Saturday, January 01, 2011

At the core of conservatism

What is the ideological center of contemporary conservatism?  In his book We Are Doomed, John Derbyshire described the phenomenon of the "metrocon"--urban conservatives who sympathesize with conservatives who live in the sticks--authentic conservatives--but who have lifestyles more similar to cosmopolitan liberals. To illustrate real conservatives, he writes about people from small-town America who believe that homosexuality should be illegal. Now that is a true conservative. Derbyshire doesn't know a single metrocon who thinks that homosexual behavior should be against the law. 

Is there something to this idea that anti-homosexuality shows us what is at the heart of rank-and-file conservatism? Many liberals would argue this; that hate is at its core.  Actually, the truth is that love is at the center of it; love of tradition, love of one's fathers. 

At the same time, the recent debate over raising the taxes of the rich led some liberals to contend that the Holy Grail of conservatism is protecting wealthy Americans. Conservatives are obsessed with economic freedom for the privileged. 

So which is it? I don't have access to a question about favoring laws against homosexuality, but the GSS does ask if homosexual sex is wrong. Respondents are also asked about taxes on the wealthy with answers ranging from "much too low" to "much too high." I correlated these measures with the degree to which one is politically conservative. The correlation between conservatism and wanting lower taxes for the rich is .16. The conservatism/anti-homosexual sex correlation, by constrast, is .39--much stronger. 

Another way of looking at it is percentages. Seventy-nine percent of those who describe themselves as conservative think homosexual sex is almost alway or always wrong. Only 49 percent of conservatives say that the taxes paid by the wealthy are "too high" or "much too high." Opposing homosexual sex captures conservatism better than concern about high taxes for the rich.  

17 comments:

Robert said...

50 Bible - based New Years Resolutions

http://dwindlinginunbelief.blogspot.com/2011/01/15-bible-based-new-years-resolutions.html

Black Sea said...

I think of myself as pretty conservative, more conservative than libertarian, for instance, but I don't see any reason whatsoever for making homosexuality illegal, and would vigorously disagree that this is somehow the litmus test for "true" conservatism.

To make homosexuality illegal would extend government power and coercion into a realm in which it clearly does not belong, and would violate the principle of personal liberty.

Jason Malloy said...

For a more comprehensive look at this see Audacious Epigone's most recent posts.

Jehu said...

The issue really annoys me because I've become convinced that given our cultural and legal predilictions, freedom is NOT an option. That is, homosexuality must be illegal or it will become illegal to criticize it. Given those two choices, I prefer to re-illegalize it, although to not spend any particularly strong effort pursuing it.

Samson said...

That is, homosexuality must be illegal or it will become illegal to criticize it.

Yes, that is the point lost on so many. Here in Canada we have more or less already seen the beginnings of this.

Given those two choices, I prefer to re-illegalize it, although to not spend any particularly strong effort pursuing it.

Indeed. This way, homosexuals can engage in unorthodox behaviour to their heart's content - in private, but nobody else is publicly compelled to support their right to do so.

Katy said...

Black Sea isn't a traditional conservative. He's a right-liberal (free market conservative).

While I agree with the results what Inductivist should have done is emphasize the basic beliefs of conservatism vs basic beliefs of liberalism. Basic belief of liberalism would include equality, progress, non-discrimination, multiculturalism, diversity, tolerance, moral relativism and autonomy. In contrast a conservative believes in moral absolutism, graded absolutism, community, society, transcendence (God) and things alike.

Black Sea said...

The justifications thus far on this thread for making homosexuality illegal amount to the argument that if homosexuality is legal, then criticising it on moral, religious, social, or hygenic grounds will become (or has already become) illegal.

To clarify, I'm opposed to legal prohibitions against homosexuality. I'm also opposed to legal prohibitions against "hate speech," and while I realize that the current political climate hardly supports this conviction, I strongly endorse the right to free association. It seems to me that if this right hadn't withered to nearly nothing, we could avoid these situations in which that which has been made legal must then be "embraced" by the populace. There are all sorts of activities which are and should be legal, and which I should have every right to condemn on various grounds. I understand your concern in this regard, but I still wouldn't endorse a legal prohibiton against homosexuality, except as regards sexual activity in parks and public places.

Our society is, like all incipient totalitarianisms, creeping toward a condition in which that which is not prohibited must be mandatory, and that which is not mandatory must be prohibited. It's a shame, since the exercise of individual freedom is hardly possible under such circumstances.

Anonymous said...

It exists. That's no reason to socially "normalize" it, pretending it's typical when it isn't.

I am hoping it will one day not exist, at least at the % it does today.

Hail said...

The desire for ethnocultural continuity is more core than the homosexuality issue.

If future Earthlings are all an indistinguishable mush of bleary-eyed, Tiger-Woods-icized, identityless drones, bound to nothing greater than searching the Internet for Britney Spears, who'd care what the strength of "Homosexuality-ism" might be?

Bill said...

Making homosex illegal has about as much to do with hating homosexuals as blue laws have to with hating shoppers.

The traditional Christian argument for making homosex illegal is that doing so assists homosexuals in resisting their particular temptation to sin. Blue laws assist businesspeople and employees in resisting their temptation to profane the Sabbath. Etc. Each is a tangible expression of love for the unfortunate sinner.

That secular rightists have trouble coming up with arguments for the illegality of homosex is not exactly shocking.

The alliance between libertarians, the wealthy, and social conservatives is an alliance of convenience. They are united in that the left hates all three, and, as the left has been steadily coming to hate the rich less, they have steadily streamed out of the coalition.

Black Sea said...

Shall we then look forward to laws prohibiting greed, sloth, envy, pride, lust, and gluttony? Only to protect us from the temptations of sin, of course.

Bill said...

What are you talking about? The seven deadly sins (which you name a random subset of) are obviously too general to legislate on. But, lots of the particular sins inspired by those more general ones have been and are illegal. And, yes, those laws existed for the protection of sinners.

Black Sea said...

Bill,

You and I obviously have a very different notion of the proper role of government with regard to legal constraints on behavior. I see the foundation of law as respect for the rights of others, rights which are enumerated in a constitution.

I happily plead guilty to being a a free-market conservative (or whatever) if the alternative is theocracy. Such a system is operative in places like Iran, KSA, and Pakistan, where, as you may know, the state is preparing to execute a Christian who allegedly blasphemed against Islam.

You really want to trust the sorts of people who "serve" in government to protect you from your own sinful nature? Not me, pal. I'll settle for having my constitutional rights protected.

Katy said...

''I happily plead guilty to being a a free-market conservative (or whatever) if the alternative is theocracy. Such a system is operative in places like Iran, KSA, and Pakistan, where, as you may know, the state is preparing to execute a Christian who allegedly blasphemed against Islam.''

Islam and Christianity are not one and the same. That is relativist. You are a right-liberal, not a traditional conservative.

Why should the West even be saved?

charltonteaching.blogspot.com/2010/12/should-western-civilization-be-saved.html

Black Sea the left doesn't give a fig about ''constitutional rights''. Since they believe in progress the constitution is nothing more than an old, regressive, obsolote document (unless they can use it against traditional conservatives).

If you haven't noticed the mainstream has collapsed.

bonald.wordpress.com/2010/10/23/the-status-of-conservative-thought-i-collapse-of-the-mainstream/

All that's left are the few reactionaries and traditional conservatives (and I think it's a good thing). On one hand it makes it harder for liberals to leave liberalism but on the other hand conservatism will not be poisoned anymore by right-liberalism. I think it's better for it (conservatism) to be a small movement true to traditional conservatism rather than a mere lite image of liberalism.

Katy said...

When I mean liberal (whether right-liberal or left-liberal) I mean basic beliefs in equality, progress, civil rights/human rights, diversity, multiculturalism, autonomy, democracy and other liberal concepts. Sooner or later you will call me a neo-Nazi, theocratic or fascist but I assure that these aren't the only options to liberalism. There are reactionaries and traditional conservatives (I'm turning more into one of these).

Black Sea said...

Black Sea the left doesn't give a fig about ''constitutional rights''.

Yeah I know, that's why I'm no more eager to give them expanded governmental powers than I am to theocrats. Or for that matter, politicians and bureaucrats of any stripe. I just don't think we need, benefit from, or can thrive under the ministrations of an all-encompassing state, whatever it's rationalizations for seizing power. We need some government, but not nearly this much, and not nearly so intrusive.

"You are a right-liberal, not a traditional conservative."

I'm not prepared to argue these distinctions because of the time it would take to fill in the shades of nuance between them. If you feel that one label fits my position better than another, I'll concede that. I'm really more interested in the validity of my position rather than what to call it.


"Sooner or later you will call me a neo-Nazi, theocratic or fascist . . ."

Actually, I probably won't. I mean, I might call you a theocrat if in fact you advocate a theocracy, since so far as I understand it the term would then fit. I'm highly unlikely to call you a Nazi or a fascist because I disagree with your position. This sort of mud-slinging persuades no one not already convinced, and closes off rather than opens a discussion. For whatever it's worth, I actually don't suspect you of being either.

Katy said...

''Actually, I probably won't. I mean, I might call you a theocrat if in fact you advocate a theocracy, since so far as I understand it the term would then fit.''

I believe in a republic or a monarchy (or something else) system of government rather than a democracy. A democracy is nothing more than the rule of the mob. There is a right and a wrong and it doesn't matter how many people believe in it or not.

''Yeah I know, that's why I'm no more eager to give them expanded governmental powers than I am to theocrats. Or for that matter, politicians and bureaucrats of any stripe. I just don't think we need, benefit from, or can thrive under the ministrations of an all-encompassing state, whatever it's rationalizations for seizing power. We need some government, but not nearly this much, and not nearly so intrusive.''

Are you talking about the USA? George W. Bush was a right-liberal and neoconservative. Traditionalists conservatives like Lawrence Auster, Mark Richardson, Laura Wood and others have endlessly criticized him for what he has done.

An example would be George W. Bush on white guilt --- www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/017211.html

Another would be the Iraq and Afghanistan war. And plenty of others.