April 29, 2004

True Conservatism

The Confidence Man has been going through his extensive backlog of communiques with Jibbenainosay.

We ran across a dialogue on the very strange linguistic relation of "progress" and "conservatism," in which Jibbenainosay expressed the following:

All that conservatism gets us is monarchy, guillotines, rust, and mold. Without change, there is no profit.

["Monarchy, guillotines, rust, and mold" -- that should really be the title of yet another Shriekback retrospective collection.]

Leaving aside the question-begging of "guillotines" (as the Confidence Man pointed out, the Guillotine was, at the time of its adoption, a progressive innovation; "crucifixion" might be a better term as part of that little quadrivium), Jibbenainosay's central thesis is extremely sound: that "conservatism" per se is a morass of logical impossibilities. That is, conservatism truly is founded on the bedrock of the profit motive; and profit being, essentially, Modernism in action, and Modernism being a viral agent, it is hard to see how broad-based social retrogressivism is in any wise compatible with profit-seeking.

In any event, these are thoughts for expansion at a later date.

This recent news is what brought the exchange back to the Confidence Man's attention.

Zell Miller's double-dealing and lunatic aberrations aside, this is a curious gesture indeed.

As some associates have pointed out to the Confidence Man, why stop with the 17th Amendment? Why not retract the Emancipation Proclamation, women's suffrage, etc. etc.?

Well, the Confidence Man has Confidence that, to be sure, Miller and many of his cohort may have inclinations in that direction; yet this particular matter seems to hang more on the question of progress than retrogress. That is, Miller wants to move forward via this tactic -- and the key is to grasp what strategic end he is seeking.

Now, obviously, Miller's rhetorical feint is toward retrogressive populism. Methinks this may be a gesture from the arsenal of the Rove-Norquist brand of political jiu-jitsu, in calling something by the name that would most accurately describe its complete opposite phenomenon.

As in, when Miller advocates for this change on the basis of reducing the influence of Washington special interests, he means precisely to increase the influence of same -- and to reduce the costs associated with exerting that influence. Think about it: it would be much easier and cheaper to graft a subset of a state legislature than to underwrite a statewide Senate election campaign.

The other rhetorically counterfactual argument regards the relative power of states -- as in rural vs urban and small vs large population. This repeal movement is not about strengthening state powers, but about holding on to power in states that are trending larger, more urban, more diverse, and more Democrat.

So, all told, yes, a regular MooLatte of retrogress and progress. A sophisticated brew. As we say, a subject to be expanded upon later.

Jibbenainosay, what sayeth you?

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