fn ‘4* Some Insight Into The Conservative Mentality John Tower Mr. Ronnie Dugger The Texas Observer Austin, Texas Dear Ronnie: I am flattered that the Texas Observer has asked me to do something on my fundamental beliefs. In your note to me, asking me to do this piece, you observed that “. . . our readers have so little, substantially, in common with you.” HoWeyer, I am always glad to speak or write under critical, as well as favorable circumstances. Too, I remember a line, from Rudyard Kipling: “They cannot know England who only England know.” Perhaps some exposure to an honestly expressed conservative viewpoint may cause some of my liberal friends to take better stock of their own positions. At the outset, I should note that, too often, the doctrinaire liberal or the doctrinaire conservative tends to state his case in a manner that would convey the impression that he is God, dictating the Ten Commandments -to Moses. I’m as guilty of this as anyone. So, perhaps I should start with a little disarming humility and say that I am aware that I have no monopoly on truth and, although political philosophies are things to which insincere men may, from time to time, repair for the sake of political expediency, I will concede the intellectual honesty of those who might be properly regarded as the real opinion leaders of the liberal movement. However, it occurs to me that they are possessed of a massive conceit. As the attitude toward people low on the socio-economic scale on the part of the old Tory Democrats of the last century may have been condescend-, ingly philanthropic, so, too, the attitude of the American twentieth century so-called “liberal” is one that sometimes appears to border on contempt for the ability of people in a society to regulate themselves. Liberal intellectuals cling to the ancient notion that there must be a ruling elite which uses the coercive authority of the state as a means of ordering the lives and destinies of men, through complete planning of the political, economic, and social processes. As I see it, the function of government is to preserve order in society not to order society. It is no more accurate to caricature the conservative as’ a bloated, greedy, avaricious money, bags, bent on the preservation of privilege and the exploitation of the poor, than it is to caricature the liberal as a bewhiskered, red-eyed, bomb-throwing anarchist. ASSUMING that the liberal and the conservative have mutually compatible goals: to wit, the elevation of the whole condition of mankind, the enhancement of the individual dignity of man, consistent with our Judeo-Christian system of ethics, morality, and humanity, the difference lies in the approach, the conservative being libertarian, the liberal, essentially egalitarian. In the eyes of the conservative, the liberal approach, too often, becomes an end unto itself and is, therefore, destructive of the goal. The achievement of complete “equality,” and its maintenance, it seems to me, would necessarily require substantial sacrifice of individual liberty and freedom of choice. It appears to me the liberals are bent on the establishment of a system which would marshal the wealth and resources of the land and redistribute them in the form of welfare benefits and public works. While some liberals may not consciously seek the establishment of a socialist state in America, I believe that many of the programs they advocate establish a trend in that direction. In seeking the establishment of a planned economy, the liberal apparently fails to take into consideration the fact that capitalism, or the market-regulated economy, has proved to be the most productive system and has afforded the highest standard of living. Government planning, as one wise man has observed, is not a mature way to organize an economy. It is unproven ; it is educated guesswork at best. Carried to its ultimate, it is necessarily tyrannical in character in that it essentially determines what will be produced and consumed, at what jobs people will work, and what compensations they will receive. A market-regulated ‘economy preserves the democracy of the matket place in which people, by the manner in which they spend their dollars, in effect determine what goods and services will be produced. A system in which taxes become confiscatory, in which there is extensive government competition with business, or, at its worst, one in which the means of production, distribution, and exchange are nationalized, not only denies a certain amount of freedom of choice, it destroys incentive. AM AWARE that conservtives are very often accused of placing March 21, 196J 3
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