Live Well, Do Good

I am Becoming More Conservative – Part Two

Brandon Sun, October 2, 2017 – David McConkey

We now live in the Trump era in our global village. So, we need all the good ideas we can get! Continuing the discussion from my last column, I look at getting good ideas from a conservative perspective.

Here are five issues where I find conservative insights helpful:

SCIENCE, EXPERTS

Trump channels widespread resentment of reality. Trump dismisses facts and the truth – anyone can make up whatever they want to believe.

The conservative position is to recognize facts. And that means respecting science, learning and experts. This does not mean idolizing members of the elite because they are rich or because they are celebrities. This means respecting members of the elite who are experts – they have earned their status by qualification and experience. Conservatives respect scientists and their methods of skeptical inquiry and evidence-backed conclusions.

So a conservative accepts the science and the experts on contentious matters: like evolution, climate change or vaccinations.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Both the left and right have dropped the ball here. Instead, there is a conservative position – one that humanity will regret not embracing a generation ago.

What would be a conservative position? First, accept the science. Second, develop a prudent assessment of the possible risks and preventative actions. Third, approach spending on climate change like we would with insurance or the military – to guard against uncertain future threats. Fourth, look more to the market and less to government subsidies and regulations.

Especially vital here are two proposals from a conservative, market orientation: cap and trade systems and carbon taxes.

The best time to start, as the saying goes, would have been years ago. The second best time? Today.

FREE TRADE

Now is the time to reaffirm the conservative argument that free trade is a good thing. One of the benefits: global trade has lifted millions in developing countries out of poverty. 

The advantages are seen in contrast to Trump’s campaign against free trade. First, most of the job losses in the American “rust belt” are not because of trade, but because of automation. Second, Trump’s “America First” program would be more “crony capitalism,” which benefits the wealthy. Government subsidies and tax breaks would go to supposedly “job-creating” companies associated with Trump. 

We do need to address the problem of income inequality and the issue of jobs vanishing to robots and artificial intelligence. This won’t be easy but we can start by exploring a proposal that has diverse – including conservative – origins: the guaranteed annual income.

DRUG WAR

Time to call a truce in this war that we cannot win. The war on drugs has been a disaster caused by massive government overreach. Time now for a conservative correction.

Here is a conservative proposal: admit the complexity of the issue, reduce the size of government, and leave more decisions to the people. Take the distribution of dangerous drugs out of the hands of criminals: legalize and regulate all drugs. Emphasize harm reduction: treat drug addiction as a medical issue rather than a legal one.

CULTURE CRITIQUE

A conservative critique of our current culture notes the benefit of old-fashioned reading. There is a big difference between, for example, watching TV or reading a book. Remember Marshall McLuhan’s famous aphorism “the medium is the message”? (McLuhan, by the way, was much more conservative than often recognized.)

“The media is the villain – for creating a world dumb enough for Trump,” Matt Taibbi writes in Rolling Stone magazine. Journalist Taibbi blames the media – especially TV – for spawning a generation of people “who can't read past the first page of a book.” 
 
Yes, corporations entice us to absorb more of their programming by spending more time in front of our screens. But remember the conservative perspective here: individual responsibility plays a role, too.

Attention, citizens: turn off the TV, look away from the internet, put down the phone. Instead: pick up a newspaper, a magazine, or a book. Visit a library – perfect timing now as October is Canadian Library Month.

Regardless of program or content, the medium is the message. So, I will end with a conservative, McLuhan-like assertion. I maintain that Trump would not have been elected president if the populace had spent less time watching TV and surfing the internet – and more time reading newspapers and books.

* * * 

See also:

I am Becoming More Conservative - Part One

Deepening Our Thinking in the Internet Age: Ten Tips

A History of Struggling to Grasp Climate Change Reality

The Medium is the Message

The War on Drugs

Canadian Leaders in Resistance to Trump



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