What motivates the typical conservative?

My normal RTG trolling has become a bit tedious lately. We've gotten all bogged down in whether or not I am an egotistical maniac. That's a shame, because obviously I am and it's a bunch of wasted rhetoric to try and cram it down my throat. I try to tackle anything conservatives assert that is out of line with their professed and supposed love of small gov't, free markets, and personal responsibility. But here's the bottom line: they mean something very specific when they endorse these causes. In other words, small gov't doesn't mean minimal gov't, it means that the intrusions of the state should be as efficient and cost effective as possible. Free markets end up meaning a corporate / state partnership to fix energy, agricultural, and labor prices by fiat, and allow people the freedom to somehow deal with it. Personal responsibility basically means bearing the legal consequences for any actions that the Pat Robertsons of the world deem immoral.

In this light, I can finally say that conservatives tend not to be hypocritical per se, but rather that they are simply imprecise. They speak in broad, inspiring, and harsh terms, but in reality their agenda comes down to a few basic points: defending artificially hierarchical society in all its manifestations. It is a backlash against humanism that, while often asserted by the far left, I never really got until now.

And so it makes me wonder: what makes the conservative tick? Why do they choose this particular set of values that inform their politics? Why do they seek to impose this particular order, and why is hierarchy so important to them? I realize I'm speaking in generalities, but I'm not interested in the specific people - I'm interested in what you could call the conservative "social memory complex" - that body of concepts that govern their value judgments.

While I admit to some tantrums and mudslinging on RTG, I really was motivated not only by a sense of demonstrating the hypocrisy but also a desire to figure out what these people were after. One of the key convincing arguments of libertarianism for me was the idea that by limiting state power, people with different values are given the freedom to realize them by building like minded communities according to their values. We don't need to fight over control the whole pie if our own piece is really our own.

So, what are your thoughts? What motivates conservatives? What core personality traits and values guide them to their conclusions? And, yes, there will be an analysis of liberals to follow...

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Written on Thursday, August 25, 2005