Why I Am One
The bizarre bohemian bilge that plagues conventionally left-wing schools of thought, whether from Marx or Rawls or Chomsky, is just not for me. For the most part anyways. Since I’ve become more (this is an understatement; I have gone much farther than, say, Glenn Beck) of a libertarian (a classical liberal while socialists are usually just reverse reactionaries), I’ve learned to make some exceptions. This has tended to be more on the level of semi-reluctant tolerance than on that of open-armed embrace.
As you can see, therefore, I am a conservative because my cultural values and my outlook on life are certainly not (socially) liberal. I find that the libertinism and relativism of most left-wing ideologies, to say nothing of the economic ignorance and denial that accompanies them, were they commonplace, are incompatible with the maintenance of a free society. Generally, the only commendable quality I find in left-wing ideologies is compassion. And then only where it is sincere and/or reasonable, the latter being far more rare than the former. A moral people, as per conservatism, and yet a compassionate people, as per liberalism, is what is needed in order to establish and then preserve a free society. That is not to say that immoral or indifferent people should be given less rights or that they should be driven forth into the wastelands (although, and I think Hans-Hermann Hoppe is absolutely correct on this, they could be excluded from covenant communities without violating anyone’s rights).
Why I Am Not One
Conservatism is about conserving things. But what if the thing being conserved is a tradition of liberalism? Can not then a conservative also be a liberal? Liberalism is about freedom of thought and action. But what if the thoughts or actions are conservative? Can not then a liberal also be a conservative? The dichotomy and at times mutual exclusivity between the two is merely the result of certain factions that were never interested in (or at least not consistent in their solutions towards) conserving freedom or the freedom to conserve in the first place, but because they had one or two important (and perhaps only at the specific point in history that certain factions coalesced) things in common, the labels were adopted. This was then compounded by certain pseudo-liberals falsely characterizing all conservatives as illiberal or intolerant, and certain pseudo-conservatives falsely characterizing all liberals as intemperate or nihilistic. In the United States this was made even worse, at least for the realm of national politics, by the electoral college, which mathematically favors a two-party system because having three or more major parties would necessarily prevent presidential nominees from garnering the 271 electors necessary to win.
So, to the degree that the word is synonymous with protectionist, corporativist, mercantilist, colonialist, imperialist, reactionary, warmonger, nationalist, exceptionalist, Bull Moose Progressive, supply-sider, Federalist*, Hobbesian, Straussian, Old Hegelian, etc., I am not a conservative. If these schools of thought which are what pass for conservatism in America these days I’ll gladly distance myself from that term in everyday discourse, with only the briefest of hesitation. Still, cultural conservative (this is rooted in my faith and the way I was brought up) that I am, I will with equal gladness pay homage to the term in specific instances, where it suits my purposes. As I have just done.
*I chose to capitalize the term because I am indeed favorably disposed towards federalism, unless of course it is the conventionally accepted variant which is more akin to nationalism, à la Hamilton, Clay, and, yes, Lincoln. The Anti-Federalists, who are much more to my liking, and even Thomas Jefferson who was not firmly in either camp, were technically also federalists. Arguably more so than Hamilton or Madison or Adams. But history comes down to us by way of the victors, so the subverters of the American Revolution and the Original Constitution got to lay hold of the term.
[Over at my own blog I've got a list of a few related articles on this subject, and while I don't necessarily agree with all of them, they offer some interesting points of view.]