I used to say conservatives are always wrong. It’s a nice little inflammatory line that enjoys the advantage of making conservative heads explode and – truth be told – is rather easily defended. But over time I’ve realized it’s not correct or, rather, it’s not complete. In order to be completely correct, it needs two more words so from now on, my new phrase is: conservatives are always wrong for civilization.
It’s a small but important distinction. I mean, sure, you can have a society in which the wealthy and powerful are allowed – encouraged, even – to use their inherent advantages to prey on the weak and defenseless. But you can’t have a civilized society in which the wealthy and powerful use their inherent advantages to prey on the weak and defenseless – at least not for long.
You can have a society in which everyone is armed to the teeth and willing to shoot the nearest likewise armed person at the merest perceived insult. But it won’t be a civilized society.
You can continue to oppress various groups into desperation and beyond – all the while blaming the victims for being victims. But they’re not going to go gently into that good night and in their desperation, they’re going to disrupt civilization.
You want a society of uneducated, illiterate drones? Why, you can have that, too, by simply de-funding public education and setting up teachers to fail. But that’s not civilization.
You can live in a world where pharmaceutical manufacturers wave life-saving medications in front of a dying man and ask “NOW how much would you pay?” But that’s not civilized, either.
As it happens, ALL of those are examples of conservative dogmas promoted in America today. Each of them can be found in various places throughout history. We’ve seen the results of wealthy people preying on the poor all the while blaming them for being poor. We called it “fiefdom” and, later, “slavery”. It took a war to stop it. Arm everyone to the teeth? That sounds like the Old West and was addressed, by the way, by men like Wyatt Earp – who solved the problem by passing ordinances taking people’s guns away. You prefer uneducated illiterates? Why, we called that ‘the Dark Ages’.
Yet conservatives continue to support these ideas as somehow suddenly credible…because conservatives are always wrong, you know…for civilization…