Why, even after electoral triumphs, have conservatives had such a hard time governing? You think this question only applies to today? Twenty years ago, as part of the American Enterprise Institute’s Bradley lecture series, Dr. Charles Kesler gave an answer to why conservatives felt adrift. That lecture is just as relevant now as it was in 1998, and it forms the basis of this episode of The American Mind Podcast.

In this interview, you’ll hear why Dr. Kesler says American conservatism can only feel grounded when it argues policy based on the principles of equality and justice. But, to get there, we have to work our way through different pieces of conservatism’s intellectual heritage. Only then can we see “what’s wrong with conservatism.”

 

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There are 2 comments.

  1. Freesmith Inactive

    My overview:

    Conservatism is in conflict with itself, much like an individual who knows what things he needs to do to succeed, but continually fails to do those things. The root of this conflict is in the concept of equality, one seldom used by the Founders and never in the ways that we have been taught to understand it.

    “Going slow” on liberalism evidenced the tacit acceptance of key liberal premises and the establishment of the uni-party which was called “the Consensus.” From then on, the suppression of what a Hegelian would call the “anti-thesis” was the preeminent project of liberalism: the Goldwater uprising in the early 1960’s, and the New Left in the late 1960s. Both were subsumed and tamed, culminating in Bush and Clinton. Unfortunately, the Iraq War and the Financial Crisis of 2008 undermined public faith in those low energy and corrupt end-products. Conservative voters were the first to successfully break free; but the bureaucratic state and the courtiers of the crumbling Consensus have waged an increasingly hysterical war to blunt that event. Now that establishment pair — the managerial state and its clerisy — is struggling to deal with a resurgent, crazy New New Left as well.

    Conservatism’s conflict is between our Anglo-American empirical and traditionalist perspective and the remnants of the rationalist ideologues who still serve individualistic and egalitarian abstract premises – between its heart and its head, or the elephant and the rider in Haidt’s terms.

    Why, Professor Kesler, do you have to repair to an outside moral criterion to judge which tradition Americans should follow? Isn’t the only question what works for we the people? Does our society prosper and grow, or does it wither and die?

    For instance, the American core is regressing today. Whites are dying, no longer Christian and not reproducing. Our families are collapsing except in those regions doing economically well. Isn’t that enough to tell us that the traditions we honor today, and follow because we honor them, are failing and must be abandoned? Do we really need to decide whether they are “fair” or not acording to some Rawlsian test?

    Isn’t the collapse of our schools with their slavery-and-Holocaust core curriculums enough to inform us that we should dump Martin Luther King for George Washington, Gloria Steinem for Phyllis Schlafly and Anne Frank for Enoch Powell?

    Shouldn’t the goal of all of our social planning and the government programs which flow from that planning be to create a polity where a man can raise his six children and support his homemaker wife on just his salary? What could be more conservative than that?

    And wouldn’t working for that clearly conservative outcome unite the conservative heart and mind — and end the inner conflict that paralyzes us?

    • #1
    • March 21, 2019, at 1:00 PM PDT
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  2. RufusRJones Member

    Freesmith (View Comment):

    Shouldn’t the goal of all of our social planning and the government programs which flow from that planning be to create a polity where a man can raise his six children and support his homemaker wife on just his salary? What could be more conservative than that?

     

    This is dead on. Listen to the interviews of David Stockman on the Tom Woods Show and Contra Krugman around September 2016. 

    • #2
    • March 21, 2019, at 1:06 PM PDT
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