Conservatism, like Dr. Jekyll, has undergone an ugly transformation. Those who claim that mantle these days say they stand for liberty. However, they have long forgotten Edmund Burke’s caveat: “But what is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint.”
And, on the subject of restraint, they have also forgotten Burke’s dictum: “I have never yet seen any plan which has not been mended by the observations of those who were much inferior in understanding to the person who took the lead in the business.”
Instead, they have turned to Ayn Rand, who confidently proclaimed: “If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.” For Rand, selfishness was a virtue. The central problem each human being faced, she wrote, was simple: “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”
And these days, the question of who is going to stop me is particularly important when one considers the problem of truth telling. In Canada, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have implied that Irwin Cotler — who made an international reputation helping Soviet Jews emigrate to Israel — is a closet Anti-Semite.
In the United States, Newt Gingrich has accused Barack Obama of being “the best food stamp president in history.” Mitt Romney has resorted to a flat out falsehood:
“President Obama believes that government should create equal outcomes. In an entitlement society, everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort and willingness to take risk. That which is earned by some is redistributed to the others. And the only people who truly enjoy any real rewards are those who do the redistributing — the government.”
Presumably, that is why Wall Street and General Motors have recovered so nicely — and why corporations are sitting on so much cash.
The simple truth is that today’s Conservatives are not conservatives. They are radical libertarians, who have unleashed some ugly demons. It’s time for truth in advertising.