Everyone in Britain is agreed that their MPs are outrageous, claiming for expenses on all kinds of questionable things, like moats and duck islands.But let's be fair. All they are doing is signing up for benefits, just like everyone else, from welfare recipients to corporate welfare recipients. Everyone thinks they should get stuff for free from the government. So why be surprised if the legislature acts just like the people?
Anyway, this is nothing remarkable. Most all insurgencies, formed to protest the injustices of the present, eventually slip into comfortable incumbency, rewarding their loyal servitors with patronage and with loot, just like the ancien regime.
Modern conservatism is built upon another idea. Conservatives believe that you don't need to get your daily bread by force, by conquering the powerful, taking away the surplus they have squirreled away and giving it to your followers. Conservatives believe that the way to thrive is to become useful to other people and to offer your services to them. It believes in the unlikely notion that you can prosper by serving other people better than by dominating them.
The astonishing thing is that anyone, let alone conservatives, believes such a ridiculous notion. Of course you have to fight. Of course you have to protect yourself by attaching yourself to a powerful patron. What other way is there?
Yet people do believe this impossible notion. We believe it because it works. The story of the rise of the bourgeoisie in the last 500 years is the story of the middle class and its culture of trust and service.
In the last 150 years the middle-class culture has ben sorely tried by a new class, the education progressive class. This new class does not believe in trust. It does not believe in service. And it does not believe in limited government.
Conservatives say that if you want to understand the last century then the best way to understand it is as a succession of disasters brought on by the progressive educated class. Boom and bust? The progressive educated class developed the notion that they and their experts could manipulate the business cycle and smooth it out. Health care? The progressive educated class believed that only centralized compulsion could deliver decent health care to the workers and their families. Education? The progressive educated class decided that only a universal compulsory system could deliver literacy and competence to the masses. And so on.
Actually, this system has worked, in its way. It has delivered power and influence to the progressive educated class. All the great heads of government expenditure are programs devised, advocated, and administered by the progressive educated class.
The great mission for conservatives in the coming generation is to bear witness to the monstrous suffering and injustice brought about by the pride and the follies of the progressive educated class.
Conservatives maintain that society would do much better if the progressive educated class would just butt out.
As we struggle out of the Crash of 2008, caused by multiple political interventions to manipulate the business cycle, it is time to stop the conceit of politicians and their experts that they know better than businessmen and financiers how to run the economy.
As we contemplate another huge government intervention in the health care system, it is time to stop the conceit of politicians and activists that they can do a better job of running the health care system that patients and their doctors and nurses.
As we contemplate a century and a half of educational folly, it is time to stop the conceit of politicians and activists that they can do a better job of running the education system than teachers, parents, and students.
When we have done that, then we conservatives can go out into the good night. For our job will be done, and the world will move on.
But until then there is work to be done.