Although I would not be inclined to ever self-identify as ‘conservative,’ I must admit that I sometimes find myself sharing viewpoints with so-called ‘paleo-conservatives.’ I remain as disdainful of neo-cons and tea partiers and laissez-faire capitalists as ever.
So what is the difference between these latter and the paleo-cons? For one, the paleos are not against government. They are not libertarians. Although I dabbled with true libertarianism, i.e. anarchism, at one time, I no longer have enough faith in human nature to espouse that. There needs to be a balance between the individual’s freedom and authority.
I do believe in ownership – though it must be recognized as, ultimately, stewardship – but I also believe in limitations. Capitalism should be well-regulated so that it serves the needs of the many, so that wealth does not become concentrated. Economic power and political power are, after all, the same thing and too much of one leads to too much of the other. This is true both of capitalist societies and socialist ones, where economic and political power comes under the control of a ruling elite.
I remain somewhat informed by Catholic social teaching and a Distributist economic model. Although there has been a great deal of attention to what Pope Francis has been saying lately, none of it is new and very much follows the official church position of the last 120 years — and what has been implicit since at least the time of Thomas Aquinas.
Even the conservatives’ favorite, John Paul II, stood on the same ground and taught the same message. His encyclical Centesimus annus celebrates the teachings of Leo XIII a century earlier in Rerum novarum, the first of the papal encyclicals to directly address the economic and social failings of both socialism and rampant capitalism.
Such beliefs keep me from embracing conservatism in any of its current forms (It should be noted that paleo-conservatives actually consider neo-cons and libertarians to be liberals, in the 19th Century sense). Yes, I have some social-conservative tendencies, though, for the most part, I would rather not have government involved in those.
Does that, then, make me a liberal? I am not that sure about self-identifying as such, either. This is why I am a Green rather than a Democrat (not a Republican, of course — today’s Republicans are giving conservatism a bad name!). Even though the Green party sometimes attracts assorted far-left progressives, its ‘key values’ come close to reflecting my own. If it can remain true to its original vision, I will stay Green.
Of course, history will just meander on in whatever direction it chooses. Or whatever direction economics drives it, I should say, so I sometimes have difficulty taking any of this seriously. People live and die and search for meaning or for happiness and the world goes on.
There is no perfect way for humans are not perfect. That is the one thing I do believe completely!