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The Manzi List

This blog’s combox regular SDB e-mails to say that in addition to yesterday’s “Dubya List” of conservative/GOP public personalities we don’t need to hear from again, I should post a list of conservatives/GOP public personalities we don’t hear enough from. Great idea! I’ve chosen to call it the Manzi List, after the first person on […]

This blog’s combox regular SDB e-mails to say that in addition to yesterday’s “Dubya List” of conservative/GOP public personalities we don’t need to hear from again, I should post a list of conservatives/GOP public personalities we don’t hear enough from. Great idea! I’ve chosen to call it the Manzi List, after the first person on SDB’s own roster. SDB writes:

Which conservative/libertarian pundits do we wish had more influence within the GOP (and associated activists) or a broader hearing more generally among social conservatives? Here’s my list:

Jim Manzi: I find his empirical approach to social policy + regulative policy worth listening to. A more realist approach to the science/public policy interface is crucial. The conservative strategy of denying the science and hoping no regulation results isn’t productive. The regulation comes eventually anyway, but without thoughtful conservative input.

Megan McArdle: Libertarianish critic of supplyside economics. Writing on personal finance, bankruptcy policy, and tax policy is a nice bridge from academic work to popular audiences. Writing on bias (racial, political, sex) in academia and elsewhere is worth engagement by the GOP as well – particularly when issues surrounding affirmative action on the one hand and bias within academia on the other arise.

Ross Douthat: articulate defender of social conservatism & working class reforms from within GOP. I guess it is hard to be much more influential than the op-ed page of the NYT, but I think the GOP would do well to listen to him more carefully.

Timothy Dalrymple: Thoughtful evangelical voice and interesting take on evangelical involvement in politics. Evangelical activists could learn a lot from his approach.

D.G. Hart: thoughtful conservative protestant critic of evangelical/GOP fusion. Evangelical political activists would do well carefully consider his insight even if they ultimately disagree. Historical implications for political involvement by churches make for sobering reading.

Stephen Bainbridge: Kirkian defender of corporations. Expert view that is definitely worth engaging on corporate regulative issues. Folks may not agree, but he is definitely worth reading. Too many “reformers” criticize corporations and “big banks” without having any idea what they are talking about. And he gives great fantasy football advice.

Bill Stuntz: OK, he’s dead, but his work on criminal justice really is worth engaging critically.

Radley Balko: Libertarian (def. not conservative) who has sounded the alarm about abuse by police departments. You may not agree with his solutions, but he has identified very real problems that have to be addressed if we want to see minority communities thrive.

Eugene Volokh: Not conservative, but free speech and gun rights arguments are definitely worth consideration for conservatives.

Reihan Salam: quirky but interesting reform voice congress should listen to.

The FrontPorch gang and American Conservative: Useful to remind GOP that conservatism != Limbaugh

Alan Jacobs: Conservatives can be erudite and read books besides the Bible published before 1980? Who knew!

Eve Tushnet: This is what a case for traditional sexual ethics should look like.

These people don’t agree on everything to be sure, but I think the GOP (and its activists arms) would be better off if they took the arguments from each of these writers more seriously. Maybe there are others?

There are. I just got in the mail a copy of “The Politics of Gratitude: Scale, Place & Community in a Global Age,” by Mark T. Mitchell. Mark is an academic political theorist and one of the founders of Front Porch Republic. He’s also a personal friend. I read the book months ago in galleys and gave it an enthusiastic blurb, which I was startled and pleased to see they had put on the back of the book. Here is the Amazon.com description of “The Politics of Gratitude”:

Many Americans are longing for an alternative politics that is rooted in strong communities, a recognition of limits, and respect for the natural world. These issues are not the possession of one political party. Rather, they refer to ideas rooted deeply in the best aspects of our common tradition, and they represent yearnings that many, regardless of political affiliation, share. This book articulates a cultural and political vision that leads off the couch and into the garden, out of the shopping mall and into the farmer’s market, away from Washington and in the direction of home.

In this postpartisan call to action, Mitchell develops the concept of the “politics of gratitude,” which is centered around four ideas: creatureliness, gratitude, human scale, and place, culminating in a distinctive, fruitful view of human nature and community at odds with the prevailing norms of individualism (and, not so paradoxically, statism), giantism, and hypermobility. Going beyond the liberal-conservative factionalism that has reduced our political and cultural discourse to clichés and vitriol, he urges us to become responsible stewards of the earth who are committed to family and community and who abide in gratitude, taking nothing for granted.The result is a political and cultural vision that is at once local, limited, modest, republican, green—and grateful.

I started re-reading it at lunch today, and found myself thinking, “Man, if I were a booker for a thoughtful radio or TV program — Diane Rehm, say, or Charlie Rose — this is exactly the kind of conservative I would want to have on the show.” Mark is a really good writer, and he articulates a deeply thoughtful case, from the Right, for why both the mainstream liberalism and mainstream conservatism fail us, and how we might build a politics on thinking outside of our usual limited categories. He’s interested in reframing our politics by asking more basic questions about what it means to live, and live together, by an ethic of stewardship and thankfulness. This is what “Crunchy Cons” would have been like had it been written by an actual intellectual, or what Wendell Berry might read like if he were a political theorist, not a poet and essayist. And Mark writes with such plainspoken clarity, and in a style that invites the reader to engage, not to cheerlead or to get defensive. Literally one hour ago, I sat at my table reading his book and thinking, “This guy. This is the guy. More people ought to know his stuff. We ought to be listening to him.”

To Patrick Deneen too, for similar reasons.

Readers: Who’s on your Manzi List, and — crucially — why? I’m not going to post responses that just list names. You have to give a reason for why this underexposed figure is ought to be given more attention.



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