Friday, March 20, 2009

National Conservatism

The blogger tristero has some harsh things to say about Russ Douthat, the douche-bag whippersnapper who replaced the douche-bag poseur Kristol on the Times editorial page. I'm inclined to agree with tristero here (though sometimes he's kinda full of it), and I think his provocative opening salvo ("Modern conservatism is a disease.") is a notion worth considering. Indeed, I only hesitate to endorse that notion completely because I'm afraid that this might be to wrongly medicalize moral considerations, as Thomas Szasz might say.

In any case "conservatism" today has as much to do with conservatism as National Socialism did with socialists -- this is to say; they are inimical. Conservatism properly construed recognizes the conservation of quanta -- the fact that nothing comes from nothing, nothing becomes nothing, and that when (and to the extent that) somebody is getting something for nothing, somebody else is getting nothing for something. Conservatism recalls the lessons of the past in this regard. Conservatism above all does not believe in myths, monsters, magic or miracles. Today's conservative is deeply proud of his faith in myths, monsters, magic and miracles -- it's pretty much what defines his world view.

Garret Keiser, in this month's Harper's does a good job of distinguishing old-style Republican conservatism, from today's Bizarroworld inversion:

Take for example that "arch-conservative" Ronald Reagan, who from the perspective of a hundred years will be seen as the last of the California hippes, a man who told us that if we just let the markets run wild and the Magic Bus of juggernaut capitalism go barrel-assing down the road with its freak flag flying all would be groovy and out of sight. What was his "Morning in America" but a cover of "Aquarius"; what was his presidencey but the last act of Hair -- preferable, I admit, to the helter-skelter criminality of Cheney and Bush. But to call either administration conservative is to hold up a picture of your brain on drugs.

Now that's the kind of thing that would be in the editorial pages of a New York Times that lived up to its august reputation, one that might survive, on its merits.


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