Tough Questions for Neo-Cons and Conservatives

Okay, here we continue the discussion for the conservative side of things.  The traditional concept of conservatism was to conserve the original intent of the Constitution.  However, since the rise of neo-conservatism, we have seen major changes in this area – especially in two main things: Corporatism and the War-state..

President George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” took progressivism and tried using free market methods to increase government’s ability to accomplish things.  Instead of creating a large government bureaucracy to govern the outcome, as we usually see in liberal progressivism or socialism, we see government giving power and money to corporate America with a few regulations, and then let them run the program.

The problem herein is two fold. First, such action picks winners and losers, rather than leaving the market to choose who comes out on top.  It can narrow the choices a person has and reduces competition.  The housing market’s great rise and crash is an example of this.  Regulations were changed to encourage certain companies to take large risks, while promising to protect them from the downside of a collapse or bankruptcy.  Hence, we bailed out Wall Street, Fannie Mae and big banks in 2008 after they did some very stupid things.

This form of corporate welfare continues, as Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve, with the blessings of government, are printing $85 billion a month and basically giving it to the banks and large corporations to artificially keep them not only buoyant, but breaking Wall Street records.  Meanwhile, government has chosen the American people as the losers, as bankruptcies and home foreclosures continue at an alarming rate.  The artifcial money printing also has created a hidden tax for average Americans: wages are stagnant, but food and other prices are skyrocketing.

On the war front, we find corporatism alive and well, also. War can create a short term economic boom.  The infusion of money to build ships and planes can stimulate the economies of cities and sometimes even entire states. There is nothing better for defense companies than a good war.  And if one war is good, why not two?  Invading Afghanistan was justified and understandable.  9/11 was an act of war by Al Qaeda.

However, Pres Bush’s concept of pre-emptive wars tramples on key concepts of the Constitution.  It means we enter into a state of never ending wars.  They are justified by shouts of “patriotism.”  Going to war in Iraq, and then dragging out for more than a decade the two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq can only be explained by a desire to finance the Corporate Defense Structure.

Actions put forth in the name of pre-emptive “strategery” include the “Patriot Act” (talk about NewSpeak), which was the genesis of the current NSA invasion into American privacy. Whereas FDR took Constitutional rights away from Japanese Americans, current presidents justify themselves with the term “patriotism” to take Constitutional rights away from ALL Americans.

George W. Bush pushed forward one of the biggest changes in medical history: Medicare Part D.  This is an unfunded program that gives seniors cheaper drugs.  It is not an earned benefit, because it is an unfunded benefit.  Along with two wars, it helped double the national deficit to $10 Trillion during Bush’s 8 years in office.  Only Barack Obama has had larger deficits in American history.

And we have seen an increasing attack against American freedoms by conservatives. Limiting people’s right of association (such as LGBT issues) risks a big counterattack as we now see happening, where religions are now fighting to retain their own Constitutional rights they once sought to deprive others of.

Finally, let’s face it. The war on drugs has been a failure.  We have imprisoned millions of addicts simply for using.  We don’t arrest people who sit at home drinking beer, but we toss many into jail for smoking pot instead.  History showed that Prohibition didn’t work. Instead, it created crime bosses, such as Dillinger and others, who made their money running illegal speakeasy joints.  Today’s war has helped create and finance the gangs that rule streets in many cities.  It places police in incredible danger as they turn what could be peaceful actions into criminal activity.  Trillions of dollars have been spent to support the prison industry – another corporate world that only seems to get bigger.

So, here are the tough questions:

1. If today’s conservatism professes to support the Constitution, why does it approve of the Patriot Act, the war on drugs, and other issues that reduce freedom?

2. Why do conservatives hate it when Democrats spend huge amounts of money on their own form of corporatism, but love it when they get their own chance to do so?

3. If you have tried something for decades and it still doesn’t work, why seek increased funding for it (such as the war on drugs, or war in Iraq)?

4. How did real conservatism lose its way?

 

14 thoughts on “Tough Questions for Neo-Cons and Conservatives

  1. These aren’t ‘tough questions,’ they are rhetorical debating points.
    But having had my comments censored in the past when I disagreed with doctrinaire libertarianism, I won’t interfere with your ideological exercise.

  2. I think the answer is found in Geoff’s comment. Conservatism today is not what conservatism was previously. Just as the word “liberal” has been transmogrified into something that does not at all resemble a lover of liberty, so today’s conservatism does not mean the proud defender of the very best of what civilization has to offer.

    So I also agree with Adam G. These are rhetorical debating points that really doesn’t get to the heart of the matter.

  3. I can’t imagine anyone really identifying as a neocon, and although I don’t agree with the areas “they” support, the answers should be obvious :)

    1. It ensures they stay in power by doing something. People expect the government to do things to solve our problems. If you look at everyone of those, it’s government action to solve a problem that people are worried about. Take away that program, and the people will clamor again for government to “do something” (with the program they still do). And moreover, when there is a tragedy, it leaves a huge opportunity for upstarts to take power promising action.
    2. Because it helps to ensure they stay in power. Money to business in their districts, money to programs their constituents support, etc. It all comes back to them either in the form of votes, increased donations, or power and influence.
    3. If my goal is to fill up a bucket with water and I add some water to the bucket, and the bucket remains unfull, what is the solution – empty the bucket, stop adding water, or add more water? Imagine in this case if we do not know at the outset, the capacity of the bucket (or whether or not it has holes in it) or even know how much water we are adding…. Not saying this is a good solution, but remember, we’re assuming for all of us the goal is still to fill the bucket. How would you go about it?
    4. I’m not sure this is answerable. I suppose it lost its way by believing in the impossible dream of liberals that the human condition can be improved if we just do XYZ.

  4. I wondered if you could explain the idea that “Pres Bush’s concept of pre-emptive wars tramples on key concepts of the Constitution.” I appreciate the attempt to ask hard questions of both sides, though I agree with Adam G.

  5. It is a good point that today’s conservatism has changed. That said, this is the form we have now, and so it is the form we must deal with. That the questions may seem rhetorical misses the point that current methodologies have not resolved the issues they were meant to resolve, and only by discussing these points can we determine solutions.

    If America is poised to be the world’s police force, how are we doing? Is the world more free than it was 20 or 50 years ago? What has worked in the past, and what isn’t working now?

    There are some good conservative ideas. A pure libertarian would be against any government intervention, believing it all is bad. Yet, Eisenhower’s development of the modern highway system (after having seen the Autobahn) has expanded America’s mobility, freedom, and markets. So, in that instance, it was a very useful tool for improving the nation. However, the environment has changed since that day.

    How have the actions of modern Republicans helped? During Bush’s era, did they lose their conservative way, or did they create a new “conservatism”? Does new conservatism include massive deficits and corporate welfare? How does one return back to the old conservatism, and which parts do we keep/discard?

    How do we deal with immigration (legal and illegal), and other issues today? How does the Republican party stop being the party of white people, and begin to have blacks, latinos, and others join their ranks in large quantities? This is a big question, because Caucasians will soon be a minority in the nation. Or will the Republican party allow itself to go the route of the Whig party?

    Will the changes mean Republicans must continue becoming more moderate or more Democrat-lite, in order to obtain votes? Or can it regain its old composure and yet also entice newcomers into the party?

  6. Morgan, Bush’s concept of pre-emptive war places the nation in an ongoing war state that does not end. It requires us to actively engage in war at some level or another. The drones that Pres Obama uses today to kill people on the ground, including innocent children and Americans, is part of this war. That the drone war includes no compunction to ensure Americans are provided their due process rights prior to being killed, is a major issue.
    Bush’s attempts included trying to place Americans into Guantanamo or other secret holes, who were Al Qaeda combatants or helpers, without providing them a day in court. Other combatants were held without the right to lawyers, or the hope of a speedy trial.
    There are viable arguments for water-boarding as torture, and therefore not lawful under the Constitution’s cruel and unusual punishment concepts.
    There are issues of taking the case for the Iraq War to Congress to get approval for it, only to find that most of the reasons were based upon flimsy or falsified evidence. This greatly affects the separation of powers.
    The Patriot Act has led to many unConstitutional actions, and continues today under the Obama administration with even greater impunity. Issues such as the NSA mass searches without a specific court order for each search. Snowden, while a traitor in many people’s eyes, did us a great favor by exposing illegal and unConstitutional actions by the government. If something begins under Bush, is massively increased under Obama to take more rights, just imagine where we will be in 10 or 20 more years!
    Snowden should have been allowed to whistle blow in safety. Yet the Bush and Obama administrations have been brutal on whistle blowers. If your only options left to you are to do nothing, or to risk being labeled a traitor by defending the Constitution via a radical exposure of information – what do you do?

    I’m asking tough questions, knowing there are not good answers. Yet, for us to fix a broken society will require us to ask the tough questions, rhetorical or not. It will require people to defend the views or to not defend them. It will require discussing what works well, and what does not work. And if something does not work, or if it breaks other major things, then we need to talk about it to solve it.

    We need to discuss the brutal facts, and make the tough choices. We need to recognize red flags and respond appropriately to them. Afghanistan, which I believe was a war we needed to enter, turned into a Vietnam because we didn’t do it right. We will have more Vietnams if we choose not to talk about the tough issues. Adam G probably has some very good ideas, some of which I may not agree with. However, either something worked right and we should continue doing it (such as pre-emptive wars), or it is a terrible idea that needs to be stopped. Defend what you will, and don’t defend the rest. We will only find solutions in discussion.

  7. Thanks Ram, let me ask this in a different way. What specific article in the constitution do you think pre-emptive war violates? It seems you are conflating preemptive war with the variety of tactics and tools used to fight the global war on terror, of which preemptive war was one. I’m not interested in your discussion against drone strikes, Guantanamo, waterboarding, the Patriot Act, intelligence gathering of the NSA, and the treatment of whistle blowers.

    I do want to see specifically how you think pre-emptive war violates the constitution. I’ve studied the matter from the pre-emptive wars of Epaminondas to Moroni. I’ve blogged about it fairly extensively, and even published about pre-emptive war in the BoM. So this is a topic about which I enjoy reading; if you have something specific to argue using the constitution, I would love to see it. Thanks again.

  8. I will attempt to answer Morgan D’s question.

    The Constitution clearly limits executive power. Congress has the power to declare war but the executive has the power to carry out the wars as the Commander-in-Chief. This was clearly understood up until Truman relied on the UN to unilaterally take the U.S. to the Korean war, which was an unconstitutional act. All wars since then have been unconstitutional because we have not relied on Congress to declare war. I know the courts do not see things this way, but the courts also did not have a problem with the Japanese-American concentration camps in 1944 and also found Obamacare constitutional even though it clearly is not. Any clear reading of the Constitution by any person with common sense will show, beyond a doubt, that pre-emptive wars are simply not contemplated in the founding document. What is contemplated is: a declaration of war by Congress with the commander in chief being the president during wartime.

    In addition, the early Jeffersonians who were most involved in the ratification of the Constitution and its early implementation clearly warned that the purpose of the Constitution was the *prevent* the growth of the federal government. Adams the Federalist wanted a larger government, a larger army and higher taxes; Jefferson wanted a smaller government, a smaller army and lower taxes. Jefferson’s view carried the day, and the Federalists eventually disappeared as a political force. Jefferson and Madison and Monroe’s view was very clear: a small government, very little involvement with foreign “entanglements,” and low taxes. If we had followed their prescription, we would not have a $17 trillion debt and military bases throughout the world.

  9. I’m sorry, but these questions are under the assumption that all conservatives are neo-cons or that they all agree with both the corporate and the war making actions of one President. If the Republican “civil war” is proving anything, its that the label conservative is not easily defined. And no, its not libertarians vs neo-con corporatists. Its libertarians, neo-cons, corporatists, social cons, and etc all trying to define and re-define the Republican Party. I am, for instance, a moderate neo-con with war policy, social con with social issues, but a libertarian economically.
    Here is where I am:

    1, War is absolutely necessary and the old structures of war are long gone. We are living in an era when lines on a map cannot define or contain enemies. They are out of everyone’s control. Strict rules of war, for me, are today for losers no matter how powerful.

    2. My religious moral convictions are open for political consideration. Freedom guarantees that I can “force” my views on the whole country just as much as atheists can “force” their views. Whoever convinces and comes out on top wins. The U.S. Constitution is already ripped to shred, so there is no turning back. Moral decay can only be put under control when the laws support morality.

    3. Corporate welfare is the number two cause this nation has no economic progression. Obama care became number one reason. The markets are not free and haven’t been for some time. That means that the losers are just as likely to continue as the winners, and therefore we all lose. Let banks and businesses work alone; no help and minimal hindrance.

  10. Jettboy, I understand that there are several flavors of conservative today. Yet, the vast majority tend to be neo-cons/Rockefeller moderates, or Tea party.

    You’ve explained where you sit in each area. I’ll comment on those areas.

    1. War is sometimes a necessity. But it must be done according to the Constitution. Congress declares war, and then we pull out all the stops to eliminate the enemy. No more giving too much power to the president to run engagements that can affect us severely down the road. When you pick up one end of the stick, you pick up the other end. How about we tell the world that if they mess with us or an ally in a terrorist attack or invasion, then we’ll wipe out an entire town/city, depending upon the needed force required to get their attention. If we did to Afghanistan what we did to Dresden Germany, Hiroshima/Nagasaki Japan, then we wouldn’t have issues with terrorists right now. Nor would we have had to remain for a decade stirring up anger and increasing the number of Al Qaeda in the world. We would have quickly horrified them, and they would have backed down quickly to keep anymore cities being wiped out. When terrorists in Benghazi killed our Ambassador, we should have immediately wiped out the city of Benghazi. That is the only thing radical terrorists understand. But all of this must be done under the Constitution.

    2. Why must our nation be a nation of internal battles? If it becomes a battle between religious conservatives fighting for traditional marriage and against paying for contraceptives vs liberals that are fighting for gay marriage AND to make conservatives pay for their sexual revolution, then all we’ll ever see is the pendulum swing back and forth until there is an absolute winner and an absolute loser. Ever read about the French Revolution? That’s where such divisions end up in history. Freedom does not mean there are political battles. It means we leave each other alone to enjoy our freedom. Tyranny forces itself upon others, and sometimes this includes religious people forcing religion on others (ever hear of the Inquisition?).
    In American history, there really wasn’t a problem with Mormons doing polygamy until it was made a national issue, and people demanded the nation to force the Mormons to stop. Yet, today we have a judge that wants to end Reynolds v USA as unconstitutional (which it really is bad law), because there is no evidence that polygamy itself is bad. Heck, our nation is full of people living together outside of marriage with little/no committment, and we’re worried when people want to establish a committed relationship?

    How about we keep the federal government out of all social issues, and allow states or localities to make their own determinations. So liberals could gather together and be happy, while conservatives could congregate in their freedom to assemble/associate without having others impose their moral/amoral views upon one another?

    3. I totally agree. However I would note that government welfare of any kind is hurting our nation in the long run. Businesses would rather have government bail them out or create a monopoly for them, just as the average American would love a free monthly check. There should only be basic rules to ensure companies are not being predators on customers or on each other, and that long term monopolies are non-existent or at least rare.
    When AT&T was broken up, not only could we own our own phones, but it opened the door for fiber networks, networking, IPads, and WiFi. We would not have the huge number of computer businesses or technology today, if AT&T were still offering us copper wire phones to rent.

  11. 1. If today’s conservatism professes to support the Constitution, why does it approve of the Patriot Act, the war on drugs, and other issues that reduce
    freedom?

    Because majority conservatism supports the Constitution in a more “living Constitution” kind of way, same as Democrats. Most originalists are “in name only.” When push comes to shove, and when they have power, their originalist ideals are thrown out the window.

    2. Why do conservatives hate it when Democrats spend huge amounts of money on their own form of corporatism, but love it when they get their own chance to do so?

    Because that is the political game. But realistic conservatives support majority opinions which favor corporatism. They use libertarian idealism as cannon fodder in political warfare, but not when enacting their own policy decisions when they actually have power.

    3. If you have tried something for decades and it still doesn’t work, why seek increased funding for it (such as the war on drugs, or war in Iraq)?

    Because cutting and running sometimes makes things worse. And sometimes increasing funding works, like the famous “surge.”

    4. How did real conservatism lose its way?

    Because “real conservatism” never had, and never will have, any power in government, because it reflects extreme minority opinions. Even if my some miracle someone like Ron Paul is elected president, he will also become a fake conservative, because he will decide pragmatically, that he would like to accomplish at least one tiny little thing while he is in office, instead of just sitting there for four years as a lame duck.

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