RE: “Conservatism” (February 15, 2012)
I am writing in response to Mr. Fernando’s article entitled Conservatism, which I found objectionable for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, Mr. Fernando claims that the foundation of conservatism is a belief in individual freedom and personal responsibility, which is inextricably linked to economic freedom. This is, quite frankly, false. Two of the dominant flavours of conservatism (social and fiscal) have nothing to do with individual freedom. Mr. Fernando seems to believe that libertarianism is the same thing as conservatism.
Social conservatives support the maintenance of existing institutions, systems of social organization, belief systems, etc., and a cautious, well-reasoned approach to social change. This approach frequently requires governments to support these institutions and incentivize participation in them. Social conservatives find the idea of unfettered personal freedom and economic liberties distasteful, as they limit the government’s ability to form and influence social consensus.
Fiscal conservatism stresses the idea that governments should live within their means, maintain balanced budgets, and avoid deficit spending. It really has nothing to do with personal freedom, although it has been associated with economic freedom in the past.
Libertarianism unites the ideas of personal and economic freedom, and also the drastic reduction of government, deregulation, etc.
Personally, I find Mr. Fernando’s argument for economic freedom dangerously naïve. For example, in 2008 America had a very free market, as it lacked a robust regulatory framework and strong watchdog organizations. The stage was set for the sub-prime mortgage fiasco, which sparked the world’s current economic crisis and plunged thousands into poverty.
Two other issues remain. First, the digression on compassion in politics seems confused, as it merely degenerates into an attack on the left in Canada. Compassion is, according to the Oxford Dictionary, sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. Your capacity for compassion is obviously not influenced by your political views. People on the right and on the left have equal capacities for compassion, regardless of their thoughts on market freedom, and claiming otherwise is outrageous. Second, the idea that collective/group rights and individual rights are mutually exclusive is fallacious (specifically, the fallacy of the excluded middle).