Ezra Taft Benson Conservatism

Ezra Taft Benson Conservatism September 15, 2010

I am developing a number of models of Mormon political conservatism. The first model that I am looking to describe in Ezra Taft Benson conservatism. This is not just the political conservatism of President/Elder Ezra Taft Benson, but a broader type of conservatism that is symbolize by the thought of Benson.

Below is the start of the description. I am trying come up with a brief and concise definition of this model. My hope is to have a basic description and not to paint it as good or bad. What am I missing? What aspects have I worded in a misleading way? I fully recognize that I have a bias here.

Ezra Taft Benson conservatism follows a strand of Constitutionalism which associates the U.S. Constitution with small government. All federal programs are suspect, if not some sort of communism. The American Project is a Christian one. There is also a “camel’s nose in the tent” approach to welfare programs and regulation. All programs are the start towards communism.
While federal intrusion is looked down up, a return to practices such as school prayer, are seen as highly desirable. In this sense, it is not libertarian, but arch-conservative. Abortion, gay rights, and other aspect of social liberalism would heavily opposed.

Some elements of ETB conservatism are rather distant from current debates. In particular, ETB was heavily connected to anti-Communism. As a result, Benson heavily favored the military annihilation of the Soviet Union, North Vietnam, and China. While, John Birch Society conservatism has long loathes international organizations like the United Nation. This loathing is partially rooted in a concern about the loss of national sovereignty, but also rooted in a concern that international cooperation might weaken anti-communistic resolve.

More recent versions of John Birch Society conservatism, both the society itself and the Ron Paul “revolution,” have reverted back to more isolationist conceptions of foreign policy. This form of isolationism was more prominent amongst conservatives prior to WWII. ETB conservatism takes a very serious interest in the idea of the “Constitution hanging by a thread.” Likewise, American Exceptionalism takes a very nationalistic form amongst ETB conservatives.

ETB conservatism can be found in a number of segments. Of course, there is the political and religious writings of Elder Benson and President Benson. These range from his speeches on the 1960s conservative circuit to his talks in General Conference. The works of Cleon Skousen also fall within this model . The Naked Communist, The Naked Capitalist, and The 5000 Year Leap would be primary examples, though Skousens lectures and articles are plentiful.

Today, Glenn Beck, who is very much directly inspired by Skousen (by his own admission), is the most active element of ETB conservatism. Now, Beck brings a rather lively performance to this style of conservatism, but the content of it is clearly with ETB conservatism.

I really am approaching this with my political scientist hat on. All comments are welcome. I will likely have questions for you as well.

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