Conservation and Conservatism — the Common Ground

Conservation. Conservative. These words seem somehow similar…

This is not a coincidence. Both words connote preserving the old that is good. Conservationists seek to preserve biodiversity and natural beauty. Conservatives seek to preserve political and social traditions they think worth keeping. Members of both factions desire to grow old in a world that is recognizable to their childhood selves. Both seek to pass an inheritance to future generations.

Back in the day both words flew on the same banner. Conservation was once a Republican cause, especially under Teddy Roosevelt. He sought to preserve some of the wildness that was America before the frontier closed. He tried to preserve the national character of Rugged Individualism that was required when we lived on dispersed farms with slow transportation and communication. He loathed the specialization, fragility, and dependency fostered by the modern technology and capitalism of his day. (The Snowflake Phenomenon is not new!)

And yes, even his attacks on monopolies and cartels were part of an agenda of preserving the independent character of this country. He sought to preserve the competition and opportunity to be your own boss that was the norm in early stage capitalism.

Some Internal Contradictions

To conserve American values is to struggle with some contradictions. The United States was never a traditional society. We were multi-national and multi-cultural from the start. From multiple European countries came Utopians, adventurers, and indentured servants. From Africa came slaves. And then there were the members of the First Nations who managed to survive the Old World plagues and assorted wars.

The Pioneer Spirit is in part anti-traditional, anti-family. People left their homelands and extended families to come here, and later generations did the same thing to go west.

Traditional American values also include capitalism and classical liberalism. Both are inherently dynamic. Capitalism continuously rewards new businesses with better ideas. The Enlightenment Agenda allows us to question old traditions. Both can beget positive changes. Capitalism gives us new and improved products and services. Enlightenment allows us to review and dispense with bad and/or obsolete traditions. Applied to religion, it allows Christians to safely and harmoniously take a fresh look at Scripture and correct flawed practices and theologies.

But both of these beautiful American traditions contain the seeds of their own destruction if not actively guarded!

Capitalism has its internal contradictions. Cartels and monopolies are an ever present danger. Perfect competition isn’t. The market for labor has a Race to the Bottom instability. Super successful corporations can gain government-like powers.

Likewise, Enlightenment has its own internal contradictions. An overly Enlightened society is vulnerable to takeover by the unEnlightened. A society that questions everything too often has no grounding, nothing to defend. The goal to remain open-minded morphs into kowtowing to enemy ideologies. As these words are being written, our universities, our erstwhile bastions of Enlightenment ideals, have largely been taken over by tribal and totalitarian ideologies.

Since the core American traditions are inherently contradictory, they can only be defended imperfectly. We must reject both pure rationalism and pure traditionalism. The pure rationalism of the main libertarian schools over-optimize on some values and catastrophically fail for other values. Likewise, pure traditionalism has been experimentally determined to fail. If we simply roll back the clock, we recreate the conditions that led to the mess we have today.

To have hope of success, we need to keep in mind all the values we hope to preserve and/or restore, and craft a balanced approach that optimizes the mix as best we can using what we know from past experience and economics. We must thus include solutions that some of you will dislike. Please be open-minded enough to look at the complete package.

On the other hand, there is a difference between merely imperfect, and unnecessarily bad. For example, we cite Teddy Roosevelt for his mindset, not for his specific policies. Some of his policies were good; others have great room for improvement. For example, the Sherman Antitrust Law is rather ill defined and contradictory in places. This creates a field day for capricious judges and lawyers. In time we will present some antitrust alternatives which are simpler and compatible with the Rule of Law.

Building the Coalition

This site is all about building a big enough coalition that it can win elections – without becoming corrupted by big monied special interests.

Under the heading “Conservative” we can find many factions:

This is an unruly coalition. There are inherent conflicts. But there are also overlaps in values, and thus many in each faction declare themselves to be Conservative. We will point out some overlaps that aren’t all that obvious.

But the bigger theme of this web site (and possibly, future book) is the underappreciated overlap between many of these conservative values and conservation/environmental values.

We intend to build a bigger conservative faction. One that can attract the younger generations, get real traction on college campuses, and even win elections in urban areas and California. And we are talking about more than Conservatism Lite. We have a cunning plan to roll back Obamacare, simplify the tax code, get America out of debt, restore the Bill of Rights and financial privacy, and make traditional marriage the norm again.

On the sidebar you will find links to articles pointing out overlap between some of the conservative values above and eco values. Some of these overlaps will surprise you. (If you are reading this on a phone, the sidebar will be transformed into a footer. Scroll down.)

For those who are skeptical, recall that Ron Paul was able to pull large numbers of young people and even hippies into the Republican Party temporarily. Now imagine a paleoconservative agenda tempered with a bit more realism, with some human-friendly environmentalism mixed in...