Saturday, January 13, 2007

Conservatism Doesn't Fit on a Bumper Sticker

aka, Why We Lose the Emotional Argument

A thought of the day:

In the US and Canada, the minimum wage arguments along with various other interventionisms have essentially achieved a level of zero resistance. A legally mandated minimum wage and the economic philosophy informing it, is as culturally ubiquitous and unchallenged as the alleged need for the government to maintain monopolistic control and possession of its criminally incompetent education system.

Why? Because emotion won and will continue to win. Hayek described the situation as living in an age where the emotional faculties in most men are more developed than the intellectual; ironically enough, particularly in those we vaunt as intellectuals.

A key challenge confronting the conservative philosophy's relevance in an increasingly emotional and hypersensitive age is it's lack of emotionally compelling images. Working in entertainment and as a writer, this is a concept that must be grappled with constantly. One criteria for whether you've got a widely sellable concept for a film, tv show, novel, or political party is "Does it fit on a movie poster?" Which is to say, can you explain it, and generate interest in one compelling image? A title? A tagline?

And that's where the leftists have us licked.

Let us be brutally frank as to some of the reasons behind conservatism's shortcomings in popularity. Explaining the way markets work in tandem with political freedom doesn't make for tidy mental images of blue-skied utopias, glittering towers, miraculous clean-burning energy sources, intergalactic exploration or flying cars. Yet this is the sort of vision even the very young can and regularly do conjure in association with a glorious, perfect statism; all our resources finally pooled toward wonderful, rational, beneficial ends by some benevolent authority with the best interest of humanity at heart. It'll basically be Star Trek, but the aliens will be nice.

Mercifully, most of us in the west have never had to live through the horror of such a vision's stabs at reality.

The sad fact is, "Economic freedom is an essential prerequisite to political freedom, in addition to being the greatest creator of real wealth for the greatest number of people." doesn't fit on a bumper sticker, or in the soundbite-ruled news and entertainment environment of our culture the same way "END POVERTY NOW!" does.

In our present age, being merely correct in theory and practice has proven to be entirely insufficient to maintain ground. Just as the greatest human atrocities and wealth destructions of the twentieth century have proven impotent as a long-term reminder to people that maybe expanding the state in every direction with no end in sight isn't in our best interest.

The western mind has no fresh memories of statist tyranny to keep the longing for freedom vital. The horrors of communism and socialism will in time seem like distant irrelevant dreams, impossible to repeat. (that is to say, moreso than now.) Crying 'lower taxes!' is no longer enough. We need fresh ideas, fresh images for the current framework. Until we realize this, ground will continue to be lost.


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