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Why Conservatives Lose

Reader comment on item: Why Do You American Conservatives Keep Losing?
in response to reader comment: The real fruit of the "Age of Enlightenment"

Submitted by Jim Austin (United States), Dec 1, 2018 at 00:18

Conservatives have always had problems with the values stemming from the Western Age of Enlightenment. The core value of Enlightenment is reason. When applied to the material world, it results in science and technology. When applied to human world, it results in more or less benign governments that uphold freedom and rights. Together, it results in capitalism and abundance.

The rub comes when reason is applied to religion, it ultimately leads to rejection of religion, or at least, greater attention to this secular world and considerably less to the next world. In their yearning for their old-time religion, conservatives have always been uncomfortable with the Enlightenment.

Conservatives are, however, loath to relinquish the benefits of the Enlightenment, the benefits of science, technology, capitalism, prosperity. Few, if any, express any longing to return to the Medieval period, that period characterized by rather short and miserable life spans under repressive and tyrannical regimes.

Thus conservatives try to tell us that all that freedom, rights and abundance we enjoy are products of the Christian religion while the consistent application of Enlightenment values lead to communism.

The entire left was not, of course, any sort of natural consequence of any hyper-rational science. Rather, the left resulted from a reaction to the Enlightenment with the likes of Jean Jacques Rousseau declaring that science is bad, that civilization is corrupt and that innocence is to be found among primitives.

Not being able to tap into any popular yearning to go back to the dark ages, leftists like Karl Marx declared that their ideology was in fact the very embodiment of science itself. Unfortunately, conservatives were only too happy to ratify that claim to demonstrate that a purely scientific approach inherently leads to totalitarianism, and that freedom requires some sort of irrationality. The late William F. Buckley said as much during his 1970 Playboy interview.

Enlightenment itself is under attack with postmodernism linking culture to class, race and gender, and further linking Western Enlightenment values to class exploitation, racism and misogyny. With conservatives joining in to belittle the Enlightenment, the entire Enlightenment is going down without much of a fight, and along with it all the results of science, technology, freedom, capitalism.

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