How Does a Conservative Really See The World?
Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – “To me, at some point we have to get down to not just who said what, who did what, what does it mean for you and me, but how do these people think? That’s really what I wanted to do with this book and say: What is the philosophy, in other words, how does a conservative or a liberal really see the world?” Check out today’s transcript for the rest….
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Tom Mullen: To me, at some point we have to get down to not just who said what, who did what, what does it mean for you and me, but how do these people think? That’s really what I wanted to do with this book and say: What is the philosophy, in other words, how does a conservative or a liberal really see the world? I think there’s a danger of everybody hating it because it doesn’t really tell anybody what they want to hear. I can say more about it depending on what you want to hear.
Mike: I bet it might tell some people in this room what they want to hear because they may have said it before.
Mullen: Chapter One – Something is Wrong with the World.
David Simpson: No, it’s all good.
Mike: Come on, Tom.
Simpson: Tom, you’re way out of whack here, buddy.
Mullen: One of the things that – there’s some anecdotal stories in there as far as things that have happened to me. What really struck me, and I guess the part that might be controversial for the Mike Church audience is, I went to CPAC a few years back. I talked to all of the vendors there, all the people that are grassroots, that self-identify as conservatives. I asked them: What does that mean to you, the word conservative? I heard what people would probably expect to hear, which is free market, small government, individual liberty, religious freedom. The thing that was striking to me was, while I heard this from the grassroots people at the vendor booth, when I went into the room and listened to the speakers on the big stage, it had nothing to do with any of that. We heard about how it’s an emergency that we have to be bombing X. I can’t remember who X was back then. It might have still been Iraq.
Simpson: We can just fill in the blank, Tom. It doesn’t really matter. X is always somebody out there. We’ve got to blow up the entire world.
Mullen: The thesis of the book is really: Listen, what if the people on the stage rather than the people in the vendor booths are the true conservatives? I think you have to look at the real giants in the conservative movement as a philosophy. I talk in the book about: What did people like Thomas Hobbes,
Edmund Burke, and even in the 20th century Russell Kirk, say conservatism was? They really, basically all had the same message. There’s one disagreement between what I call the Hobbesian centralizers and the Burkean constitutionalists, and that’s that power should be, on one side they think it should be all centered in one place, and on the side they think it should be divided. The one thing they have in common based on their view of the world is that government should have absolute power. The constitutionalists may want it divided between the state, federal, local, and different branches of the government, etc., but they all share this view of the world that man is so depraved that only a government of absolute power that regulates every single space will keep that depraved nature at bay.
Why is that important? Because I think it informs the people that do all these crazy things and gives an explanation. Why do we have to be over there intervening in some dusty little country 6,000 miles away? If we didn’t intervene, the rational among us say: How would I be affected by this? I would say the conservative sees the world in that if we’re not controlling everything everywhere, we’re in danger from man’s dark nature. That’s kind of the conservative half of the book.
Mike: That’s Hobbes. You’re quoting Hobbes. There’s a whole chapter in Hobbes’ Leviathan where he basically says: Man is going to murder man. The only thing that can get in the way is the leviathan monster. David, you were getting ready to say?
Simpson: Tom, I’d like to know, one, what you’d call the average man in the streets. What is his philosophy named, if you have one? Before you give that answer, Mike and I were talking about this in our Tuesday night philosophy course, which is essentially that the average person years ago, hundreds of years ago, a thousand years ago, would have never seen this type of government involvement in his life. He lived a much freer state of existence than we live today, but no one would believe that. If you tell people today, no, we progressed to this great level of freedom. We’re micromanaged to the point and imposed upon to such ridiculous levels that a man of, let’s say 500 years ago, would have never even conceived of. Again, my first question was: What do you call the person in the street’s philosophy, the one that says limited government, free markets, let me live my life and be left alone otherwise, unless I’m doing something really bad, in which I expect the government to slap me? What do you call that philosophy? My second question would be: Do you think that the reason people on the stage that you talk about, the reason they have such a different philosophy is maybe because they never deal with people in the street, they always deal with the power mongers?
Mullen: You’ve got three great questions there, I think. If I could take them in order, I think the number one thing, I think Mike hit on it first. Yes, that is Hobbes, what I described. I guess what I wanted to get across in the book, and I quote them directly, is that Burke, who is more revered by the thinking conservative today, and Russell Kirk both agree with Hobbes on just about everything. They even say so. As you go into my book, I cite the places where they do say so. Again, it’s the one difference they had with Hobbes. Hobbes says that if you divide the power of the government, it’s like a chink in the armor and the next thing you know you’re going to have cars turned over and burning or whatever. The Burkean constitutionalists say: No, no, the people in the government is just as bad as everybody else. We need to check them, too. Here’s the thing. The Burkean constitutionalists, Russell Kirk, even though they want power divided, they want to leave nothing unregulated. If it’s not going to be your federal government, it’s going to be the state government or it’s going to be the municipal government or your local school board or somebody. Nothing is left to the individual. I think that’s a major difference. There’s an answer to the question of is that just Hobbes. No, I think it’s throughout conservatism.
What are the people on the street? The people on the street – and the way I set up the book was: What inspired the Declaration of Independence? Rather than Hobbes, Burke, Russell Kirk, John Adams, the people that would fall into that very big category, I go through the John Locke treatise that Thomas Jefferson actually had a resolution passed to say: This is where American liberty came from. He actually went to the trouble of doing this at the University of Virginia so there would be no mistaking where these ideas came from in his opinion. Of course, he drafted that famous preamble to the Declaration. When you go through the Locke essay that he cites, all these things that are in the Declaration start to come out. The one thing that is in the Locke essay that I can’t find anywhere else is this idea that the individual retains most of the power and all of his rights. He doesn’t give up anything to the commonwealth, where the conservatives and, of course, the liberals – Jean-Jacques Rousseau, he does me the favor in my book of using the word alienation. He actually says: When men enter society, it requires the total alienation of themselves and all of their natural rights in submission to the general well. Isn’t that the Democratic Party’s platform in a nutshell?
Mike: You know what that sounds like to me, Tom? That sounds to me like what gets quoted to me all the time, [mocking] “Well, that’s a social compact.” Well, I must have missed the vote on that because I don’t recall voting for it. That sounds like what your average progressive or neocon-minded conservative will throw at you, [mocking] “You agreed to the social compact.” I didn’t agree to anything, pal. I don’t know what you’re talking about. I also didn’t get a vote on ratification of the Constitution, if you really want to get specific about it.
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Mullen: My signature is really easy to recognize. If anyone can find it, I’m all ears. To answer the last question: What about these average people, free markets? I would say that back then they could have called themselves a lot of things. Sometimes they called themselves Whigs or patriots or republicans. Really what we would call the people advocating the philosophy of the Declaration of Independence today is Libertarian. They make a tiny constituency. The big difference between them, I think, and the constitutional conservatives, who are their closest cousins, is that between the two, one of them says the individual retains certain rights. This is a Libertarian. If he is not aggressing against somebody else, he is beyond the reach of the government to regulate whatsoever. I would argue that even a constitutional conservative, that scares the daylights out of them. It’s where you see these kinds of conflicts come up.
Another thing I get to in Part Two of the book is that after Woodrow Wilson and the Democratic Party’s complete abdication of classical liberalism, or libertarianism in today’s vernacular, there was nowhere for the proponents of these ideas to go with the Republican Party. It’s why the Republican Party is such an ideological battleground compared to the Democrats who are basically just: I’ll vote for you, just get me their stuff.
End Mike Church Show Transcript