If both Marxism and Nazism are leftist ideologies, and libertarianism is neither left- nor right-wing, then what is conservatism?
Presumably, it might have something to do with respect for “permanent things.” If, for example, laissez-faire capitalism is the best and most stable economic system, then despite the fact that it generates continuous and fast progress, so that old goods and technologies are anything but permanent, then it is to be conserved.
“Natural law” or genuine virtues and vices or highly successful practices that have proven enduring might qualify for permanence.
But in actual practice, conservatism makes no fine distinctions. It aims to conserve the status quo in everything. In our present society, laissez-faire capitalism is an unknown ideal. It is certainly unknown to the American conservatives. As a result, conservatives do not want to conserve capitalism as a system; they want to conserve the current profits of specific corporations via taxes and regulations that hamper their competitors. But as Douglas Wilson points out correctly, “pro-markets and pro-business are not synonymous in meaning. The survival of free markets requires the non-survival of numerous businesses, regardless of how many times their executive team golfed with congressmen.”
If in the US, the federal government is an evil empire, then conservatives will happily conserve that. If regulations of truckers make no sense, then conservatives will go to any lengths to resist any attempt to end the bureaucratic nightmare. Private property seems like the quintessence of a “permanent institution,” and the monstrous “civil rights” in America have infringed upon it brutally, but conservatives can be fully relied upon to be the first to defend the civil rights legislation or at best never dare to object to it.
Unlike most other countries, America made conservatism uniquely justifiable, because of its enduring tradition of liberty. Today, however, conservatives are our (libertarians’) deadly enemies, because they aim to conserve only evil and perversion. It is true that left-liberals try to increase the evil, but conservatives have definitively shown themselves ineffective at resisting the growing corruption. Moreover, an soon as a new evil has come to pass, conservatives immediately begin to consider it status quo and a fitting thing to be conserved.
Thus, the left in this country is defined by its opposition to the free market, private property, and so on and by its celebration of interventionism. The right, on the other hand, is not defined by any positive support for free markets or private property, but merely by negative opposition to the left; more specifically at any given time by opposition to whatever the left happens to be attacking.
Mises complained, for example, that “very little is done to preserve the system of private enterprise. There are only middle-of-the-roaders who think they have been successful when they have delayed for some time an especially ruinous measure. They are always in retreat. They put up today with measures which only ten or twenty years ago they would have considered as undiscussable. They will in a few years acquiesce in other measures which they today consider as simply out of the question. What can prevent the coming of totalitarian socialism is only a thorough change in ideologies.”
Unfortunately, the conservatives do not have an ideology which is the crux of the problem.