by Brad Nelson 9/7/16
Glenn the Greater forwarded me this article. Here’s a bit of it:
Whatever the reason for the contradiction, there can be no doubt that there is a contradiction. To simultaneously hold conservative cultural, economic, and political beliefs—to insist that our liberal-left present reality and future direction is incompatible with human nature and must undermine society—and yet also believe that things can go on more or less the way they are going, ideally but not necessarily with some conservative tinkering here and there, is logically impossible.
Let’s be very blunt here: if you genuinely think things can go on with no fundamental change needed, then you have implicitly admitted that conservatism is wrong. Wrong philosophically, wrong on human nature, wrong on the nature of politics, and wrong in its policy prescriptions. Because, first, few of those prescriptions are in force today. Second, of the ones that are, the left is busy undoing them, often with conservative assistance. And, third, the whole trend of the West is ever-leftward, ever further away from what we all understand as conservatism.
If your answer—Continetti’s, Douthat’s, Salam’s, and so many others’—is for conservatism to keep doing what it’s been doing—another policy journal, another article about welfare reform, another half-day seminar on limited government, another tax credit proposal—even though we’ve been losing ground for at least a century, then you’ve implicitly accepted that your supposed political philosophy doesn’t matter and that civilization will carry on just fine under leftist tenets. Indeed, that leftism is truer than conservatism and superior to it.
They will say, in words reminiscent of dorm-room Marxism—but our proposals have not been tried! Here our ideas sit, waiting to be implemented! To which I reply: eh, not really. Many conservative solutions—above all welfare reform and crime control—have been tried, and proved effective, but have nonetheless failed to stem the tide. Crime, for instance, is down from its mid-’70s and early ’90s peak—but way, way up from the historic American norm that ended when liberals took over criminal justice in the mid-’60s. And it’s rising fast today, in the teeth of ineffectual conservative complaints. And what has this temporary crime (or welfare, for that matter) decline done to stem the greater tide? The tsunami of leftism that still engulfs our every—literal and figurative—shore has receded not a bit but indeed has grown. All your (our) victories are short-lived.
More to the point, what has conservatism achieved lately? In the last 20 years? The answer—which appears to be “nothing”—might seem to lend credence to the plea that “our ideas haven’t been tried.” Except that the same conservatives who generate those ideas are in charge of selling them to the broader public. If their ideas “haven’t been tried,” who is ultimately at fault? The whole enterprise of Conservatism, Inc., reeks of failure. Its sole recent and ongoing success is its own self-preservation. Conservative intellectuals never tire of praising “entrepreneurs” and “creative destruction.” Dare to fail! they exhort businessmen. Let the market decide! Except, um, not with respect to us. Or is their true market not the political arena, but the fundraising circuit?
All that is quite consistent with my idea that conservatism has become but a book club (or lecture club) amongst the supposed movers-and-shakers and a mere identity (per someone else’s formulation…I forget who) for the rank-and-file. Whatever it is, it is no longer an activist platform meant to forward an agenda. It’s mostly now mere rhetoric or a perhaps well-meaning conceit.
I haven’t read the rest of that article. Perhaps Glenn and others can dig a bit deeper. I’m tired of word salads myself. Here’s my assessment, almost certainly correct:
1) You can’t have conservatism in any meaningful way when over two-thirds of Federal expenditures go towards entitlements (as opposed to core functions of government).
2) You can’t have conservative values be realized whilst feminism (and the feminine) is the reigning paradigm for how people should be and should act. Male traits such as hard work, perseverance, sticks-and-stones, rationality over emotionalism, self-responsibility, risk-taking, competition, excellence, and just sucking it up, buttercup (instead of seeking a “safe space”) are now socially ostracized traits.
3) You can’t have conservatism (in which a large part is based upon individual virtue, many marked by the denial of some thing or act) when we live in a consumer culture where the main virtue is simply a form of market hedonism called “choice.”
Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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