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Burke Not Buckley

Conservatives are engaged in deep introspection these days. As they reconsider their direction, they would do well to look back to the formative period of their movement. They may find something there of great value—something many conservatives think their movement embraced, but in truth rejected.

By 1952, liberal candidates had not only captured the last five Democratic presidential nominations but the past five Republican nominations as well. Most observers considered conservatism dead—a philosophy unsuited for modern times. A small number of intellectuals disagreed. They believed that—if redefined—conservatism might be resuscitated. But they passionately disagreed about how it should be redefined.

One group wanted to follow the teachings of the great 18th-century English statesman Edmund Burke. Russell Kirk was the most prominent of this group. In 1953, Kirk—a young assistant professor of history at Michigan State—turned his doctoral dissertation into a book. “Burke’s is the true school of conservative principle,” Kirk argued, and he described Burke’s philosophy so appealingly that Kirk’s book, The Conservative Mind, became wildly successful. Other Burkeans included Clinton Rossiter, a political scientist at Cornell; Robert Nisbet, a sociologist at Berkeley; and Peter Viereck, an historian at Mount Holyoke College. These men, though academics, were gifted writers, and each produced a popular book advocating the Burkean way.

What is the Burkean way? Those who have read only Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France—his brilliant jeremiad against the convulsive overthrow of the French monarchy—often think of Burke as an implacable defender of institutions and tradition. But that can be misleading. Burke was, in fact, a reformer, though of a particular kind. He believed that society was a complex organism that evolved to its present condition for reasons that were not always evident. Burke believed that changes are often desirable—and a constant process of improvement essential—but those changes should be made carefully, with respect for tradition and a concern for unintended consequences. “We must all obey the great law of change,” he wrote. “It is the most powerful law of nature, and the means perhaps of its conservation.”


Burke’s new disciples agreed. “Conservatism,” Russell Kirk wrote, “never is more admirable than when it accepts change that it disapproves, with good grace, for the sake of the general condition; and the impetuous Burke, of all men, did most to establish that principle.”

At the most fundamental level, Burke was a communitarian. It is institutions—governmental, professional, religious, educational, and otherwise—that compose the fabric of society. Each of these institutions has classes of people who devote their careers to preserving and improving them: jurists serve the law, scholars their disciplines and universities, clerics their church, and so on. All citizens, in fact, are engaged in a sacred intergenerational compact. “Society,” Burke said, “becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.”

For the Burkeans of 1950s, emphasis on community was at the heart of a properly conceived conservatism. Kirk wrote: “True conservatism … rises at the antipodes from individualism. Individualism is social atomism; conservatism is community of spirit.” Robert Nisbet titled his book The Quest for Community.

Though it may surprise people who have been taught that Edmund Burke is the father of modern conservatism, the Burkeans were, in fact, defeated by a rival group with a nearly diametrically opposed view. The leader of that group was William F. Buckley Jr., founder of National Review. When, in 1952, Buckley first articulated his philosophy in God and Man at Yale, he called it “individualism,” though the nearly absolute laissez-faire philosophy he advocated became better known as libertarianism.

How did Buckley prevail? He deftly co-opted Kirk by inviting him to write a regular column for National Review, something Kirk could not afford not to do after imprudently giving up his faculty position. Kirk abhorred the libertarian direction in which Buckley and colleagues were taking conservatism. Kirk later denounced libertarianism for revering “self-interest, closely joined to the nexus of cash payment” rather than Burke’s “community of souls.” He complained that libertarians take “the state for the great oppressor” although Burke taught that government “is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants.” Yet for the quarter-century that he wrote for the magazine, Kirk held his tongue.

March/April 2013 [1]For their own reasons, the other three Burkeans also left the field of battle. Paradoxically, the Burkeans never collaborated. These communitarians acted—and were defeated—as individuals while the individualist Buckley built a community of thinkers and readers through his magazine.

Maybe Buckley’s was the necessary path in the 1950s. Conservatism then needed to differentiate itself starkly from the prevailing liberalism. Burkeanism would have made that difficult because, as Kirk often observed, Burke was both a conservative and a liberal. But if conservatives today are looking for wisdom—and maybe even a less truculent partisanship—they might consider the path not taken.

Carl T. Bogus, who considers himself a liberal Burkean, is a professor of law at Roger Williams University and author of Buckley: William F. Buckley Jr. and the Rise of American Conservatism [2].


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46 Comments To "Burke Not Buckley"

#1 Comment By Aaron Gross On April 9, 2013 @ 1:01 am

I still don’t get what it means to be a Burkean today. (And yes, I’ve read a fair amount of his writings, not just the Reflections.) Does it mean you vote for Barack Obama, like Jeffrey Hart? Or does it mean you wear a powdered periwig and buckled shoes?

Aren’t we all Burkeans now, at least on domestic policy? Everybody talks reform, not revolution. Even Obamacare is reform. Everybody gets the idea of unintended consequences, that you can’t just engineer society as if it were a machine. These lessons were learned by the neoconservatives in the 1960s – some of whom explicitly turned to Edmund Burke back then – and were adopted by pretty much all liberals since. And everyone gives lip service, at least, to those “little platoons” that are always cited by those who’ve read a few sentences of the Reflections.

I’m an admirer of Edmund Burke, but sometimes Burkeanism seems another one of those principles like subsidiarity: a principle that sounds so good that everyone agrees with it, and which is so abstract that it can never be used to make a real, concrete decision.

#2 Comment By Thomas O. Meehan On April 9, 2013 @ 1:25 am

Buckley never put forth a serious philosophical treatise. So there never was a Buckleyian system to attack, just a series of libertarian oriented policy accommodations with contemporary realities.

This explains why his enterprise fell into the hands of even more opportunistic operators. His fusionism collapsed into the black hole of Neoconservatism because there was no system or canon to keep it on track.

Burke was in a position to moderate change in the shadow of long tradition. We sadly, have so little left of our heritage that a modern Burke could only succeed in arriving at barbarism at a slower pace.

#3 Comment By Wesley On April 9, 2013 @ 4:41 am

Conservative Republicans should end the anti-government paranoia or, to quote George W. Bush, reflexive anti-statism that has become so prevalent among ourselves. We should recognize that government is an integral part of American society even as it shouldn’t dominate society. We should also promote the idea that limited government is a means to an end not an end in itself. Conservative Republicans should also introduce “Compassionate Conservatism 2.0” which wouldn’t just be a rehash of Bush’s original compassionate conservatism, but would be an updated version for a more class-divided and more multi-ethnic post-Great Recession country.

#4 Comment By Charlieford On April 9, 2013 @ 8:10 am

“Buckley never put forth a serious philosophical treatise. So there never was a Buckleyian system . . .”

True. But wasn’t it Kirk himself who said conservatism is less a system than a mood?

The Buckleyan mood is one of “standing athwart history and yelling ‘Stop!'” It is contrarian of course, but even more essential is that it is more or less panicked.

Buckley was a magnificent leader for that conservatism: his wealth, his breeding, his education, had all infused in him a wry, bemused attitude that ensured that he usually maintained a certain ironic distance from his own critiques. He was (again, usually) more concerned that they be accurate, cogent, expressed with style and grace and wit, than he was about sticking it to the objects of his criticism.

All that died with Buckley.

They predicted (hoped?) irony would die with 9/11, and those so hoping were usually disappointed.

But, really. By the 1990s what was mainstream, GOP-style conservatism in America? It was anti-Bill-Clintonism.

And it’s leader was Newt Gingrich.

And while Gingrich has yet to shuffle off the stage (there’s an item to add to your prayer list!) in fact, it wouldn’t matter. Every potential leader they’ve embraced since has been as much, sometimes more, Gingrich than anything else.

#5 Comment By Bryan Henry On April 9, 2013 @ 8:42 am

James Kloppenberg argues in his book “Reading Obama” that Obama has essentially tried to reformulate liberalism from a communitarian perspective; and Obama is seen by many to be quite Burkean…the problem is that too many conservatives (in office) see him as a “socialist ideologue” rather than a pragmatist. I still wonder if the country would be able to split the difference between “no vision” liberalism and “city on a (Christian) hill” conservatism by moving in a communitarian direction if the president were a white Protestant. Personally, I feel like he is right on many issues, but half of the country refuses to concede that the “common sense compromises” they so desperately want the two major parties to reach are being articulated on a daily basis by the president…

#6 Comment By Benjamin P. Glaser On April 9, 2013 @ 9:36 am

Part of the problem right now in “conservatism”, and this is certainly emblematic of some of the writers in this magazine, is there are a fair number of conservative writers who though rightly put off by the Bush years and the conservative intelligentsia associated with it are attempting to “go back to the sources” to show that they are “above” the current situation and in doing so are really missing the point of being conservative in the first place.

#7 Comment By MEH 0910 On April 9, 2013 @ 9:38 am

The caricature illustration of Burke that TAC always uses makes him look like a grandmother.

#8 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 9, 2013 @ 11:32 am

A couple of observations:

1. I was conservative long before I ever heard of these gentleman and I remain a conservative inspite of their intellectual tour de force authorships have been supplanted by something less akin to what they parsed out intellectually.

2. “Other Burkeans included Clinton Rossiter, a political scientist at Cornell; Robert Nisbet, a sociologist at Berkeley; and Peter Viereck, an historian at Mount Holyoke College. These men, though academics, were gifted writers, and each produced a popular book advocating the Burkean way . . .”

but books such as these do not get wide readership. They do not get passed around to the masses not would it be likely that if they had they would have been appreciated or understood in the lives of every day living. Those people didn’t need a Buckly or a Burke to define for them conservative. They didn’t need to be rooted in the principles of Machiavelli, Des Cartes, Locke, Socratese or Hume to understand conservative principles. Perhaps that is the disconnect. The complete and utter inability to prohect the conservative philosophy into an ethnomethodology that makes sense. Which brings me to my final observation

3. Other Burkeans included Clinton Rossiter, a political scientist at Cornell; Robert Nisbet, a sociologist at Berkeley; and Peter Viereck, an historian at Mount Holyoke College. These men, though academics, were gifted writers, and each produced a popular book advocating the Burkean way

Not only are these gentleman players on the field today. They are not even represented in the world of academia where the battle as to culture wars, so called are being waged buffered against nothing resembling a conservative philosophy.

#9 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 9, 2013 @ 11:43 am

Case in point, notice the draw of the intellectual article’s import. Liberals who can mully around in the verbiage and ideas truning them into comments that I am sure the rhetoricians you’ve noted would reject.

What conservative intellectual would embrace the policies of the current wh occupant. My thought is none. But in between the lines of their intellectual teatises, apparently liberals think there is room for them.

Gentleman, and lady, ever Reminded that Miss Tushnet is a contributor, the power of Mr. Buchanan is not his old time religion — though I acknowledge it as a force, but his ability to speak as a member of the world that eviscerates the senses and lives of people on the ground. I do respect my Master’s degree, despite its worthlessness, but most people are delighted to graduate from HS muchless have need or value a college degree. And politics is about ‘the most people’.

Superior knowledge that remains in superior circles has little value. When I share that I am celibate and why — what it means to be a conservative becomes relevant in their lives. when I refuse to accept an unemployment check — and explain why — conservativism has legs.

#10 Comment By David Naas On April 9, 2013 @ 12:21 pm

The grey eminence behind fusionism was the irascible Frank Meyer, who promoted libertarian traditionalism with all the fervor an ex-Communist could summon.

(And, although I do appreciate much of what he wrote, Meyer was typically unchanged as a True Believer, whose fundamentalism didn’t mellow, merely shifted allegiances from Communism to Conservatism.)

Much overlooked is the degree to which modern hedonistic capitalism has corrupted the whole conservative spectrum to favor unlimited profit-taking at the expense of family, community, religion. Joe Stalin could never have had such success as the financial institutions in the destruction of society. (Contra Lady Thatcher, there IS such a thing as “society”.)

In consideration of how much the Burkeans from the 1950s were honored and forgotten, perhaps it would be reasonable to make a fresh start, in the spirit of Burke, and against all those who pump for destruction of the social fabric in pursuit of theoretical agendas or maximized profits. (This would include about all of the candidates whose faces appeared in the late Republican primary season of dubious memory.)

Yes, a Burkean Renaissance would not be unwelcome.

But, please, none of the “We’ve got trouble, friends, right here in River City…”

#11 Comment By Christian Schmemann On April 9, 2013 @ 2:40 pm

I do not concur with Me Meehan that most of our heritage has been destroyed. It is in a weak condition, certainly, but (some) people still seek after God and Tradition.

Our Heritage is in sore need of renewal, and reform, but being that our Heritage was founded on the foundation of Christianity and is inseparable from Christianity, it like the Church can never die. What we need instead is a Burke who functions like Pope John Paul Magnum.

I agree that we need more Burke and less Buckley, but I would bitterly hate to see Buckley lose all influence. The communitarian aspects of Burke’s conservatism sometimes I think need to be reminded of individual rights, and Buckley’s conservatism is the most apt at doing this.

#12 Comment By E. Salvatore Giunta On April 9, 2013 @ 3:03 pm

Bogus makes the socialist error of confusing the state with “community” and “society.”

The vast majority of conventional governments, today and throughout human history, are not true societies: they’re mafias.

Libertarianism and true communalism are not incompatible. But statism and community are.

#13 Comment By Dan Phillips On April 9, 2013 @ 3:52 pm

It is possible to believe that communitarianism (I don’t really like that word due to certain connotations it has but we’ll go with it for the sake of the argument) is a more appropriate base for conservatism than individualism, without accepting that that means that modern conservatism should moderate, come to terms with big government, blah, blah blah… which seems to be the direction these comments are taking. One could argue that communitarian concerns lead to more conservative outcomes (such as on immigration) and most decidedly do not lead to bigger government. One could argue that big government destroys community. So let’s not mix communitarian vs. individualist up with the desire for moderation. This growing tendency to make Burkean essentially a synonym for moderation is irksome.

#14 Comment By Ron On April 9, 2013 @ 4:47 pm

I very much enjoyed this article and think it makes an essential point. However, I am struck that the article wants us to accept that Russell Kirk had a particular world view but that “for the quarter-century that he wrote for the magazine, Kirk held his tongue.” Say what, now? I would like to hear more about that if anyone knows. Why would Kirk have been reticent to this degree? And if true, can the supposed failure of the Burkean view this really be blamed on the “individualists” as opposed to Kirk and others of the communitarian stripe that held their tongues?

#15 Comment By Hooly On April 9, 2013 @ 5:22 pm

“At the most fundamental level, Burke was a communitarian. It is institutions—governmental, professional, religious, educational, and otherwise—that compose the fabric of society. Each of these institutions has classes of people who devote their careers to preserving and improving them: jurists serve the law, scholars their disciplines and universities, clerics their church, and so on. All citizens, in fact, are engaged in a sacred intergenerational compact. “Society,” Burke said, “becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.”

This Burkean philosophy sounds awfully like Confucianism.

#16 Comment By Douglas Bilodeau On April 9, 2013 @ 7:51 pm

It is wrong to equate Buckley’s “individualism” with libertarianism as it now exists. NR was not exactly a Catholic publication, but it was certainly and admittedly friendly to Catholicism at a time when the Church was far more emphatically hierarchical and culturally conservative than it is now, to the point of encouraging censorship of certain films and books.

FDR, having created the New Deal coalition in the 30’s, created a broader nationalist coalition during the war years, which persisted through the 50s. There was a conventional pretense that all the institutions of society – government, business, labor, education and the major religious denominations, were now joined in a harmonious confluence of benevolence for which all citizens should be grateful. The surprisingly persistent prosperity of the 50s (and most of the 60s), as well as the realization that the war had provided us a world open for enterprise and amazingly devoid of competitors, strongly reinforced this pretense and discouraged dissent from it. There was too much money to be made to risk rocking the boat. Buckley did dissent. He saw the trend of culture and institutional authority as increasingly inimical to classical and religious humanism (which is closer to what he meant by individualism) and therefore soul-destroying.

This contrarianism put NR and its contributors well outside what was considered respectable discourse. As I recall, most of their books were published by Regnery because no other major publisher would touch them. That’s also why the three academic ‘Burkeans’ mentioned in the article (other than Kirk) tended to avoid association with it.

In this contrarianism, there was a strange harmony between Buckley’s conservatism and the radicalism of the counterculture. They were different responses to the same problem. It is not strange, therefore, that several young writers who contributed to the early NR (e.g. Garry Wills and Joan Didion) could move easily (or appear to move) from the right to the literary left. Whether one prefers to throw darts at pictures of John Dewey or Nurse Ratched, the significance of the act is pretty much the same.

If NR became increasingly libertarian it is simply because increasing numbers of libertarians associated themselves with the right and with the Republican Party. As did increasing numbers of evangelicals. Some of the old NR crew were not at all happy with their new friends, even from the time of the Goldwater campaign of 1964. I think it was Jeffrey Hart who confessed to losing interest in Christianity until it once again proclaimed itself on a solid foundation of Greek philosophy (as in Aquinas, I suppose). This ideological evolution also had a lot to do with the shift of population and power from the Northeast to the South and West. The eventual fall of the USSR (felt as an overwhelmingly looming presence in the 50s) also led to a shift in priorities.

Apart from the odd Ayn Rand groupie, I don’t think I met a hard-core ideological libertarian until 1973. [I had met and had a couple of conversations with Bob Tyrrell of the American Spectator before that year – I don’t think that counts.] I think of libertarianism as a movement which became possible only after the convulsions of the 60s laid flat the political landscape. Before that, a truly libertarian stance would have required some kind of quasi-Nietzschean posturing typical of the Randians, or else a curmudgeonly disposition which delights in crankiness and doesn’t expect to be heeded.

#17 Comment By howard On April 9, 2013 @ 8:46 pm

I am not a libertarian, but I have trouble being a communitarian unless it is made clear what sphere of society exercises authority;


and all too often “the community” tends to mean “the affluent and activist, or the people with more time on their hands, in the community” and also we must remember that if we are to have a special concern for the poor and the marginalized, by whom are the marginalized marginalized? By communities, of course!

#18 Comment By Douglas Bilodeau On April 9, 2013 @ 8:55 pm

Re: Ron’s comment – “I very much enjoyed this article and think it makes an essential point. However, I am struck that the article wants us to accept that Russell Kirk had a particular world view but that ‘for the quarter-century that he wrote for the magazine, Kirk held his tongue.’ Say what, now?”

I also find this to be absurd. If Kirk could have been cowed into holding to a party line for money, he never would have left the U of Mich. Kirk and Buckley were temperamentally very different and had different interests. Buckley was a ‘happy warrior’ who loved confrontation, controversy and verbal dueling. Kirk was content in his country home where he reigned as patriarch and resident sage. Kirk was more a cultural visionary (not the right word, but the best I’ve got at the moment), rather than any sort of political philosopher. He only wrote one book on actual policy, as far as I know. It got little attention, and I expect he didn’t much care. Still, Austin Bramwell went way over the top when he wrote in TAC in Nov 2006, “Russell Kirk, for example, even as he shrewdly positioned himself as the intellectual godfather of the conservative movement, had almost no political opinions whatsoever.” This is a narrow view of the political. Kirk said little about particular parties, politicians, bills or policies; he was concerned with the significance of human existence and our manner of living it. So was Tolkien. Has the latter had no impact on society via expansion of the moral imagination?

#19 Comment By Wesley On April 9, 2013 @ 9:52 pm

E. Salvatore Giunta and Dan Phillips: Bogus and the commenters aren’t conflating “government” or “the state” with “community” and “society.” But government is an integral part of “community” and “society” and nobody can realistically deny that. And for people who are involved in politics and government, the sphere of “community” and “society” that they interact with most on a daily basis is…well.. government. Bogus’s article is about how the conservative political philosophy should relate to “community” and “society.” And it’s impossible to talk about that without mentioning “government” or “the state.”

Bogus mentions that Russell Kirk “complained that libertarians take ‘the state for the great oppressor.'” Bogus compares this with Burke’s teaching “that government ‘is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants.'” If conservatives in government want to adequately help the “private” spheres of “community” and “society” they have to come to terms with..well..government. Conservatives in government can’t help anybody if they reject the legitimacy of government.

Conservative commentator John Podhoretz said awhile back that a problem that conservative Republicans have is that whenever a conservative Republican formulates policies for “good” regulations, other conservative Republicans denounce their ideas as “big government” or “socialist.” You can’t have conservative regulatory policy if you reject the legitimacy of all regulations. Bobby Jindal, Louisiana’s Republican governor, and other Republicans have said that the goals of the Republicans shouldn’t just be austerity and balancing the budget, but also should be economic growth and creating jobs.

Bogus mentions that Kirk “denounced libertarianism for revering ‘self-interest, closely joined to the nexus of cash payment.'” I’m guessing that when Kirk said “the nexus of cash payment” he was referring to crony capitalism. I believe that libertarianism always eventually leads to crony capitalism, both direct and indirect. This is notwithstanding the fact that libertarians usually claim to oppose crony capitalism or at least they give lip service to the idea. The reason why libertarianism leads to crony capitalism is that when government policy places an emphasis on protecting and promoting individual self-interests rather than the public interest, then the most powerful individual self-interests–what we call “special interests”–are able to control the legislative and policy-making processes to their own benefit.

#20 Comment By Douglas Bilodeau On April 9, 2013 @ 11:30 pm

The more I reflect on it, the idea of Kirk indenturing himself as a wage-slave to Buckley grows more fantastical. A column in a low-circulation bi-weekly could only have paid a pittance. Kirk had a syndicated newspaper column which would have paid far more.

Disclaimer: Defense of Kirk and Buckley on particular points does not imply agreement on the whole. Despite Kirk’s early influence, I now disagree with him in many respects. I never liked his admiration for ante-bellum southern politicians (being descended from abolitionists and at least one die hard Union veteran). He also seemed taken in by the idea that we fought wars in the Middle East for Israel, a nation which actually preferred that we hadn’t. It was for the Saudi’s that we fought the first one, and the second to get out of Arabia when we had worn out our welcome, but couldn’t just leave the Iraq mess hanging. All the trouble since came from our refusal to let the Kurds create Kurdistan (where we could have safely parked our troops from Arabia & Kuwait, knocking down Saddam’s palaces on the way), and say to hell with the rest of it.

#21 Comment By Wesley On April 10, 2013 @ 12:59 am

Howard: Every political philosophy is actually communitarian to some extent due to the collective nature of politics and government. Every political philosophy is also individualistic to some extent due to the fact that the human race is made up of individuals. But a political philosophy can either emphasize the public interest or it can emphasize individual self-interests. If a political philosophy emphasizes the public interest then its adherents will protect and promote the interests of the country as a whole and every individual in it. But if a political philosophy emphasizes individual self-interests then its adherents will protect and promote the interests of those individuals who are the most powerful, what we call “special interests.”

#22 Comment By E. Salvatore Giunta On April 10, 2013 @ 2:15 am


Government *is* an integral part of community and society: as a conservative anarchist, I agree with this 1000%.

We libertarians are not, qua libertarianism, against government: we’re against mafias, i.e., involuntary governments. And most conventional governments, i.e., states, today and throughout human history, have been glorified mafias.

Coercive domination over people who do not consent to be ruled by you is anti-social and anti-communitarian. Most conservatives don’t get this, but more and more are. Finally.

#23 Comment By Bryan On April 10, 2013 @ 1:09 pm

Man…I’ve been skylarking around the Yahoo! news comments for an hour, drowning in a sea of the worst human imbecility, then I come to TAC and the first comment I read (from Mr. Aaron Gross) is both insightful and actually made me laugh out loud. Imagine my embarrassment at having actually been in the process of buckling my shoes when I came across it.

Bryan Henry’s comment just amazes me. He is obviously intelligent, and his parents clearly have impeccable taste in names. Can he really believe what he says? How can a person be sincere and intelligent and still truly believe that The Real Problem is that “…half of the country refuses to concede that the ‘common sense compromises’ they so desperately want the two major parties to reach are being articulated on a daily basis by the president?”

I have long been skeptical when some conservatives histrionically ascribe a “cult-like” or “messianic” dynamic to Obama’s public popularity. But I understand better what they mean when I come across stuff like what Mr. Henry has written. This is enlightening.

#24 Comment By Carpenter On April 10, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

“Our Heritage is in sore need of renewal, and reform, but being that our Heritage was founded on the foundation of Christianity and is inseparable from Christianity, it like the Church can never die. ”

–That thinking is what got us into this mess in the first place. Claiming that the foreign religion “Christianity”, a rehash of Judaism for global consumption, would be the basis for the Western world. Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire and the early and highly successful expanding Celtic and Germanic societies did not need Christianity to succeed. (Nor did China, Korea and Japan need Christianity to become great, or the ancient Aryan empires in India. Christianity is not necessary for a prosperous, conservative society, no matter what Christians claim.)

Christianity brings with it what Nietzsche called “the slave morality”, that strong is bad and weak is good. Thereby paving the way for anti-Western socialism. We are defeated by our own niceness. Our own willingness to give up what we have to the billions of non-Westerners, in the name of Christian “goodness”. The result is a brutal, steadily empoverished society, a West becoming the Third World, run by calculating socialist parties that by votes and import voters.

That is the first understanding a conservative must have today. Anything else and you are useless for the West and for conservatism.

#25 Comment By Carpenter On April 10, 2013 @ 1:40 pm

“We libertarians are not, qua libertarianism, against government: we’re against mafias, i.e., involuntary governments.”

Most libertarians would disagree with that. They are squarely against government, period. You simply redefine government as meaning any form of cooperation, and then you can say you are not anti-government, while in fact you want to do away with real government, which you call “coercive”.

No society has ever worked without government. (“Coercive government” in your words.) The first thing people would do in a society with no state is to create a state. It is just as essential as private enterprise. Some things need to be decided centrally, and defense needs to be central. Otherwise a country would quickly be eaten by other countries.

“Libertarianism” is a uniquely American extremism, which can thrive because the Founding Fathers used the word Liberty to rally the masses so the American land owners could take power from the British land owners. What true conservatism is in fact based on is the nation’s people. That was also the real basis for the American Revolution – the independence of the American people – even though they used “Liberty” as the slogan because it sounded in line with various philosophers of the time, and potential allies in Europe liked it.

#26 Comment By Douglas Bilodeau On April 10, 2013 @ 2:13 pm

Giunta et al:

A society without mafias is impossible. People will *always* use whatever assets and resources they have – wealth, fame, priestly eminence, direct or indirect control of land, demagoguery, family and clan connections, skill in managing violence, etc. – to advance their own interests. Those with common interests will combine, publically or secretly. Minimal government collapses in the face of bribery and intimidation. The overarching mafia called the state generally arises through a consensus of the powerful or numerous to limit the bedlam which is human society to an acceptable level of self-destruction, a process which may take centuries. Especially important are the replacement of blood feuds, honor killings, dueling, private human sacrifice and the like by communal justice and ceremony. Even those are not always achieved. Anything approaching genuine community-wide compassion and solidarity, (much less equal dignity and equality before the law) requires divine intervention, as in The Eumenides of Aeschylus. See also under Prophets, Hebrew.

Libertarians assume that people are naturally disposed to agree to play by a few simple and minimalist rules. They aren’t and they don’t. People cheat, often quite effectively. Libertarian liberty is cold comfort to the poor and the dull, the orphan and the widow.

#27 Comment By Douglas Bilodeau On April 10, 2013 @ 3:32 pm

Re: Carpenter – “Christianity brings with it what Nietzsche called “the slave morality”, that strong is bad and weak is good.”

Exactly. Christianity is a ferociously subversive attack upon all proto-Nietzschean warrior castes. Judaism has always done the same. In the Hebrew scriptures, the blood of the victim cries out from the Earth for justice. Pharaoh knuckles under to the demands of slaves. The youngest son of the smallest tribe is ordained to rule over all. The absolute sovereign of the oldest empire is rudely interrupted at his banquet and given notice (by the literal disembodied hand writing on the wall) that his doom, and that of his Empire, arrives tomorrow. The church of the martyrs arose and (after a few centuries) the Caesars fell. Boo hoo.

The founders were nearly unanimous that their Republic of Liberty would never survive without a common culture of reverence and virtue. They pictured farmers and craftsmen reading the Bible to their families in the evening, not day-traders weekending in Vegas.

The various non-Christian empires and predatory cultures cited above were not known for their minimalist governments, nor their respect for the common citizen. They were militarist aristocracies which ruled by terror, moderated in a few cases by priestly or scholarly guilds.

Poor old Nietzsche, contemplating his life as madness loomed: sickly young soldier, failed classical scholar, scribbler of aphorisms, succumbing to disease. I hope he had some nice devout nurses at his mental hospital, who faithfully changed his sheets and emptied his bedpans.

#28 Comment By Bryan On April 10, 2013 @ 4:07 pm

Carpenter, it is just as silly to say that no society ever “worked” (?) without government as to say that a society cannot (materially) prosper without Christian ethos. After all, if any society had ever “worked” without a government, we wouldn’t exactly be reading about it in Newsweek, would we?

Mr. Bilodeau, I agree with most of what you wrote, but you confused me at the end. None are weaker than the dead. Was that genuine compassion for Nietzsche in your last lines, or is your practice of Christianity limited to evening Bible-reading after a long day of crafting, with respect and compassion extended only to those whose writing you like?

He might or might not have been a mere pathetic madman, but he still has us talking about him and his ideas 100 years later. I think there is a chance that somebody else might have eventually gone on to similarly criticize Christianity anyway, even if ol’ Freddy Nietzsche himself had never started the ball rolling.

#29 Comment By Wesley On April 10, 2013 @ 4:19 pm

Carpenter: Libertarianism is not a uniquely American extremism. Libertarianism influenced Thatcherism, just as it influenced Reaganomics. Now I am a fan of both Reagan and Thatcher and believe that both leaders helped their respective countries’ economies greatly, but I believe that the failures of both leaders’ economic philosophies are due to the libertarian influences which eventually led to the global financial meltdown and Great Recession. Libertarianism also exists in continental Europe where it is usually a synonym for anarchy.

#30 Comment By Hooly On April 10, 2013 @ 5:00 pm

@Douglas Bilodeau,

“The various non-Christian empires and predatory cultures cited above were not known for their minimalist governments, nor their respect for the common citizen. They were militarist aristocracies which ruled by terror, moderated in a few cases by priestly or scholarly guilds.”

Early Christendom didn’t have warrior castes? Are you sure about that? Then what was that class of warrior known as the Knight? a class so imbued with Christianity they started wars in the Middle East to reclaim the Holy Land, ie. Crusades.

What other civilization is more ‘predatory’ and ‘parasitic’ then the oh so Christian civilization of called the Confederate States of America? a slave owning, trading empire based on human misery, the Christian doctrine that the Black man must serve the White man due to Noah’s curse upon Ham?

#31 Comment By Douglas Bilodeau On April 10, 2013 @ 11:02 pm


I never claimed that self-proclaimed Christian Empires were any better than the others, only that none of the non-Christian ones would provide a congenial (or survivable) alternative for would-be libertarians.

To see what kind of barbarians the established Church had to work with at the beginning of the Middle Ages, see ‘The History of the Franks’ by Gregory of Tours, written in the late 6th century – long but surprisingly engaging for an old chronicle. For tension between the Church and the military elite in the 10th-11th centuries, see ‘The Forge of Christendom’ by Tom Holland. I recommend all of Holland’s books. The crusades were a big deal to the knights who had to travel from France or Britain to get there, but they were hardly a blip on the radar to most of Islamic civilization – just another episode in the centuries-long war between Islam and the Byzantine Empire, which finally ended with the fall of Byzantium to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. The whole Balkan region then suffered 3 to 4 centuries of occupation and oppression. The Turks nearly took Vienna twice.

People generally tend to be jerks (Augustine and Calvin said it better). Especially people with wealth and power they want to hang on to. Phony-baloney appeals to the curse of Ham to defend slavery hardly made the CSA ‘oh-so-Christian’. As a radical Protestant, I have no problem impugning the track record of establishment-approved churches. On the other hand, slavery was practically universal and taken for granted everywhere in the world before the 18th century. It’s hard to imagine how it would ever have been challenged without the anti-slavery movement which arose in Anglo-American culture, and which WAS oh-so-Christian.

If you think the apostle Paul loved slavery, read his letter to Philemon – one of the shortest books in the New Testament. This is sometimes cited to prove your point, since on the surface Paul is sending an escaped slave back to his master, a Christian Paul knows well. But read between the lines. Paul can heap on guilt-tripping like no one else, and this he does unsparingly, saying in effect, “If you treat this guy badly when you get him back, in fact if you fail to set him free and embrace him as a brother, then I’m going to pay you a visit and set you straight. You owe me, and I want to see some major changes around here.” The actual text says near the end, “Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. At the same time, prepare a guest room for me ….” Translation: I’ll be stopping by to check up on you, and I’d better be impressed. [BTW, Paul is writing from a prison cell.] Philemon was one of the most subversive letters ever written in the ancient world. It was not just a private letter, either. It was expected to be read to the whole congregation which met in Philemon’s house, and no doubt other churches got copies too.

There is a Presbyterian church here in my town which moved from South Carolina to southern Indiana in the 1850s specifically to get themselves out of slave territory and to position themselves to assist escaped slaves coming over the border from Kentucky. Back in the 1st century there was no free territory to escape to, no abolitionists to help out once a slave got there. The territories outside the empire were not likely to welcome strangers, except perhaps to enslave them. An escaped slave was an outlaw, and most likely would have to resort to crime to survive. That’s why Paul discouraged escape; it generally made a bad situation worse. Better to find ways to be a light to the world where you are. Christians in the 1st century expected that suffering came along with the faith in one way or another.

#32 Comment By Vanlandigham On April 10, 2013 @ 11:11 pm

According to Churchill, if you’re not a liberal at 20, you have no heart, but if you are not a conservative by 30, you have no brain. I was one of those “heartless” 20-year-olds. I could not help but admire Edmund Burke to the chagrin of my leftist poli-sci professors.

Who is Jeffrey Hart and, if he is a professing conservative, why did he vote for Oba-menace? Am I mistaken or did Noah Millman also write on this site that he voted for Oba-menace?

#33 Comment By tma_sierrahills On April 11, 2013 @ 12:17 am

Will conservative Mexicans, Chinese, Indians, Filipinos, Vietnamese, Salvadorans, Cubans, South Koreans, Dominicans, Guatemalans choose Burke or Buckley?

These being are our top ten incoming populations. As important as the questions of what is conservatism and which direction should it take may be, it all becomes something of a surreal parlor game without recognizing that Western civilization is quickly sinking and that Westerners are being rapidly replaced, which means the sinking at some point becomes irreversible.

Not that I don’t admire the learning on display and the many fine points made. Maybe someday Chinese, Japanese or perhaps Arab scholars can unearth such debates and puzzle over them. I can imagine one scholar looking at another with furrowed brow: “Kirk? Captain?”

#34 Comment By OldVet On April 11, 2013 @ 11:38 pm

It would be a useful exercise to write a definition of conservatism, because it’s not clear what the word means anymore. These days, the term is most often invoked by economic elitists who use it as an intellectual underpinning for their scams.

#35 Comment By Wesley On April 12, 2013 @ 7:23 am

“the term is most often invoked by economic elitists who use it as an intellectual underpinning for their scams.”

This really is what modern libertarianism is.

#36 Comment By David Naas On April 12, 2013 @ 12:06 pm

This has become an old thread, by the speed-of-light standards of the internet, yet I found myself reading the article and commentary, and it came to me that the argument (beyond these comments) has taken a wrong turn.
To argue over the size of government is really inappropriate, contra the Norquist Nihlists (whose declared purpose is to destroy government in general). More intelligently, we should be having a discussion regarding the task of government. What is government supposed to do? And what time we are dealing with. Clearly, a different size and type of government was needed in 1900 than was needed in 1941. Clearly, to think that government can do anything is absurd, but to suggest it should do nothing is equally silly.
I would propose, if any sees this last comment, that the discussion be shifted, back to basics. Then, we can avoid the propositional and rhetorical nonsense of arguing details of “libertarian” vs. “communitarian”, and the grand schemes or reordering society to fit (procrustean bed here) some arbirary Utopia. (Conservatives seem to be no less prone to Utopianism than Liberals.)
Hence, back to Burkean (practical) thinking.
(Though, I confess to missing the style and panache of WFB. Sigh.)

#37 Comment By Gary On April 12, 2013 @ 5:58 pm

It is interesting to hear how a weed may have its uses, yet when it grows too large it is a danger. If such a thing as a principle exists, how can it become outdated? If we believe in free enterprise, the fact that the purveyor of buggy whips has gone bankrupt does not affect the underlying statement. Detail is not principle. Government is dangerous and corruptive. So is insulin. Too much and the host dies. Yet, is not the ideal not to require insulin? In modern times, we are probably not advanced enough to do away with that central authority to guide the sheep, but to idealize it as something to institutionalize some sort of freedom is the grossest sort of self delusion. Government is a crutch to prevent freedom to do things that the masses don’t like. The weak bandiong together to bring down the strong, if you will. We need to hope for the day when the strong and weak can coexist within a mercantile framework with legal equality that accepts the economic differences that nature provided.

#38 Comment By John Lofton On April 12, 2013 @ 7:17 pm

No, Edmund Burke was NOT, “At the most fundamental level… a communitarian.” Edmund Burke, at the most fundamental level was a CHRISTIAN which was not mentioned in this article.

John Lofton, Recovering Republican
Editor, JohnLofton.com
Also: Archive.TheAmericanView.com
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#39 Comment By Bryan Henry On April 14, 2013 @ 9:32 am

Response to Bryan:

I fail to understand what is so ridiculous about my comment…I intended to share the claim made by someone else that Obama is a both somewhat Burkean and communitarian (I’m assuming both are good things) but that people fail to judge his ideas and policies as such…obviously it was not a good idea for a progressive to comment on TAC and I will go back to strictly reading the articles, which I really do enjoy.

#40 Comment By David Giza On April 14, 2013 @ 11:21 am

EliteCommInc: I’d like to know why you are celibate and would refuse to accept an unemployment check.

#41 Comment By TGGP On April 14, 2013 @ 5:40 pm

If one wants to make the point that Buckley & Kirk/Burke were some kind of diametric opposite, it would help to provide some evidence. But all you provide is that Buckley previously used the term “individualism”. That itself isn’t too surprising since “conservatism” was not a popular self-description before Kirk’s “The Conservative Mind” and National Review were published. The Old Right did indeed tend toward individualism & proto-libertarianism, so that is what Buckley (influenced early on by Nock & Chodorov).

I also find it strange that Bogus suggests that conservatism is closer to liberalism than libertarianism is. Libertarianism is a species of liberalism, often harkening back to classical liberalism and sometimes claiming the mantle of “true liberalism”. Across the pond “liberalism” is associated with the political right.

#42 Comment By Ross Arlen On April 16, 2013 @ 2:42 am

I don’t have the time or space to respond to all the excellent comments here. But I believe that Mr. Bogus has written a fine short article–which must necessarily gloss over some finer points. Yes, of course this situation is more complicated than this particular presentation succeeds in conveying. However, what Mr. Bogus says here needs to be said.

That is:

There is a fundamental double-consciousness of American conservatism.

We’re afraid to say it, but there it is. Just as liberalism is in-built to any form of Protestantism, libertarianism is in-built to any form of democracy/republicanism.

Mr. Lofton has a point when he mentions that Edmund Burke, “at the most fundamental level was a CHRISTIAN”–let us think on what it means to have, shall we say, higher loyalties. Higher loyalties should mean that we are, in some way, above the world–in the world but not of it. However, these higher loyalties tend to manifest in loyalty to abstract principles instead of particular felt human goods. Burke was perhaps the first one in the English-speaking world to notice this. But Christianity would seem to impel us to align ourselves to God. Christianity has at its beating core a profoundly mystical philosophy. But mystical love of God before all men causes real problems when made into a principle of government and not individual action and monastic devotion. For Government is concerned with earthly matters.

Mr. Aaron Gross (the first commenter on this post) asks, does being a “Burkean” today “mean you wear a powdered periwig and buckled shoes?” By the mocking nature of the question itself, he demonstrates very strongly that indeed (as Mr. Meehan has said) “we sadly, have so little left of our heritage that a modern Burke could only succeed in arriving at barbarism at a slower pace.” America, friends, is not a conservative project. And if we were to truly accept the implications of Burke, we would all be Roman Catholic and Monarchists–two things that America is most certainly NOT. William F. Buckley, Jr. was expressing an essentially American conservatism that looks suspiciously like Randianism. Although Libertarian thought has become more subtle over the years, its active arm, its politics is completely anti-Authoritarian, and largely non-denominational Christian (which is a strong branch of Calvinism). When you re-locate Authority from Tradition to a Text (from the Church to the Bible, from the Monarchy to the Constitution) the next, easy step–the intellectually necessary step–is to then re-locate Authority from the Text to the Self. And when 25 million selves have absolute Authority, what we will get is an oppressive government who must be totalitarian to keep the peace.

So what are the political implications of this right now for “American conservatives”? As “EliteCommInc” says, rather haltingly, a major problem of the conservative intellectual movement is “the…inability to [project] the conservative philosophy into an ethnomethodology that makes sense.” He has a point–the good old-fashioned Americans that we know and love aren’t ready to hear that American republicanism and Soviet Communism grew from the same Enlightenment-Universalist root (Reinhardt Koselleck). Or that the desire to stick together as a Union is fundamentally at odds with the ethos of the American Revolution. Or that the ethos of Protestantism, especially the Calvinism espoused by most conservative Americans, is fundamentally opposed to lasting social structure. Or that “American Values” are historically just as strongly influenced by occultism as by Christianity (see A Republic of Mind and Spirit by Catherine Albanese). I’m not saying that these are necessarily bad things, but they are necessarily progressive things.
They don’t want to hear these things, and I’m sure you here at the American Conservative don’t want to hear them either. I’m sure you’ve worked out ways in your mind in which these two attitudes are compatible–I know I have. But we must recognize that it is an arrangement that is fundamentally unstable. We come from a bunch of Particularist tribes converted to a Universalist religion. The only way this fundamental instability has been dealt with is within Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, and to some extent, Traditionalist Anglicanism (to which Burke subscribed). [I would like to insert a pet peeve comment here: the above Mr. Carpenter would have you believe that Christianity is “a rehash of Judaism for global consumption, [not] the basis for the Western world. Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire and the early and highly successful expanding Celtic and Germanic societies did not need Christianity to succeed.” I would like to make the brief historical point that there is no such thing as “the Western World” without Christianity and furthermore, that the tribes of Europe would have killed each other if it were not for Christianity. While I accept the fact that Christianity and Tribalism is fundamentally in tension, dogmatic Nietzscheanism of the kind that Mr. Carpenter displays here is really the catalyst for modernity, and should be avoided, if we are not to be “useless for the West and for conservatism,” whatever the hell that means. I must make the further objection that unless one has made a concerted effort to study the social dynamics of early medieval soicety, please refrain from commenting about it. It is clear from the comments of Mr. Hooly and Mr. Bilodeau that they do not know the first thing about “medieval Christianity,” however “proto-Nietzchean” it might seem to them. Rant complete.]
As evidenced by many fine people in this comment thread, “human rights” are accepted as a fundamental reality. Some would even go as far to say “God-given rights.” Therefore, when a government (mafia) infringes upon “rights,” an individual has the Christian responsibility to fight back… etc.
This is the exact same rhetoric that the Progressive Left uses; however they are brave enough (and guilty enough) to take this rhetoric to its fullest extent. They wish to put the last brick into New Jerusalem; their idea of “New Jerusalem” is just different from American Conservatism. The solution, for me, has been to put aside the “rights of man,” which always manifests as polemical. All men have God-given desires to be sure, and within human nature is in-built the desire for certain social arrangements that: provide reverence for the dead, a reasonable amount of freedom and social mobility for the living, and both material and cultural security for the unborn, reward work, talent, and skill, maintain physical and intellectual borders, etc. Some institutions have enshrined these desires and structures within the doctrine of “Rights,” but as soon as we make “Rights” a good in themselves, we have given them a life that they do not deserve; rights can be expanded, human nature cannot. Rights “cannot be taken away” but always are and must be; human nature is truly intractable.
I am sympathetic to Mr. Naas, who says that “to argue over the size of government is really inappropriate…we should be having a discussion regarding the task of government.” I would further add that his comment stating that “Conservatives seem to be no less prone to Utopianism than Liberals” is particularly telling–I would argue that all Americans (that is, those people who accept the political and theological implications of the American project), conservative or progressive, authoritarian or liberal, are Utopian, which is to say, Apocalyptic. They are all, as Eric Voeglin once said, trying to “immanentize the eschaton.”
What is the solution? There is none. America is at odds with itself to the core. Look to Eric Kaufmann’s The Rise and Fall of Anglo-America for historical and sociological confirmation of my thesis here. The only solution I can see is to cede massive power to individual states, and for the citizens to consciously slow down dependence on information technology, and for citizens to start cultural and educational institutions that tie students with the land and culture from which they came. Recognizing that there is no such thing as a pure culture helps, and realizing that we are not going to stop the tide of immigration, no matter what we do. But, I’m from Texas and so may have a radically different view of these things–people here are often “Texan” before they are “American,” which betrays a certain regionalism that I think is not shared by most other states, Alaska and Hawaii–and to some extent California and Colorado–being exceptions.
Do we need Burke back? Perhaps so, but even more do we need Roger Scruton, and Max Weber. We need Chesterton. Problem is, they are NOT American. My question is whether or not “American Conservative” is an oxymoron.

[This comment became far far too long, and scatterbrained, and I apologize.]


#43 Comment By Banger On April 21, 2013 @ 10:08 am

There doesn’t have to be a big split between libertarians and communitarians. Both are against the currently overwhelming power of the centralized state and the major corporate forces it protects and encourages. Where we differ of course is in the area of philosophy. As a communitarian I believe we are primarily social creatures and a healthy life depends on our connections to each other. Like Burke I believe communities are organic and complex structures. Modernism has tended to explode these delicate organisms breeding anxiety and alienation and the cult of this largely fictional self that we see as a separate and free-standing entity. I think this notion is logically and scientifically wrong. Neuro-science has confirmed that we are hard wired for connection.

The virtues of Libertarianism is that their approach would, in my view, give people the liberty of rediscovering true community after being liberated from the pseudo-society created by the corporate/state nexus. Of course many Libertarians believe primarily in just switching from a authoritarian state to a neo-feudal state dominated by corporations.

#44 Comment By caleb On April 22, 2013 @ 6:35 pm

What a rare thoughtful breed, the readers of this magazine. Banger sums up my sentiments pretty well on the falseness of a strict dichotomy between communitarianism and libertarianism – not to deny that such libertarians (and communitarians) don’t exist or that the libertarian movement has not long been too much under the sway of a Randian egotism and in need of some Burke. It’s also true that libertarians have a heavy dose of Burke in our intellectual Pantheon in the ideas of Hayek and his “spontaneous order”. What he actually describes is not so much spontaneous, as we may conceive it, as it is organic.

The issue of uber radical anti-statism seems to me not so much a philosophical disagreement with paleos as it is a practical question – which I think the paleos quite easily win on. On the other hand it most certainly isn’t just a question of what governments are supposed to do, as opposed to the size of government, as was suggested above. General opposition or skepticism for the Big and Centralized is a practical organizational/managerial/democratic concern. The facts speak for themselves.

An appreciation for the social nature of man, the organic nature of society and the necessity of uniting institutions and mores – and some government – is critical for moving toward a more libertarian order based on individual consent and rights. And a conservatism that denies or denigrates the existence of the individual will and it’s moral claims against the collective, is a conservatism without a moral humanistic footing. And a confederacy of tiny Leviathans, if you will, is hardly preferable.

One more point that may sound like I’m somewhat refuting myself – It seems to me that the radical libertarian view of the state as fundamentally unethical and the conservative pragmatism that sees the state as inevitable and necessary can certainly NOT be strictly reconciled. Nor should they be. And yet, I think they are both valid pronouncements. Until the AnCaps prove my practical concerns unsubstantiated, I’ll remain a Dualist.

#45 Comment By PC On July 1, 2013 @ 1:13 pm

In different times, conservatism plays different roles. With all of his faults, Buckley at least knew how to tailor a message and affect the narrative in a way that changed the political landscape from the 1950’s until today.

The question should be what role conservatism plays today. In my opinion, protecting civil society from the bureaucratic super-state should be the aim of modern conservatives.

With most young people being educated and acculturated in a commercial-media-entertainment-driven society that is at odds with traditional civic life, it is important for conservatives to provide a counter-narrative that draws on the wisdom of the past.

Rather than constantly attacking fellow conservatives for been too this or too that, or not being smart enough or pure enough, conservatives should find common ground and focus on a message that educates the populace about community and, yes, the importance of local governance and property as ways to promote liberty.

Why any self-styled Burkean would think Obama’s vision of the monolithic regulatory state is right up Burke’s alley is beyond me.

#46 Comment By Joe On March 6, 2019 @ 1:06 pm

It’s interesting that conservatives tend to look back at previous thought-leaders for their inspiration, seemingly feeling a need to validate their ideas in a framework rooted in the past.
Please, no sarcastic comments about liberals’ lack of moral foundations, or the like, but do they have similar discussions? Why/why not?