Skip to content

Decades Instead Of Centuries; Republican​s Instead Of Conservati​ves

22 November 2011 @ 17:42

In his Ten Conservative Principles, the great conservative philosopher Russell Kirk wrote:

The attitude we call conservatism is sustained by a body of sentiments, rather than by a system of ideological dogmata. It is almost true that a conservative may be defined as a person who thinks himself such. The conservative movement or body of opinion can accommodate a considerable diversity of views on a good many subjects, there being no Test Act or Thirty-Nine Articles of the conservative creed.

In essence, the conservative person is simply one who finds the permanent things more pleasing than Chaos and Old Night. (Yet conservatives know, with Burke, that healthy “change is the means of our preservation.”) A people’s historic continuity of experience, says the conservative, offers a guide to policy far better than the abstract designs of coffee-house philosophers. But of course there is more to the conservative persuasion than this general attitude.

If you accept this reasoning, you can see how this would lead conservatives to possess a diversity of opinions.  There is no dogma, no strict set of rules, that we are governed by.  Rather, we share a view of the world that is based on traditions and customs that can all trace their origins back to Mount Sinai.  Therefore, though we start from the same line, we plot out different routes to the finish line.

There are certain shared principles that mark one a conservative.  Once again, however, they are merely a starting point.  Mr. Kirk lists ten, providing explanations for each.

David Frum and his sympathizers claim they are philosophical conservatives when they advocate for accepting that certain programs implemented by the Left are so entrenched that it is not ‘realistic’ to fight for their repeal.  While this may satisfy the generic definition of the word ‘conservative’, it is not philosophically conservative because what they advocate is the acceptance of the status quo, even though it may be born of immoral and evil intentions.  What Frum and his type are arguing for is Pragmatism, which is a school of thought that knows no good nor evil: it merely believes that certain [often most] existing structures cannot be changed because they have been around so long.

As Stacy McCain writes in an excellent post on Frum’s latest attack on conservatives:

…were it in my power to accomplish one thing in Washington, D.C., the federal Department of Education would be abolished and its employees summarily dismissed from public service. Except for funding necessary research and providing educational benefits for military veterans, we would get the federal government entirely out of the education business.

This is not how wonks talk or think, however, because nobody in Wonk World has that kind of profound loathing for federal bureaucracy. When you suggest a genuinely bold proposal like zeroing out the Department of Education, a Republican wonk immediately imagines the hue and outcry from the Democrats, the teachers unions, and the New York Times. They can’t imagine Republicans withstanding such angry criticism and, they’ll point out, Reagan never followed through on his promise to abolish the Department of Education.

So your bold proposal is immediately dismissed as “unserious,” impractical as either politics or policy, and you’re back to arguing about how the Department of Education can be reformed, as if there is some conservative way to reform a bureaucracy that — by conservative principles — shouldn’t exist to begin with.

With Pragmatism comes moral corruption, as Stacy points out:

Also, abolishing whole departments of the federal government would deprive the next Republican president of the opportunity to appoint their cronies to top jobs in those departments. Maybe you have no desire to be an assistant deputy undersecretary in the Department of Education, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t well-connected Republicans who covet such posts. So you’re messing with the “jobs for the boys” factor of partisan loyalty, which doesn’t matter to you — the rank-and-file voter — but matters a great deal to young GOP operatives who see an administration position as a stepping stone to a lucrative career as a K Street lobbyist.

It is all a big game, har, har, har.  Who’s in, who’s out.  Who has influence at the moment and how can one tap into someone’s momentary mojo, as it were.  Sometimes you’re in power, sometimes you’re out.  Get what you can while your kind of people are in so that you can survive when they’re out and your all waiting for the cycle to repeat itself.

What Frum and those who share his sentiments do not understand is that the nice gentleman’s club he joined in the early 1980’s was a bust-out operation devised by the Left to divert the non-Left’s attention from what was going on in the back room.  This wonderful, collegiate world he entered and enjoyed was a lie — the Left was using sleight-of-hand to divert our eyes from the destruction they were waging.  Frum doesn’t get it yet.  He refuses to see that the world he aspires to live in does not exist — it’s a scam, it never existed.

But I digress…

What David Frum, David Brooks, Kathleen Parker, Karl Rove, etc. are advocating is not philosophically conservative.

They do not want to see the things that should be preserved preserved, such as long-standing custom, convention, and continuity — The Permanent Things [‘those norms and hopes and fears which remain virtually constant from age to age’ —source].  They want to only preserve what they see as the natural order when, in fact, it is not the natural order, but merely a temporary facade erected by the Left to divert the non-Left’s attention away from their vile and destructive doings.

These Republicans [as opposed to Conservatives] mistake a false longevity and fleeting acceptance [decades instead of centuries] as being the same thing as those customs and wisdoms that have endured since time immemorial.  They, in fact, have accepted the fun house mirror view of the world that has been hustled by the Left since The French Revolution.

To quote Mr. Kirk again:

The great line of demarcation in modern politics, Eric Voegelin used to point out, is not a division between liberals on one side and totalitarians on the other. No, on one side of that line are all those men and women who fancy that the temporal order is the only order, and that material needs are their only needs, and that they may do as they like with the human patrimony. On the other side of that line are all those people who recognize an enduring moral order in the universe, a constant human nature, and high duties toward the order spiritual and the order temporal.

David Frum is not a conservative and neither are his comrades.

  1. 22 November 2011 @ 19:55 19:55


    • bobbelvedere permalink*
      22 November 2011 @ 23:16 23:16

      Corrected. Thanks, Danda!

  2. 22 November 2011 @ 20:43 20:43

    Best read all day for me. In salute, I offer one of those pleasing permanent things … Barry Goldwater’s apposite quote: “Extremism in the defense of Liberty is no vice.”

    “Because the Only Good Progressive is a Failed Progressive”

    • bobbelvedere permalink*
      22 November 2011 @ 23:11 23:11

      Thank you. Barry was a prophet in so many ways.

  3. 23 November 2011 @ 01:35 01:35

    You’re almost there Bob.

    Frum doesn’t get it yet.

    Yes, he does.

    You are right that they are not philosophically conservative. Understanding that, you should also understand that Frum doesn’t think like a conservative and therefore does not share conservative goals (same for the rest of his ilk).

    For a long time I’ve focused on the philosophical beliefs of neoconservatives. You look to Burke, they look to Machiavelli. You look to Kirk, they look to Strauss. You look to Locke, they look to Hobbes. You look to Goldwater, they look to FDR.

    You are also correct about pragmatism. This philosophy, brought to us by collectivists, is a rejection of everything American conservatives claim to believe.

    Personally, I wish conservatives would put away FOX News for awhile, and open up the writings of Nisbet, Weaver, and Kirk instead. A philosophical conservatism would be far more powerful than the current instant-electoral/soap opera one.

    Bob, you run a terrific blog. One of the best!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: