What is political conservatism? How does it differ from both libertarianism and ideologies on the left side of the spectrum? In a libertarian America, sure, there would be less discrimination and some of the icky stuff that social conservatives foist on the rest of us (censorship, the drug war, healthcare if you can afford it, etc.). There could conceivably be a lot of wealth inequality, however. Is this right (can it be morally justified)? Let’s analyze, criticize, and philosophize about modern political conservatism and its brother, libertarianism.
First, let me note that I think this country has been more or less dominated by “the Right” and the interests it serves. Here is a good example. Someone I know claimed that the pendulum swings too far toward liberalism in this country, and then too far back to conservatism. He is thinking of regulation of business and such. I think that the pendulum never swings very far toward the progressive/communitarian/liberal values. This country is relatively dominated by powerful, moneyed interests and the values they foment and promulgate. It’s the dark side of conservatism: the goalposts have been consistently moved to the right. The founders were plutocratic land-owners who either had slaves or didn’t try to stop those who did; they were securing their own financial best interests by forming a new country. Women spent much of our history not even worthy of having a vote (in the eyes of many). Think of all the anti-progressive pressure put on Kennedy, all the capitalistic and fundamentalist moves made by Reagan, all the status quo propagated by Clinton, all the wreckage wrought by Bush. There is a huge fan pushing the pendulum as it swings. Almost any progress we have enjoyed – from freeing slaves, to a 40-hour workweek, to free public education has been a progressive impulse – and usually won with blood, sweat, and tears. Think of the Christian fundamentalism, the ideological stranglehold on media and higher education, and the utter lack of good values in the corporate sphere. Unionism is down to like 10-15% of the private sector.
As the Bernie Sanders campaign made clear, the wealthy are wealthy. The top percent possesses more wealth than the bottom 90% of Americans. There are so many ultra-rich people in this country that “being a billionaire is barely enough to gain admission to the Forbes 400 [list of wealthiest individuals],” said Michael J. Sandel in his superb, readable book Justice. Imagine being at a communal dinner and seeing the fattest person eat more by himself than the other nine, combined. You would ask, “What the hell, John? You’re taking all the food!” His reply, if libertarian, would be “Well we are all sitting equally close to the food; I am just hungrier!” (it’s obvious why all those robber barons and bosses in Chicago and New York from the 1800s were portrayed as fat, white, male, capitalistic money-grubbers). And, I would add, that food-hog may in fact be using his knife to keep the rest of the family at bay.
Libertarians like to use a race metaphor to describe the ideal society: we all start at the starting line, the officials never work too hard, and we run a fair race. Whoever wins, wins; fairness presides. There are a lot of reasons to question that metaphor, but it’s basically the vision libs have for America: the race is fair, so run it or get the heck out of my way. If you’re handicapped, for example, no you do not get a head start. You don’t get special treatment. In an Ayn Randian fashion, the fastest runners are the best, and they deserve the chance to excel. The fruits await them. So, bottom line: it’s good if you’re fast, and it’s good if your parents provided you with proper nutrition and a private coach during your formative years. It also helps if your dad knows the coach. Or the officials… “Politics may become a struggle between conservative paternalists, welfare-state maternalists, and libertarians who believe that adults should make their own decisions,” as
It gets worse in a system that is called “crony capitalism.” In such a perversion, you have all the advantages and disadvantages of the system I just described, except in this dystopia, government officials are not incompetent fools. Here, they are corrupt and fully willing to treat with you if you have the money, power, influence, and will to get what you want. I hate to break it to some of you who do not know this, but this is America. Pretty much since Day 1, but it has been getting worse. Though Sanders was, for a brief, incredible moment, ascendant, he was outcompeted and cheated by Clinton (whose name is almost synonymous with the term crony capitalism), and the uber-capitalist Donald Trump, who, tragically, ascended to the throne. (note: I heard from more than one person that he was being sent to clean up Washington, and rode a populist tide; I believe those supporters were duped. They wholeheartedly wanted to believe positive things – that he was going to drain the swamp of the crony capitalism that has characterized Washington for ages – and frankly, negative things as well – that immigrants are a serious problem for the United States, be they the Mexican variety or the Syrian one, and that white people need to get a leg up because society has been screwing them for decades. “President Trump is right to aim for a tax system with ‘lower rates, fewer loopholes, and a simpler code,’ said the Washington Post. But the old conservative canard that tax cuts can pay for themselves through increased economic growth remains ‘magical thinking’ – especially when the business cuts deprive the Treasury of more than $2.4 trillion over a decade. ‘Experience shows that tax cuts are almost never self-financing,’ and Mnuchin’s dishonest math would require almost unprecedented levels of GDP growth. After eight years of ‘mercilessly’ attacking President Obama for doing too little to cut the deficit, are Republicans really ‘willing to approve a budget-busting tax cut?'” (The Week and The Washington Post Editorials).
The question can be raised, though: To what degree does Trump truly represent conservatism in principle? One can claim that he has broken the mold, that he is a go-getter; a businessman a la Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. I think the most charitable explanation (of the “he is an iconoclast” theories) is this perspective, more than the fact that he is a real maverick intent on change. William Falk provides support: “Trump has clearly fulfilled at least one promise – to turn Washington on its head. …Conservative columnists and editorial writers who once reliably applauded Republican presidents aren’t clapping for this one. Indeed, many small-government, free-market conservatives are appalled by Trump’s many heresies and unnerved by his undisciplined tweeting and the flexibility of his rapidly-shifting views.” I tend to think that he is using the usual Republican playbook, but he is skipping around instead of starting with Chapter 1.
Ironically, the Tea Party activists, middle Americans, quasi-racists, and authoritarian individuals who ushered Trump into office see the truth – but the gods have shrouded half of it and they were/are mistaken. What I mean is: Yes, Americans have been getting screwed, but I don’t think terrorists have been particularly responsible, and I do not believe it is the Department of Education that is really to blame, and I don’t think corporate tax rates are too high (actual). This is a nuanced phenomenon, but I believe that when conservatives complain about government, they are talking about aspects that are pretty much echoes of what the owning class (the moneyed class, the ruling class) believes. Those average citizens lament that they are taxed; that aid to needy families and disabled individuals is in any way their responsibility, and that the government has all these pesky regulations for Wall Street, oil and coal producers, and insurance companies. They take umbrage at the suggestion that there should be national standards for things (police conduct, educational standards, and so on). In sum: there is a concordance between the wishes of the plutocrats (those who are wealthy and intent on steering the government toward business-friendly and capitalism-generated goals) and the laypeople, but it’s not as legitimate as it seems.
Indeed, some commentators find it fascinating – shocking, galling – that powerful conservative political operators (and their lobbyists and think tanks) get lower- and middle-class people to lobby for their cause. Why would folks participate in the massive transfer of wealth to the upper echelon, facilitate their jobs going overseas so that they are left with low-paying work for more hours a week, and see a tearing of the social safety net if they weren’t being manipulated? Some indirect evidence of this is the fact that there is a lot of racial and class tension, that unions have been diminished to the lowest level in history, and wages have not kept up with inflation. Did you know that the minimum wage, if they kept up with inflation since about 1960, would be approximately $25 today? Ask yourself why the minimum is $7. Did you know that we could all be working 20 hours a week based on the strength of the economy and productivity gains (and technology) if we chose? Did you know that there are thousands of “co-ops” in the country – worker-owned companies?
Let me share some points of view made by a conservative who sees some of the issues with libertarianism, and then I will make some points about fundamentalism versus conservatism. The former is based on an article entitled Why I am Not a Libertarian. He takes on these ten libertarian claims (from the perspective not of the left, but of the right – he is a conservative), and does a decent job of disarming them. A good example is that of taxation: hard-core libs think of taxation as theft, because one is entitled to all the fruits of one’s labor. I would call the claims of libertarians “straining credulity,” but there are some good libertarian points out there, and certainly John Stuart Mill’s book On Liberty is an early classic on the subject. It’s like salt; you want some on your food, but it can’t be the only thing you eat. As you can see from point #8, it isn’t too difficult to see the flaws in libertarian logic.
- The Founders of the American political order were libertarian.
- Conservatism fears new ideas because it has no distinctive principles of its own to oppose them
- Only individuals exist, therefore there is no such thing as a ‘common good’
- The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others
- Conscription is Slavery, and Taxation is Robbery
- Virtue cannot be coerced, therefore government should not legislate morality
- Government should not interfere in the free market
- The only alternative to libertarianism is totalitarianism
- Libertarianism is based upon a realistic understanding of human nature
- Freedom works
One point that is interesting and paramount if you want to see the perspective of a fiscal conservative is, as Sandel put it: “…worries that high tax rates, especially on income, reduce the incentive to work and invest, leading to a decline in productivity. If the economic pie shrinks, having less to redistribute, the overall level of utility might go down.” He continues: “Libertarians favor unfettered markets and oppose government regulation, not in the name of economic efficiency, but in the name of human freedom.” He also shuffles the cards by noting this intriguing piece of evidence about individuality vs. community, freedom compared with duty and civic responsibility: “For all Reagan’s talk of individual liberty and market solutions, the most potent part of his appeal was his evocation of communal values – of family, neighborhood, religion, and patriotism. What Reagan stirred was a yearning for a way of life that seems to be receding in recent times – a common life of larger meanings, on a smaller, less impersonal scale than the nation-state provides”~ Michael J. Sandel.
If you want to get all the way into thinking that the powerful should be able to be powerful without interference from society or society’s lawmakers (i.e., government), just read The Will to Power and be done with it. Ayn Rand is also extremely popular. Von Hayek, Friedman, and Nozick are also pillars of the movement. Oh, and if you’re in the mood to laugh, check out John Oliver pillorying Ayn Rand by asking “Ayn Rand: Why Is This Still a Thing?” My bottom line is, sure you can “get government off your back,” but you’d better lube up because the corporations are gonna be on it like a gross amalgam of the movies Deliverance and Glengarry, Glen Ross.
So, on the right side of the political spectrum you have libertarianism and totalitarianism, and you have left and you have right. It’s really neat to take this quiz and see where you fall – and to understand that there is a quadrant, not a line, that characterizes political thinking (from one perspective, at the least). Here is another take on it, the site from which I took the image attached to this blog (thanks guys!). I find it interesting to think of how libertarians and conservatives (“the right”) differ, because since Reagan, Wall Street has been allied in a very weird partnership with The Moral Majority; big business has tried to coexist with the anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-gun-rights-curtailment factions. From the perspective of those on the left, if it weren’t so damned dangerous it would be funny. Conservatives fancy themselves realistic and wise in a sea of fads, misspent money, and pseudo-progress. “The conservative is the realist, taking over the side of all that is real, abiding, basic, and fundamental,” says A person becomes a conservative at that moment in their life when they suddenly realize they have something to conserve” We will come to understand the true meaning of conservatism. By that overworked and confusing term I do not mean the pietistic and selfish libertarianism into which much of the American conservative movement has descended. I mean instead the ethic that cherishes and sustains the resources and proven best institutions of a community. In other words, true conservatism, an idea that can be applied to human nature as well as to social institutions.”
So, my original question: Can this whole perspective to politics in modern-day America be morally justified? No. It doesn’t end up doing the right thing, where the rubber meets the road. It can be nettlesome and even enraging to see government corrupted by money, but libertarianism is not a solution. We don’t need “less government,” we need more responsive government. We need corporations and plutocrats sidelined, and the people need to take back their birthright. How can one allow corporate businesses to run roughshod over the rest of us (and our politicians, our coffers, our planet and our manufacturing centers) and claim it is morally justifiable? One can’t even point to legitimate fiscal conservatism in practice (at least not since 1980): “Conservatives swore that they’d shrink the government once they got power. Well, they have it – and the government is bigger than ever”
I’m completely in favor of the separation of Church and State. My idea is that these two institutions screw us up enough on their own, so both of them together is certain death”
“Have you ever wondered why Republicans are so interested in encouraging people to volunteer in their communities? It’s because volunteers work for no pay. Republicans have been trying to get people to work for no pay for a long time” ~ G.C.
“Can’t we silence those Christian athletes who thank Jesus whenever they win, and never mention His name when they lose? You never hear them say, ‘Jesus made me drop the ball.’ ‘The good Lord tripped me up behind the line of scrimmage.’” ~ G.C.
“Boy, these conservatives are really something, aren’t they? They’re all in favor of the unborn. They will do anything for the unborn. But once you’re born, you’re on your own. Pro-life conservatives are obsessed with the fetus from conception to nine months. After that, they don’t want to know about you. They don’t want to hear from you. No nothing. No neonatal care, no daycare, no head start, no school lunch, no food stamps, no welfare, no nothing. If you’re preborn, you’re fine; if you’re preschool, you’re fucked. Conservatives don’t give a shit about you until you reach military age. Then they think you’re just fine. Just what they’ve been looking for. Conservatives want live babies so they can raise them to be dead soldiers. Pro-life… pro-life… These people aren’t pro-life, they’re killing doctors! What kind of pro-life is that? What, they’ll do anything they can to save a fetus but if it grows up to be a doctor they just might have to kill it? They’re not pro-life. You know what they are? They’re anti-woman. Simple as it gets, anti-woman.” ~ G.C.
“Republicans keep staking out a position that is further and further right and demanding that Democrats meet them in the middle – which is not the middle anymore!” ~ B.M.
“Even when we address something, the plan can never start until years down the road. Congress’s climate change bill mandates a 17% cut in greenhouse gas emissions… by 2020! Fellas, slow down, where’s the fire? Oh yeah, it’s where I live, engulfing the entire western part of the United States!” ~ B.M.
“Nobody was asking for tax cuts when [George W. Bush] ran for president. Nobody was thinking that we should invade Iraq when he proposed that. Nobody was asking that Social Security be put on the table right now. If he turned his willful mindset toward the environment, toward conservation, toward asking people to make a sacrifice, the momentum that would bring to the table would be incalculable. But obviously, it’s not what he feels is important.” ~ B.M.
“People don’t realize we have a system of open bribery in this country. And it is open bribery – it’s not lobbying – it’s bribery.”
“In this country, you’re guilty until proven wealthy.” ~ B.M.
As far as conservatism that isn’t of the fully libertarian or of the completely fundamentalist stripe, well, I think there are some decent ideas there. I think it’s morally fine to suggest that people have the right to protect their property (that they have a right to a certain amount of property!), or that taxes should be no higher than is appropriate. Freedom, in principle, is a positive and a moral thing. I have been open lately to the idea that I am more conservative than many liberals are: gun rights, free speech on college campuses, and the idea that progress is not always uniformly positive (example: does it seem to you like we as a nation, or even we as Western civilization, have gone unquestioningly in the right direction?). In general, I don’t see myself changing some core beliefs, like: capitalism is mostly negative, the military and the military-industrial complex are negative, and the drug war is a huge mistake in general. I will be happy to pay 40% of my income if it means that poverty is greatly curtailed, that everyone has a job who needs one, and that our infrastructure is fixed and then improved. One thing I do share with the conservatives is that is noxious to pay money into a government that fights endlessly, runs up a $20,000,000,000 debt, and is run by corrupt oligarchs.
I asked a friend to tell me some of why he is (primarily) a conservative. Here are his replies. He is Robert K. Lloyd, one of the most fascinating people I know. He has a Ph.D. in economics, and is a fan of free-market capitalism, and thinks the government is a big part of our problem.
Conservatism isn’t meant to hold on to policies as an end but as a means to betterment for all, learning from past mistakes rather than simply trusting ideology with disregard to unintended consequences. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” as it is said. The best predictor of the future is to study the past; we keep making the same mistakes over and over while chasing the dragon of “ideological nirvana” for all. Liberalism presupposes the idea that all want what they deem is needed; not all want that; some want more some want less. And that’s ok either way with conservatives. Strive for equal opportunity not equal distribution as our founders intended. We cannot discard wisdom from our past because we deem ourselves to know better. We should learn from our past – good and bad.
Liberals often resort to “identity politics.” Sometimes it’s simply an opposing opinion, not a bad person or group. Liberals espouse community, togetherness, and that is what conservatives want as well, only not by the force of government but by the incentive of moral correctness.
We want to know what works, what policy ideas make life better for people, what principles and values should be preserved, and how to apply these tested principles and values to public policies that will create a better future for everyone. Discerning which principles, values and ideas should be kept and which should be discarded is hard. Young people often are less conservative than their elders; their inexperience makes it difficult for them to see how older ideas are relevant to their lives.
People who consider themselves liberal or progressive tend to believe that historic traditions, societal mores, religious morality, or concepts (like limited government) restrict their freedom and hold people back. But as the old saying goes, “never tear down a fence until you know why it was put up.” Customs and traditions develop over time because they often protect people and make their lives better. Yes, mixed in with these old ways of thinking are superstitions, “old wives tales”, and prejudices that should be discarded, but a wise person takes the time to determine what things are worth keeping.
Let me share some miscellaneous quotations from prominent conservative Andrew Sullivan, from his interesting/inexpensive book The Conservative Soul. First, a long review of the book, by Izaak Van Gaalen (supposedly):
Andrew Sullivan was born in 1964 and grew up in Britain during the Thatcher years. The conservatism of this period meant low taxes, less government intrusion, more individual freedom, a robust market economy, and a strong anti-communism. Being gay and Catholic, this philosophy seemed to be agree with his outlook on life. After graduating from Oxford, he came to the United States where he picked up his doctorate at Harvard and became editor of the “The New Republic” at age 27. Sullivan has always been a conservative in principle but not always as a Republican; he voted for John Kerry in 2004. This book is about how far the current Republican party has drifted from conservative principles.
The conservatism that he remembers – this book is a philosophical memoir -from the Thatcher years is no longer recognizable in the policies of the present-day Republican Party, neither in Congress nor at the White House. The GOP is now the party of deficit spending, big government, bribery, corruption, sex scandals, foreign wars, nation building, and more federal involvement in healthcare and education. The direction of the Republican Party has alienated many of the traditional conservatives that I have previously reviewed in this space such as Kevin Phillips and Francis Fukuyama. Even though Sullivan supported the war in Iraq, he now feels that it has become something he can no longer support.
Sullivan argues that the conservative movement – if you can call it that – has been hijacked by religious fundamentalists. When I reviewed Kevin Phillips’ “American Theocracy,” I felt that Philips was overstating the threat of fundamentalism. I thought fundamentalists were pandered to during election years and forgotten in between. However, after reading this book, I can see how the fundamentalist mindset has taken hold and is leading this country in the wrong direction.
The category of fundamentalism, as Sullivan uses the term, is a very broad one. A fundamentalist is someone who sees only one truth – his or her own – and will not tolerate any dissent or political pluralism. With this definition he lumps together Communists, Nazis, Islamic jihadists as well as extremist Jews and Christians. Religious fundamentalists reject not only liberal democracy but the very notion that religion should be relegated to the private sphere. Admittedly there are many shades of extremism, but this is the virus that is now afflicting the Republican Party.
In this book Sullivan argues for a more modest and temperate brand of conservatism, one that is more open-minded, skeptical, and tolerant of political diversity. This conservatism of doubt borrows heavily from Michael Oakeshott, a British Philosopher who was the subject of Sullivan’s doctoral dissertation at Harvard. According to Sullivan, “the defining characteristic of the conservative is that he knows what he doesn’t know.” (Not to be mistaken with Rumsfeld’s known unknowns, they were empirical unknowns rather than metaphysical.) Think of the conservatism of William F Buckley or George F Will, both of whom feel very secure in what they don’t know. Conservatives don’t know what change or reform will bring so they are against it. (To “stand athwart history” as Buckley would say.) A conservatism of doubt believes that there are few things the government can do correctly, therefore things are better left to the private sphere. Minding one’s own business, is a very modest philosophy.
With the results of the midterm elections, I think the Republican Party will rediscover the modesty and the open-mindedness that Sullivan is arguing for. I hope that the Democrats also retain some of these values that they should have learned during their 12 years in the wilderness. So far they are not yet your parents’ Democrats.
I explored social problems and conservatism/liberalism indirectly in a podcast I did entitled What’s the Matter with America? It’s an interesting look at both sides of the political spectrum.
And now, the quotes on conservatism (as compared to libertarianism, fundamentalism, and so on, by Andrew Sullivan.
A conservative is not a libertarian. A conservative believes in a small but strong government. He knows that real threats are out there: threats from state actors and, increasingly, fundamentalist terrorists armed with far more destructive technological weapons than ever known before in human history. He knows that the ultimate responsibility for those lines at the airport lies with the enemy, not with his own government. But he’ll keep an eye on his own government as well.
Social policies that focus on discrete and recognizable public needs, that efficiently marshal limited public resources for the betterment of clear social problems, and that never tip over into the imposition of abstractions like ‘social justice’ or equality of outcomes, or ‘diversity,’ or other such dubious enterprises: these are defensible, even admirable, from a conservative perspective.
A conservative will be particularly alert to moments when governments remove liberties for the sake of something called ‘security,’ or when the executive branch declares itself above the law, free to ignore the law, detain people without trial, or qualify habeas corpus.
…for a conservative, it is not a criterion for a successful country that it increases its GDP by a certain amount each year. Freedom is what matters— and that includes the freedom to be inefficient and indolent if that’s what someone chooses and can afford.
Miracles in science and technology, astonishing advances in communication, the empowerment of millions to experience freedom of thought independently of big corporations, governments, or expensive printing presses: these achievements of free people expanded the possibilities of human freedom still further.
The freest society is one in which the quintessential, ultimate activity is play. Security is guaranteed; work is done; the wealth that freedom creates enables leisure; and leisure begets play.
The fundamentalist believes that humans have freedom— but only to choose the good; and he believes that a government dedicated to upholding that good, whether deduced from God’s own version of ‘nature’ has every right, and in fact, a duty, to ensure that as many citizens as possible achieve that good. And so laws are designed to encourage virtue and discourage vice. Freedom is limited and conditional.
…there is never any and to those claiming to have discovered the infallible truth, the permanent solution to the human predicament, and a fail-safe way of organizing society so as to perfectly or more accurately reflect this truth.
You want a politics that will end all existential alienation? Become a communist. You want a politics that will redistribute wealth and promise social justice and inclusion? Become a socialist. You want a politics that rests its defense of inalienable human rights on a God-given liberty? Become a liberal. You want a politics that affirms divine truth in its governance of human affairs? Visit Iran. The radical alternative to all these options is conservatism.
Can a viable politics be based on doubt? In today’s fundamentalist world, where religious leaders, with charismatic conviction, and politicians, tell us how to live our lives, it would seem unlikely. There is no more fatal charge for a politician than that of a ‘flip-flopper.’… Conservatism’s deepest roots lie in doubt; without doubt, conservatism would have little to offer the modern world. If it were just another ideology, another system of thought vying for public attention and support….
Plato is telling us that seeing the truth is not completely beyond us. [Try to wrestle yourself] free of the bondage of illogic, prejudice, sentiment, bias, self-delusion, fear, self-interest, passion, and misunderstanding that human thought is heir to. But this is rare. A Socrates or Jesus or Mohammed or Einstein does not come every day. And even these few must necessarily find the process of arriving at the truth a difficult one. …In Socrates’ world, it is an achievement of a life of rational effort, driven by a human longing for completeness. The nature that propels even the greatest saints and philosophers to the truth is in all of us, to varying degrees.
The defining characteristic of the conservative is that he knows what he doesn’t know…. While the fundamentalist knows the truth, the nihilist believes it is an illusion…. The conservative differs from both. While not denying that the truth exists, the conservative is content to say merely that his grasp on it is always provisional. He may be wrong. Begins with the assumption that the human mind is fallible, that it can dilute itself, make mistakes, or see only so far ahead.
For the fundamentalist, there is no secular truth independent of religious truth; and there is no greater imperative than saving souls. … The ultimate face of fundamentalist politics can be seen throughout history. From the Catholic Spain of the Inquisition to the Puritan dictatorship of England’s Oliver Cromwell, the same fascination and conflation of dogma in law crops up again and again. In the hideous tyrannies of Afghanistan under the Taliban and or of Iran after the fall of the Shah, you can see what happens when religious truth merges with modern political power.
If conservatism is about preserving one’s own past, fundamentalism is about erasing it and starting afresh. If conservatism is about the acceptance of imperfection, fundamentalism is about the necessity of perfection now and forever. If conservatism begins with the premise of human error, fundamentalism rests on the fact of divine truth. If conservatism is about the permanence of human nature, fundamentalism looks forward to an apocalypse in which all human nature will be remade by the will of a terrifying and omnipotent God. If conservatism believes in pragmatism and context to determine clinical choices, fundamentalism relies always on a book. Or rather, The Book.
Islam’s religious tolerance has always been premised on its own power. It was tolerant when it controlled the territory and called the shots. When it lost territory and saw itself eclipsed by the West in power and civilization, tolerance evaporated.
The Christian separation between what is God’s and what is Caesar’s— drawn from the Gospels—helped restrain the inexorable theological logic of fundamentalism in America for a long time. The last few decades have proved an exception, however. As modernity advanced, and the certitudes of fundamentalist faith seemed mocked by an increasingly liberal society, evangelicals mobilized and entered politics. Their faith and zeal sharpened, the temptation to fuse political and religious authority beckoned more insistently. The result is today’s Republican Party, which is perhaps the first fundamentally religious political party in American history.
The fundamentalist doesn’t guess or argue or wonder or question. He doesn’t have to. He knows. … And what the fundamentalist knows is true. It isn’t a proposition, held provisionally, to be tested by further evidence. It isn’t an argument from which he could be dissuaded by something we call reason. It isn’t something that is ever subject to change: what is fundamentally true now, by definition, must be true for all time. For the fundamentalist, there is not a category of things called facts and a separate category called values. The values of the fundamentalist are facts.
Look up your own quotes on libertarianism and political liberalism/political conservatism in the remarkable Wisdom Archive!