Criminal Conservatism

A few years ago, I shared with a colleague that I had noticed that my high school classmates who seemed to be the most non-conformist (or perhaps the most anti-authoritarian), the ones most likely to have abused drugs and alcohol and most likely to criticise the Man, have by and large become extremely conservative on the political spectrum. Most are card-carrying Republicans, and dreaded low-information voters, continuing the trend of low-information acquisition and processing. He said that he had noticed a similar trend.

I still keep in contact with some some old mates who are Conservative Republicans, but who were high-information consumers then and still, so I am not saying that all Conservatives are low-information people.

A man who is not a Liberal at sixteen has no heart; a man who is not a Conservative at sixty has no head.

—Benjamin Disraeli (Misattributed)

The past couple of years, in a sort of nod to Bukowski, I’ve been researching or circulating among the underbelly of the United States, the veritable dalit-class comprised of drug dealers and users, pimps, prostitutes, and thieves. And I’ve noticed the same trend. These people might fear or hate the police and the system, and they may not vote or even be high-information seekers, but they seem to have a marked propensity to Conservatism. I admit that this is anecdotal and rife with confirmation bias, but this is my observation.

To broad brush any group into some monolith is always a fools errand and missing dimensional nuance, but the general direction holds. In my observation, these people are very black & white, and they want to see law & order (as much as they want to avoid its glance). They are interested in fairness, and call out being beat, as in being shorted in a drug deal or overpay at the grocery store–the same grocery store from which they just shoplifted.

When they see a news story, ‘That bank robber deserved to get caught’ would not be an unexpected response. Even if they got caught, they might voice that they deserved it. The received sentence might be a different story.

I am not sure why this shift from anti-establishment to hyper establishment happens. I’ve also noticed that even if they dislike the particular people serving government roles, they still feel that the abstract concepts of government, democracy, capitalism, and market systems make sense, if only the particular instance is not great.

One reaction I had is that some of these people feel that the transgressions of their youth might have been avoided only if there were more discipline, and so they support this construct for the benefit of future generations, who, as embodied in Millennials, are soft and lack respect for authority.

I’d recently re-discovered a Bill Moyers interview with moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt, and there is some relationship. And whilst I could critique some of Haidt’s accepted metanarrative relative to society, his points are valid within the constraints of this narrative.

The video is almost an hour long and was produced in 2012, it is a worthwhile endeavour to watch.

I am wondering if anyone else has seen this trend or who has experienced a contrary trend. Extra points for an explanation or supporting research.

Cover image: Sean Penn, excerpt from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and Brett Cavanaugh, SCOTUS and posterboy Conservative hack

8 thoughts on “Criminal Conservatism

  1. Yes, I’ve noticed a similar trend. And also people who do not leave the comfort of their circle, meaning they don’t have a chance to meet people that are different than they are, tend to be Conservative. My father tried to pound fiscal Conservative concepts in my head at a young age, limited government, etc. As I grew older and ventured out, did a lot of volunteering I met many people that didn’t have the same opportunities that I had. They made mistakes or went through hard times, and they turned themselves around with the help of programs. Without those programs, they may have had a much worse fate.
    Now they’re helping other people turn their lives around. This is how we reach down and help people up. And sometimes we need help from *gasp* government programs, Dad. Without help, many lives will never change. Some stand no chance. A homeless person cannot possibly acquire the means to get themselves cleaned up enough to get or hold a job. What are they supposed to do?? Have these Conservatives ever met or spoken to a homeless person? How should They turn it around? How do they get help? The working poor, the military families, they don’t deserve help when they need it? Go say that to their faces while they work 2 jobs and still can’t make ends meet. Step outside the cul-de-sac and meet some real Americans. We’re all a few paychecks from needing help sometimes. What Would your Jesus Do?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lots in here, Joy. Responding to the homeless, I know several homeless. It’s more than homeless. It’s houseless. It’s address-less. I spent several months living out of AirBNB and hotels. In this mobile world, you’d think this would be a fine option. Turns out: not so much. The government needs you to have a permanent address. Businesses need you to have a permanent address. It’s in-built to the system. We’re not as mobile as we like to believe.

      A homeless person I know works at Boston Market. He uses our address and sometimes stays here or takes a shower. Otherwise, he lives in a tent behind the dumpster at the store where he works. But I can’t support every homeless person I come across. And he’s an alcoholic. And so it goes…

      I know perhaps too many prostitutes, but tey transitioning from hotel life to an apartment. How’s that rental history looking? How’s that verifiable income source looking? As Foucault noted, the system is meant to keep certain people in check and on the margins on the system. It’s not an oversight. It’s by design or at the very least a fortuitous accident.


  2. Yeah. I see a certain psychology. Similar to what you said, something about people who in their youth didn’t have discipline so now that they’re grown they want to fix all the problems that they see of them selves in hindsight through implementing in asserting a stronger discipline. I see that as kind of a psychology of capitalism in the first place; namely, the general idea of individualism and responsibility, where everyone is responsible for themselves and everyone just needs to pick themselves up by the belt straps and kick the dust off and move forward. The idea that if anyone’s in the way then that’s their problem and that other person needs to have such fortitude as well. This doctrine of individualism, to me, seems very self righteous and narrowminded, and if you look at this through the light of white colonialism it is very possible to see that it is a certain type of myopia that tries to form into a power group to assert itself on everyone else who doesn’t think the same way, this confirming the self for filling prophecy of human individualism.

    It’s really a way for people not have to look at them selves and not have to take responsibility for themselves in the world, because if they do begin to look at them selves and take responsibility for themselves in the world then they would have to admit that they wouldn’t be in whatever place, whatever good place, whatever successful place that they are in if it weren’t for the plethora of other people in the ideological system supporting them, however in a negative sense it might be.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s not about supporting the establishment. It’s about hating criminals.

    Being for limited government is as anti-establishment as it gets. Under capitalism, the rich become powerful. under socialism, the powerful become rich. Either way, power and wealth don’t remain separate. You can’t equalize one without equalizing the other. I’m not sure you can equalize either one, but that’s another discussion.

    Everyone is conservative about what he knows best, unless what he knows best is utter garbage and he knows it. Either way, he has an informed opinion. People have lots of opinions, but only a few informed opinions. Respect informed opinions. Actually, respect information, because that’s the thing that makes informed opinions of any value.


    1. Crimes, whence criminals, are not some natural phenomenoma. They are constructs of a jurisprudent system designed to protect the status quo. As Foucault noted, these laws reinforce norms that marginalise others. There is no natural dichotomy.

      Personally, I am not for limited government. I am for right-size government without maintaining a political class, a la Marx or Proudhon.

      I disagree that ‘everyone is a conservative about what s/he knows best. Some are able to remain dialectical.

      As for information and the ability for humans to process it given biases, susceptibility to logical fallacies, and mediocre sensory perception, I’m not backing that horse.


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