The Shotgun Blog
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
The Stupid Party
Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative.
Since Mill's day, the mid-19th century, Anglo-American conservatives have carried the label of being the "stupid party." They earned that epithet by opposing the great liberal reforms of the early 19th century; expansion of the electorate, abolition of slavery and free trade to name the bigger issues of the day. The liberal - the Victorian sort anyway - seemed to have the inside track on history. The Tories were fighting a rearguard action, an ultimately futile one against "progress." Who could oppose "progress?" Only the very stupid. Mill was somewhat more generous. He understood that free societies needed a party of reform and one of stability. Having a mature voice saying "slow down a bit," wasn't a bad idea. The presumption, however, was that the mature voice agreed with the ultimate ends of the hot head on the other side of the aisle, the disagreement was on the speed and application of the liberal ideal.
This didn't matter all that much when liberals were still liberals. advocates of individual liberty. In the early twentieth century the meaning of the name changed, without too many people noticing. Over the span of a generation "progress" went from being government getting out of people's lives, to getting back in. The human attachment to labels meant that few questioned the inevitability of "progress," no matter where it was headed. The prestige of the name liberal, as standing for human freedom and tolerance, still lingers, albeit undeservedly. Conversely so does the label of the "stupid party" on conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic.
The bitter irony is that many conservatives have adopted the epithet as a badge of honour, much as the word Tory was once one of abuse. They now parade their anti-intellectuality. Thus the spectacle of the British Conservative Party, headed by Oxbridge graduates, devoutly eschewing any coherent philosophy of government. Two decades ago Mrs Thatcher surrounded herself with some of the leading public policy thinkers of the day. She succeeded, in part, because of her modest background and direct speaking style downplayed any hints of "egghead." The vulgarization of British popular culture has only accelerated since then. Davy Cameron feels the difference and has responded accordingly.
Posted by Richard Anderson on December 1, 2009 | Permalink
Very good analysis. The emergence of the Labour Movement changed the rules of the game and nobody noticed. Now Conservatives are Liberals and liberals are socialists....
Posted by: Tim | 2009-12-01 11:54:28 AM
"Now Conservatives are Liberals"
Uh ... no. Conservatives are still conservatives. There are hardly any real liberals left.
Posted by: Charles | 2009-12-01 12:02:10 PM
Charles: "Conservatives are still conservatives."
Actually, they are not. Not in Canada, not in the US, and not in Britain.
Tim is absolutely correct. This is a very good analysis by Publius.
Posted by: Ed Ellison | 2009-12-01 12:12:43 PM
If Liberals are so smart how come it is they who are so gullible when it comes to the junk science around climate change?
Why is it they are so ready to vote for the empty suit who is now president of the USA. He may not last his first term. His own party may have to dump him to save their own asses.
Posted by: Momar | 2009-12-01 1:38:51 PM
Unfortunately I see no evidence of classic liberalism in the conservative movement. They want to regulate our lives just as much as the Libs do, but for different reasons.
Posted by: Charles | 2009-12-01 2:02:27 PM
Momar: "If Liberals are so smart how come it is they who are so gullible when it comes to the junk science around climate change?"
This one is easy. Liberals, especially the woefully adrift ones with no policy here in Canada, are quick to adapt anything they perceive to be the next bandwagon. The New Religion has everything going for it except truth.
Posted by: Ed Ellison | 2009-12-01 2:07:39 PM
Conlibs and Libcons
I wrote this in 2007. SJG.
As the latest politician scurries across the floor from the Liberal camp to the Conservative camp one has to wonder: does it make any difference who the people vote for? We have seen politicians voted into office as Liberals then cross the floor to become Conservatives. We have seen other politicians voted into office as Conservatives then slither across the floor to become Liberals. Is politics just becoming a rotten game played by political cheats?
Do the people need a safeguard against these political swindlers, who have betrayed the trust of those who voted for them? After all, these politicians who claimed to be Conservatives then became Liberals, and vice versa, are really political con-men and con-women. So should we call them Conlibs and Libcons? And since the leadership of both the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party both seem to accept this untrustworthy behavior, would it not be better if both of these two parties changed their names?
They could call themselves the Conservative Liberal Party (CONLIB) and the Liberal Conservative Party (LIBCON)...
Read more at: graysinfo.blogspot.com
Posted by: Stephen J. Gray | 2009-12-01 2:21:42 PM
Charles, I agree.
Posted by: TM | 2009-12-01 2:44:28 PM
Charles: "Unfortunately I see no evidence of classic liberalism in the conservative movement. They want to regulate our lives just as much as the Libs do, but for different reasons."
I agree with you on this, and it is unfortunate. Classic liberalism has been a nonstarter in this country for a very long time now. The emergence of the Labour Movement merely shifted the labels one notch over as Tim has noted.
Posted by: Ed Ellison | 2009-12-01 6:31:21 PM
bang on, PUBLIUS. excellent post.
more skewering of all statists, please...
Posted by: shel | 2009-12-01 8:49:10 PM
Sad to say you are right on with this one. There is no party concerned with excessive government intrusion into our personal lives and all parties are drowning in political correctness and pandering to anything that might bring in a few votes.
Political correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.
Logic is no longer a factor. Anything to seize and hold power. All parties play the same game.
Posted by: peterj | 2009-12-01 9:56:01 PM
I agree with you on this, and it is unfortunate. Classic liberalism has been a nonstarter in this country for a very long time now.
Posted by: custom koozies | 2009-12-08 2:10:03 AM
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