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Many ‘Conservatives’ are actually Liberals: Here’s Why

Political debate in the West is confused by the muddying of language. Many of those called "conservatives" should properly speaking be called 'classical liberals" since it is they who actually hold true to the classical liberal ideas of the seventeenth and eighteenth century enlightenment.

Hillary Clinton’s sublimely misinformed and downright idiotic ‘alt-right’ speech is the story that won’t go away.

I’ve previously explained why and how new/alternative media both transcend and include all echelons of the political spectrum.  However perhaps even more important is the fact that many people in the Western world incorrectly labelled as conservatives actually are not conservative at all but are in fact liberal.

The problem in correctly defining one’s political positions is a fault of poor historical education as much as it is product of wilful linguistic abuse.

In order to better understand this, one must define liberalism. Liberalism is a belief that a state/government should stand back and let chips fall where they may. It is internal non-interventionism.

In this belief the private sector is king, morality is not a collective affair but a personal and perhaps interpersonal one, taxation is an evil which may or may not be necessary, and social and political institutions can reform themselves to be equitable but without great revolutionary pangs.

These classical liberal views are best articulated by 17th and 18th century Scottish and English philosophers (Locke, Hume and Smith), by the governance of the Dutch Republic and the Whig part of mid-Victorian Britain.

But then something changed the ideals of liberalism, The French Revolution(s). Rather than taking a literally laissez faire approach to government, the rule of Maximilien Robespierre as head of the Committee for Public Safety created something one can retrospectively call ‘interventionist liberalism’. The idea put simply is that in order to create a society based on liberal ideals, one must actively and violently smash traditional (conservative) institutions.

By contrast classical conservatism is built around the following:

–a rejection of ideology

— an inherent defence of traditional institutions

–a rejection of modelling one’s state on a foreign state

–allowing the market to work in the interest of the state rather than international moneyed interests

–a non-radical protection of traditional cultural values (but without banging on about it as though such a thing were a profound philosophical epiphany) 

–defending one’s territory against an external foe.

Whilst the first decades of the 20th century saw classical liberal parties in the west gradually turn towards interventionist liberalism, both of these schools of thought were born of radical liberal thinkers challenging an existing, necessarily conservative establishment. Yet many today call classical liberals conservatives when this simply is not true.

Of course all political beliefs are subject to flux and therefore defy any dogmatic interpretations.  The fact however remains that the belief in free speech, a small police force, freedom of assembly, equality before the law, and a free press are not conservative ideas, but classical liberal ideas.

By contrast the ideals of patriotism in spite of temporal ideology, a defence of culture against revolutionary change, a strong military, a strong police, intolerance for radicalism which challenges a prevailing collective/cultural morality, are classical conservative ideas.

In this sense, the wider history of the Soviet Union, and by extrapolation all parties born of a traditional labour movement favouring ‘socialism in one state’, are far closer to traditional conservatism than any brand of liberalism.

The Soviet Union of course rejected the idea of a free market working in the interest of the state, instead favouring a socialist vanguard legislating on behalf of the proletariat, but apart from that most Soviet values were deeply conservative, far more so than liberal interventionist ideals from the west.

The Soviet Union emphasised traditional Russian values of community, family, hospitality and personal generosity. The Soviet Union emphasised patriotism and service to one’s state. The Soviet Union did not tolerate radical movements which challenged the prevailing collective cultural will, and the Soviet Union funded traditional arts which emphasised social values. Soviet citizens had a strong sense of law and order, making Moscow in 1975 a city far safer from violent crime than New York, Paris or London.

In many ways the failed liberalism of the west has led many to vote for parties who at least in theory offer either traditional conservatism or traditional socialism. That being said, many in the West who argue for a repeal of interventionist liberalism and a return to classical liberalism are honourable individuals. Why then should they be labelled ‘conservative’ or even ‘ultra conservative’ by Hillary Clinton and her ilk?

Those who control the terms of the debate ultimately hold their opponents by the scruffs of their necks. This would be an intellectual crime if not worse. In the debate over the coming political realignments in a declining West, surely the least one can do is get the language right…or left.   

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