Houjun Liu

Origins of American Conservatism

Reading notes

conservatives in America make less sense because America is supposed to be liberal/new

For most Europeans who came to America, the whole purpose of their difficult and dis- ruptive journey to the New World was not to conserve European institutions but to leave them behind and to create something new, often an entirely new life

Three splits of conservatism in America

  1. those who are most concerned about economic or fiscal issues, that is, pro-business or “free-enterprise” conservatives
  2. those most concerned with religious or social issues, that is, pro-church or “traditional-values” conservatives
  3. those most concerned with national-security or defense issues, that is, pro-military or “patriotic” conservatives

Ronald Reagan unified the three conservatism

It was the achievement of Ronald Reagan that he was able in the late 1970s to unite these three different kinds of conservatism into one grand coalition.

Three-in-one conservatism is a part of American “fusionist strategy”

This was the culmination of a “fusionist strategy” that had been developing amongst American conservatives since the early 1960s.

Business and social conservatism should contradict each other, though

However, as we shall see, pro-business conservatism has always included a tendency toward the disruption and even dissolution of religious ideals and social practices.

Extreme pro-business should also include globalization and erasure of national identities

And in recent decades, pro-business conservatism has also included a tendency toward the dismantling of national boundaries and even dissolution of national identities

“conservatism” actually conserved American revolutionary force economically

this means that the conservative party in America has always sought to conserve a revolutionary force.

Extreme economic “conservatism” should destry social and moral arrangements

It destroys religious, social, and ultimately moral arrangements as well.

Religions conservatism founds on the “open-market” of protestanism

This open market in religious matters, so nicely isomorphic with the open market in economic matters, was a powerful factor gen- erating both a reality and an ideology of free choice in the United States.

Because the “new” became new protestanism, religious conservatism is the re-take over of traditional religions

Since these churches were continually being left behind, religious conservatism was associated with once-dominant churches that were now dwindling into a minority, and would later dwindle into marginality

Because of mass economic benifit, religous conservatism became subordinated to economic conservatism

Even ordinary middle-class Protestants benefited from cheaper labor, in the form of domestic servants. And of course it was the businessmen and middle-class Protestants who controlled the political parties, particularly that party which was supposed to be the more conservative one

Because there is nothing to conserve about current system, the thing that’s conserved is free choice

If something were going to be conserved, it would normally be the no-conscription and low-taxation (and free-choice) system.

Economic systems propergated the source of American patriotism

This meant that people who thought of themselves as American patriots or nationalists, and who sought to conserve the American nation and to promote American national interests

American conservatism is actually a form of European liberalism

we have seen that, from a European perspective, American conservatism was not conservative at all, but actually was a kind of classical lib- eralism.

wartime strengthened American values and liberalism

Moreover, the wartime experience seemed decisively to vindicate and even enhance the strengths of both the traditional American economic system and traditional American moral principles.