For most Americans “State of the Union” means the annual address given by the president. But to readers of The American Mercury in the late 1930s it meant something else as well: a monthly column by the literary libertarian Albert Jay Nock. Mercury editor Paul Palmer wanted to reclaim the magazine’s roots — H.L. Mencken had founded it a decade before — and who better to present an ongoing alternative to Franklin Roosevelt’s vision of America than the author of Our Enemy, the State?

Nock was no partisan hack or terrible simplifier, however: his perspective was trenchantly cultural, not merely political, and the “fundamental economics” he was interested in was not that of the Chamber of Commerce but of Henry George’s Progress and Poverty.

That column gave us the idea of calling The American Conservative’s new group blog State of the Union. Not because our contributors will attempt to mimic his style or ape his philosophy — Nock was sui generis — but because we too wish to examine the passing scene in more dimensions than just the political. As with the magazine itself, State of the Union will look at everything affecting our country’s condition, from elections and foreign policy to religion and culture high and low. Contributors include both staff and longtime TAC associates such as co-founding editor Scott McConnell and new talent such as Scott Galupo (who joins us from U.S. News and World Report) and Samuel Goldman.

(Readers should, of course, also keep an eye on the individual blogs of Daniel Larison, Noah Millman, and Rod Dreher for close coverage of international relations, drama and public policy, and the place of faith in America.)

Conservatism, like Nock’s radicalism, is a temperament and an outlook, not a set of talking points to please a power-seeking camorra. Our State of the Union will not be like the president’s; nor will it be like the prefabricated retorts of the opposition party. Instead, this is home for a critical, intelligent, independent conservatism, reporting the state of our country without illusion or resentment.