Continuing with my critique of conservative principles
6. Human nature suffers irremediably from certain grave faults, the conservatives know. Man being imperfect, no perfect social order ever can be created. ... All that we reasonably can expect is a tolerably ordered, just, and free society, in which some evils, maladjustments, and suffering will continue to lurk. ... The ideologues who promise the perfection of man and society have converted a great part of the twentieth-century world into a terrestrial hell.
OK, here's one I can get on board with, barring the sexist language. Human beings were not optimized for moral behavior. I share conservative disdain for perfectionism in political arrangements or formation of moral character. Anyone who is under the illusion that evil and suffering will disappear if social and economic conditions are improved to a certain point is foolish. The "Blank Slate" notion that humans are infinitely malleable through education and cultural influence is a delusion. We should be realistic in what we can expect to achieve.
My fear is that when conservatives speak the truth that "We're never going to make things perfect" they are really speaking the lie that "It is impossible to make things better than they currently are". Certainly, neither individuals nor society can be perfect. But looking around, it doesn't take too much brainpower to see that some societies and individuals seem to be better than others. And from there it's not a great leap to wonder what leads to those differences, and to ponder how we might make choices that increase the likelihood that we and our society might trend in the direction of better. I don't think one needs to be a loony utopian radical to believe that there might be a slightly better way of going about doing things, and that we just might have enough capability to fumble clumsily in the general direction of that better way.
7. Conservatives are persuaded that freedom and property are closely linked. Separate property from private possession, and Leviathan becomes master of all.
I agree with this , but I don't think I take from it what conservatives take from it. I think what conservatives mean by this is that for freedom to be meaningful, individuals who own property must be protected from government depredations. Communal ownership, nationalized industries, and government taxation are all anathema (or at least highly suspect) because they lessen the freedom of the individual who do with property what the individual wishes. And if the government is empowered to take away all of the individual's property, any purely political or social "freedoms" are moot because the Leviathan can devour all your stuff. I agree with all of this.
But when I, as a liberal, see a statement like "freedom and property are closely linked", I nod my head in agreement, but my thoughts go down a very different path. I think of the individuals who don't have property to begin with, and how they are open to predation from the Behemoth of those that do. I think of predatory lenders, cigarette companies, exploitative prison phone fees, and airlines stranding people for hours on planes because it is profitable to do so. And I think of the state not as a huge devouring monster, but as a potential shield or referee to counterbalance the enormous power of the property owners. It seems that though a conservative has a healthy skepticism of the power a government exercises over an individual, the conservative is incredibly gullible when it comes to the power some other entity exercises over an individual.
I think a more wise stance would be to be wary of any situation in which one human being can exercise power over another
. Human nature being what it is, such situations are potential breeding grounds for abuse. Hence the needs for checks and balances, laws & regulations, elections and accountability, disclosure, ombudspeople, annoying bloggers, etc. All of these things exist so that if the powerful abuse their power, there will be some consequence. It doesn't matter if the powerful entities are governments, corporations, individuals, churches, cultures, or anything else. They all need watchdogs and limits. One way I think good liberals and good conservatives complement each other is that they are inherently suspicious of different kinds of power. So more bases are covered, and more abuses are curtailed.