Conservatism as the New Idealism


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For too long, it has been common knowledge in our society that leftist political philosophies contain within them the ingredients for an ideal state of affairs in the world. The perceived “humanism” and liberalism (in the classic sense) of the leftists emerged from the stark contrast between their ideas and that of the “establishment.” History is riddled with examples of how the “establishment” has wronged mankind, held back the spirit of progress, and led to countless atrocities. From religious wars to despotic rule to exploitative capitalism during the Industrial Revolution, the Old Order seemed to keep us all in a dark age where the few ruled over the many with an iron fist.

In general, revolutionary forces tended to be “leftist” while Old Order proponents were called “rightist,” terms originating from the French Revolution. Yet as leftist philosophies matured in the 19th century and the vestiges of the Old Order of monarchies and all-powerful Churches subsided, the leftists started to refine their concepts and better define the future ideal societies they had in mind. This refinement led to schisms among the leftists and today we have socialists, communists, anarchists, social democrats, progressives, and so on. In the United States, the characterization of the Left as the progressive, common-man political ideology has firmly established it as the idealistic philosophy… but modern Leftism in America is very far from idealistic.

From its foundation, Leftism and Progressivism in the United States is an ideology that focuses on a peculiar type of equality: equality of outcome. In itself, this may seem to contain an idealistic character, but that is only on the surface. From matters of race to gender to economic status, the progressives wage war on any sort of inequality that they are conscious of. They aim to shatter distinctions in gender, reform public expression to make it more palatable for people of all backgrounds, institute racial and ethnic quotas to make the distribution of power, wealth, and influence more “equal,” and use government as a means of preventing any one individual or group from acquiring an “undue” share of wealth.

Underlying this philosophy is the idea that man, when left to his devices, will always wage war on others, will always try to take from others, and must be told what is right and what is wrong. It is a philosophy that takes away from people the freedom to make their own decisions and empowers a central authority to redistribute all capital, be it economic or social, as it sees fit, all for the good of the whole. The progressive does not assume that people will act in the best interest of society on their own but rather that they will inherently do evil things and must be stopped. Leftism is pessimistic about the nature of humanity. To them, human beings are children who need constant supervision otherwise they will steal all of the other children’s toys and resort to bullying. This is evident in their approach to most social, political, and economic issues. They address gun violence with abolishing the right to bear arms. They address economic inequality by taking from those who earn and giving to those who do not. They insist on price controls, market intervention, strict regulation, and are almost religiously opposed to making profit of any kind. Given this reality, the fact that Leftism is regarded as the “idealistic” ideology seems to be more a matter of tradition than a matter of careful analysis.

In America, there is another political philosophy which takes a different approach to the question of how society should be arranged. Specifically, this philosophy says that society should not be explicitly arranged, just allowed to live and prosper in freedom. This philosophy is Conservatism. While not as extreme as libertarianism, which advocates for even less power to be given to the state, conservatism advocates a sort of middle way where there exists a government limited to a certain role.

In the United States, the Constitution provides a political framework whereby the government can operate through the consent of the people. The underlying principle of conservatism is freedom… and ultimately that human beings can and should make decisions for themselves, be responsible for those decisions, and be entitled to the fruit of their labor without heavy government interference. This idea is revolutionary in modern-day America where the continual expansion of the size, scope, and power of government is the paradigm. Not only is this idea revolutionary but at its core it posits that human beings have the capacity to run their own lives. It is a philosophy that is optimistic about man, while at the same time being realistic about the need for some sort of agreed upon authority to enforce contracts and rules. It is an idealism based on real conditions. The equality that conservatism guarantees is equality of opportunity, not outcome, because to enforce a uniform outcome is to deny the right of a person to benefit from or be held responsible for his or her actions.

Modern-day conservatism represents the hopes and dreams of all Americans, to be free, to be successful, to have a voice in our government. This is why conservatives emphasize respect for state’s rights and the separation of powers in government, because history has shown that central authority has the propensity to abuse power. This is why conservatives demand that judges be neutral arbiters of the law and not activist “re-interpreters” of the Constitution. This is why conservatives are opposed to increasing government interference in the economy and in our everyday lives. Conservatives are the new idealists. We believe that a better society is possible if we free the creative and productive powers of human beings. We do not merely believe that we should be free, we believe that we have the fundamental right to liberty. There is no limit to this right. It is absolute. And if we fall as a people in our exercise of this liberty, then we will learn and we will do better… and by iterations, our society will move forward, will improve, and our world will be better off for it.

So when I hear people in positions of power explain to me and my fellow Americans that we need to be guided by the gentle hand of government bureaucrats, that our rights need to be limited for the common good, and that we cannot reap the rewards of our own sweat, I do not consider them idealistic in the least… I consider them despotic. Leftism has become, not a total repudiation of the Old Order tyranny, but as an alternative, more acceptable New Order tyranny. This is neither “progressive” nor ideal for any society.

I hope that new idealistic souls will rise up and declare the old ideas over and done with. The sad part is that these idealists are attacked and portrayed as being part of that Old Order by the leftists, for they convince their followers in true Orwellian form that when we conservatives say “freedom” we mean slavery and when we say “individualism” we mean racism and class-ism. For the moment they control the major means of communication in our society, so revolution will be slower than we would like, but with new technology the message of optimism in our fellow man will breach the wall of disinformation that currently exists. To those conservatives out there who believe that we can live in a better world that is free, let everyone know that we are indeed the last idealists.


  • Excellent post AG. Very well thought out and written. I just wish more people were able to see conservatism in this light.

  • I’m with John on this. It’s a fantastic post. Your touching on some of the things I was thinking about when I started this blog.

    • AG

      I think that one of the biggest problems is that we are seen as “cold realists” but in reality we are the dirtiest of hippies out there. We’re the ones who feel personal freedom is the best way, the ones that think that we can perfect society through a balance of laws and liberty (less on the laws, more on the liberty), the ones who think that our ascent to this place we occupy in History is not something that happened in spite of our freedom, but precisely because of our freedom. We are romantics… and I love that! We feel more for America, feel more when we hear our national anthem, feel more when we think about the Constitution than those who think that America is a mistake and must be “progressively” reformed through activism and collectivism. That’s what I thought about when I wrote this, that “common-knowledge” inverses our political and philosophic reality.

  • Great post AG! You summed up my feelings on the difference between the left and the right better that I could have, that’s for sure. I always thought that most liberals were negative people while conservatives always seemed more optimistic. You did a great job in bringing the true differences between them to light.

  • Forget, please, “conservatism.” It has been, operationally, de facto, Godless and therefore irrelevant. Secular conservatism will not defeat secular liberalism because to God both are two atheistic peas-in-a-pod and thus predestined to failure. As Stonewall Jackson’s Chief of Staff R.L. Dabney said of such a humanistic belief more than 100 years ago:

    “[Secular conservatism] is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today .one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt bath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth.”

    Our country is collapsing because we have turned our back on God (Psalm 9:17) and refused to kiss His Son (Psalm 2).

    John Lofton, Editor,
    Recovering Republican