Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
About a year ago, I generated some controversy around here with a series of threads on something I called “virtue conservatism.” Originally, I was merely looking for a new name for what we now call “social conservatism.” Over the course of the discussion, it became clear that this was about more than just branding. The central idea, however, is that conservatism needs to be about more than just beating back the administrative state. Small government principles are important, particularly in the realm of policy, but our vision needs to be more substantive that. And that broader vision should be evident in our rhetoric and our culture.
After that rather interesting conversation, I distilled some of my thoughts in a longish essay. It got sidetracked several times, and finally made it into print just today! But since the piece was very much inspired by conversations here at Ricochet, I thought I would post it with my thanks, and also invite commentary (or criticism!) from anyone who is interested. The title is: Slaying the Hydra: Can Virtue Heal the American Right?
Here’s the central metaphor, which is entirely Ricochet-inspired:
In Greek mythology, the hydra is a large reptilian beast with multiple serpentine heads. If one head is severed, two more grow in its place. A warrior intent on slaying the hydra would understandably tend to fixate on whichever head was actively threatening to devour him, but ultimately this was not a recipe for victory. In order to destroy the beast, it is necessary to deal with the monster in its totality.
The modern administrative state and our militant secular culture are like two heads of a single hydra. The modern state is a kind of secular church, wherein secular progressives pursue the only kind of fulfillment they think possible for humankind. The size and intrusiveness of the modern state mirror the strength and aggression of our secular culture. But the state also helps to create optimal conditions for the further entrenchment of secular ideals, by undermining natural community and fostering vice. It saps the strength and natural resources of its citizens, until they are finally unable to resist its incursions on their liberty.
In short, the state and its supportive culture are part of a single whole. Neither can be killed while the other lives, and by fixating too wholly on one, we risk leaving the other to build in strength, ultimately paving the way for a resurgence of both.