Strong opinions, weakly held

Conservatism, the good parts

The kind of conservatism I respect is the conservatism that says we should be careful about changing our institutions, because there’s risk in changing things. You sometimes wind up with something worse. This is why the conservative party in the UK is a strong defender of the socialized National Health Service. The conservative impulse is to preserve existing institutions.

So I liked this conservative question from Dan Drezner about Jon Stewart’s legendary Crossfire appearance:

Stewart’s appearance on Crossfire generated quite the navel-gazing among the commentariat, and played no small role in the eventual disappearance of Crossfire, The Capitol Gang, Hannity & Colmes, and shows of that ilk.

So, five years later, I have a half-assed blog question to ask — did Jon Stewart hurt America by driving these shows off the air?

I wish these were the types of questions the Republican opposition were asking in Congress, instead of doing whatever it is they’re doing.


  1. The Conservative Party in the UK is not a strong defender of the NHS.

    The Conservative Party says it would be a strong defender of the NHS, but the actual record shows that they will starve it of funds and try their hardest to subsidize private alternatives in an attempt to weaken it. That’s what they did during the 1980s and early 90s and there’s no reason to think they wouldn’t do it again if they took office – unless of course you’re the type to think that Lucy really means it this time.

  2. That darn Andrew Sullivan. He misled me.

    On a more general note, the conservative parties in more liberal countries (like Germany) generally support institutions that Republicans in America gleefully deride, which was really my point.

  3. Yeah. I would just be careful in assuming that the stated priorities of conservative parties are what they will actually pursue once in office.

    It is a major victory for progressives in those countries that conservatives are forced to defend social welfare programs that ideologically they ought to be (and frequently historically were) opposed to, no question there, just like it’s a victory here when the Republicans are drawing a line in the sand over Medicare cuts.

    But ascribing that to a principled “conservative” viewpoint which says “the status quo is okay” is probably as mistaken as thinking that Republicans are actually trustworthy custodians of Medicare or Social Security.

    The rest of the world is not that much different to the US; it’s just that in the US the business lobbyists have a much more direct connection to politicians because of the lax campaign funding laws here. But the same problems of revolving-door transitions from politics to business exist, and so do the sort of mutual back-scratching arrangements between politics and business. For instance in the UK British Airways & BAe and the Tories have been closely linked for decades. As such, their actual in-office policies tend to be no less linked to the demands of big business than what the Republican Party does in the US, rather than being based on principled conservative stands.

    Of course the actual actions of the Democratic Party don’t resemble principled progressive stands either much of the time. Giant bank bailouts aren’t exactly high progressive priorities.

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