Is The Left Ignorant of Conservatism?


Here is a Facebook quote from a dear Lefty friend of mine which merits a reply requiring more depth than is easily supplied in a Facebook comment

I thought the conservatives on the right were all for law and order – federal and state and local. What is ‘funny’ is for the state’s rights agenda of the right suddenly isn’t so important. If you really believe that states should have significant autonomy in a federal system, then I would think that these actions by the justice department are a violation of that belief.

This response is to a comment I made that decried the Left’s caterwaling about AG Sessions reversing President Obama’s regulation that allowed (illegally, I might add) the executive to ignore existing Federal law vis marijuana. The comment is illuminating in that it demonstrates the Left’s confusing understanding of political philosophy and the importance of law to the right ordering of a nation’s institutions and civil society. So, here’s my extended response:

You thought wrong on two counts. You continue to remain ignorant of basic political philosophy and second you do not understand the context of “law and order”. I shall begin what is largely a sysyphian task of helping you better understand these two important concepts and why conservation of liberty is not possible unless Law is applied equally and with the consent of the governed.

What is a conservative?

The term conservative is a relatively new in political discourse. Today’s conservatives were historically called classical liberals1)a political ideology and a branch of liberalism which advocates civil liberties under the rule of law with an emphasis on economic freedom. Closely related to libertarianism and to economic liberalism,[1][2] it developed in the early 19th century, building on ideas from the previous century as a response to urbanization and to the Industrial Revolution in Europe and the United States.[3] Notable individuals whose ideas contributed to classical liberalism include John Locke,[4] Jean-Baptiste Say, Thomas Malthus and David Ricardo. It drew on the economics of Adam Smith and on a belief in natural law,[5] utilitarianism[6] and progress – see here – so called because they favored liberty over equality. In every case, where liberty and equality come into conflict, the classical liberal (a.k.a the contemporary conservative) favors freedom and recognizes the truth of F.A. Hayak’s understanding,

From the fact that people are very different it follows that, if we treat them equally, the result must be inequality in their actual position, and that the only way to place them in an equal position would be to treat them differently. Equality before the law and material equality are therefore not only different but are in conflict with each other; and we can achieve either one or the other, but not both at the same time

I am conservative because my impulse is to conserve liberty.

Law and Order

Political philosophy is not black and white, a concept you seem not to understand. Law and order is beloved by conservatives (e.g., John Locke) because its moral implementation protects the rights of the individual when applied equally to all. Laws, by definition and construction, always constitute a restriction of liberty. Thus the only acceptable laws are those that (1) are necessary for the right ordering of civil society and its institutions and (2) are applied equally to all.

Now, back to your misguided understanding quoted above. The supremacy of federal law over state is enshrined in the constitution and, for all practical purposes, cannot be eliminated. Thus, the next choice is to eliminate the federal statute that prohibits states to determine how marijuana is to be regulated. Many conservatives (and most libertarians) would support repeal of the federal law prohibiting marijuana, but until such time as congress acts to repeal the law, Attorney General Sessions has no choice but to enforce it.

Footnotes   [ + ]

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