I think it's safe to say that American and British conservatism have not been this far apart in decades. Michael Goldfarb (not the neo-fascist propagandist) outlines some of the core differences. One is that the Tories are not phony fiscal conservatives:
Structural deficit reduction - double quick, inside four years - is the goal of Prime Minister David Cameron's government. American conservatives would say deficit reduction is our goal as well. But British Conservatives are putting up taxes, to get the deficit down, as well as making cuts to government spending across all departments except one: the National Health Service. Republicans want to repeal health legislation, Conservatives know they would not have been returned to office without Mr Cameron's eloquent commitment to the NHS.
The key word here is the very first one: "structural". The GOP, fresh from its Tea Party victory, has no plan at all for structural deficit reduction in this Congress. They are relying on gimmicks - like the earmark ban - to make it seem as if they are serious about debt reduction. But all they are really serious about is destroying the Obama presidency. Then there's the authoritarian nature of today's Southern-dominated GOP:
Perhaps the most profound difference today between British and American Conservatives is in the response to terrorism. British Conservatives are libertarian in striking the balance between security and personal liberty when it comes to living in a world where al-Qaeda operates.
They have stopped funding for national ID cards - an expensive programme of the Labour government - and shut down many of Britain's CCTV cameras. Critically, they are considering repealing Britain's 28-day detention law for terror suspects. This law allows police to hold those suspected of plotting terrorism for 28 days without charging them. No other Western democracy gives the police this kind of power.
Republicans have been against shutting down Guantanamo and trying those detained there in civilian courts. I cannot see them renouncing a law allowing police to detain a suspect for a month without charge.
Unlike Margaret Thatcher, British Conservatives no longer echo Ronald Reagan's view that government is the problem not the solution.
But the important point is this: Mrs Thatcher and Mr Reagan shared a governing philosophy: ideology and pragmatism. Ideology was great for speech-making and letting people know what you thought, pragmatism was necessary for governing. As American and British Conservatives drift apart, like Gondwana and Pangaea, it seems that American Republicans have let go of their pragmatic inheritance.
Without pragmatic respect for what previous governments have done, can they really be considered "conservative" in the true meaning of the term?
There is, of course, close to nothing "conservative" about the ideological fanatics now dancing to the tune of polarizing pontificators on talk radio and Fox.
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