My copy of The Road to Serfdom contains four different introductions. While reading introduction number two, I came across a section that really made me think, and I wanted to explore that today with the Red State community. In the section entitled, Forward to the 1956 American Paperback edition, Hayek spends some time discussing the terms liberal and conservative. In explaining his intention of how he uses the words, he inadvertently comes up with the definitions. Without repeating a full page here, Hayek defines his use of the words in their more classical sense: a liberal being one who defends liberty and a conservative being one who is a defender of a socialist type program. Neither of these terms are true to today’s American political discourse, nor were they accurate when Hayek’s book was originally released to the American public. This is an important part to understand while reading the book, but it also brought me to a question that froze me in my tracks: Am I a conservative?
A conservative is traditionally a defender of the status quo. I don’t mean this in the way it is used today. Status quo is not always a bad thing. If you have a good job and a good life, status quo is good. However, being 36 years old, I would love to see many of our governments programs rolled back. Social Security? A mistake. Roe v. Wade? Bad. Affirmative Action and minimum wage? An infringement on the rights of private business owners. I find myself believing that many of the policies and laws passed over the last one hundred years were a mistake. Both the New Deal and the Great Society were failures that may end up costing our nation very dearly. I don’t want to protect these parts of our government, I want them overturned. Am I a conservative? I am certainly not a liberal in today’s sense of the word. And should those of us who currently call ourselves “conservative” continue to use a word that doesn’t seem to strictly apply?