Posted by Peter Lawler
Here’s the essay that has been discussed and linked in the thread below. Carl correctly calls it "simply authoritative," and it is beautifully written. So let’s let Mark focus our thoughts on "the conservative mind" today.
Thanks. Very good to have this at hand.
I'll chime in with my "kudo" as well.
Here is what I like about the Henrie article. I have said this before, but I don't remember where so if I have said it here then sorry for repeating myself.
I think his liberal conservative vs. conservative liberal paradigm is right on. All American conservatives have a healthy portion of liberalism. I have met very few royalists even among paleo circles. Put another way, most American conservatives are Roundheads to a degree, not Cavaliers. Hence American traditionalist and paleos are generally liberal conservatives by historical standards. But they are conservatives at base, tempered by some well placed liberalism.
Neoconservatives, however, are not conservatives historically speaking. They are historical liberals, in many cases unapologetically so. But they are liberals tempered by certain conservative impulses. Respect for religion, respect for convention, and opposition to radical liberalism (the new left). And defenders of certain absolutes. So they are conservative liberals.
The problem is that the liberal conservative/conservative liberal divide is no mere short distance on the political spectrum. It is a cavernous divide.
This is not intended to be semantic one-upmanship. The whole "I'm a real conservative and you are not" thing. I think it is very real. I think this dynamic plays out fairly well here at NLTs.
The liberal conservatives are currently in the extreme minority. Even some of the people we can make alliances with, such as paleolibertarians like Ron Paul, are really philosophical liberals as well. I guess that is why we are always so grumpy. :-)
A terrific article. The often volatile but also sometimes historically close relationship between the liberal and conservative impulses is a theme that has run through much of the history of political philosophy. One sees it in Thucydides' account of the difference between the Athenian and the Spartan way of life: while he openly praises the Spartans for their moderation and conservatism he implicitly praises the progressive Athenian character as responsible for the greatness of Greek civilization and its birth from barbarism. This is a theme which is repeated again in Machiavelli within his distinction between the founding of new modes and orders and their perpetuation; the former requires the austere boldness of a Severus while the latter the more conservative benevolence of a Marcus. Mill also plays out this theme in terms of his contradictory philosophic affinity for both Coleridge and Bentham:a society that progresses without also regressing requires, for Mill, both a conservative and a progressive spirit (and at different times one more than the other). One aslo see this in Locke first as the tension between his liberal individualism plus contractualism and the Tory inspired account of executive prerogative but maybe more deeply between the central but often muddled theoretical relation between history and nature. Peter, I haven't read your intro to the American Republic volume but plan to soon.
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