Conservatism is dumb in an obvious way. It’s positions dont get along with one another. If seatbelt laws and trigger locks are a gigunda assault on liberty – how is it that drug laws are cool? Drug prohibition has given the US the world’s highest incarceration rate – worse than the most despotic regime you can name – Burma, Cuba, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, China – the US beats ’em all for the fraction of its population behind bars – and conservative-supported drug laws are the reason. Conservatives afraid of big government? ‘Fraid not.
To anyone really worried about “big government,” the scariest power of them all is capital punishment. But conservatives love the death penalty – supporting even the power to execute children and the mentally handicapped. (Justices Scalia and Thomas dissented from rulings outlawing the two practices.) The US ranks 5th worldwide in executions, behind only China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Yemen, Pakistan and North Korea are 6,7 and 8. (Though in fairness to North Korea, Texas would rank 8th if it were a country.) Some fine company conservatives keep.
Neither are conservatives worried about big government when it’s tying women down to endure unwanted pregnancies, or jamming probes into them. They think the government should decide who adults can marry, and which orifices newlyweds can titillate. The police power to search whatever, whomever, however, with or without a warrant – only became an issue for conservatives when the president ceased being a white dude. Bush’s warrantless wiretapping scandal wasnt a scandal to conservatives – it was business as usual.
Fiscal conservatives love big government too. Presidents Reagan, Bush and Bush Duh had no qualms about giant budget deficits – as long as the extra cash went to rich people and defense contractors. Welfare is swell when corporations are the recipients – farm bills for ADM, tax loopholes for ExxonMobil, special tax status for hedge fund managers. Wall street gets bailouts – main street loses its unemployment benefits – merry christmas, y’all! And unless you think breathable air and drinkable water have no value, going easy on polluters is yet more corporate welfare.
When you take a look at WHO ACTUALLY PAYS for the US Federal Government – versus WHO GETS PAID – you find that poor, conservative southern states are the real welfare queens. Rich liberal states like New York, Massachusetts, California and Connecticut pay far more in federal taxes than they receive back in benefits – while poor conservative states like Alabama, Mississippi, S.Carolina and Alaska are latched to the Federal teat, receiving back from DC far more than they paid in.
Liberals have long been astonished by broke, semi-literate red-state trailer-folk railing against estate taxes – and poor white people nationwide espousing policies opposed to their own interests. Weirder still, now that you know the entire US South is on the dole.
But red staters arent too picky about who pays what in taxes – as long as society’s “undesirables” are persecuted – blacks, unwed mothers, illegal immigrants, etc. As long as (big) government is beating up on the weak and vulnerable, southerners are fine with regressive tax regimes. (Conservative politicians are way happier to bash illegals than to deal with unemployment anyway.) The marriage of social and fiscal conservatism yields the American South – whose motto might well be “We want a fascist, and we’ll pay top dollar for one.”
Conservatism is a muddle because it has no principles, Unlike liberalism or libertarianism, conservatism is NOT a coherent political philosophy, but rather a grab bag of policy positions crammed together by historical accident, and held together by twigs and snot. Conservatives dont have first-principles from which to derive policy positions – that’s why their policies are mutually contradictory. The key to remaining a conservative is not thinking it to death.
Like children, conservatives have an emotional response to an issue, and then reverse-engineer a “rationale” to justify it. But “rationale” is a misnomer – rationality has no part in it – conservatism is an emotional response to the world, with the thinnest veneer of post-hoc reasons to obfuscate its true origin.
In the end, this is the reason why liberals get so frustrated debating conservatives: at its root, conservatism isnt concerned with fact or rationality. It’s dogmatic, based primarily in emotion and belief – its various positions were not arrived at via reason, and thus are not amenable to it.