Reason Vs. Ideology
by Wayne Lutz
June 12, 3003
I happen to be a fan of the Don Imus radio show (a fact which
leaves many of my friends and family members bemused). I see
it as a painless way of getting my morning news and keeping
up with what the politicos and the chattering class are doing.
The show is, pardon the expression, liberally dotted with
telephone interviews with liberals who have a book or an agenda
to push, and while Imus tends to bend over for most of them,
he does have his moments. Such as the time he told Sen. Joe
Lieberman, "You're going to hell, Senator!" in response
to an embarrassingly obvious game of fast-and-loose from that
swinging Presidential candidate.
But I digress, already, which is a bad sign.
Recently Paul Begala made a fascinating appearance on the
Imus show. Begala is, of course, a partisan liberal democrat's
partisan liberal democrat. So far from a pillar of objective
reason, Begala is a man who sees all conservatives as the
"kook right" and "judgmental blowhards of the
right" and regularly refers to the current Commander-in-Chief
as "Junior." He remains a die-hard defender of all
things Clintonesque, incapable of discussing any conservative
or conservative cause without adding a cute insult, like "spokesmouse
for George W. Bush," "Bush's faith-based missile-defense
system," "gasbag," "Lardbutt," -
and all of that in only a
single op-ed in which, amazingly, he bemoaned the partisanship
Begala is, then, not a man to be taken seriously, to put
Even with that, however, Begala plunged completely out of
bounds during this appearance on Imus. Railing against the
failure (to date) of the United States to find large quantities
of WMD in Iraq, Begala sank so low as to assert that the American
soldiers who died in Iraq died for the sake of a Bush Administration
lie - that they died in vain, that George W. Bush knowingly
sacrificed American lives for political gain. A more egregious
insult to the honor of our armed forces and to the families
and memory of our war dead would be hard to imagine.
Imus let the bottom-feeder get away with it, but fortunately
Mrs. Imus, who had been listening, wasn't quite so mellow.
While I didn't hear this exchange myself, I learned later
that she called in to the show and rightly tore Begala a new
In discussing the Begala appearance later, Imus himself mused
on the question of how an educated and seemingly intelligent
person could see the world through such a distorted lens.
An interesting question; and one to which I, of course, have
To understand the ability of liberals to say and do things
that cause the jaws of reasonable people to drop, it will
be helpful to understand the fundamental difference between
conservatism and liberalism as it exists in America today.
Conservatism is not an ideology, but merely a natural way
of viewing the world through the clear lens of fixed principles,
learned and passed down through the accumulated wisdom of
countless generations. Russell Kirk, in his seminal work The
Conservative Mind, writes;
"Any informed conservative is reluctant to condense
profound and intricate intellectual systems to a few pretentious
phrases; he prefers to leave that technique to the enthusiasm
of radicals. Conservatism is not a fixed and immutable body
of dogmata; conservatives inherit from Burke a talent for
re-expressing their convictions to fit the time."
Liberalism, in contrast, is an ideology, and one that has
already been repeatedly proven a failure at that. Because
liberal ideology (which is nothing less than a degree of Marxism)
consists of a fixed set of dogmata, any bit of reality observed
through liberal eyes must be made to fit that ideology. If
it doesn't, rather than reason that the ideology might be
flawed, the square peg of reality will be pounded into the
round hole of ideology with whatever force is required to
make it fit. Sometimes that force consists of relatively harmless
verbal contortions like the outrageous lies spewed by Begala
above. Unfortunately for the rest of us, however, it more
often consists of force or threat of force. The realization
of the liberal dream of utopia <i>requires</i>
strong central government - government big and powerful enough
to apply the necessary force to the square peg of human nature.
For that reason alone, liberalism is antithetical to the
principles upon which the United States was founded and through
which it became the greatest nation the world has ever seen.
The liberal ideal of "equal rights" and confusion
of "rights" with "desires" cannot withstand
the scrutiny of reason, which, when applied by a mind free
of steel-trap ideology, leads to the understanding of an essential
condition attached to every true right; that each one
is married to a correspondent duty. Thus, as Kirk pointed
out, if one man has the "right" to rest (weekends
off, three weeks vacation, parental leave, etc.), then another
man must have the "duty" to support him.
"If rights are confused thus with desires, the mass
of men must feel always that some vast, intangible conspiracy
thwarts their attainment of what they are told is their inalienable
birthright," writes Kirk, which explains nicely the
Democrat voter base.
Paul Begala got one thing right in the screed referenced
above. He wrote, "Democrats are children of the Enlightenment.
They believe in the perfectibility of humanity."
Indeed, in attempting to catalog some of the common principles
of liberalism (which he called radicalism, it its various
forms), Kirk noted that liberals believe in "The perfectibility
of man and the illimitable progress of society: meliorism."
Given some of history's more notable believers in those same
principles - Marx and Stalin leap to mind - I'm almost surprised
by Begala's candor. Almost.
But liberals never learn; they can't, because their minds
are shackled by ideology, unable to reason. Stalin had
the right idea, he just didn't do it right. We'll get it right
this time around is a common delusion among liberals.
The next time someone tells you that conservatism and liberalism
are merely two opposing ideologies, set them straight. The
conservative belief in, and, as Kirk wrote, "affection
for the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence,
as opposed to the narrowing uniformity, egalitarianism, and
utilitarian aims of most radical systems," is arrived
at through the application of human reason, unfettered by
Burke to Eliot
by Russell Kirk
2003 Tocqevillian Magazine