Monday, January 22, 2018

The Conservative Classical Liberal

With several books out recently that contain the word "Liberalism" in the title, I have been giddily traipsing across the internet exploring ideas and definitions of conservatism. The intriguing game for me is coming to understand and articulate how many contemporary conservatives are actually classical liberals. Isn't that fun? From Patrick Deneen's hot-off-the-presses Why Liberalism Failed to the boldly titled and eloquently researched The Retreat of Western Liberalism by Edward Luce, there is much to entertain the minds of Burkean-Kirkean conservatives. For a while I have maintained a pretty consistent "conservative-but-not-Republican" eye toward the issues, as I generally find myself aligning with the fiscally-conservative-but-socially-conscious camp. Many would simply identify that as being a moderate - and I don't quarrel with that view. There are simply so many contradictions and dead ends in the party politics that have made the heads of America's center-right spin. Religion would be a key component of that, with the roots of dissent going back to the rise of Ralph Reed in the 80s and 90s. It seems that many conservatives draw a line in the sand on "their" ideology as being intrinsically linked to a firm religiosity, notably Christian. But the line of thinking I tend to follow believes, as George Will so eruditely explains “an individual’s faith is not a requisite for good citizenship; that democratic flourishing does not require a religious citizenry; that natural rights do not require grounding in God.” Tell that to Focus on the Family though. As I've wondered around the blogs and think tanks, I've enjoyed discovering The Imaginative Conservative, a website filled with commentary and scholarship exploring conservatism in the contemporary age. There I found a wonderfully succinct bit of Kirkean wisdom worth repeating:

The conservative is concerned, first of all, with the regeneration of the spirit and character—with the perennial problem of the inner order of the soul, the restoration of the ethical understanding, and the religious sanction upon which any life worth living is founded. This is conservatism at its highest. - Russell Kirk

And, as I continue to explore the Burkean-Kirkean tenets of conservative thought, all the while pondering ideas of the Emerson-ian and Thoreauvian conservative, I am always amused to get lost in thoughtful ponderings such as this one from the New Republic:  Everyone Hates Henry David Thoreau.

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