I just finished reading Bradley Thompson’s article “The Decline and Fall of American Conservatism.” It succinctly shows how the two factions of conservatism — “compassionate conservatism” and the “neo-conservatism” — both unite on their fundamental opposition to individual rights and capitalism in favor of forced sacrifice of a fascist redistributive welfare state — in other words they have embraced the philosophy of the Left, while claiming to be defenders of capitalism.


Writes, Thompson:

What the mandarins of the conservative establishment do not and cannot understand, given their philosophy, is that conservatives—to the extent that they ever had any interest in defending individual rights and limited government—lost the fight because they never engaged the enemy with the only kind of weapon that could win: a moral argument against the claim that those in “need” have a moral claim on one’s life, liberty, and property. More importantly, mainstream conservatives have never made a philosophic argument for individual rights, limited government, and capitalism on explicitly moral grounds. Ultimately, they are embarrassed by, and have always worked very hard to hide, the fact that capitalism can only be justified if each and every man has a moral right to live and work for his own sake and not as a sacrificial beast of burden to the “needs” of society.
It is true that the GOP and its intellectual allies in the conservative movement have employed the rhetoric of rights, but there has never been any philosophic substance to their arguments. Once one peels away the folksy rhetoric, the hollow bromides, and the patriotic slogans, the conservative position comes down to this: The free-enterprise system is good because it “works” better than any other system, because it produces more wealth that can be subsequently “shared” with the less fortunate.

Not even Goldwater conservatives can offer an alternative to the welfare state, because they too accept its moral premises. Why? Why do all conservatives accept the moral premises of the liberals? The answer, in a word, is religion.


Liberalism invokes the altruism of Marx; conservatism invokes the altruism of Jesus; and both camps are indebted to Rousseau for his emphasis on compassion. With respect to individual rights, there is and can be no fundamental difference between a secular-liberal welfare state and a religious-conservative welfare state. It matters not one whit to me whether my earned wealth is forcibly redistributed by a Hillary Clinton or a George Bush government; either way, my money is seized. The political subjugation of the individual in the name of the morality of sacrifice is the essence of both.

Compassionate conservatism and neoconservatism have not corrupted the GOP as some conservatives have argued; they have simply exploited and brought to the surface principles that have been at the heart of the conservative intellectual movement from the beginning. Consequently, after decades of an impossible struggle in which conservatives fought liberal government programs while accepting and agreeing with liberal altruism, they have finally and officially given up, abandoned their former half-formed principles, and openly embraced the philosophical roots of the Left.

Be sure to read the rest of this insightful in The Decline and Fall of American Conservatism, available online at Craig Biddle’s The Objective Standard.

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