I am trying to suggest how to talk (or write) like a conservative without being either a half-wit or a self-serving demagogue.
The basic argument for liberty that John Stuart Mill put forth 150 years ago still stands.
One of the ways to best fulfill desires is to put decision-making in the hands of the person who has the most information the least possibility of corruption when it comes to fulfilling those desires. In my case, the most knowledgeable and least corruptible agent for making decisions as to what direction my life should go is me.
Every person acts so as to fulfill the most and strongest of their desires, given their beliefs.
If my life is given over to somebody else to make decisions for me, I can be assured that the agent is somebody who will act to fulfill the most and strongest of his desires, given his beliefs. It may be the case that he desires that which also tends to fulfill my desires. He may actually desire that which tends to fulfill my desires. However, that is not likely.
This agent – be he a government regulator or a politician, he is going to act so as to fulfill the most and strongest of his desires, given his beliefs. He is going to have his own desires – for sex, for particular past times, for foods, for social status. And he is going to act so as to fulfill the most and strongest of his desires given his beliefs. This means that he is going to direct my money and direct my living efforts to doing that which fulfills his desires, not my own – at least where his desires are the most and strongest.
Even if he were ideally concerned about my own welfare, he is not nearly as well informed about what those desires are as I am. He is going to make mistakes that I am far less likely to make. When it comes to deciding which movie to go to, I am willing to bet that nobody can do a better job than I at picking movies that I would like and avoiding movies that I would not like. When it comes to deciding what to eat, what to watch on television, and what to do in my spare time generally, I am the expert, and I am the one who should have the authority to make those decisions.
This does not mean that I do not need protection from those who would fulfill their own desires by doing me harm. However, it is perfectly consistent with a conservative ideology to be quite harsh on those who obtain benefits for themselves by doing harm to others. And I should be prohibited in my attempts to fulfill my own desires from doing so in ways that bring harm to others.
One of the ironies of the current political system is that the Republican Party, which ideologically has been thought of as part devoted to strict preservation of rights and stern responses to those who violate the rights of others, In reality, it has become the political front for those who are eager to gain power and wealth precisely by doing harm to others.
It should be the case that putting poison into the food and water of others is viewed as a crime in all conservative circles. Republicans seeking to avoid the charge of hypocrisy should be taking an extremely stern stand against those who use poison for economic or political gain.
Yet, the fact of the matter is that they have used their political power to remove barriers to using poison for personal or economic gain. They have fought against, rather than for, those laws that have said that poisoning others through air and water pollution is a crime. It has, in effect, fought to make poisoning others a legitimate business practice.
Philosophically, Republicans should be at the forefront of attacking companies that seek profits from poisoning others. It should have the same, harsh, ‘throw the book at them’ attitude towards those who poison for profit as it has towards murderers in general.
The fact that Republicans are not taking a stand against those who poison for profit shows the effects of the Republicans becoming the party of half-wits and self-serving demagogues. The principles that the Republican Party are supposed to stand for have become merely a smoke screen – the smoke and mirrors behind which people do the opposite of what they say should be done and hides their hypocrisy in pure rhetoric
The two major arguments on liberty are still valid 150 years after JS Mill proposed them. Each of us is the most knowledgable person to ask regarding what serves our interests. Each of us is the least corruptible agent when it comes to actually doing what fulfills the most and strongest of our own desires.
There is still good reason to argue for governments that are structured in such a way that its primary function is to allow individuals to apply their superior knowledge and superior incorruptibility to living their own lives.
When governments run lives, there are definite problems to consider.