Conservative-Minded Conservatism

I was thinking about forms of socialism that are popularly supported among conservatives in particular social contexts and under certain conditions. The specific example that got me thinking was the public bank in North Dakota (see my previous post), a socialist institution in one of the most conservative states in the country.

In a comment to that previous post, I wrote:

The red states like the Upper Midwest are ‘conservative’ in the more normal dictionary-definition sense of the word. I’ve always thought that socialism, like communalism, with its emphasis on the group and on community is inherently ‘conservative’ in that it seeks to conserve the public good of group cohesion and community health.

They are also conservative in another sense in that they want socialist public good for those they identify with at the local level: their states, their cities, their communities. But they don’t want to participate in any socialism that might help anyone else they don’t identify with.

This interests me on a personal level in two ways. My parents are conservative and I’ve always sensed a certain kind of conservative tendency in myself.

Part of what appeals to me about American liberalism is its conservative-mindedness. That is the same thing that appeals to me about the Upper Midwestern conservatism as well. It is conservatism that means to conserve what is good and proven, useful and necessary. It is moderate in that it seeks to moderate against radical change, but doesn’t take a reactionary stance against reform. It emphasizes community and even communalism, emphasizes family and church, putting group interests first by promoting social responsibility and local autonomy.

North Dakota is one of the most conservative states in the country. It is precisely because they are so extremely conservative that they have a state owned and operated bank.

To mainstream thought in America, this appears incongruent to say the least. Anti-socialist conservatives and anti-conservative socialists would probably feel some cognitive dissonance when presented with what is either conservative-minded socialism or sociaist-minded conservatism, not that North Dakotans would use such labels to describe their public banking system.

Whatever you call it, mainstream thought tells us that such a thing shouldn’t be possible. Certainly, it shouldn’t be successful. But reality doesn’t always conform to our ideological expectations. It turns out such a thing is both possible and, at least in this instance, apparently quite successful.

The North Dakota public bank has been in operation for almost a century. The bank makes a profit and the profit is kept in the bank. They don’t get involved in risky banking schemes in the way other states do when they use private banks. North Dakota did well when the rest of the country experienced the recession caused by the banking scandals. The North Dakota bank required no bailout.

It turns out a socialist bank is a more fiscally responsible way of running a state, instead of investing public tax money in risky private banks. Being a fiscally responsible form of government, it is fiscally conservative. Allowing for state autonomy and self-responsibility, it is socially conservative as well. North Dakotans take care of their own financing and they take care of their own people. They are thus more independent of both big government and big banks.

What at first appears incongruent is in reality perfectly congruent. Some basic analysis of the facts at hand dispels the initial cognitive dissonance.

I’d like to see more of this kind of conservative-minded conservatism, with or without socialism.

10 States With Ridiculously Low Unemployment — And Why

I noticed this video a while back which shows how the economic problems mostly hit the coasts and the south first and then slowly moved to the interior of the country. Some of the midwestern and northwestern were barely impacted at all. I particularly paid attention to how Iowa remained strong as the states to the south, east, and north all descended into economic darkness.

I came across an article that explains some of this.

10 States With Ridiculously Low Unemployment — And Why

The 10 states are:

  1. North Dakota
  2. South Dakota
  3. Nebraska
  4. New Hampshire
  5. Vermont
  6. Hawaii
  7. Kansas
  8. Wyoming
  9. Minnesota
  10. Iowa

Some key elements that seem helpful:

  • diverse economy
  • agriculture or another strong sector such as tourism or industry
  • highly educated population

Iowa actually has a lower than average rate of higher education, but that is probably because of a split. There is a lot more agriculture in Western Iowa and a lot more education in Eastern Iowa (I read a few years ago that Iowa City has the highest per capita of highly educated in the country). Most importantly, Iowa balances all of this with a very diverse economy.

I had to check one other factor to see if the data holds up. I’ve recently written about income inequality because of reading the book The Spirit Level. As I expected, according to the data in the book, all these states are among the lowest in income inequality (and among the lowest in social problems). This once again proves the theory that income inequality is bad not simply because it leads to social inequality but because it leads to an unstable economy. Wealthy states like Texas and California were hit hard by the recession maybe because they have some of the highest income inequalities in the country.

The moral of the story: Even if you’re a selfish capitalist or a righteous social conservative, you should still help the poor because in helping them you are helping yourself. If you don’t help the poor, you and your entire community will suffer from your sins. So, quit being an asshole and help the poor.