Thursday, March 1, 2012

Conserve What?

If you're up to it, there's a very interesting piece by Samuel Goldman over at The American Conservative that, by way of a review of Corey Robin's The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism From Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin, tackles the question of what contemporary American conservatism has to do with the classical European brand.  In short, contrary to Robin's assertions, his answer is "not much."

I'm pretty sure I don't agree with his conclusion which is in part that if they could just see it, contemporary liberals/progressives have more in common with contemporary conservatives that they might think.  Among those points of agreement, Goldman argues, is that:
...there really is such a thing as Man in the abstract. And Man has the same rights and desires in Afghanistan that he has in Arizona. The purpose of government is to secure these rights. To the extent that it aims to do so universally, the government of the United States is therefore the universal government, with the responsibility to reorder all the traditional loyalties and obligations that define “illegitimate” societies.
Read the article and decide for yourself.

As I see it, contemporary American conservatism is indeed a genuine form of conservatism.  That which it seeks to conserve, however, is not the Ancien Régime of the Old World, but the Novus ordo seclorum of the New.  A new order described and defended, and later instituted in the Declaration of Independence, The Federalist, and the U.S. Constitution.  None of which authorizes America to pursue foolishly a policy of dis-establishing, then re-establishing itself across the globe.  But, rather, to pursue a policy guided by prudence, "prudence indeed", to confidently describe and defend, both to ourselves and to the world, those "truths we [still] hold to be self-evident."

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