1. Conservatism: Learning What It Is by Understanding What It Isn’t
This essay indirectly explains conservatism by correcting misconceptions of it. In so doing, the essay distinguishes conservatism from many of its criticisms.
The intellectual and political fight to define American conservatism, let alone to lay claim as its standard-bearer, has been a protracted one since the late 1950s and early 1960s. This debate has been guided by discussions of what it is not as much as by answering the question of what it is. The purpose of this essay is to reflect on the historic debate about what conservatism is not.
This reflection will be made clearer if we recall some of the key moments in the historical debate. We can look to Nobel prize-winning economist F.A. Hayek’s addendum to his lucid 1960 book,The Constitution of Liberty, titled “Why I am Not a Conservative.” We may call upon the reactions of some of his friends who opined that he really didn’t mean what he wrote. We also can dig into a fascinating dialogue carried out in the pages of America’s most prestigious conservative weekly, National Review, wherein liberals, libertarians, and conservatives attempted to define, denigrate, or defend the true meanings of conservatism. Lastly, we can call upon local wisdom and experiences peculiar to Utah, perhaps the reddest of red states and, presumably, one of the nation’s most conservative.
We will do all this and more, and we will do it in a way that we hope will reveal the plain and simple truths about the most important political philosophy of the modern age.
First, conservatism is not an ideology. While ideology is defined several ways, in this context we mean theorizing in a visionary or impractical way. Even when descriptive of a body of doctrine, ideology does not accurately portray conservatism.
Over the past several decades since the post-World War II era many political liberals disdainful of conservatism’s growing embrace by the American population have projected their own ideological rigidity on conservatism’s advocates. In the January 30, 1962 edition of National Review, Morton Auerbach, University of California at Northridge professor and author of The Conservative Illusion, wrote about “Do-It-Yourself Conservatism?” His thesis was that conservatism always has been a very “flexible” word that has led many modern era advocates into self-contradictory stands – and if self-contradictory among very intelligent people, then fully conscious and shameless defenders of an incongruous hodgepodge of unyielding and competing ideas (i.e., ideologues and their ideology).
Professor Auerbach’s critique rested on the idea that organic political conservatism was based on a longing for a return to medieval life derived from opposition to the French Revolution, but that its modern proponents actually favor the underlying tenets of that Revolution. In his National Review essay he wrote:
“The tradition against which the Revolution was directed was the heritage of the Middle Ages. Therefore, a conservative was at the time one who defended medieval values against the ’liberals’ who supported the principles of revolutionary France.”
Professor Auerbach (unbelievably for a “professor” of political science) describes the “good society” sought after by the French “liberal revolutionaries” (i.e., Rousseau, the Jacobins, and perpetrators of the Reign of Terror) as “the embodiment of free enterprise, civil liberties, and limited government,” and that, through some unexplained motive, modern conservatives have adopted these very liberal positions while remaining at heart medievalists – thus, the self-contradictory nature of modern conservatism’s “ideology.”
To read the rest of this essay from 2007, click on the PDF here.
2. Political irony: the similarities of opposing extremes
By Derek Monson
Want to know what the “gay-rights” movement and the enforcement-only immigration crowd have in common?
A number of news stories in recent weeks have highlighted ironic positions taken by groups across the political spectrum on various issues. Some of these stories illustrate what I call “do as I say but not as I do” politics.
Read on to find out more about the intolerant teachers of “tolerance” and the case where the anti-amnesty crowd wants amnesty.
3. Free lunch for all Utah kids – at your expense
By Alexis Young
This summer, many government schools (and parks and rec centers) in Utah are offering free meals to anyone under age 18 who shows up, regardless of their need, using federal tax dollars.
More and more, government is using schools as welfare centers rather than education centers. Schools offer children and their families meals, medical care, day care, transportation, counseling and more.