Life and death: a conservative perspective

There is a lot going in both domestically and abroad that requires the attention of patriotic Americans.  The Western world finds itself in a fragile state, economically, politically, and dare I suggest spiritually.  The trangressions against what is good and right are legion.  We live in a world in which good is often characterized as evil and dangerous while evil doers are often characterized as victims or as people who are merely misunderstood.

One the pleasures of reading redstate.com is that many of the writers here are conservative, and there is an inclination to defend conservatism unabashedly, rather than apologetically.  The many postings on this site range from the latest legislative news pertaining to Obamination-care to philosophical musings regarding the writings of profound thinkers like Kirk and Burke.

I enjoy it all, and have recently been planning to post about about the differences between conservatism and classical liberalism, acknowledging the very real possibility that I may be more of Lockean classical liberal than a Burkean conservative.  In modern political thought, the two groups are definitely close cousins, but that is a story for another day.

While many here and elsewhere have tried to define conservatism as a three-legged stool, I have always resisted that characterization.  To me conservatism may manifest itself in different stools, but conservatism is a unified whole.  In the famous allegory of the blind mend and the elephant (http://www.sacred-texts.com/isl/egt/egt15.htm) six men come into contact with a unitary elephant but each comes away with a different conclusion as to what an elephant is.  I think conservatism and other worthy philosophies are difficult to fully comprehend, particularlly in a single instance of time.

Yes, conservatism is a philosophy, and it is broader than a merely political philosophy.  When asked to explain conservatism to someone who is not well read on the subject, I usualy emphasize the humility of conservatism, the anti-utopian acknowledgment that man is flawed and limited.  Conservatism means that when someone proposes to reorganize 1/6 of a nation’s economy, at the very least you try to slow things down and be very very skeptical that the plan makes any sense.  A conservative is someone who appreciates the laws of unintended consequences, and acknowledges that mankind, while clever in its own way, is unlikely to ever get a batting average close to 0.500 when it comes to making good public policy decisions.  A conservative understands that the physician creed of first do no harm should apply to politicians in the practice of public policy as well as to physicians in the practice of medicine.  No government program will ever look out for the well being of a child as effectively as loving parents. 

So where am I going with any of this?

This story (http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D9C5DTGO3&show_article=1) raises some issues worth considering for those who otherwise embrace conservatisim:

During the Terri Schiavo matter, there were some commentators on this site who professed 100% certainty that she was in a “persistent vegetative state” from which no recovery was possible.  Although many of those same individuals were shrewd enough not to buy into global warming, socialized medicine, and other such nonesense, I did find it interesting how those on the opposite side of the issue were so unwilling to look behind the medical conclusion of persistent vegetative state.

Medicine, while a noble and knowledgeable calling, is still subject to the general skepticism that is conservatism.  For a while, butter was bad and margarine was good.  Then, the conclusions were switched.  Same for nutra sweet and sugar.  Bottled water was chic in the 90s, but gauche in an era of global warming . . . er cooling . . er change.  Is caffeine good for you now, or something to be avoided?  I forget, but as a conservative, I know that the assessments may change over time, and that inevitably such assessments are based on other parameters.  Water can kill you if you don’t imbibe in moderation. 

According to the article (which could simply be the latest version of oops, forget what we said yesterday), 4 in 10 patients with consciousness disorders are wrongly diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state.  This guys parents, like Schiavo’s, were convinced that he was still there.  Good thing he didn’t have an ex-spouse trying to pull the feeding tube.

You can’t sell a piece of land in Florida without a written contract because an oral statement is considered to unreliable and would through the entire system of private property into too much chaos.  Thus, as a matter of public policy, real estate sales must be in writing. 

In contrast, you can pull the plug on a former spouse based on an uncorroborated testimony that is self-serving to the person putting forh the testimony.

Being conservative means a healthy skepticism of the certainty found on the pull out the feeding tube side of the Schiavo debate.  We don’t really understand all of the holes in our understanding.