Conservatism: An Obituary

I steal the title of this blog entry from an excellent piece written by Ayn Rand in the 1960’s. Her observations were dead-on accurate way back then, and are even more so today.

To summarize what Rand said back then: “Conservatism”, far from being a systematic philosophy, is pretty much just a call to tired traditionalism, to a vain attempt to hold back the rising tide of socialism (which actually is a systematic, though wrong, philosophy).

Rand wrote her column, if memory serves, either just before or just after the Goldwater debacle.

As a libertarian, I have some sympathy with people in the so-called “conservative” movement, who think advocating conservatism means advocating smaller, less intrusive government. Some even advocate the necessary corollaries of a free society, such as a gold standard, abolition of the Federal Reserve, and Strict Constructionism in following the Constitution. A few have even discovered the inherent contradiction of sending thousands of our young men and women, and billions of dollars worth of materiel, down the rat-hole of ridiculous imperialist wars, while simultaneously advocating fiscal responsibility and smaller government.

But people who advocate this systematic philosophy of government are not “conservatives.” They are libertarians, but they haven’t realized it yet.

“Conservativism” itself is a crotchety, calcified term. What is it that “conservatives” hope to “conserve?” The welfare state? The financially doomed Social Security Pyramid Scheme? Our grand conservative tradition of instituting preemptive wars against countries that are no threat to us?

After the well-deserved McCain/Palin implosion, people of good will who advocate smaller, less intrusive government have got to leave the “conservative” movement in droves. And they especially have to get away from the Republican Party, which has always been the party that talks about limited government, but delivers the opposite.

As Ayn Rand said decades ago, those who advocate freedom and limited government should stop calling themselves “conservatives,” since conservatism ceased being a coherent ideology even before the 1960’s. In fact, those who advocate freeing human beings by shackling the state are not “conservatives,” but radical libertarians.