conservatism

Conservatism after Obama

The final two years of two-term American presidencies are generally seen as their least significant. President Obama’s recent recourse to what some regard as extra-legal measures indicates, however, that we shouldn’t take this for granted. But no matter what political events unfold between now and November 2016, one thing is certain: American conservatives have to consider [...]

Russell Kirk: Conservative, Convert, Catholic

Ordinarily Providence works through men and women—through St. Gregory, through St. Joan. Saints and martyrs will be raised up within this land of ours during the next hundred years, men and women not swept away by the running tide of our prosperity and our triviality. Even you and I, putting aside our vanity, may essay [...]

Remembering Bill Buckley

I met Bill Buckley (d. Feb. 27, 2008)  only once, over lunch, so long ago that I can scarcely remember what was said.  Only that it was by invitation (his, obviously), issued as a result of a letter I’d sent him describing a Summer Institute in Spain, organized by his brother-in-law, L. Brent Bozell, with [...]

Conservatism: Its Meaning and Prospects

Conservatism at bottom is resistance to the technocratic project, the modern attempt to turn the social world into a sort of universal machine for the maximum satisfaction of preferences. That project has been growing up for a long time. It comes out of an understanding of knowledge and the world with its roots in the [...]

Conservatism Requires a Religious Foundation

Not all religious people are conservatives; and not all conservatives are religious people. Christianity prescribes no especial form of politics. There have been famous radicals who were devout Christians—though most radicals have been nothing of the sort. All the same, there could be no conservatism without a religious foundation, and it is conservative people, by [...]

Whither Goest Conservatism?

A number of developments in the past month have put the spotlight squarely on the question, not too far back in people’s minds since last year’s election campaign, of what direction American conservatism is going to take in the foreseeable future. Until this year, after receiving criticism, the organizers of the annual Conservative Political Action [...]

The Return of the Conservative Conscience

In just thirteen hours, Rand Paul’s recent constitutional marathon established him as one of the best stump speakers in the senate. His easy-going, spontaneous, and cogent extended soliloquy sent a power surge through the somnambulant GOP. The ensuing swell of popular support for Senator Paul set the party—and, en passant, the conservative movement—on their collective [...]

Catholicism Offers the U.S. a Vision of the Good Life

American political institutions give us all part of the responsibility for how we are governed. Catholics need to carry out that responsibility in accordance with their best understanding of man, society, and American political life. The Catholic understanding of man and society is reasonably well worked out, but the nature of American political life is [...]

How Little We Have Lost

Like millions of conservative Americans, I spent last night with hope and fear, followed by sinking disappointment at what my fellow Americans had chosen to do with our country. That disappointment has not gone away. But it has been tempered, as all our disappointments should be tempered, by a realization of just how little we [...]

The Conservative’s Right Mind: A Reply to David Brooks

Writing about the Republican National Convention in August, New York Times columnist David Brooks fretted that the Republican Party has been captured by a “hyperindividualistic mentality,” and he commended Condoleezza Rice’s celebration of “larger national goals—the long national struggle to extend benefits and to mobilize all human potential.” Last month Brooks reinforced this claim by [...]

The Left, the Right, and Catholicism

Catholicism sees freedom as directed toward the good life, and fills in the details with its understanding of God and man. Liberalism likes to avoid big issues like God, man, and the good, because they cause arguments, so it sees freedom not as freedom to pursue anything in particular but as freedom to choose freely. [...]

Conservatism is Not an Ideology

Russell Kirk deserves special attention on the topic of ideologies. In his twenty-nine books on politics, history, constitutional law, literature, social criticism, economics, and fiction, the legacy of the French Revolution and the loosening of the ideologues upon the world haunted him at a profound level. Tellingly, Kirk’s most important influence was Edmund Burke, the [...]

Preparing for a Post-Imperial Future

Conservatism is poorly understood in the United States. It is not right-wing liberalism or nationalism; nor is it political Protestantism. It has nothing to do with a neurotic longing for an ideal past, and reactionaries, who insist there is nothing left to conserve, show that they don’t know the meaning of the word. Conservatism has [...]

Stopping the State: Why Conservatives and Libertarians Need Each Other

One of the consequences of the GOP primaries and particularly Ron Paul's candidacy has been to reignite the debate between self-styled conservatives and libertarians. Recently the Witherspoon Institute's “Public Discourse” forum invited a conservative to critique libertarianism (Nathan Schleuter) and a libertarian to critique conservatism (Nikolai G. Wenzel). Without intending any disrespect to the forum [...]

Does the Right Need an Ideology?

Ideologies are unavoidable and, in a sense, indispensable. Irving Kristol (WSJ, July 17, 1980) stated that the Right needed an ideology if it hoped to win the battle against the Left. But a number of conservatives strongly protested the statement, having for generations depicted ideologies as incompatible with true conservatism, as being essentially leftist in [...]

Why Conservatives Are Optimists

At first glance, the question of whether conservatism is optimistic or pessimistic seems to touch on an issue centrally important to the discussion of what it means to be conservative. We are all, I think, aware of the (lately mostly unspoken) debate out of which this question arises: it is a debate about nothing less [...]

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