Sometimes, Conservative Nostalgia is Progressivism

Right down to the de-industrializing impulse that winds up massacring intellectuals and reducing millions to the enslaved subsistence farmers, too busy starving to fight back.  A friend of mine, who is a good guy and a committed social and fiscal conservative, posted the following, for which I took him to task.  I do not doubt his commitment or his intents, but he is whistling past the grave here, revealing a potentially “fatal” logic bomb.  I have replicated the whole thing below.

My conservative friend:

Thought for the day: Two hundred years ago, an American spent most of his day WORKING to hunt, farm and anything else that provided the basics of food, shelter and clothing to survive. They were, of necessity, self-reliant and independent so it’s no wonder we established the form of government we did. News of the day, when it came, rarely had any direct impact on their lives. It defined the character of the Nation. For the life of me, I can’t see how all of the progress and technological advancement that some are so fond of has actually made us as a better people. I’m beginning to think the Amish are onto something… :-)

It took me about two days to figure out what bothered me about it.  I finally realized that everything was wrong.

First off, two hundred years ago we had fat cats and dilettantes just as we do now, and of course now, most people work much of the day just to get by, and hopefully improve their lot. I disagree that they were disconnected and unconcerned. Like today with, say, Yemen, they couldn’t point to the Barbary Coast on a map, but they knew the deal.

Second, more people across the world and across history have had to work most of the day to get by (or just to survive), and somehow the majority of them did not strike upon our form of government. I disagree that they selected a republic because they were hard-pressed. The towering intellects and physically brave patriots of the day (often the same men) accomplished a universally appropriate form of government and then made it stick! That is, if you actually believe what the Declaration and the Preamble say, then you cannot argue that our system of government is ill-suited to any people. You haven’t claimed this, but it is implicit in your premise.

Third, if you believe that Americans chose a government suited uniquely to their situation, then shouldn’t we change our system of government if our situation has changed, and our need to toil from sunup to sundown has been wiped out? That is, aren’t you making the progressive argument that the Constitution itself is outdated? Indeed, it sounds as if your solution to this problem is to roll back “progress and technological advancement” because they have not made us a better people. But only Progressives think that either of those improves humanity–that’s why they call themselves Progressives.

Nostalgia for one’s own dimly remembered past can be dangerous.  Nostalgia for “a simpler time” that you never even saw is usually a problem.  As with longing for one’s own past, it probably just means that you have no idea how complicated things were then as well.  At least be honest enough to admit that what you long for is ignorance.

This entry was posted in American Politics, Freedom, Quality, U.S. Constitution. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *