The War on Conservatism

Trump’s candidacy is transforming the Republican Party and party lines. If Trump is nominated by the GOP — and especially if he wins in November — he will have transformed the GOP from the party of (nominal) conservatism to the party of working-class-whites-seeking-their-share-of-government-bestowed-privileges.

Thus the two major parties will represent the following constituencies:

  • Affluent “progressives” from Wall Street, the media, academe, and business (especially technology companies), who “know” who’s deserving, how the world should be organized, and what sentiments should (and should not) be expressed
  • Government officials and workers, especially federal but also those of most States and municipalities, who are the direct beneficiaries of bigger and more powerful government
  • Most “persons of color” (blacks and Hispanics) who turn to government for handouts and preferences
  • Working-class whites who rely on the dole, in some form — especially those who think they’ve been short-changed by “persons of color”
  • Everyone who wants to preserve or expand the power of government to do something that they favor.

In sum: The two parties will represent the grasping, intolerant, and controlling forces of oppression. True conservatives (and libertarians) — who seek nothing from government but to be defended by it, and who understand the wisdom of long-standing social norms and the civilizing institutions of civil society — will be out in the cold.

12 thoughts on “The War on Conservatism

  1. “to the party of working-class-whites-seeking-their-share-of-government-bestowed-privileges”

    Or perhaps, to the party of working class people who desire a level playing field instead of one tilted toward allowing the rich to get richer.

    The Trump supports I know don’t want something they didn’t earn; they just want to opportunity to earn a decent living.


  2. The idea that the playing field is tilted to favor “the rich” has some merit, on the surface. But leveling the playing field to avoid favoring “the rich” would require almost complete deregulation of the economy. I’m in favor of that, of course, but I doubt that “the rich” would be any less rich as a result. It takes smarts and ambition to game the “system,” and so the smart and ambitious would continue to do well under a different system. Talk of leveling the playing field because it’s tilted toward “the rich” has always struck me as nothing more than evidence of envy.

    Trump supporters also seem rather keen to level the playing field by receiving privileges matching those already bestowed on others, namely, welfare recipients, beneficiaries of affirmative action, and illegal immigrants. I, too would like to level the playing field, but by getting rid of welfare and affirmative action, and by limiting immigration to the highly skilled (e.g., doctors and engineers).

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  3. I think that Trump’s proposals on this issue make sense: make it harder for business’s to acquire cheap labor through illegal immigration and make it harder to outsource jobs to other countries.

    When I hear “get rid of welfare,” I cringe. To me, that’s the same kind of class warfare the democrats play but in the opposite direction. Those welfare recipients are taking your money; gotta stop ’em!

    To me, welfare is a necessary concept; society works better if there’s some kind of safety net. On the other hand, it’s not a good thing when the end result seems to be generations who live off the government. The purpose should be to get people back on their feet and to do so as quickly as possible.


  4. Cheap labor benefits consumers, which is all of us. I prefer cheaper labor at the high end (e.g., doctors and engineers) because that’s where consumers really benefit. Driving down the cost of yard work is hardly a burning issue, and mainly benefits the middle and upper classes, anyway.

    Making it harder to “send jobs overseas” harms consumers, which is all of us. You really need to do some remedial reading in economics.

    “Society” works worse when there’s a government-provided safety net because it grows to satisfy the preferences of politicians, bureaucrats, and their constituencies. It wasn’t the absence of a “safety net” that caused the Great Depression, the Great Recession, or any other economic downturn, it was government ineptitude (mainly on the part of the Federal Reserve). The availability of welfare discourages work. (More remedial reading required.) The best “safety net” is therefore the lack of government-guaranteed welfare, coupled with private welfare (from family, community, church, club, etc.), which government welfare has done much to discourage.

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  5. “Making it harder to “send jobs overseas” harms consumers, which is all of us. You really need to do some remedial reading in economics.”

    Did you read the economists recently who reported that, “Hey, maybe we understated the negative impact of free trade.” ?

    Yes, it helps consumers, but it also hurts big segments of the working class and it has transformed our economy from one where we actually make stuff. Think about both world wars. We won by outproducing everybody else. If we get into another situation like that, would we be able to ramp up production in time?

    I think that we need to seriously look at all the impacts of free trade instead of blindly saying, “Well, economics says free trade is a good thing!”

    I won’t disagree that the current welfare system discourages work. Are you saying, however, that it’s impossible to create any welfare system that can serve as a safety net without discouraging work?

    I personally know someone who had the following circumstances. Her husband, who beat her, left. She had two kids and no job skills. She went on welfare while getting job training. After completing training, she got a job and raised those kids without further assistance.

    I think that is an incredible story of what welfare should be. I’d hate for her and her children to have ended up in a much worse situation because people who have done lots of reading don’t think that welfare is needed.


  6. Looking at the particular aspects of free trade is an invitation to favor some groups over others. It’s a Trump-Sanders-Clinton view of the world. Always trying to fine-tune the economy for a particular purpose, and screwing up everything else as a result. Sure, there are “negative aspects” of free trade, if one believes that certain groups of people are deserving of more than they earn, but that’s not economics, it’s special pleading. Point me to the specific article(s) to which you refer and I’ll gladly consider whether they have merit. As for remedial reading, start here and follow the links.

    The business about the “hollowed out” economy is hollow. First, the manufacturing capacity of the U.S. has continued to grow. Second, the balance between manufactured goods and services reflects consumer demand, and consumers get more when they’re able to buy foreign manufactured goods at lower prices. (You might prefer that they not do this, but that’s just special pleading because you believe that certain groups “should” do better than they are doing.) Third, the U.S., though less prepared for war than I’d like to see, is more prepared than it was before World War II. Moreover, there’s ample industrial capacity to fight a large, long war. What’s holding down the size of the U.S. arsenal isn’t capacity — it’s political will (or the lack thereof).

    Specific examples of welfare successes are heart-warming, but hardly dispositive. How much tax money goes down the drain to achieve relatively few successes? How many jobs could have been created with that money? The idea that a government program will somehow magically do mostly good things without doing a lot of bad things is an example of the nirvana fallacy.


  7. I read a lot of articles, and I truthfully don’t know if I’m going to be able to find that link. I will, however, make an effort, and if I’m able to locate it, I’ll get you the link.

    I beginning to think, however, that we’ll never be able to see eye to eye. Here’s why:

    If I’m sitting down looking at a spreadsheet, it’s easy for me to balance things as, “Well, this works better for the majority of the people.” When I start thinking about those numbers as real people, however, I have more of an aversion to causing pain than I feel a reward for increasing the overall good.

    Maybe that’s unreasonable of me, but I can’t think like you seem to think.


  8. Regarding your penultimate comment: I agree that we’ll never be able to see eye to eye. Here’s why: For every person who benefits from a government policy or program (whether identifiable or not), there are numberless and nameless persons who pay, often the supposed beneficiaries of the program. Affirmative action is a good example, though far from the only one. Despite the seemingly “fair” language of the law, it can only lead to the selection of less-qualified people for jobs and university admissions. Many of those people are then set up for failure. (Rick Sander has documented this thoroughly in the case of law schools.) And the paying public — the anonymous consumers of the products and services tainted by affirmative action — gets less than its money’s worth.

    Regarding the article: It focuses on particular losses in certain areas and seems to ignore the widespread gains to American consumers. Shifting patterns of trade and technology are an inevitable part of commerce — of making and selling things that consumers value. A lot of buggy makers went out of business as the auto industry grew; a lot of coal miners lost jobs as other sources of energy arose; a lot of clerical and secretarial positions were abolished with the rise of computerization; etc. — and these are examples of developments within the U.S. Should they have been prevented?

    What’s special about foreign trade? If trade across borders is somehow bad because it might some aspects of a local economy, why not ban interstate trade, intercounty trade, and intercity trade?

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  9. So again I ask – is it theoretically impossible to design systems that return results that a) help the people who need it and b) give the rest of us a reasonable ROI?

    I agree that the current systems are deeply flawed. I’m just not willing to give up on the hope of creating better ones.


  10. What you’re suggesting is akin to “socialist calculation.” There are two things wrong with it. First, the designers of the system inevitably impose their own preferences. What is a “reasonable” ROI, for example? It’s the ROI required to compensate for the uncertainties, risks, and startup costs of a venture with which no one may have any experience — and no one is therefore in a position to say what’s “reasonable.” And if the ROI is high enough, and government keeps its hands off, competitors will enter the market and drive down prices and ROI to sustainable levels.

    Second, no one person, group of persons, or thing (like an impossibly fast computer) can replicate the billions of pieces of changing (and uncertain) information that are reflected in consumers’ preferences, producers’ decisions about what to produce and how and when to produce it, and the myriad intersections of preferences and production decisions represented in markets. See, for example, Friedrich Hayek’s 1974 Nobel Prize Lecture, “The Pretence of Knowledge” (


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