I went outside to get the mail earlier and I looked at the house across the way. They recently painted it and it is now a beautiful shade of green. I think it is the prettiest house in the neighborhood. But I remember talking to Bob, the husband of the house, a couple of months ago. He said they needed to paint it. He said his wife wanted to paint it green. We agreed that this was nonsense. Why not just paint it the same color? It looked fine. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Blah, blah, blah. But Bob’s wife got her way as she usually does. And not surprisingly, she was totally right. The house looks great.
It doesn’t bother me that I am this way. When it comes to stuff that matters, I am very conservative. Why risk painting your house a new color when you know the current color works just fine? Sure, in this particular case, it worked out great. But why risk it? There were far more ways for it to go wrong than for it to go right. I feel like Jean-René in Romantics Anonymous, “Let’s hope nothing happens to us.” Because change is hard and almost always for the worse.
The question is, why is it that such a conservative person such as myself believes in liberal and even radical politics. Over the years, I’ve come to see that the problem is not with me. My politics are very much conservative. The “conservatives” are the radicals. They are the ones who believe in gambling. Look at one of the great Republican canards, that people must be rewarded for “taking risks.” Of course, they don’t mean actual risks. Look at the obsession of our society about repaying debts. When people couldn’t afford their mortgages after the 2008 financial crisis, the government stepped in to save the banks. What did the banks risk in loaning out money to people they knew couldn’t pay it back? Nothing. But still, “conservatives” fetishize the idea of gambling. As I’ve written before, I’m a Five Dollar Man — I’m not a gambler at all.
To the true conservative, life is not a game. There are resources. We need to use them to feed and clothe and house ourselves. Beyond that, everything else should be used to live as pleasantly and meaningfully as possible. But instead, we are stuck in a system that is dominated by radicals — gamblers — people who see the world as nothing but a game. And that game is all about how much power you can gain. They are the ones who came up with the idea that you could own land. And this is not owning land because you are making use of it. It is ultimately — and millions of native peoples can attest to this — “might makes right.” One man owns a piece of property because he has the ability to kill (or simply imprison) anyone who doesn’t agree with his contention. This is, interestingly, a form of theft that one never hears modern libertarians complain about.
The fallback position for these radicals is that we have all these great innovations because of inequality. The logic is something like this: Koch brothers have gobs of money; magic of the marketplace; Einstein discovers relativity while working in a patent office. Or we get to the moon. Or something. But that logic doesn’t make any sense. And as David Graeber discussed in, Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit, it is probably the case that all this inequality is what is holding us back technologically. Why invent an intelligent robot that can clean your whole house when the people with all the money can hire some recent immigrant for peanuts?
I am the conservative. I am the one who cares about the greater good. The so called conservatives of this country are the ones who want to treat the very serious topics of living and dying as games. They are the ones who think that the quality of a person’s life should depend upon who their parents happen to be. Calling these people conservatives just plays along with their game. All they conserve is their own stolen wealth and power.
As for the pretty green house, there will be plenty of those. If it weren’t for the wealth game that we are all forced to play, there would be more time to experiment with different colors and different houses. Clearly, I wouldn’t be one of those experimenters. But there are perhaps more important things that I could be doing to subvert the status quo within the framework of my general, vanilla ice cream loving, conservatism.