Posted by: Rick | Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Kool-Aid Of “Freedom”: Why American Conservatism Is Un-American

Calm down.  I don’t mean it’s un-American in a McCarthyite sense.  I mean it’s un-American in terms of history and of the American character.

Conservatism today is entirely about ideology.  If you don’t believe that, then look no further than the “purity pledges” recently proposed by the wingnuts at the Republican National Committee.  Saner heads eventually prevailed here, but it’s beyond dispute that the Republican base views the world through a rigid, all-encompassing ideological prism.  Consequently, their public policy recommendations are as predetermined as the eternal fate of John Calvin.  Small government, low taxes, endless deregulation — these are seen as “good” in and of themselves.  Is there a problem that needs solving?  Simply apply the appropriate “Reaganesque” principle and — presto! — problem solved.  The external world becomes irrelevant to the formulation of public policy.  Just swallow this “Kool-Aid of Freedom”, kids.  It’s for your own good.

Such brain-dead thinking leads to much political nonsense when it slams into reality.  For example, no Republican could ever get elected by proposing to abolish the massive, wildly popular socialist programs (Medicare and Social Security) that Americans currently enjoy.  Knowing this,  and yet still needing to satisfy their teabagger ground troops, Republican politicians must continually partake in the absurd spectacle of loudly casting their “principled” opposition to this-or-that relatively small-scale government program as a brave defense of the people’s endangered “liberty”.  (Real Libertarians see this for the laughable charade that it is.  That’s why they’re not Republicans!)

But America has never prospered by virtue of an adherence to any particular ideology.  Indeed, despite the efforts of today’s right-wingers to morph the founding fathers into eighteenth-century stand-ins for Steve Forbes (“Capitalist Tools”), this country is — above all — practical.  Benjamin Franklin — not Ronald Reagan — remains the avatar of Americanism.  There’s no doubt in my mind that Franklin — were he alive today to see the trillion-dollar inefficiencies of today’s ramshackle private health insurance system — would be leading the charge for a single-payer solution.

One of the supreme ironies of American politics is that so many people view conservatives as hard-headed realists and liberals as pie-in-the-sky wish-fulfillers.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

(BTW — Happy New Year!)



  1. Ben Franklin participated in orgies and other acts of depravity. That’s a hell of a a lot better than all the hatred and fear that seems to dominate our country today. 🙂


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