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The Conservative Worldview

In the final part of a three-part series, we examine the structure of the conservative worldview, and show how this structure leads to the conservative positions on a variety of issues.

The Strict Father Family

In the conservative worldview, it is assumed that the world is, and always will be, a dangerous and difficult place. It is a competitive world and there will always be winners and losers. Children are naturally bad since they want to do what feels good, not what is moral, so they have to be made good by being taught discipline. There is tangible evil in the world and to stand up to evil, one must be morally strong, or "disciplined."

The father's job is to protect and support the family. Children are to respect and obey him. The father's moral duty is to teach his children right from wrong, with punishment that is typically physical and can be painful when they do wrong. It is assumed that parental discipline in childhood is required to develop the internal discipline that adults will need in order to be moral and to succeed. Morality and success are linked through discipline. This focus on discipline is seen as a form of love— "tough love."

The mother is in the background, not strong enough to protect and support the family or fully discipline the children on her own. Her job is to uphold the authority of the father and to care for and comfort the children. As a "mommy," she tends to be overly soft-hearted and might well coddle or spoil the child. The father must make sure this does not happen, lest the children become weak and dependent.

Competition is necessary for discipline. Children are to become self-reliant through discipline and the pursuit of self-interest. Those who succeed as adults are the good (moral) people and parents are not to "meddle" in their lives. Those children who remain dependent—who were spoiled, overly willful, or recalcitrant—undergo further discipline or are turned out to face the discipline of the outside world.

When everyone is acting morally and responsibly, seeking their own self-interest in a self-disciplined fashion, everyone benefits. Thus, instilling morality and discipline in your children is also acting for the good of society as a whole.

Strict Morality

In Strict Morality, the Strict Father is the Moral Authority, determining right from wrong, and protecting the family from a world that is chaotic and threatening. Evil is a major force in the world that must be fought using Moral Strength, which has the highest moral priority. Evil is both external and internal. Internal evil is fought with self-discipline and self-denial to achieve "self-control." "Weakness," and the tolerance of it, is immoral since it implies being unable to stand up to evil. Punishment is required to balance the moral books: If you do wrong, you must suffer a negative consequence.

Competition is necessary for a moral world; without it, people would not have to develop discipline and so would not become moral beings. Worldly success is an indicator of sufficient moral strength; lack of success suggests lack of sufficient discipline. Dependency is immoral. The undisciplined will be weak and poor, and deservedly so.

Strict Father Morality demonstrates a natural Moral Order: Those who are moral should be in power. The Moral Order legitimizes traditional power relations as being natural, determining a hierarchy of Moral Authority: God above Man; Man above Nature; Adults above Children; Western Culture above Non-western Culture; America above other nations. (There are other traditional aspects of the Moral Order that are less accepted than they used to be: Straights above Gays; Christians above non-Christians; Men above Women; White above Non-whites.)

Since to participate in the promotion or preservation of immorality is itself immoral, it is a moral requirement to eradicate immorality—through "tough love" if possible but through punishment if necessary—in every aspect of life, both public and private, domestic and foreign.

Conservative Politics

The Role of Government: When translated into politics, the government metaphorically becomes the Strict Father. The citizens are children of two kinds: the mature, successfully disciplined, and self-reliant ones (read: wealthy businesses and individuals), whom the government should not meddle with; and the whining, undisciplined, dependent ones who must never be coddled. Just as in the family, the government must be an instrument of Moral Authority, upholding and extending policies that express Moral Strength.

The role of government is to:

  • Protect the country and its interests in a dangerous world by maximizing military and political strength;
  • Promote unimpeded competitive economic activity so that both the disciplined moral people and the undisciplined immoral ones are able to receive what they each deserve, based on their own choices;
  • Maintain order and discipline, through severe enforcement of the rules if necessary.

Foreign Policy: America is seen as more moral than other nations, and hence more deserving of power. As the ultimate Moral Authority, the U.S. does not need advice and should not yield to other nations who are less wise and less moral. The government should maintain its sovereignty and impose its moral authority everywhere it can while seeking its self-interest, defined as its economic self-interest and its military strength (i.e., to provide one's "family"—nation—with the means for existence, fulfillment, and protection).

The Economy and Business: Promoting unimpeded economic activity means favoring those who control wealth and power, who are seen as the "best people," over those who are unsuccessful, who are seen as morally weak. Corporations are more heavily favored than non-corporate businesses, because big businesses (like wealthy people) have gotten big precisely through working hard and being disciplined. The Strict Father worldview also favors removing government regulations, because they get in the way of those who are disciplined and seeking their self-interest so as to become self-reliant. "The market" is the mechanism by which the disciplined people become self-reliant, and wealth is a measure of discipline. Competitive markets separate winners and losers, rewarding those who are successful, and punishing those who are not. Furthermore, when everyone maximizes his or her own self-interest, the self-interest of all is collectively maximized; therefore, working toward one's own self-interest is both moral and beneficial to others.

Taxes: The best citizens are those who are successful and moral, and should be rewarded with lower taxes. Taxes beyond the minimum needed for government take away from the good, disciplined people the rewards they have earned and spend it on those who have not earned it and so do not deserve it. Progressive taxation is seen as a punishment for being a good person, and so is immoral.

Social programs: Since discipline is paramount, social programs "spoil" people by giving them things they haven't earned and keeping them dependent. Social programs are immoral and are to be eliminated in favor of forcing people to be disciplined and self-reliant. It is immoral to coddle immoral people.

Women's Role: The Strict Father, as the Moral Authority, is responsible for controlling the women in the family. He has this role because of the Moral Order: men, being higher in the Moral Order than women, are responsible for protecting women (and others weaker than themselves). The Moral Order ranking also places men in a higher moral position, which means that they are responsible for instilling and monitoring discipline in those lower in the Moral Order. Banning abortion, getting rid of sex education, and restricting access to women's reproductive health facilities thus assert the strict father's proper control over women's lives.

Nature: Since the Moral Order stipulates that human beings are superior to animals and plants and have dominion over the natural world, the natural environment is seen as a resource to be exploited for people's self-interest and business profit. Environmentalism gets in the way of this and is actively fought. This why conservatives called their anti-environmentalist movement the "Wise Use" movement—and meant it, from their point of view.

Part One: The Nation as a Family

Part Two: The Progressive Worldview