Conservatives are put into awkward positions of critiquing liberal ideas on grounds that they are impractical, unworkable, or counterproductive. Yet rarely, at least outside the religious sphere, do they identify the progressive as often immoral. And the unfortunate result is that they have often ceded moral claims to supposedly dreamy, utopian, and well-meaning progressives, when in fact the latter increasingly have little moral ground to stand upon.
Take a few contemporary controversies.
Radical environmentalism. When “conservation” sometime in the 1970s was redefined as “environmentalism,” the morality of the entire issue likewise changed. Most Americans had wanted clean air and water; and they were willing to pay to curb pollutants and drive more expensive, but cleaner, cars. They had no desire to see condors die off or kit foxes disappear.
But at some point, the green creed began to dictate that all species were equal to humans. Soon concern for a tiny frog or worm trumped a needed project — a dam, an irrigation canal, an oil well, or a mine — designed to alleviate human suffering. Here I am not talking about large-scale species annihilation, but rather taking a truth about wishing to protect a natural habitat and perverting it into elevating concerns for insects, amphibians, and small fish over people’s elemental struggles to exist and prosper.
When California elites shut down 250,000 acres of irrigated agriculture to divert water into the San Francisco regional delta and bay, purportedly as a remedy to help the three-inch delta smelt, they were making a loud moral statement that those who mostly had secure jobs, mostly nice homes, and well-off environments were going to destroy the jobs of those in agriculture — not just the land owner and foreman, but the agricultural workers themselves — without much worry over the consequences.
In crude terms, the ideology might be paraphrased as something like the following, “I got mine, Jack, and can’t worry about you.”