US conservatism

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This page is in need of updating. This article does not mention the ideological protectionism and fearmongery that have become cornerstones of US conservatism as it has been practiced within the past few decades (approximately since the Gingrich era).
Conservatism in the United States takes on particular causes and priorities which are not necessarily aligned with conservatism in other parts of the world.

The Heritage Foundation, an American conservative think-tank, states a belief "in individual liberty, free enterprise, limited government, a strong national defense, and traditional American values. We want an America that is safe and secure; where choices (in education, health care and retirement) abound; where taxes are fair, flat, and comprehensible; where everybody has the opportunity to go as far as their talents will take them; where government concentrates on its core functions, recognizes its limits and shows favor to none. ... we believe the values and ideas that motivated our Founding Fathers are worth conserving." This would seem to be a reasonable definition of the best attributes of American conservatism.

A cornerstone of American Conservative philosophy is personal responsibility – the idea that each individual is solely responsible for his/her own well-being; government exists solely to ensure that the rules are enforced, which includes protection from hostile external forces.

American Conservatives seem to be generally against "big government": "The government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have." -- attributed to Gerald Ford [1]


In the late 1900s and early 2000s, the neoconservative movement in the United States captured the loyalty of much of the conservative population, outwardly supporting conservative causes (especially on wedge issues) but actually supporting aims which were in many ways very anti-conservative – e.g. spending unprecedented amounts of taxpayer money on a foreign "nation-building" venture and imposing government rules on the lives of private citizens to an extent never before seen in the US.


The majority of conservatives in the United States are aligned with the Republican Party, although a significant minority adhere more to the positions of the Libertarian Party.

At Its Best

  • Conservatism advises saving, rather than spending. Conservatism would be the voice that waits until there is an adequate positive balance in the till before buying new infrastructure or investing in new enterprises – rather than going into debt to do so.
  • Conservatism advises looking carefully at new things before spreading them widely – and is always ready to take a second look if an accepted idea seems to have had unintended consequences.
  • Conservatism advises careful management of resources for the long haul, rather than sacrificing them for short-term gain. (This differs greatly from American republicanism, which tends to see the short-term corporate bottom line as the number one priority.)

At Its Worst

  • Conservatism is the philosophy which allows social problems to escalate to the point of crisis rather than spend money solving them – and then, when the small problem is a large problem for which there is no other solution but to spend money, waits for liberals to demand that money be spent so that they can later heap scorn on said liberals and associate them with the disaster they helped solve and did not create.
  • When misfortune strikes, conservatism is the philosophy which will be the first to say "tough luck" and blame the victims.

Related Articles

  • US Republican Party: the political organization
  • American republicanism: the worldview
  • Neoconservatism: if real conservatives are sheep, neocons are wolves in sheep's clothing
  • Many US conservatives, especially those tending to the extreme (e.g. DiPippo and Horowitz), seem to have a grudge against The New York Times going back to at least mid-2006.

Conservative and Fundamentalist Groups

Well-Known Conservative Proponents




David Brin writes about this [2]:

This fellow is another species. One that would prefer to stay feudal, terrified, and only half sapient forever -- though with confident expectation that God’s reality is a cramped, short term exercise, and so it does not matter.

He praises elitism, mythology, romanticism, nostalgia, mysticism, exceptionalism, ritualistic-dogmatic traditionalism, and prejudice in the purest meaning of the word - pre-judice - judging others and all thoughts based upon comfortable, self-serving assumptions and eliminating all processes that test those subjective assumptions against the genuine holiness of the Creator’s greatest work, a thing called objective reality.

Indeed, denial of objective reality or its relevance is the underlying commonality that this fellow howls in perfect synchrony with romantics of the far left, whose praise of ancient mysticism and tribal ways converge eerily on the extreme, with "reactionaries" like this guy.

(Naturally, my own theology, that we were meant to be apprentices and knowingly (through science) begin sharing and completing the art/craft of Creation, would send both types shrieking.)

If you have not seen it, do. And know the full range of human personality that makes our task so dauntingly difficult. Trogs who know that 6,000 years of trying their way never got humanity anything but pain, nevertheless bitterly resent us our turn, trying something new and blatantly better.

No wonder they are fighting back so hard, as we speak. They must re-establish the old way fast, or lose their chance forever, as humanity finally steps into the light.

A responding poster on the same thread says:

I don't have a link handy but there's been some research [indicating that far-right partisans] don't use their cerebral cortex much when evaluating political statements. Instead another part of their brain associated with emotional rewards lights up whenever they affirm the "correct" side or disagree with the "incorrect" side. I'm sure such a pack mentality came in handy back in the day but it's ill suited to a democracy.

I think this is also why we see such an overlap between creationists and people who vehemently object to global warming. The global warming hypothesis requires them to believe in a moral cause of a nature that they find unpalatable (there's no foreign enemy to blame it on and they're not necessarily the good guys).

Deconstructing the far right is easy. Just turn their accusations around, most of them in fact apply to them: global warming is a religion (they're creationists and/or heavily influenced by christian dominionism), liberals are arrogant and ignorant, etc. etc.

But in fairness we should be deconstructing the loonies on the other side of the political spectrum too. Unfortunately this is a lot harder to do since they're a lot more diversified and neurotic, a Baskin Robbins of ideological weirdness (although a lot of them them tend to have issues with daddy). The end result is basically the same nature of thinking, just with different packaging.

  • 2005-09-27 J.E.R. Staddon writes: "...there are acres written on conservatism, but one of the best definitions I've seen is that it is a disbelief in utopia, i.e., a disbelief in the "progressive" idea that human beings, and human society, are infinitely perfectible. The problem with belief in utopia is that if you believe it is possible, then you are obliged to take active steps tio bring it about, which usually leads to the death and misery of large numbers of human beings (see Stalin, Mao, the Islamists, etc.)."



Filed Links

version 2

  • 2009-03-07 [Talk|Index] "Bipartisan DEFINED !" : RUSH LIMBAUGH : CPAC Convention 2009 § “To us, bipartisanship is them being forced to agree with us after we have politically cleaned their clocks and beaten them.”
  • 2008-09-19 [Talk|Index] Scientists Explain Why People Vote For Republicans § a collection of scientific investigations into why people vote Republican
  • 2008-09-15 [Talk|Index] The Power of Political Misinformation § “...a series of new experiments show that misinformation can exercise a ghostly influence on people's minds after it has been debunked -- even among people who recognize it as misinformation. In some cases [chiefly among Republicans], correcting misinformation serves to increase the power of bad information.”
  • 2008-09-15 [Talk|Index] The Backfire Effect § “Nyhan and Reifler found this "backfire" effect only among conservatives. Refutations had little effect on liberals, but it didn't cause them to actively believe the misleading information even more strongly.”
  • 2008-07-04 [Talk|Index] Former Sen. Jesse Helms dies at age 86 § [2]“What really sets Jesse Helms apart is that he is the last prominent unabashed white racist politician in this country – a title that one hopes will now be permanently retired. A few editorials and columns came close to saying that. But the squeamishness of much of the press in characterizing Helms for what he is suggests an unwillingness to confront the reality of race in our national life. ... What is unique about Helms – and from my viewpoint, unforgivable – is his willingness to pick at the scab of the great wound of American history, the legacy of slavery and segregation, and to inflame racial resentment against African Americans.”
  • 2008-07-04 [Talk|Index] Bad Deed for 7-4-2008: Confusing the Public About Patriotism § [2]“For a people to be controlled, they must first be robbed of honest discourse and open debate. Distorting language and stripping it of real and honest meaning is the first tool and the best mechanism for transforming a democracy into an authoritarian state. ... Nowhere does the term or the idea of patriotism in general require one to believe one’s country is “great.” Nowhere does the term or the idea of patriotism in general require a ban on dissenting views, on criticism of one’s government, indeed even of one’s nation.”
  • 2008-06-25 [Talk|Index] Why The Right Isn't Future-Ready § “Authoritarianism is dangerous not just because it's hostile to individual liberty, but also because it poisons every step of the process of social change. And societies that succumb to it are, in a very real sense, setting themselves up for failure. .. In this essay, I'm going look at a few reasons why this is so.”
  • 2008-06-21 [Talk|Index] Atlanta: Finishing What General Sherman Started § [2]“"In 1969, a study by the Atlanta Region Metropolitan Planning Commission...determined that significant infrastructure changes would be required to avoid critical water shortages when the metro area's population soared to between 3 million (reached in 1993) an 5 million (2006). In the 1980s, water planners mapped out a proposed network of reservoirs throughout North Georgia to shore up water for inevitable droughts. Yet the reservoirs never got off paper. By the nineties, the projects were not only deemed to costly to pursue once rainfall returned in abundance, but they also threatened to further antagonize Alabama and Florida in the tri-state water dispute." What did the Atlanta metropolitan area do instead? Issue building permits—48,262 in 1996; 68,240 in 2006. That's the free-market way. The conservative way.”
  • 2008-04-01 [Talk|Index] How the Neocons use the Myth of religion in politics § 2-minute segment of what sounds like a British documentary. Michael Lind, "journalist and former neoconservative", explains neocon belief in Straussianism and Plato's noble lie.
  • 2008-03-24 [Talk|Index] The conservative case for Barack Obama § [2]by Andrew J. Bacevich: “Barack Obama is no conservative. Yet if he wins the Democratic nomination, come November principled conservatives may well find themselves voting for the senator from Illinois. Given the alternatives — and the state of the conservative movement — they could do worse.”
  • 2007-02-21 [Talk|Index] I'm assuming many conservatives are embarrassed by Conservapedia § [2]“At least, I hope so. The "conservapedia" is supposed to be an alternative to Wikipedia that removes the biases – although one would think the creators would be clever enough to realize that even the name announces that Conservapedia is planning to openly embrace a particular political bias. Unfortunately, that bias seems to be more towards stupidity than anything else.”
  • 2006-10-02 [Talk|Index] Why I Am Voting Democratic in 2006 § [2]“I am a conservative and a Republican party member. I believe in small government, free markets, strong defense, etc., but Bush’s snafu in Iraq is just too much. It overwhelms those issues which for 30 years have made me vote GOP. In addition to screwing up so far, there is zero evidence that he’s changed, or that he “gets it,” or anything.” ... “There is another aspect that makes this easier for me. Bush has not followed a conservative agenda (not that the Democrats would); he has increased the spending, size, and reach of government, mostly in the name of fighting terror. Historically, there has been a conservative philosophy. Today, most people & media use “conservative” as shorthand for “loyal Bush supporter.” But, as many have observed, Bush is no conservative. No need to remind me of Bush’s support for Intelligent Design, and other anti-science actions of the administration.”
  • 2005-02-07 [Talk|Index] The Inventor of Modern Conservatism § “Benjamin Disraeli -- twice prime minister of Great Britain, romantic novelist, inventor of modern conservatism -- was a neocon in the plain sense of the word, a "new conservative" who began his career on the left.”




News Sites

  • NewsMax: "America's News Page" (see also Wikipedia)
  • is generally described as conservative, but according to Wikipedia their mission is specifically to aid in "the fight against those who would sacrifice the individual and freedom for political gain and big government."


News & Views


  • The Marketing of Evil by David Kupelian (Amazon): "Americans have come to tolerate, embrace and even champion many things that would have horrified their parents' generation – from easy divorce and unrestricted abortion-on-demand to extreme body piercing and teaching homosexuality to grade-schoolers."
    • Comments:
      • Easy divorce has been shown to reduce suicide rates; nobody gets unrestricted abortion-on-demand, though I could argue that it would be a good idea, at least in the first trimester; and you can't "teach homosexuality" – is anyone actually trying to do this? Unless it means "teaching about homosexuality", which would be an important part of any decent sex education curriculum (otherwise kids are likely to grow up hating and fearing gay people, which would probably make this book's author happy – or, if the student in question is gay, hating and fearing her/himself, which would probably also make the book's author happy). What's wrong with body-piercing? --Woozle 11:07, 12 January 2007 (EST)