Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Are you a crunchy con?

Kelly Jane Torrance reviews Rod Dreher’s Crunchy Cons. Here’s an excerpt, and here’s the article that started it all.

I have to confess to a little crunchiness, by Dreher’s standards. We buy organic milk and eggs; we homeschool; my wife owns a pair of Birkenstocks; we occasionally consort with what I have in the past called "Calvinist hippies"; my wife has a pretty wide green streak (mine is narrower); we’re not free market absolutists or dogmatic rationalists.

Torrance raises the following question:

But conservatives and libertarians may wonder, at times, why Dreher thinks he has so much in common with them. Crunchy Cons is mostly an inspiring guidebook to living your life with more meaning. Dreher realizes that it’s easier to change ourselves than to change society. He counsels infusing the political into your personal choices, which sometimes can be empowering, sometimes “spirit-killing,” to use the word Dreher says his detractors throw at him.


There are some policy prescriptions, however, and most of them involve bigger government. His frequent rants against modern agriculture ignore how many people those methods have fed. He also advises, “Use government, within limits, to look after the poor and the weak without creating a culture of dependency.” Politicians and social scientists have been trying to devise such programs—without success—for decades now. Dreher’s earnestness sometimes gets the better of him. Perhaps his happy medium between a free market and a cohesive but overpowering society tilts too much in one direction at times. He’s learned a lot from Russell Kirk. But he may have forgotten some of the lessons of Milton Friedman.

Earlier in the essay, she makes reference to Dreher’s conservative Catholicism, which strikes me as the correct point of departure for examining this issue. It isn’t particularly original to observe that there’s a gap between religious and non-religious conservatives, or between "traditionalists" and "free marketeers." Torrance rightly points out that religious conservatives don’t or needn’t abandon their reason and could learn from their secular counterparts. Prudence, even informed by a religious vision, requires worldly knowledge. But it seems to me that the "information’ should flow in both directions. Secular, rationalist, and free market conservatives (I realize that these adjectives describe different, but overlapping categories) have something to learn from their religious brethren, especially about the limits of their knowledge and their solidarity with others.

So? Any crunchies out there?

Discussions - 16 Comments

I admit to some mild crunchy tendencies. I drive a Subaru (I am not the target market), bike, and hike. I would call myself a conservationist, rather than an environmentalist. I like tofu and other meat subsitutes--not because of any moral reason but because it tastes better than meat when properly prepared. I listen to independent music because I don’t like corporations shoving their tastes down my throat and watch independent movies for the same reason. But I am a believer in the free market when it does not interfere with the national interest. I like the choice of buying some items at the farmers’ market and other things at Wal Mart.

A Subaru? Shame on you, Steve! Think of the poor unemployed American auto workers.

I will admit, though, to wearing Birkenstocks (although never with socks), and to occasionally enjoying NPR. I’m even thinking about getting an old-fashioned non-motorized reel mower for my lawn--although that has less to do with environmental concerns than it does my apparent inability to keep a gasoline mower in working order.

I do my part for the American worker. My wife drives a Lincoln that seems to require expensive repairs every month. She is from northwest Ohio and loves the heavy Detroit metal. The AWD Subaru is almost required out here in Colorado since they don’t salt (and only sometimes plow) the roads. I am thinking about getting a reel lawnmower for the workout--I need it. Also, growing up in the Central Valley of California has made me more aware of air quality issues. Again, this fits in with true conservationism and conservatism for that matter. We care for the environment for the sake of humanity, not to protect the Guya.

My kids save recycle cans--but only for the money. We’re teaching them another older conservative value: how to save.

That’s swell Missus Ponzi! I’m right there with you, too... if it weren’t for the moolah, I’d say throw those cans on the ground when you’re done with your soda pop!

I would fall into what he refers to as "crunchy," although I don’t like that word.

I think it is a shame that political conservatives are always stereotyped as hating the environment etc. But I think it’s even more shameful that political conservatives have generally lived up to that stereotype.

You can’t have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness forever if you’re destroying the world. And although America is the wealthiest nation the world has known, and certainly a success story for capitalism’s ability to generate wealth, the world cannot sustain our current level of consumption for long. That’s the cold, hard reality. Dealing with that reality might mean riding bikes instead of driving, or it might mean investing seriously in alternative fuel source resource. But conservatives and liberals must deal with that reality somehow.

I listen to a lot of Rastafarian music, my pickup is a gas-saving compact, and I would probably try to just "wing" a burglar with my assault rifle if I found one in my house. Am I in?

If I found a burgler in my house, I’d just "pepper" him. Is that better or worse than "winging" him?

I am constantly amazed that folks who carefully consider sources and credentialsgo all balmy at the words "natural"and "organic". There are strict rules for labeling something "organic" and they have nothing to do with ’fresh’, or ’good for you’,’more nutricious’, or ’free of pesticides’. Organic refers only to a method of production that requires manure (including e-coli)as fertilizer, and such pesticides as pyrethums, rotenone and sulphur. Poisonous all, but ’Natural’, to be sure. And guaranteed to be i/3 to 1/2 more costly. Do your homework!

Stephen is one of my best friends, and he knows how I feel about this, but I cannot believe the rest of you would let him get away with saying something like "I like tofu and other meat subsitutes--not because of any moral reason but because it tastes better than meat when properly prepared."

Dear God.

Hell, I’d cook chocolate cakes in bacon fat if it wouldn’t kill me. ’Tofu and other meat substitutes taste beeter than meat when properly prepared.’ Sheesh.

Mr. Drebin,

Would that be black pepper, cayenne pepper, or one of those really, really hot sauces that can be fatal in large doses?

And although America is the wealthiest nation the world has known, and certainly a success story for capitalism’s ability to generate wealth, the world cannot sustain our current level of consumption for long

This statement is ridiculous. Sure the world can sustain it. Every day technology gives humanity another advance. To claim that we over-consuming is crazy.

This statement is ridiculous. Sure the world can sustain it. Every day technology gives humanity another advance. To claim that we over-consuming is crazy.

Irony ... yeah? Wow. I heard Americans were genetically incapable of that!! Well, one learns something every day.


Colour me flabbergasted:-)

Comment 4 - "A Subaru? Shame on you, Steve! Think of the poor unemployed American auto workers."

What are you talking about (OR, are you still living in the 1950s?)? Depending on the model he has, there’s a decent chance that his Subaru was made in the USA, in Indiana - a blood Red, "moral values," "heartland" state, to boot!


This statement is ridiculous. Sure the world can sustain it. Every day technology gives humanity another advance. To claim that we over-consuming is crazy.


Did you even read what I wrote? I said that we need to be actively seeking out ways to make it sustainable.


If we actively seek and develop new technologies, yes, we could sustain our current lifestyles. We also could choose to downsize our lifestyles and reduce consumption. The problem is that America is not very committed to either course; we are not pursuing these technologies very wholeheartedly, nor are we very committed to conservation.


We need to do one or the other, and the sooner we do it, the better.

This is a bizarre sequence.

"I once turned off my Lincoln to save the ozone while I waited for my wife outside of Lord & Taylors."

"I smiled at a Negro, once."

"I swerved, in order to avoid splashing a homeless person, begging on the sidewalk after a rainstorm."

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