Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Natural resources and the culture wars

Patrick Deneen raises some interesting questions. Here’s his conclusion:

What may be most productive in coming years is to stop calling this cadre of economic libertarians - what we now call "the Right" or even conservatism - conservatives. There is nothing they want to conserve - nothing in the natural or moral ecology. They are rapacious exploiters who want to use every last natural and cultural reservoir for their own immediate profit - even at the price of leaving nothing for their children. Recall, it was Dick Cheney who said "Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis all by itself for a sound, comprehensive energy policy."

Soon, if not soon enough, I predict, there will be a party of conservatives and a party of "live now’ers." Live now’ers have original sin on their side, and are likely to win a lot of votes until it’s clear that the grasshopper was wrong and the ant was right. Then they will tell us it’s time to get the guns. Are you sure that’s the side you want to be on?

Read the whole thing.

Discussions - 10 Comments

Thanks, Joe. Deneen's little essay is a real challenge to (fellow) conservatives on energy policy and global warming. I hope Steve Hayward will write a response.

Ah yes, the prediction of the great Brink Lindsey LIBERALTARIAN v. Patrick Deneen CONSERVATIONIST realignment. Some day with less busyness, I'll explain (i.e., best-guesstimate to high heaven) why it ain't gonna happen, not in any of our long lifetimes, even though I suppose it logically should happen. It has to do with it running against the will of the Spirit of the Left, and as Manent and Solzhenitsyn and a few others understand, that Spirit has an inextricable tie to modern democracy.

And if I'm wrong, and there is no Spirit of the Left out there to prevent the logical realignment Deneen predicts, then folks like Deneen and I are screwed, because our new party of social-cons and lunch-bucket crucnhie conservationists, while rather enjoyable, is going to be outnumbered by the Liberaltarians. Grossly outnumbered.

Carl is probably right - half of what I write is wishful thinking, the other half are waking nightmares. It's a rich fantasy life. BUT - I do agree the libertarians would outnumber us, which is the point about my observation of original sin. Without chastening and an habituation and education in virtue, covetousness and greed will out. That said, if Lawler is right - that the Framers built better than they knew - then there may be some hope. He's probably wrong about that though, which means I'm wrong too and Carl's right.

The problem with a this "conservative" conservation is that you speak of here ("peak oil" & "global warming") is that it is not all that prudent - which means it is not conservative at all. It takes the faddish view, not the long view. Just when I think "crunchy-con" is another way of saying traditional conservative, it buys into the latest "crises". Whatever the real finite supply of oil is, it's not something that is a crises. We will see it at least a 100 years coming. We actually know of more oil (reserve) than we have ever known, but it just is not feasible to get at $25 a barrel. Canadian shale does not come into play until about $80 or so, which we have only very recently hit. It will take a sustained period of $80 + before anyone will seriously invest in recovering it on a large scale. All this is not a "peak oil" crises as described.

"Global warming", which is really a moral panic best described as "any change in temperature = bad", is similar. Never discussed is the good that will come from the current warming trend (e.g. the wetter climate in the middle latitudes that will enable greater overall food production).

The point about libertarians is good however. There has been much confusion in our culture over what "conservative" means, mostly because it is conflated with libertarianism. However, let's not muddy the water further with something called "crunchy-con" that grabs the latest fads on the left and tries to make them conservative somehow. Calling it "denial" is pop-psych 101, which of course is another lefty tactic...

"The great possibility is that we will realize that a future of less driving, stable neighborhoods, greater localism, the reinvigoration of diverse local cultures isn't as bad as our knee-jerk panic about impending change would lead us to believe. Surely this is something a "conservative" would not object to?"

Now your just being lazy. Conservatives don't have a "knee jerk" reaction to this, we object to the way the left would have us "do less driving" etc. It does not take a libertarian mind set to question CAFE laws, the oppressive uniformity of what passes on the left for "diverse", etc. Does being "crunchy con" mean you don't really understand conservativism, and conflate it with libertarianism??

It's interesting that Deneen says this:

"Krugman's column prompted Andrew Leonard over at Salon.com...to post a smart column about 'the peak oil culture wars,' [ed: and human-caused climate change] observing what should be obvious at this point - the debate isn't about the facts, it's about the implications."

in the same essay in which he links to an op-ed by Hayward (as well as a Mac Owens column AND a hat tip to Joe K. - how much are you guys paying him for promotion, anyway?), a fellow who clearly takes great exception to the obviousness of global warming and has made a Ben Stein-like video regarding the "debate" of the FACTS surrounding it.

"The denial of the growing evidence of - yes - 'peak oil' by commentators on the Right resembles their vociferous denial of global warming (more sophisticated responses now reveal that, all along, it wasn't the reality of global warming that bothered them; it was the implications. And they are daunting)"

But oddly enough, he links to the Hayward op-ed there - I think "Convenient Fiction" shows quite clearly that Mr. Hayward contests, and is bothered by, the "reality of global warming." He ALSO has problems with the implications of it, but he still seems to be clearly in the denialist/minimizer camp (one that seems to have at least 50 policy analysts for every scientist).

And this paragraph by Leonard is just great. It really made me think of NLT:

"Partisan conservatives pooh-pooh peak oil (and human-caused climate change) because they think that to concede that these challenges are real and must be confronted is to acknowledge that greed is not always good, and that free market capitalism must be restrained, or at least tinkered with substantially. Peak oil and climate change are fronts in the culture wars, and to some conservatives, watching the price of oil rise as the Arctic ice melts, it might feel like being in Germany at the close of World War II, with the Russians advancing on one front while U.S.-led forces come from the other. The propositions that cheap oil is running out and the world is getting hotter -- as a result of our own activities -- threaten a whole way of life. The very idea that dirty Gaia-worshipping hippies might be right is absolute anathema."

And after they recover from that, maybe they can come to grips with the fact that most of those who were right could hardly be described as "Gaia-worshiping hippies" in the first place...

It has to do with it running against the will of the Spirit of the Left, and as Manent and Solzhenitsyn and a few others understand, that Spirit has an inextricable tie to modern democracy.

No doubt. But "modern democracy" is not a permanent fixture on the landscape, any more than communism was. It's also quite undemocratic, but that's another story.

And after they recover from that, maybe they can come to grips with the fact that most of those who were right could hardly be described as "Gaia-worshiping hippies" in the first place...

I'm pretty sure they are not right. You're correct about the hippie part of course. Most of them are just the usual politicians and scientists and businessmen all looking to score some big money.

There has been much confusion in our culture over what "conservative" means, mostly because it is conflated with libertarianism. However, let's not muddy the water further with something called "crunchy-con" that grabs the latest fads on the left and tries to make them conservative somehow.

You know, I'm pretty sure that the 'crunchy cons" are the conservatives, while the Randians are just Randians.


How did Rand become the guiding light of the modern GOP, rather than Hayek or Sowell? Ask David Koch.

I'm pretty sure that the 'crunchy cons" are the conservatives

Not when they jump on the moral panic of global climate change...

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