Conservative Rhetoric: Caught between Scylla and Charibdes

Language, Politics

With regard to the economy, conservatives always preach restraint in the face of forces beyond our control, warning of unintended consequences if we overreach.

E.g. David Brooks:

But you don’t have the power to transform the whole situation. Your discrete goods might contribute to an overall turnaround, but that turnaround will be beyond your comprehension and control.

With regard to war, however, conservatives always insist on the need to act, no matter what. If you don’t support their morally, legally, politically, and strategically questionable course of action they insist that inaction is not a possibility—daring you to offer up a slightly-less-horrible course of action instead.

E.g. Christopher Hitchens:

As we engage with the horrible idea that our government claims the right to add its own citizens to a death list that is compiled by methods and standards unknown, we must concede that no government on earth faces such a temptation to invoke what I suppose we could call a doctrine of pre-emptive self-defense. Those who share my alarm at the prospect of this, and of the ways in which it could be abused, are under a heavy obligation to say what they would do instead.