Saturday, June 26, 2004

I've been asked recently several times how and why I turned into a conservative. First, of course, conservative is too simple a label. I'd rather call myself a libertarian on issues of personal freedom, in favor of a somewhat modified welfare state (we can afford it) on the social side, free-market and laissez-faire (up to a point) economically, and hard-line on military and international affairs. If you add that all up you get conservative, I guess, though I support gay marriage, legal abortion on demand in the first trimester, a very expensive reform of the educational system, legalized pot, and generous standards toward letting the government help individual citizens.

How about this. When I was a little kid I believed everything I was supposed to believe. Authority figures like parents and teachers were all-wise and -knowing. Then I grew up a little and I learned for myself that there was a lot of phony BS in what authority, as I saw it, represented. So I turned totally the other way around and began to despise authority and tradition and whatever you were supposed to do. I threw myself behind the questioners who I believed were trying to change society for the better.

Then I grew up a little more and I began to question the questioners. Soon I discovered that tradition and the established way of doing things has been around for thousands of years, and it's been surprisingly flexible in its acceptance of different ways of thinking and acting. (Look at how well we deal with new technology, for example, quickly exploiting it for all it's worth and trying as hard as we can to improve it.) These traditions and laws and this system that comes down from our cavemen ancestors through the early chiefdoms and tribes to modern civilizations have an awful lot going for them, and any questioner who wants to throw them out has some serious explaining to do. The burden of proof is on him.

When I started questioning the questioners, I soon realized that a lot of the stuff they were spouting was the same old boilerplate that malcontents have been spitting out ever since they had the right to do so without getting executed. There's nothing new in Chomsky or Gore Vidal or Michael Moore or Naomi Wolf or Susan George or any of today's "advanced thinkers". They're just recycling anti-status quo arguments that all go back to the Greeks. I began to distinguish between thinkers and innovators who actually made contributions, did things that tradition would adopt and make a universal part of humanity, and cranks who were just repeating the same damn thing over and over again.

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