Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Conservatism, Dead or Alive? Or Just Old and Lame?

First off, let me apologize for not blogging lately.  After 1,208 entries, I, as the self-help people say, "felt the need" to pause and reflect.  The Brooks vs. Hayward "dispute" is actually evidence to me that we conservatives all need to do that.

I was ask to serve as a referee:  Who's more right--Brooks or Hayward?  My own view is neither is all that right, but they both make some good points.

I've never liked either Beck or Limbaugh.  But I certainly agree that they both fail more than ever in being stylish or contemporary, which is certainly the job of political entertainers.  They reflect more than cause a conservatism that's grown old and lame.  Their demographic is old and white and male, like Brooks and Hayward and me.  Young conservatives--and there are some--view their shows with contempt.  So I'm not for shutting them down, simply because I'm all for mobilizing those they're capable of mobilizing   But their influence will continue to become increasingly marginal.

In ordinary politics, the Republicans have no leaders because they have no leaders.  Enlightened statesmen, I read somewhere, will not always be at the helm, and they sure as hell aren't now.  One reason, of course, is that two consecutive thumpings meant that virtually no new Republican blood was introduced into Congress.  With a couple of noble exceptions, the Republicans in Congress are or act old and lame

There are, in fact, good conservative intellectuals around; they just aren't writing best sellers or gaining air time.  First among these is probably Yuval Levin, who's quite an original thinker unreducible to an ordinary Straussian or an ordinary Kassian.  And he knows his public policy stuff better than anyone. His journal NATIONAL AFFAIRS shows a lot of promise, although the first issue wasn't off the charts on the freshness-meter.  We have to admit that the "Front Porchers" under the leadership of "Dr. Pat" Deneen have a lot to offer, although no one has mocked their excesses more than ME.  And there's our own Ivan the K and "postmodern conservatives" like him.  Jim Ceaser is far from young and beautiful, but he remains stylish and contemporary.  I could go on.

In general, I wonder whether the Founders=Locke=good and the Progressives=Germans=bad narrative has run its course or needs a lot of supplementing at this point.  A lot of younger conservatives see that part of our problem today is our promiscuous libertinism, and that it might be caused by our inability to keep Locke (or the spirit of calculation, contract, and consent) in a "Locke box."  Increasingly, all of life is being turned over to a self-indulgent view of "autonomy," and that really does erode both a proper understanding of love and a manly spirit of self-government.  I agree with Steve that markets and "liberty" aren't enough, which means we have to engage in a criticism of the "progressivism" that understands being human or being free as an endless movement away from nature toward nothing in particular.  

"Progressivism" isn't an alien to "classical liberalism" as we sometimes want to say, and there is a proto-historicist dimension to Locke (as Michael Zuckert shows). I could go on and probably will later.  But my view is our problem is that our popularizing conservatives, such as Beck, are too infused with the spirit of Tom Paine and not enough with the Tocquevillian moderation of, say, Irving Kristol or Bill Buckley or even "classic" George Will.  Now I already know that someone's going to object against Tocqueville that we don't need the aid from some foreigner who doesn't even understand the Declaration of Independence.  So I'll remind you that so many of the intellectuals Steve and David admire were influenced by Leo Strauss (a German!), who said very little about the Declaration and even about America.
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Discussions - 34 Comments

Man, Lawler, speak for yourself. The problem with conservativism is that it has too many stuffed-shirts like yourself (i.e., you wouldn't know "hip" if it bit you on the backside). What you say about Beck's show isn't true...the growth in his 24-54 demographic has been phenomenal (or were you refering to really young know, the ones who don't vote?).

I'll be honest, while I have some problems with Beck (fewer with Limbaugh), I have more trouble with pundits like you...pre-scientific, humanistic to a fault, and so out-of-touch that the light from touch takes several years to reach you. You know, I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear you advocate the return of monarchy.

Sorry, but you got on my last nerve today.

I'm not sure why you think that young conservatives view Limbaugh and Beck with contempt. Do you have any evidence for this? Rush brought the house down at CPAC this year, which is attended mostly by young-ish conservatives. As far as I can tell young conservatives (like myself) appreciate Rush and his unapologetic advocacy of conservatism and searing media criticism.

Does conservatism also need intellectual and political leaders? Of course, but what riles me is when critics try to suggest such leaders and advocates like Rush can't coexist. They can, and did for a long time. Any lack of leadership that may exist in conservatism isn't Rush's fault. Conservative thinkers should be looking in the mirror for the lack of new approaches, not lashing out at the people who popularize conservative ideas. Young conservatives need intellectual leaders, but we also like cheerleaders.

Speaking again from my own experience, Rush was a gateway for me into the wider world of intellectual thought and advocacy. I had never heard of National Review or its blog the Corner, for example, and only went to check them out in college because Rush consistently referenced them on his show. My horizons only expanded from there.

Have you ever listened to Rush Limbaugh? Sure, he's entertaining, but he's brilliant and stands unabashedly for conservative principles. We can't help wondering why our so-called representatives don't speak up and why they seem too weak to call out the people who are endangering the country and its freedoms. The more interesting question is why do conservatives have to turn on the radio to hear their views represented.

Some thoughts,

1. I almost totally agree with Peter Lawler on Limbaugh and Beck - even though there are times when I find Beck funny and Limbaugh did alot of good service popularizing ideas like supply-side economics. But Redwald's and Peter's comments show that any conservative politicians that see the limits of Beck's and Limbaugh's (and Hannity's) approaches and the demographic limits of their audiences will have to have great prudence and political imagination in order to appeal to those outside of the Right's current limits without alienating those who listen to and admire the above men, and without whom there is no forseeable conservative majority. Its not impossible, but it will be a challange. Conservatives in the 1970s and 80s were able to win over Southern whites to a colorblind politics and FDR loving Northern whites to a more limited government politics - to Mondale's frustration. A similar thing is needed in our time. It involves winning over people who do not identify as conservative, might actually be repulsed by Beck and Limbaugh, but who might be perusadable on shared values and policy preferences if they are presented in the right way. This of course has to be done without alienating the people who feel that Beck and Limbaugh speak for them and who take attacks on Limbaugh and Beck personally. I think the best balance would involve recognizing the limits of Limbaugh and Beck's rhetoric and being willing to distance themselves from particular statements, while not making it seem like one wants to ostracize them as a way of playing up to liberals. In that sense, Lindsey Graham is an example of how not to do it.

2. While I agree that the natural rights vs historical rights thing doesn't fully capture our political dilemma, I also don't think that it should be underplayed either. The idea that some human rights are transhistorical and not the history bound creations of the most current enlightened elites is an important idea that conservatives should seek to advance. But I do agree that a mere individual rights oriented politics, while important and right is not enough. Conservative also need a family and community (especially subsidiarity) oriented policy agenda and a rhetoric that links it to individual rights and limited government. It needs to connect the reality of people as rights bearing creatures with the other reality that we are also social (or as Peter Lawler likes to say) relational creatures. One possible starting point is a healthcare policy that is both more free market oriented for the working aged (allowing purchases across state lines, moving from employer based to individual insurance) and that shifts government subsidies so that it makes it easier for people to take more care longer for their own relatives before they have to put them in nursing homes.

Is the critique of the Progressives old in general, or is it simply old within a very small academic circle? I suspect it's the later. Why did Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism" become such a sensation, amid its very real flaws? Because the argument was new to most young conservatives, who, as far as I can tell, continue to listen to Rush and watch Fox. (That might not be true of our rising intellectuals. But they never went for such stuff).

What does Tocqueville get us? The more government does, the more oxygen is taken away from the individual and logal group initiative on which civil society depends? Tocqueville noted the centrality of lawyers in maintaining the American experiment. Nowadays the vast bulk of them are trained by the children of the Progressives, with lamentable consequences for the republic. Tocquevile also highlighted federalism as a key feature of the US. Again, is that passe too?

Did Strauss remain a foreigner, or did he become a citizen?

There's an essay in the Weekend section of yesterday's Wall Street Journal noting that the major newspaper in the country are now turning against teachers unions, and suporting charter schools. Three years ago, many people were saying that the argument for charter schools (and, beyond that school choice) is old, and has failed. Sometimes these things take time.

Thanks to Pete and Tiffany for judicious comments. I'm a fairly big fan of Jonah, but not of LIBERAL FASCISM so much. There's a good essay in INTERPRETATION that links together the unfairness of calling liberals as such Fascists with the unfairness of those lately who have been calling Strauss a Fascist. Strauss never wrote in the mode of an American citizen writing to American citizens.

Peter, you just thanked a spammer - "Tiffany Rings" - for their "judicious comment," a comment that was just a cut-and-paste of the 2nd paragraph of Pete's (original) comment, above it. Didn't it sound familiar as you read it?

Perhaps Strauss didn't really want to be identified for his sympathies if he recognized that they might compromise his opportunities. Still, it's hard to imagine someone on the right saying this:

"only from the principles of the right, that is from fascist, authoritarian and imperial principles, is it possible with seemliness, that is, without resort to the ludicrous and despicable appeal to the droits imprescriptibles de l’homme(5) to protest against the shabby abomination [of Nazism/Third Reich]"

and not being at least a fascist sympathizer of some kind. He certainly wasn't a big fan of secular, liberal democracy, that much is known.

A good way to see just how unserious Jonah Goldberg is, is to watch him on Glenn Beck's show. He's made at least a couple of appearances. Obviously, Beck is even further off the deep end than Goldberg is, yet Jonah's efforts to rein in the wild accusations and careless rhetoric of Beck are minimal to none. The two actually made quite a team. Contra to Steve Hayward's claim, it ought to be pretty obvious that Beck has little to no interest in learning, in going deeper, on any subject (although he does like to show the audience that he has spectacles, and he writes on a board - like teachers do!), nor does he truly want to educate the public. He simply wants to agitate those who are as dangerously unbalanced as he is. And Goldberg has taken no interest in correcting Beck when he rants with no regard whatsoever to facts.

Whether "Liberal Fascism" is under-theorized, and whether it has other defects, is beside the point. The fact is that Goldberg, along with the talkers you note, is very popular with young conservatives. They don't appeal simply to the old and white. Perhaps that's not all good, but it doesn't change the reality.

And Goldberg did useful service in airing some of the Progressives' dirty laundry. Eugenics was a Progressive cause, for example. And Progressives praised Mussolini regularly in the 1920s. Etc. That's worth noting. Their love affair with foreign despots continued for much of the 20th century. (It's also worth noting that one of the things going on behind the Scopes trial was that the supporters of Darwin tended to be supporters of Eugenics. The defenders of the Bible, in that case, defended the natural rights of men.) Liberals like to pretend that everything bad in America's past was opposed by liberals. His book was a useful corrective to that. Goldberg made that harder to do, amid his books flaws. Not bad for one book.

P.S. There's always the start of Natural Right and History: "The nation dedicated to this proposition has now become, no doubt partly as a consequence of this dedication, the most powerful and prosperous of the nations of the earth. Does this nation in its maturity still cherish the faith in which it was conceived and raised? Does it still hold those 'truhs to be self-evident'?" Strauss goes on to contrast that with German thought. Apparently, that was not how the original Walgreen lectures started. Strauss changed the introduction after pondering the US a bit more.

If Strauss thought that the USA was founded as a Christian state, he was mistaken.

[Start here: ]

Just to clarify what I said previously about Goldberg's appearances on Beck's show on FoxNews. I wouldn't necessarily think that it would be Goldberg's or ANY guest's job/place to rein in a show's host if that host decided to just take off running with reckless and irresponsible rhetoric and demagoguery, but I was thinking specifically about the shows in which Goldberg was a guest and Goldberg's book was at least the initial starting point for a discussion. Many of Goldberg's premises, and the conclusions drawn from them, are themselves pretty wild, but Beck took them and just RAN. And Goldberg basically let him go with hardly a peep of protest. One might think that Goldberg almost WANTED readers to take away the sorts of lessons that Beck appeared to have learned from his book (and I'm using the words "lessons" and "learned" pretty loosely here).

I also knew about Sanger and eugenics - from academic and even lefty sources! - long before Goldberg even started sharing the tale of his mom, Linda Tripp, and Lewinsky, so he deserves about zero credit for that non-revelation.

Whether "Liberal Fascism" is under-theorized, and whether it has other defects, is beside the point. The fact is that Goldberg, along with the talkers you note, is very popular with young conservatives. They don't appeal simply to the old and white. Perhaps that's not all good, but it doesn't change the reality.

And Goldberg did useful service in airing some of the Progressives' dirty laundry. Eugenics was a Progressive cause, for example. And Progressives praised Mussolini regularly in the 1920s. Etc. That's worth noting. Their love affair with foreign despots continued for much of the 20th century. (It's also worth noting that one of the things going on behind the Scopes trial was that the supporters of Darwin tended to be supporters of Eugenics. The defenders of the Bible, in that case, defended the natural rights of men.) Liberals like to pretend that everything bad in America's past was opposed by liberals. His book was a useful corrective to that. Goldberg made that harder to do, amid his books flaws. Not bad for one book.

Limbaugh did alot of good service popularizing ideas like supply-side economics.

'Supply-side economics' was incorporated in to public policy (and disseminated to general audiences by Jack Kemp, Jude Wanninski, et al.) during the interval running from about 1978 to about 1982. I believe that Mr. Limbaugh was a press agent for the Kansas City Royals at that time.

One difficulty you all have that is not made reference to here is that successive cohorts of the professoriate have fewer and fewer members whose research is informed by a worldview in opposition to the official idea of the intelligentsia. Think tanks are not a substitute, as they employ few people and generally are best suited to mediate between the academy and policy-makers; also, many of their fellows (most in certain institutions) just do not have the academic background to generate original research.

Another problem you all have is the imbalance in investments of time and talent: far too much intellectual history and far too little sociology.

A third problem you have is that there are men without chests among the commentariat. It should not be that difficult to offer reasoned and civil expositions without incorporating language indicating you were seeking leniency from the characters at the Century Foundation. One might also note that the implications of public policy are interesting. What commentator A thinks of the latest utterance of commentator B is not.

Scanlon: We get it. Strauss wrote a questionable letter. It seems like that is the only evidence you have -- relatively less than the Bush administration had re: WMDs!

I'm actually all for outing eugenics and all as connected with a kind of progressivism and as opposed to true liberalism. I would regard Robby George, for example, as a true liberal. The problem isf that Jonah's ook tends to identify all liberals with Fascism., but I wouldn't even call those with a naively libertarian view of the inevitable goodness of biotechnological progress or those who are pro-choice on abortion Fascists. The latter are often just misguided on the facts. To be fair, and to paraphrase the more mature Strauss, Fascism can't be conceived without an overemphasis on military virtue, and Obame isn't guilty of THAT! Still, I think Jonah is good on the talk shows and all that, and he's better than Rush and Glenn. He's also a very fine person. The 1920s and 1930s in general were short on true liberalism, and certainly even Strauss was not a supporter of liberal democracy at that point. In retrospect, Cassirer looks much more politically responsible than Heidegger and even the Strauss who ambiguously took his side, at least for a while. My praising of Tiffany was of course a joke. Strauss does, in fact, regard the Declaration, beginning in print with the Dewey review, as the religous foundation of our "law" or our absolutism, but he rejects the idea of philosophical absolutism.

Oh there you are T, I see you bailed on the other thread.

"Strauss wrote a questionable letter. It seems like that is the only evidence you have -- relatively less than the Bush administration had re: WMDs!"

Do you think that if I've misinterpreted Strauss, or somehow missed his later statements, in which he unambiguously condemns fascism (and/or authoritarianism, imperialism) and classifies it as not part and parcel of the Right, do you think that will cost some American lives, as soldiers are sent on a wild goose chase for non-extant WMDs, and installing far-from-democratic regimes? Do you think my misinterpretation - which I'm open to admitting and correcting if someone shows me something clear, and not faux-deep with obfuscatory and bet-hedging language - will cause the deaths of civilian women and children in far-off lands? If that's true, then I don't think I can convey how sorry I'd be for that.

Interpreting (or misinterpreting) Strauss's words versus launching a war based on sexed-up, trumped-up "intelligence" about WMDs (oh, watch out, there's gonna be MUSHROOM CLOUDS over Main Street, USA!) when there was also contradictory intelligence at hand. Oh yes, right, that's a completey legitimate comparison! Pardon me while I go vomit.

AD, good grief. Limbaugh, in great detail, and to an audience that did not read the Wall Street Journal or National Review, explained supply side economics when it, and its record was under attack in the latter George H W Bush and early Clinton years. I thinks its fair to say that by the mid-90s millions of people had a better understanding of the principles of supply side economics and were able to articulate a defense of the record of the 1980s tax cuts, and a supply side oriented defense of the budget deficits of the 1980s because of listening to Limbaugh. I think this qualifies as popularizing.

Whatever, Pete.

I have not encountered any of the 'millions' of people who could offer an articulate defense of Dr. Laffer's macroeconomic Kool-Aid. You have about 220 million adults in this country. Perhaps 60 million have baccalaureate degrees. Perhaps 24 million have degrees in the liberal or fine arts. Wagers around 3 million studied economics. I am a lapsed student of economics; I seriously doubt two-thirds of my classmates were votaries of Dr. Laffer; few of our professors were.

AD, what makes you think that most of Limbaugh's audience were economists? I have met at least a dozen conservatives (most but not all with four year degrees) who could not tell you who Laffer was but would argue that:

1. The 1980s tax cuts brought economic growth and higher tax revenues.

2, The Reagan deficits were caused by too much (congressional) domestic spending rather than the tax cuts.

3. Higher taxes would actually bring in less revenue.

They learned most of those arguments by listening to Limbaugh. Now that was a simplified and popularized version of supply side economics, but that view of taxation, growth, revenue and deficits was heard by millions and especially in the mid-1990s was it was a staple of argument made by the everyday conservatives I met (I didn't have much contact with academics) around the dinner table, or wherever folks were talking politics and there was a (usaully friendly) mix of conservative and liberal viewpoints. The size of Limbaugh's audience (both of his radio show and of his two books), and the nature of the arguments he made would seem to indicate that my experience of this phenomenon was not too peculiar

If they were arguing that, they were seriously misinformed, Pete, whether they were listening to Mr. Limbaugh, Mr. Kemp, or Dr. Laffer. I will refer you to the remarks of David Stockman, Mr. Reagan's budget director, not long after his resignation. The gist was that there is some theoretical validity to the notion that higher taxes reduce aggregate revenue, but this effect manifests itself when you have marginal tax rates of a sort the country has not seen since the Second World War. Mr. Stockman attributed Mr. Reagan's attraction to Lafferism to his personal experience of the war, when marginal tax rates did approach 90% and he himself voluntarily reduced his work effort.

As for your second point, I suppose I should be amused that you encounter quite a number of people who do not understand an accounting identity. One might also note that about 29% of all federal expenditure during that era consisted of the budgets of the military and the intelligence services. Mr. Reagan requested real increases of 10% per annum in these lines for each of his first four budgets and was never an advocate of economy in this sort of expenditure. Another 13% was the cost of debt service, an obligation on which the federal government dares not welch. Another 33% or thereabouts were entitlement programs on autopilot (Social Security, Medicare, federal pensions, and veterans' benefits). The Reagan Administration had by 1982 abandoned attempts to reduce the trajectory of expenditure on the first of these and owed favors to veterans' groups so did so eventually on the last of these. As the beneficiaries of these programs are disproportionately old and their financial planning has had a certain benefits configuration as a premise, they cannot responsibly be cut except in modest cohort-specific increments. All of which is to say that only about a quarter of the federal budget was devoted to programs which met two criteria: they could be responsibly dismantled on a time frame of less than eight years, and the Administration was not antecedently committed to enhancing them. IIRC, the ratio of federal borrowing to federal expenditure tended to be about 0.15 during those years, so Mr. Reagan would have had to cut discretionary expenditure and a selection of entitlements (e.g. farm subsidies) by about 60% in order to balance the budget without tax increases.

As for your first point, goosing the economy through tax cuts and (for a time after August of 1982) monetary expansion does improve short-term performance, most notably when production is below capacity. Over more than the most modest range of years, such policies produce not growth but inflation (as the Johnson Administration learned). The notion that (beyond a certain point) the ratio of public expenditure to domestic product is inversely related to measures of economic dynamism is (I believe) empirically verified. The instructor I had most insistent on this point (Jeremy Greenwood) was also insistent that the timing of taxation was not an important variable, pace Dr. Laffer.

Peter Lawler: I wonder why you defend many aspects of red-state life, like cheap beer and big box stores, but not the sort of things red-staters like to listen to on the way to the big box stores, like . . . well, Rush. It seems odd that the postmodern conservatives would reject snobbism about local food, but have a soft spot for Brooks's snobbism about vulgar radio hosts.

Brooks's piece -- and I understand its difference from yours -- seems to be based on the idea that "real power" requires convincing people to do things they wouldn't have done already. Rush and Glenn Beck supposedly don't have this: when Rush demands something, "the numbers back home do not move," and there is "no effect on the favorability rating." This is a bizarre question involving carts and horses of many varieties. Say people become more disgruntled with Democrats, or grow disappointed with Obama. The left's numbers fall, and some number of those people turn to the talk-show hosts to have their anger vented or to feel that they have a voice. In turn, Rush's audience grows and so does Glenn Beck's. It seems to me this is exactly what's happened since Obama's inauguration, and it is absurd to suppose, as Brooks does, that Rush by reflecting or giving voice to a trend therefore has "illusory power."

Given that the GOP has no strong leaders, to whom would newfound or reborn conservatives turn anyway? All it takes is a few listens to Rush's show to learn that the folks who call in these days are ordinary Americans who simply grow more frustrated as the new administration continues on its path. Several times recently I've heard mothers of large broods (eight and eleven, if I remember) call in and testify that listening to Rush or Glenn Beck just helps them stay sane while enduring the insanity of the Obama administration. What does Brooks want them to do instead -- march on Washington? (Or . . . didn't many of them do that, too?)

Surely that simple task is a defensible, even commendable thing -- even if one doesn't dignify it with big words like Influence and Power.

AD, you seem to have concluded that in citing those points, I was totally endorsing them. Not true (though I do think that lower tax rates can increase long term growth and that all the arguments have at least some contingent truth to them). More to the point, my argument was that Limbaugh (through his radio show, books, and I should have added his 90s tv show) had popularized those arguments to many people who did not read the conservative press. though he seems to have failed to win over you or Stockman.

Though I am happy for you that things like the numberof people "who do not understand an accounting identity" amuses you.

Fair enough. Goldberg moves from the argument that fascists were social democrats to the argument that social democrats were fascists. In addition to putting useful and important facts in more hands, Goldberg's excessesses in labeling things fascist might finally sto the Left from the same error.

Where would Mrs. Obama's comment about her husband making people work fit in? It does suggest a belief in the strenuous life for the good of the community. But it might not be representative.

The problem as I see it is an "evolution" of jargon. There were three ideologies born of the Enlightenment: Liberalism, Conservativism, and Radicalism. Liberals (like John Locke) believed in the sovereignty of the individual, and the contractual nature of government. Conservatives disbelieved in planned government, advocating time-tested, gradual political adaptations and the ascendancy of civil society over the polity. Radicals believed in remaking civil society through governmental force -- totalitarianism. Today's conservatives are a mixture of conservative and liberal, whereas most so-called "liberals" are actually radicals -- they advocate the use of government to "better" society, even at the cost of liberty.

In short, "liberal fascism" isn't an oxymoron once you understand that the meaning of "liberal" has changed.

I don't like cheap beer or Wal-mart, but I don't diss those who do. Same with those who like Rush--I only pointed to the limits of his contribution to a Repubilcan revival. Arguably Rush, Beck, Levin etc. are better than no leaders at all, but they're still mainly entertainers of uneven quality. I didn't want to imply that the Republicans are more culturallychallenged than the Democrats and so don't deserve to govern. I don't like NPR either. I also don't think that David Brooks' ironic, studied ambivalence is the ticket these days, and of course nobody had more contempt for the Obamacons than me.

Very sensible. Thanks for the clarification.

I hate cheap beer and conservatives who actually believe their beliefs are more important because it has some religious backing. SORRY people your beliefs are no greater than anyone else and as such Beck needs to shut up. I agree lame as hell

While I have found the comments to this post helpful, a different question came to my mind when I read it. Isn't the following passage by Peter a critique of the narrative proposed by those at Claremont?

"In general, I wonder whether the Founders=Locke=good and the Progressives=Germans=bad narrative has run its course or needs a lot of supplementing at this point."

If I'm right about that, isn't he then saying we should be spending our time thinking more about the Culture Wars (promiscuous libertinism = evil) and less about the growth of Big Government?

No, I don't think so. My statement does not imply that Bush had plenty of evidence. It implies that we had little evidence, but that you in this case have even less. That's what makes it (or rather, what was supposed to make it) a cutting remark.

You don't have to be Dick Cheney to support what goes on overseas, nor do you have to be Cindy Sheehan to lament some of the darker realities. I thought you were all about nuance, something that supposedly separates you from the dreaded conservative Manichaeists.

Yes, I got your earlier point - I noticed your use of the phrase "relatively less."

My point was that your comparison was lame. Without actually making a plausible case that I have misinterpreted Strauss, you compared what you perceived to be my misinterpretation of his words to the Bush administration's botching of interpreting the entirety of intelligence data and making a case for war based on the bad intelligence that they cherry-picked. If I've misinterpreted Strauss (which, again, you've not demonstrated) the consequences are entirely trivial, but, as we have seen, the consequences of a war based on a bogus pretext (yellowcake, WMDs, mushroom clouds, sky-is-falling b.s., etc.) are quite significant. I don't think I need to elaborate on that. Your comparison was absurd. Cheney and Sheehan have nothing to do with it.

You don't need to elaborate on it because it is entirely beside the point. I'm not arguing that the consequences are similar, that's just a red herring. As for the evidence re: Strauss, I don't think anything is going to persuade on this board, as everyone will continue to abide by what they abide by. There has already been enough on this board about the topic, and as Diogenes wisely notes (and you concur), one can have both problems with and praise for Strauss. But seriously, I meant nothing of what you pulled out about WMDs - the only reason I made the comparison in the first case was because of the ever popular talk of the nexus between Strauss and W.'s administration - it was just for amusement.

*in the first place

So, sure, I offered as kind and gentle criticism of the Claremont line. It's true enough that promicuous libertinism or libertarian is a big cause of big government. I also embrace the Straussian point Lockean principles themselves are unstable and that the Declaration became actually less incoherent through the legislative compromise that integrated Lockean, past-tense Deism with the more Calvinist active, judgmental, providential God. This is a fine thread, but I think disputations over who is the real Strauss and all that belong on the Straussophic one. Following Strauss, though, I think it's perfectly possible to be very pro-America while not believing the founding was free from "error" or the inevitable fact that, like all merely human foundings, it can be understood to contain the seeds of its own destruction without the prudence of enlightened statesmen and theorists. As I said before, I--the notorious American stay-at-home--migh tbe understood to be more pro-American than the Jim Ceaser who prances off to France every chance he gets.

pl: I think the spillover comes from how you end this thread with the note on foreign intellectuals. But, good points.

I guess that to receive the loans from banks you should have a firm motivation. Nevertheless, one time I have got a term loan, just because I wanted to buy a car.

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