Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

The New Conservatism II

In the last post I discussed why the Right is on the defensive and losing ground in today's society.  I also noted that challenging the Left's underlying assumption for so much of its ideology, that government is a competent controller of society, needs to be challenged and debunked if the Right is to reverse that trend.
In this post I would like to discuss a further idea that the Right needs to build on in order to re-establish its influence in society and, oddly enough, it's a idea usually associated with the Left.
Modern liberalism, through the pervasive presence of the nanny state, emphasizes the idea of communal responsibility.  Certainly when it comes to taxing the successful members of society this concept is invoked: the rich have the responsibility to look after the poor.
The Right needs to co-opt this idea which I feel is surprising available for the taking.  While the Left talks about the community its encouragement of a culture of entitlements and rights actually promotes the community's fragmentation.  If all I really care about, as a citizen, is what's coming to me without concern for the consequences, then I develop a lack of global vision.  I want my benefits and I don't care if it means my neighbour will suffer.  Gimme, gimme, gimme.
In response, conservatives need to push a society vision which includes all citizens.  What is the goal of the society we live in?  What is the common purpose of our country?  What is the justification for its existence?  Why does the world need it around and how to we contribute to it?
Here's an example: US President Calvin Coolige famously said that the business of America is business.  As the centre of the capitalist world, America is about building capital, both personal and national wealth.  This idea, the complement to the slogan about being the land of opportunity, is lost when the Left's culture of entitlements and rights above responsibilities becomes dominant.  In a Leftist culture the predominant behaviour is the consumption of capital without thought as to how to produce it in the first place.  This is the antithesis of the worldview that led to the dominance of the Western world.
It sounds almost communist but the Right needs to start discussing the responsibility of the individual citizen towards sustainable productivity.  This responsibility can be promoted in ways that make it attractive to the greater society.
Using these ideas, the Right can challenge the Left on a host of social, financial and political issues.
Consider the health care system.  The idea that the state should fund and control a good chunk of healthcare is accepted by populations in the West.  Should government coverage be unlimited and free to all citizens like in Canada or targeted to the poor and elderly with the rest being privately covered like in the US?  Is the best model the European system of parallel public and private systems?  A conservative answer would be based on the idea that it is in society's interest to ensure that those who genuinely cannot afford healthcare are covered in order to promote public health.  It is also in society's interest to ensure coverage for healthcare for all citizens for common and serious conditions.  In the interest of encouraging responsibility in addition to rights, as mentioned in the last post, the conservative health care system may demand co-payments or a restricted access to resources for those people who engage in injurious behaviours.   This could take the form of special health taxes on those foods universally recognized to be unhealthy or access fees to the system for smokers when they have smoking related ailments.
Consider the welfare system.  Social assistance for the downtrodden of society is in the interest of the greater good.  Endless welfare payments for folks who have adjusted to the welfare lifestyle and have no intention of returning to work in any form is not.  Thus conservatives should support a welfare system that demands and funds retraining for the unemployed in order to return them to the workforce.
What about higher education?  In Canada there are two major post-secondary systems - university and college.  Universities are for higher education and the homes of professional schools such as medicine and accounting.  Colleges are trade schools teaching practical occupations.  There is no question that a college graduate is far more likely to find employment upon completing his degree than a university graduate is.   It would therefore be in the conservative interest for governments to fund colleges to the point that tuition levels would be affordable to the majority of the population while allowing university tuition to rise in order to discourage the vast numbers of students who are attending to get their BA in post-medieval English lit with a minor in basket weaving.
How this applies to Israel will be dealt with next.


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Anonymous said...

"Thus conservatives should support a welfare system that demands and funds retraining for the unemployed in order to return them to the workforce. "

I think it's best to focus on this line. From my vantage point, the central insight of conservative philosophy is that a lot of the wisdom in traditional communal structures that guides individual choices is not recognized and thus not recreated when new often more impersonal structures take their place. As a result progress in the form of better government institutions etc. often has unintended negative social consequences.

Where I see conservative politics to have erred, especially in the States, is that has often made no good faith effort to work with necessary changes to create the subtle mechanisms which may have existed in a smaller/informal community. Often a "principled objection" is made against the creation of services/institutions which every country of a certain size/level of development etc. has found it necessary to implement. This "principled objection" then is used to limit the usefulness of said programs, instead of supplementing it with what would be the appropriate conservative adjustments. In the instance of health care, it is obvious that every country regardless of how free-market oriented, has created mechanisms to make health care affordable etc. Yet in the US we are only just getting to realize this---but I digress.

As a result of this kind of dynamic, we see situations where people are forced to choose between working OR receiving a form of government assistance.

This approach is extremely punitive and also reinforces the ignorances among more affluent members of society, who come to believe either MORE services are needed OR much LESS. As a result in the States especially, we see a kind of schizophrenic set of policies that force people to use government assistance and then punish them for it.

By contrast a country like Germany couples job training WITH assistance. It doesn't create an unnecessary amount of paperwork between multiple agencies etc. for individuals.