Conservatism As Doctrine

It's hard to find a more sublime version of it than Laura Ingraham's email:

Conservatism is the most influential political philosophy of the past 100 years because it's built upon essential truths.

The past 100 years? I don't know any Hooverites who think the last century was a triumph for small government and individual liberty. Look at the size of government since 1909. Look at the level of taxation. Look at the welfare state. Look at racial civil rights. Look at the role of women. The West is immeasurably more statist than it was a hundred years ago, and even the most dramatic counter-revolutionaries, such as Reagan and Thatcher, did very little to alter the contours of the state. The Bush Republicans implemented the biggest expansion of government power, debt and spending since LBJ.

But, look, Ingraham isn't really thinking here. This is a statement of doctrine, not politics, and all religions require a certain mythology (the idea that a conservative movement that began in the late 1950s extends backward to the earliest part of the century is truly religious thinking). So one can forgive the thoughtless hyperbole.

What worries me is the slow transformation of what was a vital pragmatic adjustment to liberalism's policy failures in the 1980s into a kind of eternal dogma. But tax cuts are not always the solution to every emergent problem; global warfare may not be the best way to exercize American power in the multi-polar world we now live in; social change - a multi-racial society where women and gays seek and deserve full equality - should be imaginatively shaped by the right, not outright rejected on religious or nostalgic grounds.