Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Necessity of Conservatism

"Every nation needs an intelligent and constructive form of conservatism," begins liberal columnist E.J. Dionne Jr., who confesses "respect and some real affection for conservatism and its writers and thinkers" — Three points for conservatives.

Mr. Dionne suggests "that conservatism challenges the progressive worldview in at least three indispensable ways." Specifically, he reminds us that "conservatives are suspicious of innovation and therefore subject all grand plans to merciless interrogation" and that "conservatives respect old things and old habits." Finally, he says that "the third great contribution of conservatism [is] a suspicion of human nature and a belief that humans cannot be remolded like plastic."

This reminder is also welcome: "It's worth remembering that not only did Hitler's staunch opponents include the German left, but also, as the historian John Lukacs has insisted, conservative traditionalists horrified by the ways in which the Nazis were ripping apart German society and how they were treating other human beings."

With references to Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk, names rarely mentioned by most "conservatives" these days, his article concludes by suggesting that "our current forms of conservatism seem thoroughly un-conservative or, as Peter Viereck put it in the 1950s, 'pseudo-conservative,' which is an ally of pseudo-populism."

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Walt said...

Not much to disagree with here except that "respect for old things and old habits" can at times lead to a sloth about correcting injustices in society.
As Ta-Nehesi Coates wrote about a week ago, "In the 20th century, it was conservative intellectual William Buckley who defended white supremacy in the South. I hear people talking about how National Review--a magazine that speculated that the Birmingham bombing was the work of a "crazed Negro"-- has, of late, betrayed its holy intellectual roots and I wonder what planet they've been living on. People mournfully claim that conservatism has "died," and I wonder if they've forgotten what "conservatism" had to say to black people in apartheid South Africa...A bias toward time-tested, societal institutions almost necessarily means a bias toward institutional evil...Taken in sum you have an ideology, whatever its laudable merits, that will almost always, necessarily, look charitably upon those with power, or those who control the institutions, and skeptically upon those without power, or those who seek to change those institutions." http://www.theatlantic.com/ta-nehisi-coates/page/3/?
I find conservative(Chronicles, American Conservative,) and some libertarian writers (Randy Balko, Ron Paul, Kevin Carson, Justin Raimondo) to be indispensible in their critiques of contemporary political discourse but at times conservatism needs its own critique also.
To be accurate, Buckley repudiated these views,
http://papercuts.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/27/qa-with-sam-tanenhaus-on-william-f-buckley/
but I do get the writers point about how minorities could be skeptical about conservatism giving some of the history he's chronicling here.For the record , the father of conservatism,Edmund Burke, looked favorably upon the causes of the American colonists and the Irish. GK Chesterton didn't seem much enthralled by the British Empire and its effects on the subjects it ruled over so conservatives haven't always looked upon people without power skeptically. In the past few years, however I 've seen some of what Mr. Coates is alluding to amongst my self proclaimed "politically incorrect, gun totin', 100% Republican dittohead" coworkers and relatives.

4:21 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Agreed. The "politically incorrect, gun totin', 100% Republican dittohead[s]" you speak of don't strike me as being very conservative.

11:34 AM  

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