"We don't believe that human nature is perfectible; we're suspicious of government efforts to fix problems because often what it's trying to fix is human nature, and that is impossible. It is what it is. But that doesn't mean that we're resigned to any negative destiny. Not at all. I believe in striving for the ideal, but in realistic confines of human nature...
The opposite of a common-sense conservative is a liberalism that holds that there is no human problem that government can't fix if only the right people are put in charge. Unfortunately, history and common sense are not on its side. We don't trust utopian promises; we deal with human nature as it is."
– Sarah Palin
“Those who want to go directly to hell, they can follow capitalism. And those of us who want to build heaven on earth, we will follow socialism.”
-- Hugo Chavez.
These quotes illustrate the stark contrast between two contradictory worldviews, that of classical conservatism and that of Modernism informed by a heavy dose of the Enlightenment. If you miss Palin’s point, much of the arguments of today’s world, and indeed of the conflicts of the history of Western Civilization, will escape you.
At its core the goal of the left is to bring a utopian kingdom to the world by the efforts of mankind alone. They don't think we need God to do it. There is a long-standing belief even in the Christian world, known as post-millenialism, that Christ won't return until mankind is living in peace. This
The problem with the modern secular humanist’s take on perfectibility is the danger it poses in practice. If one is in government and views human nature as intrinsically good, or at least perfectible without God, that person will have a different approach to such characters as Mahmoud Achmanidijad or other lesser terrorists. They become “misunderstood”, people who can be talked to, even appeased into peace.
Domestically (or even internationally), Utopian dreams can be achieved if the right people, the chosen few, are allowed to have free reign. If you are opposed to these dreams, you are an enemy who is either mentally ill or an uneducated hayseed, and hence need to be either treated in a mental hospital or re-educated. If after that you still resist, you must be genetically inferior and therefore eliminated forever from the body politic.
Thus the only real enemies are conservatives and libertarians. That explains why the left can cozy up to Chavez and Castro (they are just a tad misunderstood) and will cave in while negotiating with enemies of freedom, while Republicans and other fellow Americans who disagree become their enemies. No negotiations with such folks, not even an inch, on something like the healthcare bill because such people with such a worldview must be evil!
On the other hand, if you view human nature as inherently flawed and self-centered, and not perfectible by human means, you must set up a system of checks and balances, limiting the chance that any single, flawed individual will gain too much control.
Palin seems to fall into this camp, that human nature is not perfectible apart from God, and that the best we can do is "occupy until He comes." It appears that the Founders of this country believed the same thing, otherwise they would not have built that strong system of checks and balances. Interestingly enough, this is one of the basic differences between classical conservatism and neo-conservatism, which itself has a messianic belief that establishing democracy around the world is all that is needed to bring peace. Think of the Bush Doctrine and its inspiration found in Natan Sharansky’s book The Case for Democracy, which heavily influenced President Bush’s thinking on the subject.
Libertarians must fight this tendency as well, some of whom believe that the more liberty people have, the better society will be. I love liberty, but there can be no such liberty without the rule of law. Ideally, that law would be the perfect law of liberty that James mentions in his epistle. Or, as John Adams says, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
So Chavez' comment is old, familiar stuff to any student of Genesis. It's the same lie that the serpent told Eve: “You can do it all yourself. You don’t need God.”