Eugene T. Paslov: The conservative mind fails to grasp essential American values

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I enjoyed reading Dan Mooney's column on Sept. 15, but it gets a few things wrong. Several readers contacted me about rewriting it to correct the facts. I did:

Early on I was taught that I, and only I, am responsible for my behavior. In later years, I epitomized this into a personal axiom: Individual responsibility for individual behavior as opposed to individuals and corporations who force others to pay for the costs of their actions.

While not new or unique, it became one of my fundamental quantifiable values even though it often caused consternation among some of my friends. Some bought into the so-called conservative promises of nirvana like those preached by Nevada Appeal guest columnist Dan Mooney.

In reading Mooney, I am, for the first time in my 76 years, profoundly frightened by the consequences should we be sucked into the values he praises - that is, abandon the virtues of individual responsibility and drown in the abyss of anything-goes corporate plutocracy.

In doing so, we would lose essential American values that flow naturally from the highest level of human virtue. These, unfortunately, have failed to take root in the minds of the conservative right.

Philosophers have studied and written about virtue since Plato formulated the first five many centuries ago, with others to follow. So, why has virtue failed to be included within the lexicon of the right? If one considers only a few, like courage, thrift, industry and responsibility, one can easily determine why the fatuous conservative mind fails to comprehend, and, just as they do the Constitution, set virtue aside as less applicable to the modern world.

Considering the inverse relationship between individual and corporate responsibility, i.e., as corporate power and influence increases, individual freedom decreases, the traditional American virtue of individual responsibility is fundamentally incompatible with neo-conservative ideology. When corporations privatize profits while socializing risks, we all lose.

The conservative mind just simply fails to conceptualize the clear relationship between increasing corporate power - made possible through favorable tax policies, lax regulations and enforcement - and forcing citizens to pay the costs of this power shift. Yet their reasoning fallacy is espoused as if they are endowed with superior judgment and morality as compared to more reasonable thinkers. To believe their delusion requires extreme mental compartmentalization (logic-tight mental compartments) along with a pseudo-altruistic facade. It would also require that we ignore the lifelong damage done to the unenlightened by removing their responsibility for the costs of their actions.

I sometimes wonder what value the conservative mentality places upon responsibility. Perhaps this is the answer to the conservative riddle. Do they place a lower quantitative value on responsibility and a higher quantitative value upon corporate freedom and control?

• Eugene Paslov is a board member of the Davidson Academy at the University of Nevada, Reno and the former Nevada state superintendent of schools.


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