Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Getting Conservative in My Old Age

Ok, I am not that conservative or that old, but I have come to realize that my views are far more conservative than I had thought, but not Conservative the way Stephen Harper defines it in Canada or the various Republicans do in the US.  I have realized that my starting stance on any policy change is: is it better or worse than the status quo?  I am realizing that change for the sake of change, either to return to some imagined past or to jump to some potentially wonder future, is not really the justification we need.  First rule for Doctors: do no harm.

So, in my running debate with the Anglophone nationalists (see here, here and here), I tend to worry more about how trying to change the status quo might do more harm than good (not to mention that change would require convincing enough Quebeckers, no easy trick).  To be clear, I am not Dolores Umbridge who said: "But progress for the sake of progress must be discouraged. Let us preserve what must be preserved and prune practices that ought to be...prohibited!"  She was hardly conservative as she imposed a bunch of new rules and practices, perhaps to bring Hogwarts back to an imagined past, but imposed radical changes to make this happen. 

I guess I am stuck on the meaning of conservative-as it has multiple and often conflicting definitions:
  1. disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.
  2. cautiously moderate or purposefully low: a conservative estimate.
Clause #1 has conflicting meanings, as preserving existing conditions and restoring traditional ones are not consistent.  I guess I tend to think of conservative as clause #2--cautiously moderate.  Obviously not a label that describes the fictional folks like Umbridge or the semi-fictional folks like Palin, Limbaugh, Bush II, and other "Conservatives."  In Canada, there is much concern about which definition will apply to Harper now that he is no longer constrained by minority government. 

My decision rule, at the end of the day, is that change is not always undesirable but that we should aim for changes that do the least harm, and that we should choose changes that harm those who are best able to weather the harm (that would be rich folks).  So, I am quite Liberal in my conservatism, I guess.  I am a progressive in the sense that I prefer change that improves things (to perfect the union, as Obama has put it often) rather than change to some idealized past (the 1950's were not such a great time for minorities, women, gays and lesbians, but other than that, it was swell, right?).

Does this post conflict with my earlier one where I say I don't like tradition?  No, because I do think that change that improves the status quo is perfectly fine and dandy especially even if it goes against tradition.

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