Monday, October 1, 2012

"The Real Debate"?

The Weekly Standard's Yuval Levin thinks he's nailed down "the real debate" in this year's election and he does make a very good case for one important difference between liberals/progressives and conservatives.
Simply put, to see our fundamental political divisions as a tug of war between the government and the individual is to accept the progressive premise that individuals and the state are all there is to society. The premise of conservatism has always been, on the contrary, that what matters most about society happens in the space between those two, and that creating, sustaining, and protecting that space is a prime purpose of government. The real debate forced upon us by the Obama years​—​the underlying disagreement to which the two parties are drawn despite themselves​—​is in fact about the nature of that intermediate space, and of the mediating institutions that occupy it: the family, civil society, and the private economy.
While he's right that at least one premise of conservatism is the significance of mediating institutions, we must be careful and clear about this.  Very importantly a premise of American conservatism is the significance of mediating institutions for the securing of liberty.

Federalism, the governing practice that best allows those mediating institutions to thrive, was foremost in the minds of the Framers a measure that would better secure liberty.  If, however, it comes to be understood chiefly as something other that that, then we must be prepared for the development of entities like a very real Peoples Republic of Massachusetts and/or Californi-stan.  That is, we must be prepared for the unraveling of the Republic.

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