Strong opinions, weakly held

Everything needs context

Andrew Sullivan makes a really good point in this blog post. It’s about politics, but it applies to, well, everything:

Of course, without Margaret Thatcher (or her equivalent, Rudy Giuliani), there would be no Bloomberg. The “small c” conservative point here, it seems to me, is that policy should reflect changing times. People forget that Reagan’s attack on government was premised on a particular time and place: America 1980. Ditto Thatcher in Britain 1979.

I think most Obama supporters in America would have been horrified at the extent of state power and trade union abuse in Britain in the 1970s. But today, there are different challenges that require different solutions. I’m a free market conservative, but I cannot defend the speculation and recklessness of the financial markets in the past decade. I’m a fiscal conservative, but I cannot defend the GOP in the 21st century. I’m for low taxes, but realistically there’s no way to get back to fiscal sanity without someone paying higher taxes at some point.

Just as it often makes little sense to criticize the policies of the past without putting them in the proper context, so too does it make little sense to advocate mindlessly adhering to past ideas when the conditions that justified them are no longer present.


  1. Andrew makes a lot of sense. If his stuff is always this spot-on, he should have his own column. Best, John Klawitter

    New From John Klawitter: FOUL An 18th Century London Street Penny Novel that takes place in the streets of Los Angeles in 1984.


  2. Nice sentiment, but don’t take his points about the pre-Thatcher situation in Britain too seriously, nor the little shrine he appears to want to build to her memory as Prime Minister.

    She was a right-wing ideologue who declined to bargain when she could exercise raw power. She was no hero of freedom.

  3. Is it just me or is the first comment one of the more bizarre spam postings around?

  4. It is spammy. I approved it but had reservations about doing so.

  5. In a similar vein, though less broadly applicable, I was a big fan of D Magazine’s “A Conservative for Obama

    I’m uncomfortable considering myself a conservative, but I’ve felt like a libertarian apologist from time to time. For one reason or another, I deeply identify with these posts about disenchantment with the right, (and perhaps especially when they suggest a subsequent support for Obama).

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