We all have heard the commentators on the radio and TV trashing those who were not believers in the conservative view. They use canned phrases such as ‘limousine liberals’ and ‘ivory tower eggheads’ to describe those they oppose. After this ‘ignore the message, attack the messenger’ approach a fresh look at some past conservative positions and their outcomes might help.
The conservative position has been one of tradition, maintaining existing power structures, protecting the status quo and avoiding risk. The liberal position has embraced new ideas and accepted risk. If we look at a few cases where the conservative vs liberal ideas played out, the difference becomes clearer.
In 1776 the conservatives howled in protest as a radical liberal group led the American colonists on a break away path from the mother country, Britain. These traitors were worse than liberals, they were calling for a radical departure from all accepted standards of government. This democracy concept they espoused was pure heresy. The church had established the Divine Right of Kings and King George III was on the throne. Now a bunch of colonial Deists (or worse) were undermining the established order with this radical ivory tower experiment derived from the thinking of a bunch of English and French intellectuals. The idea of giving power to the people was clearly against God and nature.
As it turned out the American experiment in democracy did not fail but proved a blueprint for many other peoples struggling to be free. After over 200 years the Declaration of Independence and Constitution stand as beacons to all.
In 1852 the conservatives howled in protest as a radical liberal group passed a law requiring inspection of steamboat boilers. What right did the liberals have in interfering with the steamboat owners rights? Yes, there were frequent boiler explosions and many people were killed; yes, the boilers were being operated by people who didn’t know about boilers but were cheap to hire; and yes, sometimes the owners tied down the safety valves to get more speed or to save a dollar but it was a free market after all.
The new law soon made steamships safe and they became the backbone of transportation in the new nation. Actually, the free market demonstrated itself again; ferries and some work boats were excluded and these continued to blow boilers and kill people until the law was amended to include them. It did set a bad precedent. Ever since, when the free market became too egregious, the people have petitioned their government for help.
In 1865 the conservatives howled in protest as a radical group insisted that the government had a right to confiscate their personal property even if it was human. Could the law and tradition of centuries be overturned on a whim from the government? Even the Supreme Court had backed the conservative position in the Dread Scott case. This radical liberal, Lincoln, declared that people could not own people and freed the slaves. If the government could take away your property, what other mischief could these radicals do? Insist, as it says in the Declaration of Independence, that all people are created equal?
Now we have a bi-racial President, what’s next, an Asian American or a woman?
In 1867 the conservatives howled in protest as a radical named Seward tried to get the US to buy Alaska. What a waste of money, pay Russia over $7 million dollars for that wasteland of snow and ice. In spite of the conservative slogan “Seaward’s Folly”as a rallying cry, the US did buy Alaska.
The liberals won and Alaska became a US territory. Just think what would have happened had the conservatives won and Alaska was Russian territory all during the Cold War.
In 1918 the conservatives howled in protest as the radical, Henry Ford, announced he was doubling the workers pay to $5 a day. That was totally disruptive, pretty soon other workers would want similar money. He talked about his employees being able to buy his cars–such radical ideas would be the ruin of the country.
Actually what happened was they bought his cars and Detroit became the premium job provider for the 20th Century.
In 1930 the conservatives howled in protest as a radical group of military men wanted to waste a lot of money on air planes and to try to use them on ships. Everyone knows that the Navy is about battleships and large naval guns. Bill Mitchel needed to be court marshaled for pushing this aviation nonsense. Liberal military officers had their careers ruined in the fight with conservatives for aircraft carriers.
Somehow the aircraft and the aircraft carriers were built in spite of conservative opposition. One day in June 1942 on a vast expanse of ocean west of Midway Island, a handful of those carrier based air planes met the mighty Japanese fleet. In 15 minutes four first line Japanese carriers were destroyed and the enemy’s offensive power lay at the bottom of the Pacific. The war with Japan changed in that moment.
In 1938 the conservatives howled in protest as a radical group of liberals had the audacity to enact a child labour law. If the kids were hungry and were willing to work 12 hours a day for pennies, why should the government come in and stop it? After all, the Supreme Court had struck down a similar law passed in 1918.
The conservatives had no problem with working 8 year old children 12 hours a day and, being conservative, they probably still don’t.
In 1955 the conservatives howled in protest as radical groups tried to get funding to explore space. Is there anything sillier than wasting tax dollars firing rockets into the void? They successfully stopped any significant funding for space until 1957 when the Russians announced Sputnik and it was confirmed that, at the height of the Cold War, the USSR had launched the first satellite.
Then they shut up when a young liberal leader named Kennedy called for the moon. The rest is history; Apollo succeeded and we got global TV, GPS, global mapping, global weather and a cornucopia of other technology as a side benefit.
In 1990 the conservatives howled in protest as a radical group talked about the human impact on the atmosphere and the resulting climate change. Such nonsense is just a liberal ploy to attack big coal and oil. There is no evidence of it and if there is we will pay someone to deny it.
Well, we will not wait long, parts of New Port News, VA are going underwater. Mayor Bloomberg is for Obama because he has seen first hand what Global Warming did to his city. Entire Pacific nations are disappearing as the ocean rises from the polar ice melt.
In 2000 the conservatives howled in protest as radical groups in government provided development funding for wind and solar power. Yes, oil had gone from $4/bbl to $120/bbl in the last few years but there is plenty of oil if the government will just let us drill everywhere, except of course in my backyard. Talk of peak oil by highly experienced exploration geologists is just hokum.
Of course the president of Fed Ex is now switching the long haul trucks to natural gas and aircraft to bio fuel. T. Boone Pickens, not exactly know for his liberal views, built the largest wind farm in the US. Even the management of Walmart is going solar and installing LED lighting. I guess that even conservatives can change their tune when their pocketbook is involved.