Members of both political parties love the idea of unity, but find it elusive, even within membership ranks. Personality differences, ideological tension, sense of priorities create dissension most often resolved by the application of power and money, the application of which is most often expressed as “pragmatism.”
But power and money, always chief armaments of any political party, ultimately fail to achieve unity. That is because a unified party can only be established among people of identical or nearly identical beliefs.
Whether the unity based on ideals holds individuals’ loyalty and attention depends on the comprehensiveness and depth of the party’s foundational bases.
Over the last ten decades or so, the cultural hegemony of the Judeo/Christian ethic was gradually eroded by the progressive vision birthed during the nineteenth century. The erosion of the former cultural hegemony has meant the major institutions of the West, including those within the US, have been absorbed by progressivism.
The process of absorption by progressive thought has affected political parties, dividing camps of thought into two major and conflicting political philosophies: progressive and conservative. While the Democratic Party has been taken over almost without exception by leftist progressivism, particularly as regards the current administration, the Republican Party is in the midst of a titanic struggle for its ideological soul.
Progressives and conservatives are fighting for the ideological/philosophical heart of the Party.
Generally speaking, however, the fight is not defined as a battle between progressivism and conservatism. It is most often defined by the terms “moderate” and “conservative.” “Moderates,” who are actually progressives at heart, proclaim themselves reasonable pragmatists who are interested only in fiscal conservatism.
Conservatives, on the other hand, do not see the ideological pie as easily sliced and are interested in a broader agenda which addresses the marked deterioration of Western culture, including but not confined to the political culture.
In addition to their concerns over government’s fiscal responsibility, conservatives are pro-life, strict interpreters and upholders of the constitution, interested in retaining national identity and sovereignty, anti-statist and strong advocates for individual freedoms.
In other words, conservatives are interested in the reform of the entire culture; and for Republican conservatives, that reform starts with the political culture.
Particularly germane to this essay, conservatives do not see economics as divisible from other issues. However, moderates/progressives do see economics/fiscal conservatism as divisible from what are broadly (and I believe mistakenly termed) “social” issues.
How did economic issues become conceived as separable from the cloth of culture at large? What is the reasoning behind the idea that fiscal conservatism is separable from the rest of conservative beliefs?
I believe fiscal conservatives have at the heart of their beliefs in the separateness of economics from the rest of culture an irrational belief that economics is an objective science based on mathematics and statistics and therefore not subject to value judgments. For them, the measure of society and mankind is material.
Therefore, the reasoning goes, it is possible to apply objectively the science of economics to politics without concern for the value judgments and the moral freight “social” issues inevitably bring with them. As we shall see in another essay regarding the test case of public education, such an assumption is wrong.
But first, what is the reasoning behind the idea that fiscal conservatism is separable from social/cultural issues?
Those who follow the philosophy of science will know that the effort to find a formula to reconcile the seemingly contradictory theories of quantum mechanics and general relativity has at the heart of the efforts to reconcile, a Theory of Everything; that is, a formula the explicates and links together all known physical phenomena. The formula is then supposed to have predictive power to explain any particular phenomenon.
Forgotten in the impulse to explicate the entirety of the universe in mathematical terms is Kant’s admonition in his Third Critique that higher (“pure”) mathematics, while capable of much seduction, elegance and beauty, may not bear any particular resemblance to reality.
In brief, there are many other facets to be considered in the interpretation of the complexities and meaning of the universe. A mathematical formula may not contain the universe nor serve as a total explicatory device.
What does the above mean concerning for “fiscal conservatism?”
It means, among other things, that the mathematics and statistics attendant to economics do not define or “objectify” economics; which, after all, is a human activity and which is fraught with moral judgments.
It means that the economic measure of humanity (economics being defined as an “objective” science with universal applicability to human history and culture) is an insufficient and truncated means of measure.
It also means that the mere material, economic measure of humanity, when applied universally, creates destruction of society, as has often been noted by historians who have observed the results of communism, which used as its measure the sole factors of economics; that is, humans as purely material being measured by economics. Thus, each person is assigned a particular economic value, which in progressive/socialist/communist terms means equal distribution of wealth since equality is defined as equal material possessions.
But the presumed objectivity and certainty of economics gives, as it has given to socialists and communists, a wedge whereby value judgments contrary to political conservatism may be inserted into the political structure. In other words, supposedly objective economic issues become the proverbial nose of the camel in the tent. The real but most often unstated purpose of “fiscal conservatives” is to get the whole camel in the tent in order to obtain control of the rest of the conservative agenda, substituting progressive values for conservative values.
The above is the reason why conservatives must resist the idea that economics is a thread separable from the rest of the societal fabric; that it alone is the objectifying measure of humankind and human culture. On the contrary, every economic decision, every facet of fiscal responsibility carries with it a value judgment. The only question remaining, then, is whose value judgment will infrom economic policy; whose value judgment will prevail?
For the conservative, the value judgments undergirding economic policies are the same value judgments which are the foundational beliefs of conservatives, most of whom believe those values were most ably articulated by the founders of this nation.
Part II: Delaware’s Public Schools as a case example of the impossibility of separating out fiscal conservatism and value judgments based on conservative political philosophy.