Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Note to Joe Scarborough

Dear Joe: I have enjoyed your former contributions to political chatter on MSNBC. I am 84 years old and I no longer do mornings so I have seen very little of Morning Joe. I was impressed by the spectacle of a Republican with respectable traits of common sense, intelligence and tolerance. It is the tolerance I am counting on by reminding you of some things which you must already know.

What triggered this note was a review of your book on conservatism in the NY Times. I am distressed by misuse of the category, "conservative", by many who include within it such strange aberrations as authoritarianism, xenophobia, racism, religious bigotry, homophobia, know-nothingism, a variety of bizarre reformulations of Christianity, and even support of the Republican Party. I also regret the acceptance of such aberrations by even respected media spokesmen.

There is a perfectly reasonable summary of conservative principles in:


I can add a few remarks of my own to this in order to contrast conservatism with mere yahooism.

One common conservative tendency is resistance to change. This can be justified as a desire to preserve what is good and valuable in socio-economic institutions and in order to avoid the sometimes counterproductive unexpected consequences of well intentioned change. Unfortunately, it is frequently used in order to preserve privilege (even hereditary privilege in distinction to meritocracy) and in order to delay even much needed change (eg, environmental conservation).

Political "conservatism" is frequently nothing but the desire of one party of politicians to win the next election This may have the effect of supporting a poor candidate over a better qualified opponent. It may also involve evoking yahoo "principles" and bumper sticker slogans in the competition for votes.

Clarity of thought is much needed in our political arena and is still little in evidence.

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