Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

A conservative (?) politics of hope?

The much maligned Michael Gerson sympathetically restates the claims of this article. Here’s Gerson:

On cultural issues, conservatives have been ambushed by hope. And Wehner and Levin provide two main explanations.


First, societies can, over time, recognize their own self-destructive tendencies and reassert old norms -- not just arresting decline but even reversing it. Many Americans, for example, have seen the damaging effects of divorce on children -- sometimes from the firsthand perspective of their own childhoods -- and divorce rates, especially among upper-income couples, have fallen. Over the decades the social wreckage of drug use has become undeniable -- and the social judgment on this practice has shifted from "stylish rebellion" to "suicidal idiocy." In many cases, our culture has benefited from the natural healing mechanism of simple sanity.


The second reason for this cultural renewal is bold, effective public policy -- welfare reform with time limits and work requirements; zero-tolerance approaches to crime; education reform that tests and requires basic skills; and comprehensive anti-drug efforts, including enforcement, treatment and education. In all these cases, good government and rational incentives have made a tremendous difference.

Are the public policies he praises "unconservative" or therapeutically liberal?

Update: Pomocon James Poulos calls me out. "Gersonism" is by definition therapeutic:

The key as far as Gersonism is concerned is that we the people learn how to therapeutically manage our practical morality by the experience of everyday life -- whereas government can help by providing the scientific expertise that we anxious, hectic citizens of a democratic age don’t have time to accumulate. They can set national standards, mobilize national resources, apply uniform regulations, and deploy centralized management techniques.

So Teen Challenge and Prison Fellowship Ministries are, above all else, therapeutic? Or do they just become therapeutic when they take federal money? Would it be different if they only took state money?

I grant that "secular" social work is shot through with a therapeutic approach, but I’d always understood religious approaches to be more than a little different (which is why they tend to give "therapeutic professionals" the willies).

So I’m not altogether clear on the argument. If, say, I’m an addict, is any assistance I’m offered by anyone by definition therapeutic? Is all pastoral counseling therapeutic? Is all prayer therapeutic? Is all Bible study therapeutic? Or is it only therapeutic when, for example, the prayer and Bible study are done in groups, rather than by individuals? Would that make communal worship therapeutic (on the assumption that all of us are somehow wounded or broken and turn to prayer and worship out of a recognition of our neediness)? Is the opposite of "therapeutic" "self-reliant"?

Discussions - 1 Comment

No. But in the past he has gone well beyond praising those measures.

The hyper-libertarian wing of the party is open to attack, I just don't think Gerson does so very effectively.

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