Freedom is a tool for progress — Neuse News
I am a curator with no conversion history. Many others have such a story – they have read a certain book, had a certain teacher, or been disenchanted with their past left-wing views.
If the conversion occurred in adulthood, after first being politically active as a progressive, socialist, or communist, they were called neoconservatives. One of the most prominent, Irving Kristol, defined a neoconservative as “a liberal who was assaulted by reality” and a neoliberal as “a liberal who was assaulted by reality but did not press charges”.
I was assaulted only once, when I was working as a magazine reporter in Washington, and I was already a conservative. It was an attempted mugging, actually, because I was carrying a synthesizer in a heavy case, it turned out to be a handy weapon to swing, and the would-be mugger was stoned.
But Kristol wasn’t really talking about crime as a political issue, of course, though rising crime and social unrest in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s was a factor that propelled some Americans into the modern conservative movement. . What bound the disparate elements of this movement together was the existence of crucially important and inescapable realities – such as what the liberal economist Thomas Sowell later described as the “constrained view” of human nature, distinct from “unconstrained view” of human nature. future social engineers.
Here in North Carolina and across the country, the modern conservative movement is an alliance of what was once called traditionalism and what was once called liberalism. Traditionalists believed that there are fundamental truths and virtues, either revealed by God or confirmed by millennia of human history, which should guide human action.
Classical liberals did not necessarily disagree with this premise, in fact. But they raised the principle of liberty to the top of the list – the right of individuals to make decisions for themselves above the power of the state to take their property and control their lives.
Traditionalists also valued freedom, but observed that individuals are not born as human atoms that later, on purpose, form human molecules. We are born into families and communities, and therefore into a thick and complex web of social obligations. Many traditionalists then defined liberty in community terms, as “ordered liberty.” Classical liberals emphasized the right of the individual to make decisions, even if the results dismayed their neighbors or hurt themselves.
When cultural critics, libertarians, and anti-communists forged the modern conservative movement in 20th-century America, they were responding to the menacing rise of populism, progressivism, and socialism. They were long-time rivals, traditionalists and classical liberals, first forming an alliance of mutual needs, then, in fits and starts, forging a more systematic integration of their ideas.
The result was not a catechism. It was and remains messy and incomplete. There are areas of disagreement and differences in emphasis. But the different strands of modern conservatism have enough in common to work together – and what they have in common, for the most part, is the belief that governmental power must be minimized so that freedom can be maximized.
Why? Because it is in the nature of humans to thrive, in the long term, when they are free to make their own decisions, rather than being constrained to conform to a central plan. The empirical evidence for this proposition is massive and growing.
For example, a peer-reviewed study by Jeremy Jackson, an economist at North Dakota State University, used the Frasier Institute’s Index of North American Economic Freedom and a survey dataset on satisfaction with life. All other things being equal, states with lower taxes, smaller budgets, and fewer regulations had a higher proportion of happy residents than those with expansive and expensive governments.
My fellow conservatives and I here in North Carolina fight for freedom not as an abstraction but as a practical tool to promote opportunity, progress, happiness, and virtue. And we welcome converts to the cause.