Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The Joy of Knocking Down Straw Men

This ridiculous, overlong, incoherent essay titled "What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It?" is currently topping the charts in left-wing blogging circles. How do I know it's a load of crap? Just take the following snippet from near the very beginning:

Q: What is conservatism?
A: Conservatism is the domination of society by an aristocracy.

Q: What is wrong with conservatism?
A: Conservatism is incompatible with democracy, prosperity, and civilization in general. It is a destructive system of inequality and prejudice that is founded on deception and has no place in the modern world.
If only all it took to win debates was to redefine a philosophy you don't understand to mean something you can easily take apart: imagine how much fun one could have redefining "liberalism" or "social democracy" to mean Stalinism! Philip Agre is either a satirist masquerading as a loony leftist or a man in serious need of some Zyprexa, and anyone who seriously holds Agre's essay up as praiseworthy is an intellectual lightweight.

"Conservatism" is whatever conservatives do or claim to believe in, not what some antagonistic third party would like to define it to be. For a much more insightful take on the conservative tradition and its limitations, I suggest reading instead F.A. Hayek's "Why I am Not a Conservative."