The Post-Neo-Conservatives?

I’m an old lefty from way back, as anyone who reads this site would know, so it is with a mixture of horror and shaudenfraude that I witness the current financial woes of the United States, wrecked by the excesses of the neo-con libertarians of the Bush administration. Hoist by their own petard, the Republican Party faces decades in the wilderness, their economic, foreign and every other policy credentials shredded along with any moral integrity they may have once been perceived to have had.

Fortunately Australia, in the midst of a series of reforms that would eventually have seen our society resembling the US in every detail, was smart enough to change horses before too much damage was done. Unfortunately the enormous lost potential of the boom, in terms of re-investment in the country, has already come back to bite us, as will the unfolding ramifications of the disappearing trillions.

There is much to fear. The financial crisis, as attention-worthy as it is, has momentarily taken the spotlight off a greater peril, climate change, with the usual chorus calling for delays in emissions caps until it’s over. This ignores that climate change will have effects on the economy an order of magnitude greater than the financial crisis, threatening not just our jobs but our civilisation. On the bright side, one hardly ever hears of the war on terror these days.

It is time ‘The Right’ in America and Australia dropped the ‘conservative’ tag. Conservatism implies caution, an eye to the future and respect for history’s lessons. It implies moderation in good times to shore up resources for the bad times that are inevitably ahead. Conservatism abhors radical change based on the ideology de rigeur.

The Republicans and Australia’s Liberals, slaves to a radical ideology, are not conservative, except when they fool extreme social conservatives into voting for them. A plan to dismantle the apparatus of government isn’t cautious. Pre-emptively invading sovereign countries based on phony evidence with no plan for the aftermath is plain reckless and frankly criminal. Nature revealed the flaws in removing funding for flood mitigation and disaster response. And human nature has now shown us why regulating banks, and business in general, is a good idea.

Climate change trumps all, however, and a decade of inaction on that front is the final bitter pill we have yet to swallow after having seen the back of the neo-cons. We await incontrovertible evidence, beyond the denial of the even the lamest flat-earthers, but it will come and it weill ring the final death knell of an ideology that has run it’s course, bringing us to the eve of destruction, from which fate even the best laid plans may not be sufficient to save us.

So who are the conservatives? Who has argued that there must be a balance between economic interests and the environment? That the health of the ecosystem in which we live is essential for our long term survival? Who questioned the Iraq War? Who has defended government against the charge that it was the problem? Who has resisted the charge to lower taxes/turn welfare over to charities/deregulate industrial relations and the finance sector?

If we now turn to these people as our saviours, we must ask them to please avoid hubris, to retain some of the bathwater if it means retaining the baby also, to not now lead our society on another mad lurch into an uncertain future that may well include the breakdown of civil order. Absent effective government and we know how brutal mankind can be. Steady hands are required on the tiller, the fate of our civilisation may depend on it.

Can the Left claim the mantle of the small ‘c’ conservatives? It couldn’t be any stranger than watching the Bush administration nationalise the banking industry. Are we in the era of the Post-Neo-Conservatives?

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