Heads¾ Statism, Tails¾ Statism

By Wayne Dunn, Posted January 6, 2002.

Originally published in Nashville-based newspaper The Tennessean regarding the conservative "conversion" of one of its columnists.

That Tim Chavez "used to be a liberal and a Democrat" but has of late inched toward the conservative column is not really so surprising. For liberals and conservatives are not worlds apart, as most believe, but are merely opposite sides of the same statist coin.

For instance, one side would use the government to ban media violence; the other would use it to ban guns. One defends a fetus at the expense of a woman; the other defends an owl at the expense of a man. One demands we pay our neighbor's retirement, the other would force us to fund his religious charities; both now agree we should buy his prescription drugs.

Moreover, neither side consistently upholds even those few rights they allegedly defend.

Conservatives, for example, fancy themselves champions of a free-market. But the ethics they embrace, the self-sacrificial morality of the Church, derides the profit motive, "worldliness," "the material"¾ the inescapable values of business. "The love of money is the root of all evil" is a credo befitting socialists, not capitalists. Indeed, the underlying reason why conservatives are willing to tolerate greater economic freedom is primarily because they ultimately believe that the material realm is of little significance. The state, they say, should control what really counts: man's spirit, his conscious mind. Thus they are for restricting, say, music and movie content and a woman's reproductive decisions.

Liberals, on the other hand, pose as champions of a free mind. But the philosophies they embrace, the skepticism and relativism satiating today's universities, scorn objectivity, absolutes, morality— the inescapable values of the intellect. "Everything's just a matter of opinion" is a credo inviting conformity, not independent thought. Indeed, the underlying reason why liberals are willing to tolerate greater cognitive freedom is primarily because their philosophies ultimately hold that man's consciousness is of little significance. The state, they say, should control what really counts: the material realm. Thus they are for restricting, say, gun ownership and business enterprises.

Conservatives affect to promote free markets, yet espouse religion, which hoists faith above reason. Liberals affect to promote free minds, yet espouse philosophies that hoist the group above the individual. Thus, the respective political offspring of churches and today's universities—the faith-worshipers and the group-worshipers—are equipped only to violate rights and uplift the state; they merely haggle over the details, over which particular rights should be trampled to what particular extent and for which particular reasons.

Case in point, did columnist Tim Chavez's semi-conversion stem from some newfound respect for man's inalienable rights and an understanding of the proper role of government? No, it stems simply from his impatience with the liberals; he admires President Bush's willingness to involve government ever more deeply in education and opposes his former political affiliates' attempts to thwart it. That the solution to America's education woes resides with government, that the state should mandate "free" schooling, Chavez never questions¾ and neither do Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives.

Oh, the two sides may fight like cats and dogs over whether federal funding should increase by 6% or 6.3%, or whether class size should be limited to 30 kids or 35, or whether or not 4th graders should be tested using a #2 pencil, and so forth. To such concrete-bound non-thinkers, the superficial is open for heated debate; but never to be seriously considered are fundamental principles.

With such "major" distinctions between the two, little wonder then why a liberal might feel comfortable flipping to the conservative side or vice versa. It's a flip requiring not much movement and even less philosophical underpinning.


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