Conservatism in a Time of Singularities

02/26/09 00:00:00    

By Michael Mealling

CPAC 2009 started today. Conservatives/Republicans from around the country are meeting to figure out what happened over the past 8 years and what to do about it. In many cases they are assuming that there is something “wrong” with conservatism and that it may need to be re-invented. “Conservatism” is a difficult thing to pin down. The Burke-ian view is the easiest one for this discussion. It is the view that Conservatism is the inclination to object to the capriciousness of Government and those who would use its power to constantly be attempting the “new”.  The result of that view is what informed Burke's view of Liberty and made his view compatible with Hayek's. “Small government” conservatives put more weight on the government action aspect of that formulation while “social” conservatives give more weight to the “new” part, regardless of whether its Government action or not.

What I am proposing here is a new imagining of conservatism. My theory is that, while the Burke-ian notion of conservatism is still correct, there is a much more immediate and dangerous downside to Government attempting the “new” in an age where what is “new” happens at speeds beyond human comprehension. For background to this idea please consider Juan Enriquez's recent TED talk below. The juxtaposition of current economic issues, government spending, and the rate of change in biology and robotics is hard to distill more concisely than this:

Juan makes several obvious points but also leaves many other's unsaid. One of the ones that struck me was that, unlike previous transitions, the future Neanderthals will have access to significant weaponry. The other point is that these changes are coming and there is very little any Government can do to prevent it or indeed, even affect it. The concepts of identity, ability, retirement, work, wealth and lifespan are being made quaintly irrelevant. And no political system can hope to keep up with it. How can the American's with Disabilities Act cope with prosthetics that are inherently better than the organic originals and when people begin voluntarily giving up “legacy” limbs, organs or senses in exchange for better ones? Imagine your hearing and vision being upgraded from an AppStore the way we do our telephones. Can any Governmental process hope to cope with that?

The idea is that Burke-ian Conservatism is a model helping the American people cope with these changes. The movement can help educate America about the changes and help progressively shrink the Government that can't cope with what's coming. The only system that can cope with such a high rate of change is unencumbered individuals freely interacting in an open, yes laissez-faire, marketplace. The economies that understand this will thrive. The ones that don't (or won't) are going to go the way of homo neanderthalensis.

comments powered by Disqus