Sunday, February 1, 2009

Pause that refreshes

I spend a lot words here criticizing aghast at the absurdities of conservatism, particularly its virulent Bushist strain. But you shouldn't get the idea that I think all conservatives are bad people. Far from it. I know many, many good conservatives who would give you the shirt off their backs.

There's a particular type of conservative whose houses I pass by. These houses are well kept, decorated by traditional touches - a window box of geraniums (not right now), an Amish star over the garage, an American flag. They may have a pickup out front with a snow plow ready. Their McCain-Palin sign was gone within a week of the election.

The people who live in these houses are self-reliant. They work. They budget and spend within their means. They make sure their kids are accountable, although they sometimes didn't value schooling that much themselves. They want to be left alone to pursue their lives. They don't feel entitled.

These are civic as well as personal virtues. They were foundation stones for the Jeffersonian democracy of yeomen.

These men and women hate taxes, and hate is not too strong a word. They believe that their taxes could go down because they think government revenue goes mainly to handouts, and tax cuts are what they generally vote for.

These good people think the world would work perfectly if everyone else shared this particular set of virtues. What they don't credit is the fact that many are a single crisis away from the edge of poverty. This isn't unique to them. The current recession has shown that many of even the very affluent are only one bad year away from losing their houses, their lifestyles, and much more.

What's wrong with this variety of the conservative world view? In good times, while these conservatives are strong, it works for them. Their work ethic and their social networks (churches, neighborhoods, friends) can adjust to help with small misfortunes voluntarily, at least for a while. In bad times - either affecting the whole society or if some specific major misfortune befalls them - it often fails.

That's where we are now.

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