The Future of Conservatism

“Come, come, my conservative friend, wipe the dew off your spectacles, and see that the world is moving.” –Elizabeth Cady Stanton

One of my favorite blogs is the Becker and Posner blog. Gary Becker is a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and Richard Posner is a judge who teaches at the University of Chicago law school.

They recently each posted about the future of the conservative movement in the United States. Becker’s post is here and Posner’s posts is here. They both discuss the decline of intellectual conservatism. Basically, conservative thought in the US has been hijacked by blowhards like O’Reily and Hannity and crazed evangelicals, although Posner says it much more diplomatically:

“My theme is the intellectual decline of conservatism, and it is notable that the policies of the new conservatism are powered largely by emotion and religion and have for the most part weak intellectual groundings.”

Nate Silver examines Posner’s comments. He looks at the presidential votes of college graduates:


Essentially, he concludes that Republicans, “have lost the egghead vote.” This is problematic for the conservatives, and not just because this means they advocate terrible public policy. It has become a major albatross for them in elections.

Becker notes that:

“A political party, like the Republican Party, may encompass both economic conservatives, and social and international conservatives, even though the philosophies behind each type are inconsistent with each other. The reason is that for parties to compete at the national level, or in other large political arenas, they have to put together coalitions of groups with different interests, such as different types of conservatives, or market interventionists with laissez faire internationalists. However, even large parties are generally stronger and more coherent when different factions share most of the same philosophy. The Democratic Party is now fairly well united in the belief that governments frequently do better than private decision makers in both the economic and social spheres.”

Silver depicts this problem with a handy dandy Venn diagram:

That center space isn’t enough to win elections with.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *