Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake
jaylake

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[politics] Conservatism's greatest legacy

I've commented extensively on the ironies of modern conservatism. The GOP legacy of fiscal responsibility has created the worst budget situation in American history. The GOP legacy of strong defense has broken the military as badly as it has been broken in modern history, rivaling the post-Vietnam malaise. The GOP legacy of American power has reduced our international diplomatic, economic and military influence to the point that our nation quite possibly cannot recover its superpower status.

But I'm increasingly convinced the true political disaster that conservatism has inflicted on America is the elevation of the Tragedy of the Commons to a virtue. The anti-tax, anti-government rhetoric of the GOP has won quite a few elections, but the consequences to our infrastructure and our social fabric will be at least a generation in the unwinding.

On a purely personal level, it's frustrating that the people responsible will never know the difference, or feel the pain. Reagan had no clue, even long before his Alzheimer's diagnosis was made public. Bush 41 is smart enough to know and wealthy enough not to care. Bush 43 will never understand that he's not a second Lincoln. The win-at-any-costs strategists behind the — Rove, Ailes, Atwater, et al. — are people who by definition don't care. They led the charge in surrendering our long term vision of the public good in favor of a mantra that boils down to "taxation is theft."

The great triumph of modern conservatism is the elevation of personal privilege (defined as "rights") above the interests of everyone else's personal privilege, and even more so above the interests of society as a whole. That conservative triumph is America's tragedy.

"Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
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