Giving Conservatism a Bad Name

Have you ever read something that started with great promise and quickly disappointed? I had last felt like that 50 pages into Gregory Maguire’s WICKED—until last night when picked up the latest issue of Townhall Magazine and read Jerry Bowyer’s article entitled WEATHERING THE STORM: HOW TO USE CONSERVATIVE PRINCIPLES TO THRIVE DURING THE LEAN YEARS AND WIN THE WAR AGAINST WEALTH.

To be honest, once I got to the point of the article, I didn’t have any problems—he gives good, sound advice.

But I’ll tell you what he provides: he provides another great example of where conservative principles digress from republican principles. I have long bemoaned the fact that the Republican Party has kidnapped the adjective “conservative” and, furthermore, in possession of it, have besmirched its good name.

Mr. Bowyer writes, in describing the world’s first green recession, “Artificial restrictions on the production of fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas and coal have done to our economy what wars and natural disasters used to do to us against our will—they have imposed supply disruptions.” This statement is, a) true; b) pro-big business; c) republican; and d) NOT conservative.

A good first question in evaluating the veracity of my conclusion ought to be, “In advocating supply increases for oil, what is it Mr. Bowyer thinks is being conserved?” The answer would be a less than inspiring “the status quo.” Talk of OCS or ANWR drilling that purports that previous limitations are causal in the current high prices of gas immediately warn me that the speaker is only frustrated with the current situation and not long term problem solving. Sure, had drilling been approved in 1998 we’d have a greater supply of oil and our situation would certainly be no worse and would likely be improved, if only marginally. I can read a supply and demand curve—it’s not rocket science. But the only benefit would be perpetuation of our petroleum paradigm and dependency, manifesting itself as a continuance of the status quo.

For the conservative, solutions are not always the result of seeking the path of least resistance in the short term. Conservatives are as interested in conserving resources and values for future generations as they are in continuing to live out the values inherent in the American way of life (by which I mean Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, not cheap gas and SUVs).

The article also asserts that, “By giving government the power to place a tether on our energy production, we’ve given it the power to attach a tether to all economic growth.” If I were to grant his premise I’d be inclined to grant his conclusion, but his assertion implies that our “energy production” capability is solely reliant on more drilling and more oil. Energy solutions ARE tied to our economic future. The fire under our butts after a summer of $4 gas is the impetus to create new companies based on new technologies to transition to a sustainable future and continued American Exceptionalism. Our energy paradox today is a return ticket to greatness, but not if we choose to meekly seek a return to the old days. Conservatives are not PREservatives. Change is required, often through investment, in order to protect the things we value.

Mr. Bowyer, of course, takes a swipe at the evil left by saying, “The leftist vision of American industry is a vision of turning food into fuel.” Look, I’m no proponent of ethanol, no matter its source. As far as I’m concerned, ethanol (although maybe a decent transitional technology) is a halfhearted effort—a weak attempt to appear to be making change while all the while preferring to not change at all. Let me summarize my position: if it burns, I’m probably against it—oil, ethanol, coal, etc. If you can light a match and your energy source goes “POOF” then I’m not excited, because ultimately anything that burns is being consumed and will eventually the planet will run out of it. That’s well said so let me say it again: I’m anti-poof, anti-bang, and anti-pfft.

Let’s learn the lesson from oil—we have an energy appetite greater than the planet’s ability to provide for, unless you’re talking about renewables. The sun is not going anyplace [bone to end-timers, “….going anyplace soon.] The wind will always be with us. Ocean currents will outlast our appetites. Now we’re in the realm of “conserving” stuff. When we’re talking about transferring energy as opposed to consuming energy, we’re talking about conservative principles.

There’s nothing wrong with Mr. Bowyer’s article, thoughts or conclusions. The problem is in his title in which he implies that his pro-big business, pro-republican position is indicative of conservative values.

Conservative values are held by the majority Americans—from both parties. But the close association of conservatism with republicanism gives the former a black eye at the expense of unimaginative, staid, and dying values emanating from the Republican Party.

If all the increased drilling arguments make sense to you and you believe those are better courses of action to take than more visionary and more technologically advanced approaches, then good for you. You’re a good Republican. But you might just find you’re not as conservative as you thought you were.

Published in: on October 1, 2008 at 8:54 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi Drexel!

    I have been so busy with my blog, I haven’t had time to check your blog out. However, I loved this article and cross-posted it to my blog. I have you credit, etc.

    I thought this was a very timely article when we are going to the polls this Tuesday.

    Thanks for another great article!

    Hope all is well with you and yours!

    P. S. My post will publish tonight at 9pm at

  2. oops. I meant to write “gave” not “have.

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