Why Conservatism Fails

There are 3 components of American political philosophies: social policy, economic policy and foreign policy. Modern conservatism is a theoretical failure in each. I say this as a former conservative, and as someone who has no sympathy for ideological liberalism (but that is another article).

I talk here of conservatism, as a political ideology or philosophy. Not the Republican party or its policies, which may or may not be truly "conservative."

Social policy

It is in social matters that conservatism most clearly seeks to "conserve" tradition and established norms. Often this effort at conservation is based not on any rational thinking, but on the perceived value of keeping tradition alive for its own sake.

This idea is destructive and necessarily inhibitive of human progress. Tradition does not have value in its own right. If it did, then the modern American conservative must explain why he supports women's right to vote, since this is a concept totally at odds with almost all human tradition, including his own society's tradition until the early 20th century.

Social conservatism stands for a close relationship between church and state, and a preference for Christian values in public policy at the expense of others. Public policy should:

  • Restrain or outlaw abortion
  • Legally favor heterosexual relationships over homosexual ones
  • Not teach sex education to teenagers
  • Give equal time to creationism and evolution in science class
  • Restrict people's sexual behavior
  • Financially and legally support churches and other Christian institutions
  • Keep Christian references in taxpayer-financed monuments or documents, and so on

Each of these positions can be defeated in various ways. But the important point here is that the emphasis on traditional Christian values is flawed. Since there is no rational way to say this Biblical passage is "good" and that one is "bad," the Bible or Christian tradition is a poor basis for public policy, to say the least.

For example, 19th century slavers and Klan members justified themselves by pointing to the Holy Bible and Christian doctrine, while abolitionists used the very same book and the very same religion to assault slavery! Will the real Christianity please stand up?

Modernist Christians may say that their religion has generally come to support human rights, and eschew the opposite. But are we to subject public policy to the slippery "consensus" that some private religious group happens to believe today, but may not in 50 years?

Not to mention the intellectual inconvenience to the social conservative of explaining why she believes Christianity should be the basis of government, but not Islam or Buddhism.

Social conservatism is an abject theoretical and practical failure.

Economic Policy

Conservatism defers to the free market, against "big government," excessive regulation or high taxation, and in favor of "consumer choice" and "business freedom."

I have detailed many problems with the orthodox free market capitalist view, in the following hubs:

The assumptions of modern economics are astonishingly unrealistic. This makes any free market capitalist dogma just as naïve as Marxist utopianism. Any ideology that sees free market capitalism as the sole requirement for human prosperity leads to a pie-in-the-sky faith in the free market and an excessively negative attitude toward government action.

Case in point: I found this little pearl of wisdom on a conservative blog, in a discussion on some smoking ban:

Someone tell me why we are wasting our time trying to ban smoking? If it is profitable for a business owner to say “Come here we do not allow smoking,” then he will do that. If it profitable for a business owner to remove meat tainted with germs then they will do that. This is the free-market the market will provide the most efficient outcome.

Grammatical mistakes aside, this is an excellent example of the narrow-mindedness that is part and parcel of economic conservatism and libertarianism especially. Sure, "if it's profitable" for a business to sell clean meat, they will. And if it isn't profitable, they won't. Hence massive public health problems in late 19th century America, an age of laissez-faire.

Additionally, if there are no government regulators to check the meat, who will ever know if the meat was tainted? By the time the market discovers it, somebody will be dead.

Economic conservatism (not to be confused with fiscal conservatism or good fiscal management, which both Republicans and Democrats have failed miserably at in recent years) is a theoretical and practical failure.

Foreign Policy

Foreign policy conservatism is based on the fantastic premise that the US is such an inherently good country that any American military or diplomatic action abroad is ultimately to the benefit of the whole world. Basically, America can do no wrong. If this sounds like a simplistic characterization, I invite the reader to suggest one major military intervention that conservatives disapprove of in recent history (submit a comment below).

The default position of conservatism is toward more American involvement in other countries, more military interventionism--not less.

A key position of conservative foreign policy is blind support for Israel. This has many roots, from apocalyptic Christian theology to a pathological obsession with anti-semitism.

The unquestioning support for Israel, in spite of oppression, theft and killing of innocents committed by the "Jewish state," is an example of simpleminded and destructive foreign policy backed by conservatives.

Above all, the presumption that "America is the greatest country" stands as one of the most simplistic and least-developed bases conceivable for a foreign policy paradigm. America may have many good qualities, but it has many bad ones as well. And certainly whatever its good qualities internally, that has little to do with its effect on other societies.

This mentality has contributed to an unaffordable global empire, buttressed by the dogma that America, that "shining city on a hill" is the "last, best hope of mankind." Nationalistic mythology may be romantic and inspiring. It is insufficient for a theory of foreign policy.

Foreign policy conservatism is a theoretical and practical failure.

Countries where the US has had a negative effect include: Palestine, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Mozambique, Jamaica, Vietnam, Egypt, Iran, Cuba, Iraq (when Saddam Hussein enjoyed US support)... starting to look like a wash
Countries where the US has had a negative effect include: Palestine, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Mozambique, Jamaica, Vietnam, Egypt, Iran, Cuba, Iraq (when Saddam Hussein enjoyed US support)... starting to look like a wash

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Comments 48 comments

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore

Talking to a hard-core Libertarian is very much like talking to a religious zealot..they have too much blind faith in the *market* when anyone with half an eye can see that the interests of the market and the interests of people dont always coincide.

Brilliantly put together.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 6 years ago from New York City Author

Thanks, Jane. Yes, I should know, being a former economic libertarian myself.


Tchardo profile image

Tchardo 6 years ago

Thorough, and perfectly put together. I very much approve.

Their conceptualization of America as all that matters, as a fortress of impermeable barriers, does not match trends toward outsourcing, or the nature of their economic ties to countries which they are keeping desperate, which make it clear that their way of life is neither sustainable on its own nor good for the rest of the world on which they rely.

Even if America was self-sufficient, the level of narrow-mindedness you've described is self-destructive as, sociologically speaking, it cannot abide itself... not only is such a course for a culture leaving it prone to stagnation and rotting, but the tearing apart of itself as well.

I fear that it's time has passed, and the seeds of a new age need to be sown... but I also fear that I'm a little on the paranoid side :)

Anyway, again: excellent hub.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 6 years ago from New York City Author

Thanks for your input, Tchardo. I don't think necessarily the US is as done for as you seem to think--this country has gone through very difficult periods before. Just think of the Civil War, or the trials of the 1960s and 70s.

But at the same time, you are right to point out that flawed social and economic ideas have consequences. I think if the US can get its act together culturally, economically and politically (which is certainly a tall order, as it stands now), it can get back on track. But it likely will no longer be the biggest, baddest power around, with nations like China, India or Brazil coming up fast.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

Well, I disagree. To see no value in tradition or custom is to think all who came before us—who collectively and slowly created these norms—were a bunch of backward fools and that we—the advanced people—are marching to progress. While technology undoubtably advances, the human brain does not. Maybe 1% of our population at best can even read Plato and understand what he means. There are no statesmen today with the integrity of a George Washington or the clear mind of a James Madison. Show me a modern day Michelangelo or Shakespeare.

Abortion is the willful killing of humans. The promotion of traditional families is a good thing—witness the demographic suicide of societies that think otherwise. A father and mother with children is vital to the health of a nation above any other arrangement. Sociological stastitics prove this beyond a shadow of a doubt. Many today fail to see the difference between liberty and license. What precious children are taught about sexuality should be the purview of their parents and grounded in morality. We are not animals. Evolution is a theory. How easily the postmodern deconstructionist dismisses revelation from men of God while easily accepting some scientist who claims to KNOW what happened 500 hundred million years ago—as if he were there, and is certain people came from apes—without a shred of hard evidence. Christianity invented hospitals, charity, and the modern university, not to mention the Protestant Work Ethic.

Free Enterprise raised much of the world above mere druggery and has created a world of such wealth and comfort that you can sit around and philosophise about demolishing its very structure instead of having to go out and hunt for food. People of only 100 years ago could not even dream of the prosperity the system of free enterprise has wrought. Just look at North Korea, or East Germany, or the USSR to see where the lack of free enterprise leads.

After the Holocaust the Jews were granted 1% of lands nomadic Arabs sometimes roamed through and they took a desert wasteland and turned into an incredibly modern democracy against all odds. The Muslims can only focus on destroying this when they ought to focus on doing something positive and useful for the world.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 6 years ago from New York City Author

James, thanks for visiting.

1. Well, I didn't say that tradition has no value, just that it has no value in its own right. It’s like money. It has value only insofar as it contributes to human wellbeing. Therefore if a tradition detracts from human happiness or progress or prosperity, it must be discarded.

If 1% of our current population can understand Plato, with our modern education and prosperity, what was it in previous eras? 0.5%? 0.01%? Maybe people back then were indeed not as smart as we are today.

We know they had MUCH higher rates of racism, sexism, xenophobia, superstition, etc. Why would we give the benefit of the doubt to a social order that such people created?

2. An embryo isn’t a human being because it cannot exist outside of the womb. Studies show both homosexual and heterosexual parents can be good. If what you say is true, they why, when half of all marriages end in divorce, has American society not totally collapsed?

I agree that sex should be taught to young people in the context of morality. Just not traditional Christian morality.

Yes, evolution is a theory. So are countless other things--the theory of relativity, the theory of infectious disease, the theories of electromagnetism, the theory of the atom, etc. Why are creationists not critical of those “theories”?

Evolution doesn’t say people came from apes. No scientist KNOWS what happened millions of years ago. But they do have the best idea possible, given the evidence and logic. Neither science nor religion have all the answers. Science admits that, but religion does not.

The superiority of evolution over creationism is seen whenever the two meet in court.

Why should we rely on the “revelation” of ancient people who lived in primitive societies, and did not know anything about science? Why should we defer to them on anything, when their belief systems have failed to explain almost everything they have ever tried?

Yes, Christianity has done many good things. So has Islam. So has Buddhism. Why not base public policy on those religions?

3. “Free Enterprise… has created a world of such wealth and comfort that you can sit around and philosophise about demolishing its very structure instead of having to go out and hunt for food.”

I don’t know where I ever advocated “demolishing” the structure of free enterprise. Did I not say in the article that Marxism is destructive? Our prosperity comes from both the market and the state, as I demonstrated in my other hubs. And that prosperity allows you to entertain the idea that it all came from the market.

4. Not sure how people who lived in permanent cities can be called “nomads.” So Israel has the right to steal land from Arabs, even though the Arabs had nothing to do with the Holocaust?


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

Brilliant! I really agree with what you have written here and commend the clarity.

In my mind one of the worst aspects of US foreign policy is that it has been for so long based on the threadbare and shallow premise of "My enemy's enemy is my friend." Thisn has led to the anomaly of the "greatest democracy" crassly and unquestioningly supporting some of the biggest, anti-democratic thugs in history like Pinochet, like Mobutu Sese Seko, like the gangster annointed "Freedom Fighter" by Reagan, the late ungreat Jonas Savimbi.

Amazing too how the anti-evolution lobby would prefer the "revelation" contained in a collection of books centures old, with no supporting evidence, to the painstakingly, and meticulously, collected data used to support the theory of evolution.

Thanks for sharing.

Love and peace

Tony


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 6 years ago from New York City Author

Tony, you are very welcome. It's that kind of hypocrisy from so many American administrations that has turned so much of the world off to the US--where once upon a time (around WWII for example) it enjoyed much greater prestige globally.


HSchneider 6 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

Great article Secularist. I would think conservatives would want greater freedom in social policy than they normally allow. I also believe this stems from Christian fundamentalism. The Laissez Faire religion that economic conservatives pray to would be wonderful in a utopian world where everyone worked for the common good. But when it is for pure personal profit, it eventually runs off the rails. I do believe foreign policy conservatives really came to the fore after the first Gulf War. Neo-conservative theory sprang up after this successful war to throw back Sadaam's aggression against Kuwait. I believe they felt this could be copied in many other areas to eliminate whomever they deemed evil. This is always dangerous as we have seen this past decade. I do feel that many conservatives believed in isolationism before this. Thanks again for this insightful and thought provoking hub.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 6 years ago from New York City Author

HSchneider, thank you, glad you enjoyed it. And you raise some good points.

Yes, it is interesting that military action has taken a new significance on the right. When one looks at Reagan (that supposed right-wing saint), one sees less trigger-happiness, relative to the modern right. And going all the way back to Eisenhower, we see a very different worldview, indeed.

I think September 11 and the terrorist threat has played an important role in that development. And we still--even in the face of massive deficits/ debt looming--have yet to see a viable shift among conservatives toward more skepticism of military action.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

You made very good points about item # 1. I must commend you for that.

On # 2, Are you implying that it is not OK to kill humans in the womb if they can exist outside the womb? This is decidedly at odds with the pro-death camp. As you may know, modern technology can now save the lives of babies born way premature. And it is advancing. What if the day comes when babies can live outside the womb at day one? Not OK to kill them?

American Society IS collapsing. The theories of electromagnetism, et al., are provable. That men came from apes, or that any species EVER evolved from another species is not. In over 6,000 years of recorded, not one thing has ever changed into something different.

Children should be taught sexuality within the context of THIER OWN parents world view or belief system or morality. The family has natural rights above those of the state and that is one of them.

What have the belief systems of ancient Christianity "failed to explain? Nothing I can thing of. What science there is in the Old Testament is correct. Not one fact in the Bible has EVER been proven incorrect, making it the most infallible of all ancient books by far. That should tell you something, oh seeker of truth.

4. The Israelis didn't steal any land. Rather than repeat myself, you can find the facts about this subject here (in three parts):

http://hubpages.com/education/History-of-Israel

http://hubpages.com/education/History-Israel

http://hubpages.com/education/Israel-History


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 6 years ago from New York City Author

James:

1. Well, thank you for that.

2. Who said anything about a "pro-death" camp? I'm not pro-death. If I was, I probably would have committed suicide a long time ago.

This is my personal belief on abortion. The "womb" is just an intellectual tool; the real issue is whether the thing is inherently capable of surviving on its own, without any physical assistance. The embryo cannot, the premature baby can, and is therefore a person.

American society collapsing? Think of the Chinese cultural revolution, or the fall of Rome, or the world wars--THAT is what social collapse looks like. America is doing just fine, by comparison.

I reiterate, evolution does not say that people came from apes. Electromagnetism is a theory, James. You indicated you don't trust evolution because it is a theory. By the same logic, you should not trust any of those other theories.

Yes, evolution has been observed.

"Children should be taught sexuality within the context of THEIR OWN parents world view or belief system or morality."

Ok, but what if my morality says that learning history is bad? In that case, I can lobby my public school to not teach my children history, according to this rule. If parents don't like what is taught in public school, they can go to private school, or homeschool.

"What have the belief systems of ancient Christianity "failed to explain?..."

This is easy: The Bible says that the earth, sun and moon were created in the span of 6 days. In reality, the process took billions of years! Yes, James, that does indeed tell me something about the truth.

4. Your articles have some interesting info, but some big errors, too. I have great respect and admiration for Jewish people, as I do for many people, and have had many Jewish friends.

In any case, Israelis have been and continue to annex land from Arabs every day. The nightclubs and farms they build on that land is irrelevant--property rights is about who owns what, not who can do the most cool stuff with what.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

But we weren't talking about learning history. Or not learning history. We were talking about sexuality. As far as history goes, the public schools teach a false history, as part of the "self-esteem" movement.

You don't know if the earth was created in six days or a billion years.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 6 years ago from New York City Author

"But we weren't talking about learning history. Or not learning history."

The history thing was an analogy. Whatever the public schools do or do not teach about history is not the point. The point is, if a parent has the right (as you say) to demand the public school adhere to his beliefs on sexual morality, then another parent has the right to demand the public school adhere to his beliefs on history morality. And so on, ad infinitum.

It's simply applying the same rule of thumb to a different issue.

"You don't know if the earth was created in six days or a billion years."

Well, James, come on. Technically you don't know *for sure* if the computer screen you're looking at is really there or not.

But if it has been independently confirmed countless times by thousands of people over many decades, working on different questions, in totally different scientific fields (geology and astronomy mainly)... I'd say it is safe for a reasonable person to go ahead and assume the earth is as old as they all say it is.


adagio4639 profile image

adagio4639 6 years ago from Brattleboro Vermont

James: >"Sociological stastitics prove this beyond a shadow of a doubt."<

No. Actually they don't "prove" anything. They are statistics. They show tendencies and provide projections that may actually fall short. The gathering of statistics is an inductive reasoning process, and inductive reasoning never proves anything, let alone something that is "beyond a shadow of a doubt". Statistics show that all swans are white. Because every swan you've ever seen is white, then supposedly the next one you see will be white as well. So that proves that all swans are white. Except they aren't. We found Black Swans in Australian. No theory is ever proven James. They can be disproven however and that's how we arive at some degree of Truth.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 6 years ago from New York City Author

Adagio, thanks for coming. Yes, statistics are rarely rock-solid, especially the kinds of statistics James is using. Moreover, there are plenty of studies, statistics and common sense that completely contradict what he saying! If James' values were so essential to everything, then countries like Japan, France, Germany, Holland or Spain where things are very different economically, socially and culturally would have been reeling into massive collapse by now. Looks like they're doing just fine.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

@ Adagio - you wrote "No theory is ever proven" thanks for that. It is so important. We constantly see the creationist ideologues demanding "proof" of evolution while claiming "truth" for the utterly unproven stories of the Bible! What a crock!

Love and peace

Tony


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 6 years ago from New York City Author

Ah, but Tony, didn't you get the memo? "Nothing in the Bible has ever been proven wrong"

Haha!


Josak profile image

Josak 4 years ago from variable

Great article it is because of the things you have mentioned that conservatism continues to fail and the left continues to advance.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

Thanks, Josak. Indeed, historical and anecdotal evidence continues to pile up that conservatism is not viable or productive as an organizing philosophy for human societies.


Brandon 4 years ago

Regarding your comment on economic policy and the meat seller, I would have to disagree with your statement. Regarding the condition of the meat, the blogger more than likely stated his scenario is a "perfect world" scenario. What is allowed in the free market and how much the government regulates within the market are 2 different points. The absence of government or federal regulation would set the stage for chaos in the market. But with little intervention, and a system of checks and balances developed, a free market could and would work.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

Brandon:

Precisely, the assumptions of libertarianism and traditional orthodox economics are indeed based on a "perfect world" in which consumers have perfect information, and individuals and businesses operate solely with the purpose of increasing their own material wellbeing. These are unrealistic assumptions, and therefore the entire edifice of the beliefs and policies they produce are faulty.

What is allowed in the free market is *determined* in large part by how much the government regulates in that market.

It seems you support government regulation/ intervention, just to a reasonable degree so that it does not stifle economic activity excessively. I certainly agree with that.

The idea that less regulation is always better, lower taxes are always better, less government activity is always better, etc, and other beliefs of economic conservatism are clearly mistaken. They are ideological positions based on fairy tales that do not pan out in reality.


Carolyn 4 years ago

I have really enjoyed your articles. As a former fundamentalist Christian who became liberated from believing the bible as the literal word of God as an adult, I enjoy reading the statistics and correlations that you have drawn from the available data. It is wonderful to have the freedom to use my rational brain to consider the relationships between indicators of social well being and religion. The separation of the church and state is so important to ensuring a high level of education and also the future of democracy.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

Thanks, Carolyn. I appreciate that. Great to hear you've come out of that way of thinking. One more for the side of reason, critical thinking and open mindedness.

The data and statistics certainly have the power. I always encourage my opponents to provide relevant data if they disagree with my points. It rarely happens though, unsurprisingly.


Beyond-Politics profile image

Beyond-Politics 4 years ago from The Known Universe (beyond.the.spectrum@gmail.com)

Very interesting!


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

Thanks!


FL2BoysMom profile image

FL2BoysMom 4 years ago

I consider myself to be a Libertarian. I support the pro-choice movement. I support some measure of 'social insurance,' (welfare state) and I support 'investing' in our country (infrastructure), not 'spending.'

I believe in strong family values. I belive in everyone's right to be free from and free of, religion.

I do not support 'government job creation.' I do not support big government. I do not support laws to protect me from me, and I especially resent it because no 'law' will ever 'protect' anyone, from anyone, even themselves, and those laws don't exist for that, but for job security of everyone from the police to the lawyers, to the court systems.

I will not support any notion that I need to be 'licensed' (for a 'fee') to have a garden to grow food for my family.

I will not support a government that wants to 'license' to me, for a fee, the right to grow, trap, fish, hunt or otherwise procure food for my family, forcing me to be reliant on 'society', should my business some day collapse and/or I lose my job.

This is where 'big government' has gotten us.

I do not support zero regulation. When anyone one person, or group, can amass all of the world's wealth of resources, we will inevitably revert to a feudal society.

We need to take the abortion issue off the table. It comes down to this... religion and science arguments aside, those who are 'against' abortion on the premise that it is 'killing a human life,' have no problem allowing a 'man' to take a human life, in a war, in the name of economics, or in any act of self-preservation/self defense. Therefore a woman has just as much right to take a life for her own self preservation/self defense, and economic status as that man does. She will take that up with "God" just as that young male soldier will.

We need to revise the welfare system to a 'pay it back,' instead of a 'pay it forward' mentality, and we need to teach a lot more 'self -reliance.' From parents, to schools, right up to the welfare social workers, we should be teaching our citizens how to 'create income,' 'grow their own food,' and barter as survival and supplemental income skills.

We need to remove these ridiculous 'fees' for hunting, fishing and gardening licenses that stop the people who need those things the most, the poor, from obtaining them because as the poor, they can't even afford the 'licenses.'


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

I agree with many of your points. Much of that is not even conservative or liberal, but just common sense.

I will say, though, that there is a very good reason for hunting permits. The wild has a finite supply of flora and fauna, yet human demand is extremely high. So the only way to make sure we do not exhaust the supply of animals is to restrict hunting.

If anybody could just go into the forest and start killing as much as they wanted, entire species of creatures would be wiped out in a matter of years, and in a few more years, entire ecosystems would be vastly altered.

This is the "tragedy of the commons"--wherein a public good (in this case forests and rivers) is used by everyone privately. They have an incentive to take from it, but no incentive to maintain it or preserve it.

I certainly agree that big government is not the answer to our problems. But neither is small government, for the sake of small government, which is what ideological conservatism stands for.


FL2BoysMom profile image

FL2BoysMom 4 years ago

And that forces the poor to be 'dependent' on the state for food. A substance provided by the planet. As part of the food chain.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

Life is about choices. Unfortunately, we do not have infinite resources for everybody. It would be great if we did, but we don't, so we have to make choices, and sometimes the outcome is not ideal.

But in a free society, the poor have the ability to work their way up and to not be totally dependent on the state. In fact, the vast majority of poor people are not completely dependent on the state. But even if they were, that would still be better than destroying the environment over the course of several years.

In any case, the poor are far better off today, in rich societies with restrictions on hunting, than in the distant past when they really did have to hunt animals to survive.

Most poor people could not competently kill their own food if their life depended on it anyway.


FL2BoysMom profile image

FL2BoysMom 4 years ago

"Most poor people could not competently kill their own food if their life depended on it anyway."

Hunting for food is a basic human (animal) insinct that has existed within us since the dawn of our race.

A 'license' doesn't stop anyone from 'over' hunting. Only 'policing' does. "Licensing fees" only create jobs, and job security for more government employees.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

Hmm. Really? I don't think so. Hunger, yes, that's a basic human instinct. But to effectively hunt requires a number of skills that need to be learned: making effective cutting tools; finding the right materials (certain kinds of rocks and wood are better than others); sharpening those materials in just the right way; tracking an animal; building enough upper body strength to throw a spear or cut through fur and flesh; developing timing, targeting, precision and patience; building enough agility and fitness to run after creatures that are often much quicker, and so on. Not to mention the strength to carry the carcass back home.

Theoretically, anybody can do these things. But they need to be learned/ developed. In the past, it took years for children and young adults to develop these skills under the care of parents and elders. Years of hard work to get your first meal, when a poor person could just get a TV dinner at the supermarket for five bucks? Which do you think they would be likely to choose?

Or you could just buy a gun and shoot the animal, which is obviously not evolutionary, since guns did not exist in the ancestral environment. But even a gun needs to be learned so that someone can use it safely and competently.

In any case, no, a license alone does not stop over hunting. But it is part, along with policing, of an overall system that does prevent over hunting. If paying for an extra few government employees means preserving the environment, which we all need, I'd say that's a good investment. It's not like we need an army of bureaucrats to do this anyway. Hunting isn't that popular, and there aren't that many people who would want to break the law anyway.

What makes you think if there was no mechanism to protect the environment and ecosystem, that hunters would just, out of the goodness of their own hearts, and their own wisdom, NOT over hunt?


FL2BoysMom profile image

FL2BoysMom 4 years ago

Actually, at the dawn of mankind, the earliest humans were not 'taught' to hunt. It is instinctual in all of us. Hunting is instinctual to any animal that is hungry enough.

Licensing is not 'part and parcel' of policing. It is an uneccesarry and useless to any human being feeding themselves, for the sake of some bloated, government job.

What makes me think that hunters would just, out of the goodness, etc, etc...?

The fact that I don't view the poor as ignorant, uneducated or incompetent. They are far more resourceful than the current population gives them credit for.

Perhaps you should look at the Inuit tribes of the Northwest Territories of Canada to learn just how strong mankinds' survival instinct actually is.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

The earliest humans were not taught how to hunt, but they still had to learn. It took them many years to perfect their techniques.

Doesn't matter how hungry you are. If you can't fashion a spear that is sharp enough and strong enough, and if you can't track and catch your prey, you ain't eating!

Licensing hunting has nothing to do with feeding anybody. I already said, it's about not exhausting the forest, which only a central authority is capable of preventing. There is no way hundreds or thousands of individual hunters, in modern society, even if they each had the best intentions (which is impossible to guarantee), could somehow magically "know" that there are 200 fewer deer in the forest this year than last year, and to "know" precisely what adjustments they need to make.

And even if they DID somehow know that, without policing and a culture of respecting the hunting laws, what is to stop a lone hunter from going out into the forest one day armed to the teeth and killing all the animals? Then what? Then what will you do, when there are no more animals to hunt?

Well, you should reconsider on the poor. All the scientific and sociological studies show that the poor have higher rates of ignorance and low education. Take some high school dropout from the ghetto or from a trailer park, put them in the wilderness, and see how long they survive. Lol!

The Inuit tribes and all other hunter-gatherer societies prove my point: these peoples have developed very sophisticated techniques and traditions for hunting that are passed down to each generation. Young people need to be taught and instructed in these techniques, usually over the course of many years, before they are fully self-sufficient.

Why do you want to turn the clock back to a hunter-gatherer society anyway? I like my supermarkets, gas ovens and modern healthcare just fine, thank you.


FL2BoysMom profile image

FL2BoysMom 4 years ago

Why do I want to turn back the clock?

Why do you want to force me to live by yours?

I used to like all the 'conveniences' myself, and often still do, until one day when I needed to 'survive,' I lacked all the skills to do so because no one thinks they're necessary to teach anymore because they believe that is just 'turning back the clock,' and because even if I had the skills, which I've since learned because of that experience, I still could not have exercised those skills without breaking a completely useless law that does nothing but provide a nice, cushy government job to someone.

So if and/or when our entire economy collapses, and quite possibly the grid goes down, and the government is bankrupt and there are no 'food stamps,' and the dollar is worthless, we will all become 'criminals' just to feed our families. Because we won't have the money, which will be worthless anyway, to purchase a 'license,' which does useful for prevention of overhunting, and serves only as a means to keep the poor poor, and a pompous, self-righteous snob in a nice cushy government job.

The poor are only considered 'ingorant and uneducated' by the standard of 'formal education.'

I would pit that high school dropout from the ghetto up against the middle class Art History PhD in a survival contest 8 days a week. The poor are very resourceful, and very reslient, and they have survival 'instincts,' because they have to.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

I don't want to force you to live according to my lifestyle per se, but since we live in the same society we have to make choices that affect everybody.

The regulations and laws don't just provide cushy government jobs--they protect the environment and animals so that it is all there tomorrow. And if the cushiness of government jobs is your beef, fine, we can cut down the pensions and healthcare benefits and everything else. I'm certainly in favor of streamlining government bureaucracies. But the need to regulate the environment and human use of it remains.

You can't just have chaos where anybody can do anything they want to the wilderness.

If there are dumb regulations, then we should certainly improve them. But some is needed.

There are many intelligent poor people, don't get me wrong. It sounds like you're referring to street smarts. Not very useful in the forest, where there are no streets! Hustling on the corner is one thing, but throwing dice won't help you when a bear is charging at you, lol!

We all have the drive to survive. And in a crisis situation, we do what we need to. But that doesn't mean we will immediately become Davy Crockett if the lights go out.

I do support your idea of teaching children more about survival in the wilderness and such. It's easy to get lost in the plastic and digital milieu, and lose touch with nature. In my part of the country, we recently had Hurricane Sandy, which has put thousands of people in dire straights.

But in the dystopian scenario you describe, I have no doubt governments (elected ones, anyway) would adjust regulations on hunting if we absolutely needed to revert to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

Also, one more thing. In a civilizational crisis, the main alternative to our modern lifestyle is not hunting and gathering, but reverting to a pre-industrial agricultural system. That was what characterized humanity from thousands of years BC to about the 1700s.

One problem with hunter-gathering is that it could not provide enough food for large populations (which is the Inuit and other similar peoples live in communities with small populations). The transition from hunter-gathering to settled agriculture was one of the most important events in human history, and produced a population explosion. So in the event of a true crisis, hunting and fishing alone would not be sufficient to feed everyone in this country.


FL2BoysMom profile image

FL2BoysMom 4 years ago

Well you said 'ghetto,' but that same 'ignorant poor person from a chicken farm in West Virgina or the hills of Kentucky' is just as adapatable.

"Street smarts" basically mean, 'the ability to figure out how to survive.' Whether it's a hustle or a hunt.

Now, you may choose to continue to believe that humans simply don't have the 'instincts' that early man had, for survival.

You may even be right. Mostly. I happen to have those instincts, and I did 'need' those instincts a few years ago, and 'survived.' Then I sought as much education as I could to hone those skills.

So I know that at least I have those skills and if and when the time should ever come that I will need them again, I don't want anyone or anything getting in my way of providing for my kids, ever again.

Never again do I want to be completely turned down for the 'state assistance' I "paid into", (GROSSLY OVERPAID WITH NO ROI) AND be unable to hunt for food because I don't have the $100 to get the hunting license.

I will agree with your idea to streamline government bureacracy, however as the 'license' goes, it does not 'stop' overhunting. The only thing it serves as is an 'obstacle'. As it is not necessary, it is the first line of 'bloat.' If you want to reappropriate funds to 'policing,' that's a different conversation, but the license itself does not prevent the overhunting.

That being said, I understand that the licensing fees support the policing... however, I think those who are 'indigent' should be 'exempt' from the 'fee.'

Of course, that means another bloated bureacratice job to staff a department that oversees it...

As for what hunter gatherer can support in terms of population...

First, I will find some links from Survivalist Boards, of real SHTF "Survival Stories" from many people for many reasons, poverty, war, their country's economic collapse...

If and when the United States does, we would revert to survival of the fittest.

There will be no 'government' to adjust regulations. There would be people 'going by what they know.'

Some will not survive. That is way of the world. It is better that the fittest survive than everyone die.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

Again, the licensing is part of an overall system. The system serves a purpose. A steering wheel alone does not get you from point A to point B; it is part of the car that does get you there.

You are still ignoring the fundamental reality that there is a finite amount of elk. Our modern hunting rifles can kill them a hell of a lot faster than they can reproduce.

If you are concerned about our society coming to an end, I recommend you look into Jared Diamond's essential study "Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed." He looks at the factors behind the collapse of civilizations through history. In almost every case, environmental degradation and over-use of natural resources was a primary cause. They killed too many animals, cut down too many trees, over-fished and over-farmed:

http://www.amazon.com/Collapse-Societies-Choose-Su...

This is why a central entity needs to make sure the environment is not overused by short-term human actions.

And, if you are talking about a situation where the US government no longer exists, then hunting licenses won't exist anyway, so the whole discussion becomes a moot point, lol.

I wrote about the transition from hunter-gatherer to agriculture, and then to industry, in this hub:

http://hubpages.com/education/Human-Civilization-P...

Anyway, again, we all have the instinct to survive when in a crisis situation. But we are not born with the knowledge of how to fashion a good spear, or a trap. We have to learn that.


FL2BoysMom profile image

FL2BoysMom 4 years ago

Yes, there is a finite number of elk. And the humans will eventually starve if they hunt them to extinction.

If the government did collapse, you would have self-appointed 'leaders,' who may very well take it upon themselves to decide that that was the law, the law was there for a reason, and they're going to continue to enforce it.

People are pack animals. They follow a leader. Often, blindly, and completely lacking in common sense.

We're not going to agree on this subject, but the fact is, if I have to hunt for food for my children, I expect to be able to do so without 'permission' (given for money I don't have) from a self-important, self-righteous, pompous bureuacrat who thinks that because I am 'poor' I must be too ignorant and uneducated to 'competently kill my food' and to do so without driving the entire ecosystem into extinction.

My husband grew up very, very poor, and neither of us are by any means 'ignorant or uneducated.' His response to your claim that the poor could not 'competently kill for food' was, that you have no idea just how 'competent' the poor can be when it comes to finding food, and they are far more competent than you are.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

Haha, is that right. Well, I'm not sure how "your husband" knows that if he has never met me. Frankly I don't care what he thinks, you're the one talking to me. But rest assured I'm very familiar with "the poor," and as I said, there are many smart people out there. But I'm talking general patterns here. The facts are the facts. Don't assume just because someone is successful and has spent many years in school, that they are an ineffectual dandy. To the contrary, the most successful people are usually the sharpest, quickest and most adaptable.

Anyway, it's unfortunate you have taken an otherwise interesting discussion and made it personal. Not interested in that game.

But I'm glad you agree with the importance of preventing extinction of these creatures. I just don't know what your plan is to prevent that from happening if there isn't some kind of authority equipped to enforce some rules.

It just sounds like you've had bad experiences with the government bureaucracies. Who hasn't? To be sure, a lot of work needs to be done to improve it. If you were in real need of assistance, and couldn't get it from the programs available, then that is wrong. It should change. But that is not an indictment of the very concept of government assistance or government action, just an affirmation that it needs to improve in this country.

In other developed countries like the Netherlands, Germany or Japan, the social safety net is strong, efficient and effective. It works. (And the workers are nicer too, by all accounts.) So it is clearly possible to have a good system that is responsive to people's needs, if we care to improve it.


FL2BoysMom profile image

FL2BoysMom 4 years ago

My problem is that the attitude that the poor are too 'ignorant, uneducated and incompetent' to fend for themselves and need "Big Brother" to do everything for them, which does nothing but put "Big Brother" in the way of them fending for themselves.

It's not bad experiences with government. It's bad experiences with the self-righteous, sanctimonious and condesdending 'majority' that continually refer to the poor as 'ignorant and incompetent.'

They are neither ignorant nor incompetent. Their need to rely on government stems entirely from this 'belief' that they are simply too stupid to be trusted to fend for themselves, so let's put legislation in the way of them doing that, and then whine and complain about our tax dollars... but it gives that 'majority' something to feel superior about.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

My original statement was "Most poor people could not competently kill their own food if their life depended on it anyway."

This was more tongue-in-cheek, but I stand by the main point: most poor people in this country simply do not have the many sophisticated skills needed to trap and hunt effectively, to guarantee them a healthy diet indefinitely. Indeed, most people in general don't have those skills. I don't see what is so controversial about that.

In today's society, the average working poor person is too busy with the practical necessities of life--working two or three jobs, caring for multiple children, paying the rent on time--to worry about constructing a spear. Those kinds of things (the kinds of things they do in the Boy Scouts) are luxuries that people who have extra time and money can afford to dabble in.

Most single moms in the inner city are too busy working their asses off to pay rent and feed three kids to learn how to make fire with two sticks.

Poor people do not need to be patronized, and I don't know any serious leader or thinker who has that attitude. But what we believe is that those in need should be helped, to the degree possible. That's why we support various social programs to assist them. If someone is not in need, then they don't have to apply. It's a very simple belief.


Marquis profile image

Marquis 3 years ago from Ann Arbor, MI

Why conservatism fails? Liberalism is the real fail here. Look at American society now that Liberalism has had a hold.

1.Poor public education.

2.Destruction of urban areas.

3.Weakening of marriage resulting in poor family structure.

4.Scare tactic alarmist ruining the socioeconomic sphere.

5.The Rise of Porn

6.The Rise of the Welfare State.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 3 years ago from New York City Author

To the contrary, since the Reagan Revolution it has been conservative ideas and policies that have been ascendant, particularly in economic policy.

Education--both conservatives and liberals have contributed to the failure on this one.

Destruction of urban areas--Not sure what you're talking about exactly. There are many cities in this country that are more prosperous and safer than ever before, including under left-of-center administration.

Weakening marriage--this is only a problem if you think it's a problem. Marriage is not a social good. Strong and healthy families are. And we have seen you don't need traditional marriage to have strong and healthy families.

#4--I don't even understand that one.

Porn--again, not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself.

Welfare--If you believe that welfare and government provisions for the poor, sick and elderly is a bad thing in and of itself, then history has shown quite clearly that that is wrong. If you are talking about the over-expansion of government programs, then yes, that is a problem. However conservatives, despite all their "small government" talk, have contributed to this as well (just not as much as liberals).

You ignore many of the problems that conservatism has exacerbated: corporate welfare, runaway social inequality, destructive hawkishness on foreign policy, intolerance and ignorance in public schools and the social sphere, economic decline in many cities and states.


Nathan Orf profile image

Nathan Orf 2 years ago from Virginia

This is as clear and concise as any criticism of conservatism as any I have seen, and you presented it without becoming too wordy.

I think, personally, that modern conservatism has suffered from an inability to learn from history, so conservative policy makers and intellectuals make assumptions that lead to bad policy.

A lot of things have changed in three years, and I can see a more reasonable conservative approach on foreign policy, but then, perhaps this is just opposition to President Obama.

Anyway, an interesting read.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 2 years ago from New York City Author

Thanks, I appreciate it. I certainly hope that conservatism can evolve in a new direction. Liberalism has its own issues, and we need a good alternative not clouded by extremism or old-fashioned, outdated ideas.


jackclee lm profile image

jackclee lm 6 months ago from Yorktown NY

I am not sure where you get your ideas on conservatism but they are mis guided and wrong. Perhaps you need to learn more about it before you criticize. Conservatives makes up a good part of the silent majority. They have kept their opinions to themselves mostly because of the political climate brought about by liberal media, liberal academia and liberal hollywood, and the democratic party. Look at where we are as a nation in 2016 and you will find liberal/progressive policies failing at every turn. Economically, geopolitically and socially, we are worse off than 8 years ago. Finally, don't confuse the GOP with conservatism because the GOP leadership is not conservative and never was. If you like to debate any specific issues, I am willing to take on the challenge. I've written extensively on conservatism beliefs. You are welcome to read some and learn.

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