Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hmm …

… Helen Rittelmeyer: If Conservatism Has Gotten Dumbed Down, It’s Not from Any Rout of the Traditionalists. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I think this is more to the point than David Brooks's cant. Twenty years before Brooks worked for National Review, I worked for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. That is where I first met William F. Buckley, Jr. The debate between market conservatives and what Brooks calls traditional conservatives (libertarian vs. authoritarian, as we put it back then) was quite alive at the time. Brooks — whom I happen think is mauvaise foie — conveniently forgets that the traditionalists also included among their number people who were very much in favor of censorship. I attended a meeting once where the question of what to do about "obscene books" was raised, and Buckley squelched the whole idea by pointing out that, if conservatism meant anything, it meant supporting individual freedom, and that there were few individual freedoms more precious than the freedom to read what you chose to.
Brooks apparently doesn't see economic freedom as that important. He also doesn't seem to know that conservatism of just about every stripe thinks that social problems are best dealt with by society, not government, that every ceding of social power to the state diminishes society.
What Rittelmeyer says about think-tankers I believe is largely true. But the real difference between NR today and NR under Buckley is that Buckley was an editor of genius. After all, he could discern that David Brooks had some talent. Brooks does write well. I also suspect he can think clearly and honestly. Unfortunately, he finds it professionally to his advantage to be facile and glib.

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