(’76 Contributor) In an interview on a local radio station a few weeks ago, Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic governor of the state of New York, bluntly announced that “extreme conservatives” were no longer welcome in the state.
Indignant reactions duly followed in conservative circles, but a few further remarks might be added to drive home the philosophical, historical, and political injudiciousness of an outburst crudely aimed at energizing the base of a party in trouble in the run-up to next November’s mid-term elections.
First, apart from evincing crass illiberalism in terms of freedom of thought and expression, the liberals’ use of the phrase “extreme conservatives” makes sense only to those trawling for votes for a redistributionist and post-modernist America. Conceptually, it is a vapid, unreasoning, and wearisome attempt to distort and caricature what should objectively be construed as “coherent conservatism”.
This is not frivolously about semantics. It is about rational thinking, intellectual honesty, and truth. For any systematic worldview to be credible and endure, coherence is essential. Coherence has indeed been traditionally regarded as a sign of intellectual maturity and sophistication whereas incoherence has been deemed to reflect cerebral sloppiness, laziness or crudeness.
In this light, there is nothing whatsoever inconsistent about constitutionally and culturally conserving the dignity and natural rights of every individual within a transcendent providential framework that protectively precludes relativistic chaos camouflaged as tolerance and inclusiveness.
Incidentally, whether they realize it or not, care to admit it or not, or simply end up doubting it along with their partisan opponents across the aisle, so-called fiscal and social conservatives coherently share the same core values of individual responsibility and accountability. These values, with the attendant rejection of big government, can easily be traced to the same Judeo-Christian tradition.
Even Ayn Rand’s insights in her fiction, are couched in Judeo-Christian imagery, language and overtones. It was indeed Rand herself, militant atheist that she was, who urged readers of Philosophy: Who Needs It to refrain from confusing “altruism”, which she abhorred, with “kindness, good will, and respect for the rights of others”, which all dovetail with Judeo-Christian anthropology.
So the myth of a philosophical civil war within conservative ranks unabashedly peddled by many in the media and higher education is simply a fraud. But more of that in a later post.
Equally importantly, Andrew Cuomo’s anti-conservative anathema brings to mind some of the numerous examples of economic, scientific, and cultural decline with which history has so far been strewn as a result of the type of exclusion and seclusion gubernatorially advocated in New York State.
The first example worth mentioning is that of Spain and Portugal in the context of the Reconquista and later the Counter-Reformation in the 15th and 16th centuries. As David Landes points out in The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, Jews and to a lesser extent Protestants were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula, taking with them the very skills in science and commerce that had stood both Spain and Portugal in fruitful stead when explorers of both countries had first circumnavigated the globe in search of knowledge, prestige, and wealth. Partly because of that drive for uniformity, economic stagnation and decline ensued.
The second example is that of Japan from the 17th to the 19th centuries, when the country was shut off from Christian influence and foreign trade by the ruling shogunate and fell behind in many areas as a result.
Finally, my own country, France took heavy financial, entrepreneurial, and cultural losses when Huguenots fled the country in the wake of the abrogation of the religiously tolerant Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV in 1685.
Recent surveys have shown that flat population growth in states like New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maryland is mostly due to people moving out in search of better opportunity elsewhere in the United States, logically leading to tax revenue losses detrimental to the implementation of liberal policies in the Northeast. Now we may wonder how many of those who left were “extreme conservatives.”
Paoli is the nom de plume of a conservative political scientist who did graduate work in Colorado before taking up an academic post in his native France.