For the past few weeks, I've been examining the writings of some of what might be considered the "Founding Fathers" of madern American conservatism. In 1959, James Burnham, a philosophy professor at NYU and co-founder of <i>The National Review</i>, enumerated some of the qualities that defined conservatism, such as diffusing the power of government by adherence to the separation of powers and system of checks and balances, as laid out in the Constitution, a rejection of utopian solutions to social ills, the encourage ment of private enterprise, fiscal responsibility and so on. I found myself in agreement with many of the qualities he listed. Barry Goldwater defined conservatism as "...social, economic and political practices based on the successes of the past...", essentially drawing upon the wisdom of the past rather than its worst excesses. He also described the conscience of the conservative was "...pricked by anyone or any action which debases human dignity...". He also held that "Politics is the art of achieving the maximumamount of freedom for insdividuals that is consistent with social order." Again, I have no disagreement with these definitions of conservatism. More currently, George Will wrote that "...since the rise of nation-states and parliaments, a preoccupation of Western political thought has been the problem of defining and confining executive power..." In other words preventing of the accumulation of too much power into too few hands. Once again, I have no disagreement. What I see currently defined as conservatism is little more than authoritarianism. We have Congress controlled by conservative Republicans which excludes input from anyone out side their cabal, as evidenced by the number of closed door committee hearings which exclude Democrats. We have an administration obsessed with secrecy, not so much to fight the "war on terror" as to avoid oversight of its actions. This same administration also seems bent on establishing a unitary executive branch, answerabe to no one. The "conservatives" currently in power have abandoned even the pretense of adhering to any sort of fiscal responsibility and limited government. The politics of fear are played by conservatives daily. Politics which have no place in traditional conservative thought or a democracy. I could go on, but you get the point, I'm sure, by now. None of the qualities listed were ever a part of the modern conservative movement in America at its inception, after W.W. II. Nor are they consistent with the framework for the Republic laid out in The Declaration of Independence or The Constitution. They are, howerver, consistent with the characteristics of authoritarianism, which is itself just a short step away from despotism.