American conservatism has a venerable history sporting agrarians, libertarians and traditionalists. But the recent vintage of politically oriented members of the right have forged a crazy design of contradictory ideas which clash. With the election of Barack Obama, these views have become even more quirky, reducing conservatism to one great premise - anti-Obamaism. Where he goes, they go the opposite.
Moreover, their definition of fiscal prudence has taken a bizarre turn in rejecting taxes of any kind. Grover Norquist has made tax cuts the central theme of the conservative movement. He apparently forgets that Barry Goldwater and most members of the right opposed Lyndon Johnson's tax cut, which Ronald Reagan virtually reintroduced in 1981. In 1964, tax cuts were not sacrosanct in conservative circles, the emphasis was on economy in government. And there was a general belief in flexibility - by 2012 in the GOP, this has gone out the window.
Gone is the Edmund Burkian concern for order - all is to make money - no other consideration. Burke undergirded Milton Friedman, who rejected rigid principle for some government tinkering with interest rates. Replacing Friedman are the ideas of Ludwig von Mises and F.A. Hayek of the Vienna school, which celebrates individual initiative as if it operated in a social vacuum.
And thus it is with Mitt Romney, whose unfamiliarity with conservative philosophy is so remote that he buys into a false version. For him, it is all grit and hustle, no moral consideration - a form of "law hain't I got the power" to cite Cornelius Vanderbilt - version of conservatism. If you don't make it, you deserve the worst of it. Forget that the bottom might fall out of the tub and social chaos will emerge as a result. Romney's view is that the wealthy are in many ways divinely inspired and deserve all praise and deference. They are right about class warfare, but it is from the top down, not the bottom up.
As older-style conservatism promoted the protection of private property, not the aggressive power of the super rich, Adam Smith warned against the excessive pressures of wealth on liberty. Also, religious obligation provided a break on predatory wealth, which was regarded as inflicting an injury on civil society. Of course, those whose power was based on land saw tradition as a means of keeping the balance. Unfortunately, this world went down before the hammers of industrial capitalism and socialism.
Romney's criticism of Obama's explanation that not all wealth was created because of individual initiative ignores, as well, nationalism. Henry Clay's "American System" advocated that the United States, through subsidy taxes and protective tariffs, promotes business. Legislatures gave land to railroads for indeed the common good. Patents were secured by government and subsidies helped businesses thrive. The idea of a Frederick Winslow Taylor or the application thereof by Henry Ford were watched over, also military contracts did not hurt.
Perhaps the Federal Highway Act of 1956 did not help fuel the tourism industry or that it was supported by gasoline taxes was somehow a violation of old principles. This is how Romney and his cohorts sound reflecting their purse-proud and narcissistic outlook. Their conservatism is not truly linked to anything espoused by Russell Kirk or Edmund Burke. It is a nihilistic celebration of financial power unconcerned with social peace or happiness. It is in fact not conservatism but the puerile outlook of the hopelessly egotistical.