, the primary difference in the two political philosophies.

DLS
Guest
DLS
5 years 3 months ago
As to the extension of federalism’s locality* orientation rather than with minimalism, well, “local option” gives San Franciscans and the like to be as stupid and crazy as they wish (so long as they don’t violate state and federal citizens’ rights or other legal protections). It covers a lot which the feds should never be involved with (including personal issues such as diet or abortion). Zzzzz: This nation and the world has greatly changed from what was so in the 1960s. It’s ridiculous to act as if it’s still that time, which is the big problem, not the bogus “powdered… Read more »
DLS
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DLS
5 years 3 months ago

Why does the Left disparage or despise amending the Constitution to make what the Left wants legitimate for the federal government?

“Not fast enough” is no satisfactory answer. (Nor is “we have to bypass the legislature because we can’t win elections so as to get legislators who represent our extremist interests.”)

Indefatigably
Guest
Indefatigably
5 years 3 months ago

All,

I just wanted to say that this comment thread IMO demonstrates the intellectual strength and personal insight of TMV’s commenters.

Thanks to everyone who has participated or will participate going forward.

ES

That was from your ‘Why Liberals Drive me Crazy’ post.

I would like to add that we get much better discussions when even potentially contentious issues are positioned evenhandedly by the OP, rather than with guaranteed flame-war rhetoric.

Thank you very much for that, and the same evenhanded approach in your counter-post earlier.

Indefatigably
Guest
Indefatigably
5 years 3 months ago

ES – if you can find that theoretical progressive that thinks government growth is not needed, the current size is fine but it just needs to be redirected, point them out to me.

I think we might make history! 😉

ShannonLeee
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ShannonLeee
5 years 3 months ago

Another great one!

Barky
Guest
5 years 3 months ago
Left me as cold as the prior one. Yes, you mention the inability of conservatives to recognize a fact when it punches them in the face, but you spend far too much time on “state’s rights” which is only the mantra of some on the right and is, by itself, not a “conservative” thing but more of a libertarian thing. Here’s what frustrates me about conservatives: their style of debate (conservatives have definite debating tactics that are incredibly frustrating, effectively precluding any sane discourse), the way they latch onto age-old (and decidedly unproven) mantras such as trickle-down, and their penchant… Read more »
owengray
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owengray
5 years 3 months ago
Ellijah’s two posts are excellent. His basic thesis — that modern conservatives are not true conservatives and that modern liberals are not true liberals is spot on. The conclusion to his fist post bears repeating: When a society has only two major forces, both of which are dominated by reactionary elements, there is no push to the push-pull of progress. We now face the extraordinary dynamic of one major force pulling us back and to the right and the other major force pulling us back and to the left. There is no progressive force pressing us forward. Perhaps it’s time… Read more »
ProfElwood
Guest
5 years 3 months ago

“Any vaguely functional government would do.”

People have to rethink their priorities on occasion, and corporations often sell even profitable divisions, because they distract from their ability to concentrate on their core business.

It’s not so much that the government is too big, or too small, but that it’s doing too much to keep track of. There is no “core business” if it’s supposed to fix all problems at once.

Dr. J
Guest
Dr. J
5 years 3 months ago
Like AD, I enjoyed the first post a bit more. I think the charge of being unrealistic is a fair one, though conservatives are not the sole culprits. Global warming is a good example of the unrealism. The debates that keep happening on these pages seem both hopelessly technical and fundamentally useless. Whether the planet is warming and who is responsible are less relevant questions than what we’re going to do about it. And it’s here that the left becomes unrealistic. The small government and states rights examples are not as good. Obviously whether small government is realistic hinges entirely… Read more »
roro80
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roro80
5 years 3 months ago

“2011 at 8:31 pm
ES – if you can find that theoretical progressive that thinks government growth is not needed, the current size is fine but it just needs to be redirected, point them out to me

Nice to meet you, I’m roro.

Also, why in the world would you bring up Kathy?

roro80
Guest
roro80
5 years 3 months ago

tidbits, I guess I agree with this one a little more than the other, but your views on what’s wrong with both groups is very different than mine. If I read you correctly, I’m mostly getting that you think liberals are annoying and conservatives are unrealistic. My views are almost the opposite, although “annoying” isn’t exactly right.

I can’t help but notice how scarce progressive voices are around here these days.

tidbits
Guest
5 years 3 months ago
Roro, Actually, I think my hyperbole got to some people. In each piece, the first three paragraphs were designed to use opposition hyperbole to needle each group. As CO pointed out in the other thread, I’m married to a woman who is very liberal. Obviously, I hope, the “annoying” reference was meant with some humor. The main thesis, after the snark, was as Owen Gray noted: there are no real progressives in our current two party system. As to liberals, the main point was that they look backward to old solutions in a world that no longer fits those old… Read more »
JIM SATTERFIELD
Member
5 years 3 months ago
My thoughts on the size of government are that it needs to be the size to match the size and complexity of the problems the nation needs to address. The private sector is incapable of fixing many problems we face. I hear the modern conservative say in one breath that the only business of a business is profit and in the next say that business can address national issues without recognizing that some things just aren’t going to result in a profit when the cost to the individual or society is kept affordable, as in health care. They also never… Read more »
Hemmann
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Hemmann
5 years 3 months ago
Elijah Thanks for the flip-side article. It’s pretty clear that the usual liberal/conservative foibles are well represented by those who call themselves by these labels. Since first day at TMV, I’ve tried to make it clear I didn’t fit into either camp, and subsequent “knockdown / drag outs” with both sides have certainly proved my contention. I am prone to call myself a moral pragmatist. A pragmatist because I see the problems in government, society, personal responsibility, and I look for solutions regardless of where they first came from. The moral part of my political self-definition does not come from… Read more »
tidbits
Guest
5 years 3 months ago

Jim,

Excellent points. The illusion of privatization of governmental function is valid and is another pervasive unreality of the right.

Conservatives also have their valid points. If a conservative wants to step up, I’ll acknowledge those as well.

tidbits

tidbits
Guest
5 years 3 months ago

Hemm,

I really appreciate the call for ideas beyond criticism. It’s not easy at this point when folks are so busy destroying each other for political gain. If I read you correctly, I agree that my “pox on both houses” contains some truth, but does not take the next step in providing concrete alternatives.

That’s a discussion for another time, and one I’m willing to have. But, perhaps the first step is to recognize the flawed approach of both forces currently dominating the discussion.

tidbits

SteveinCH
Guest
SteveinCH
5 years 3 months ago

ES

Thanks for two good and thoughtful discussions. Can I ask you four questions for my own clarification?

Starting from today,

1. Can progress happen without the government doing anything?

2. Can progress happen without the Federal government doing anything?

3. How should we assess whether a particular proposed government action represents progress or not, knowing that we live in an extremely complex system?

4. Would your answer to 3 be different if you believed that government actions were easily stopped?

SteveinCH
Guest
SteveinCH
5 years 3 months ago

roro,

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

Hemmann
Guest
Hemmann
5 years 3 months ago
Dr J “Whether the planet is warming and who is responsible are less relevant questions than what we’re going to do about it. And it’s here that the left becomes unrealistic.” Here is a good example of meme over logic. No one except hacks believes the planet has not shown a long term trend toward higher temperatures. The hacks on the Right believe no such warming is scientifically proven while the Left leaning hacks believe all warming is caused by interaction of man-made CO2 contributions that somehow have interacted with other climatic forcings within the system to cause a projected… Read more »
SteveinCH
Guest
SteveinCH
5 years 3 months ago
Thanks ES. Your answers help clarify the fundamental nature of our disagreement. I don’t think government action is necessary for progress…some forms of progress but not all. I think your answer to point 3 is idealistic rather than realistic since there are many future possibilities against which to assess an action rather than one. Most proposals of any stripe are designed to deal with some element of a future systemic problem. The question is always what impact they have on other elements, including unintended ones. And on 4, I simply don’t see that happening. It never has and therefore any… Read more »
SteveinCH
Guest
SteveinCH
5 years 3 months ago

Hemm,

I’m sorry but it’s not just a scientific fight, it’s an economic and political fight as well. While science can help us determine (within ranges) likely causes and impacts of action, finance and economics is what allows us to compare different courses of action.

Hemmann
Guest
Hemmann
5 years 3 months ago
Steve If climate change is naturally occurring with minimal input via man’s CO2 contribution, what exactly would you like to politically do about it? This is exactly the point. You cannot legislate what hasn’t been proved scientifically. I’m glad you wrote me as I was about to post to you and tidbits about what I see as a problem with your questions about progress inside and out of government. I’m not trying to nit-pick, but are you two sure you mean the same thing when you use the word “progress?” The un-stated meaning of progress very well be different for… Read more »
SteveK
Guest
SteveK
5 years 3 months ago
Hemmann says: If climate change is naturally occurring with minimal input via man’s CO2 contribution, what exactly would you like to politically do about it? This is exactly the point. You cannot legislate what hasn’t been proved scientifically. Hemm + whatever alias you’re using today, You keep throwing out this silly oil industry talking point and when you get called on it you simply disappear from the thread… Once again: Scientific opinion on climate change National and international science academies and scientific societies have assessed the current scientific opinion, in particular on recent global warming. These assessments have largely followed… Read more »
SteveinCH
Guest
SteveinCH
5 years 3 months ago

Hemm,

We’re making the same point. Progress does not have a constant definition. I agree with your critique although not all of your specific examples.

Dr. J
Guest
Dr. J
5 years 3 months ago
If climate change is naturally occurring with minimal input via man’s CO2 contribution, what exactly would you like to politically do about it? This is exactly the point. You cannot legislate what hasn’t been proved scientifically. Of course you can. Otherwise marijuana would be legal, and cell phones wouldn’t have warning stickers. Indeed I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most laws are passed without consulting scientists. Nor is scientific consensus enough to dictate legislation. We scrapped the superconducting super-collider despite its popularity among scientists. Climate change is in that latter category. Scientific agreement about the… Read more »
DLS
Guest
DLS
5 years 3 months ago
Dave H. wrote: You cannot legislate what hasn’t been proved scientifically. We can leave aside the lack of proof and quantification of predictions, with the associated leftist corruption of science (as with so much else) and the attendant hyperbole and emotive, oft-dishonest-or-misleading, and frequently sensationalist BS. We also cannot legislate, or legislate and expect practical sensible results, what is sought (as since the 1960s if not before), which is massive government (usually federal) interventionism in an attempt to re-engineer the economy and society to satisfy the activists — in defiance of cost-benefit analysis, ignorance of any and all incentives arising… Read more »
DLS
Guest
DLS
5 years 3 months ago

Steve K.: If the comment robot keeps interfering with the ~4 link limit, and the links really are relevant: In addition to expressing frustration with and contempt for the robot (which I’ve done myself more than once — as long as the robot does it, it deserves such), if those links really matter, then start making multiple postings to make all the links available. It’s actually better than a gimmick I’ve resorted to, posting enough to make a link obvious without its being interpreted as a link.

DLS
Guest
DLS
5 years 3 months ago
EJS — conservatives cannot practically expect a return to pre-1930s federalism (going back to the Constitution and to true constitutional federalism, in spirit as well as in letter and in practice). There is “water under the bridge,” as well as what I’ve described before, that may be in support of liberals’ holy grail, the federal welfare state (and related views, of government as a service agency and surrogate parent and family household, rather than being a government, and in the case of the federal government, subject to constitutional constraints that should be restraint on more “ambitious” activists). The more refined… Read more »
Hemmann
Guest
Hemmann
5 years 3 months ago
SteveK 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? How about London’s MET Office Both show a 1 degree rise in the past century. ad hominem attacks concerning who pays for studies have become part of the political deflection to verifiable science. Have you read any the science or just the Reader’s Digest version of these trends? As to the IPCC, they have included non-reviewed opinions from the Greenpeace as part of their “scientific analysis.” You do know this too? Don’t you? Just asking as… Read more »
DLS
Guest
DLS
5 years 3 months ago
E.J.S. wrote: 1. … Government involvement is necessary for the U. S. to stay ahead of the curve…to progress. Progress [change if you prefer] will happen, but we won’t lead it w/o gov’t involvement. … “business model” 2. Government action needs to be federal as well as state and local. 1. Government interventionism isn’t needed intrinsically, or even desireable. This is a throwback not just to the 1960s and 1930s but to the late 1800s, when the “fatal conceit” of planned, directed re-engineering of the economy and society was first broadly expressed. (This is more true than any accusation of… Read more »
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