Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Why Harper Betrays Real Conservatism


"Nobody makes a greater mistake than he who does nothing because he could only do a little."

That little bit of wisdom comes from the father of modern conservatism, Edmund Burke. It's applicable to the abject refusal of our SoCon goverment to introduce hard caps on carbon emissions unless the "big emitters" do the same.

This quote comes from an interesting retrospective on genuine conservatism - not the Harper kind or the Bush/Cheney strain - but truly progressive conservatism by Michael Gerson writing in today's Washington Post.

Gerson writes of the great progressives such as Lord Shaftesbury and William Wilberforce (great, great grandfather of the magnificent judge, Lord Wilberforce) in 18th and 19th century England.

Prime Minister William Pitt pressed a young member of Parliament named William Wilberforce to introduce a bill for the abolition of the slave trade. Wilberforce's research found that the holds of slave ships were, according to one witness, "so covered in blood and mucus which had proceeded from them in consequence of the (dysentery) that it resembled a slaughterhouse." Enslaved Africans on the ships attempted to starve themselves to death or to jump into the ocean. Wilberforce thought this suffering a good reason for reform.

A later conservative, Lord Shaftesbury, fought against conditions that amounted to slavery in British factories, rescued child laborers from chimneys and mines, and worked for improved sanitary conditions in British slums. In 1853, for example, the citizens of Dudley, England, had an average age at death of 16 years and 7 months. "I feel that my business lies in the gutter," said Shaftesbury, "and I have not the least intention to get out of it."


And Burke himself had a foot in this tradition. He was an early opponent of slavery, supported reforms to help debtors and opposed discrimination against Irish Catholics. He accused reactionary conservatives of defending "their errors as if they were defending their inheritance." He was deeply critical of those who refused to act because they thought nothing could be accomplished.

This history is directly relevant to modern debates. In some conservative quarters we are seeing the return of Burkeanism -- or at least a narrow version of it. These supposed Burkeans dismiss the promotion of democracy and human rights as "ideological," the protection of human life and dignity as "theological," and compassionate conservatism as a modern heresy.

But the compassionate conservatism of Wilberforce and Shaftesbury is just as old as Burke, and more suited to an American setting. American conservatives, after all, are called upon to conserve a liberal ideal -- that all men are created equal. ... And skepticism in this noble cause is not sophistication; it seems more like exhaustion and cynicism.

A significant portion of Americans are motivated by a religiously informed vision of human dignity. For them, compassion is not merely a private feeling but a public commitment -- as public as the abolition of slavery or the end of child labor. And they are looking not for another Wellington but for another Wilberforce.


Reading this article I was reminded that it isn't conservatism I loathe, merely the selfish, callous cynicism that people of Harper's ilk have used to pervert it.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh,I get it Harper?Hitler pose,Your a clown,pal.

The Mound of Sound said...

Oh, is that how you see him? Sorry.

Oldschool said...

Why would anyone think that what we do in Canada, 30 odd million dumb Canooks could save the world???
Our total so-called greenhouse gas emissions is only 2% of the world's total . . . if we dissapeared off the map tomorrow . . . China would absorb that 2% in less than 50 weeks.
If we cut back even 10% the job losses in Canada would be devastating.

Good news from the Poles . . . north and south that is . . .
Brazil’s MetSul Weather Center reports the ice and snow cover in the Arctic have recovered to within one percent of normal — even though the official start of winter is still more than a week away. And it says the southern polar ice cap actually has an additional 772,000 square miles of ice now — compared to a year ago.

By the way . . . wasn't Hitler the leader of the National Socialist Workers Party???

I know its confusing for many, but he was a "self-admitted" Socialist!!!
Fascism was invented by Musolini, a great fan of Marx and Engels, but didn't like the Bolshiviks version of Marxism so he invented his own.

As Ronald Regan used to say "it isn't that the left doesn't know anything, its just that they know so much that ISN'T SO!!!

The Mound of Sound said...

Oldschool, we can't save the world but we can do what's right. Fascism wasn't invented by Mussolini. But while you're on the topic, it was the ultimate expression of corporatism. National Socialism was, as the name implies, a somewhat socialist form of totalitarianism. Why would that be confusing to many unless they're as poorly read as you? And your nonsense on the ice cap is, well, nonsense.

Oldschool said...

Why would you say its right to shut down a large part of our industry and economic activity??? Many folks in Ontario would be out of work and paying $3.00 a litre for gas.
So-called global warming would be beneficial for Canada . . . if it was 20 degrees warmer today, our carbon footprint would be substantially decreased.
Fact is though, if it were not for GW . . . it would not be -25 in Winnipeg today, it would be -25.7, a substantial difference I am sure!!

Riddle me this question . . . if GW is the threat many beleive it is . . . why are we building tens of thousands of houses in Canada, moving 100's of thousands of people to northern climates from temperate areas???


National Socialism is IDENTICAL to Communism (originating from Marx and Engles) except . . . the fascists didn't manage everything from party headquarters.
The corporations were taken over by the state, but the corporate leaders were left in place to run them . . . cause they new how . . . and industry worked. Not so in the Soviet Union where the party ran everything . . . thus a dismal failure.
But they both reside on the left side of the political spectrum and are both very totalarian philosophies, in spite of attempts today by lefties to paint them as right wing.
If you had said that 30 years ago you would have been laughed at . .

The Mound of Sound said...

Shut down a large part of our industry and economic activity? Only the very dirtiest part, OldSchool. I'm not impressed with your NewsMax/FoxNews arguments. The EU is showing that you can greatly reduce carbon emissions without sustaining great economic loss. In reality, the loss over the long run will be much less. Do you live in fear of change? You certainly give that impression. There's really no need for your hyper anxiety.

weenie said...

no reason for hyper anxiety at all - riddle me what? This certainly not a Batman episode. We have to stop believing that the West has somehow surpassed the EU - we are behind. They may have done their share of mistakes (depletion of resources) but at least they are trying to come up with proactive solutions not excuses.