Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ain't No Crunchy Con

"The right needs less Ayn Rand, more Flannery O’Connor," rightly says The American Conservative's Andrew Bacevich, whom I respect greatly, but whose last article fails to impress — Counterculture Conservatism. I guess it was this little parenthetical quip that turned me off:
    (Fans of Ayn Rand or Milton Friedman will want to stop reading here and flip to the next article. If Ronald Reagan’s your hero, sorry—you won’t like what’s coming. Ditto regarding Ron Paul. And if in search of wisdom you rely on anyone whose byline appears regularly in any publication owned by Rupert Murdoch, well, you’ve picked up the wrong magazine.)
One name, of course, does not belong on that list, but what of the others? So what? Why the call for ideological purity? If I can read CounterPunch, I can handle a Randian or a Reaganite, for crying out loud. Here's what he offers:
    Here’s the basic recipe. As that stew’s principal ingredients, start with generous portions of John Quincy Adams and his grandson Henry. Fold in ample amounts of Randolph Bourne, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Christopher Lasch. For seasoning, throw in some Flannery O’Connor and Wendell Berry—don’t skimp. If you’re in a daring mood, add a dash of William Appleman Williams. To finish, sprinkle with Frank Capra—use a light hand: too sweet and the concoction’s ruined. Cook slowly. (Microwave not allowed.) What you get is a dish that is as nutritious as it is tasty.
All of the names on that list I recommend, save the last two, the former whom I've never heard of and the latter whom I've never really developed a taste for, but what does this list really say? Nothing at all, other than, "Ooh, I've got really cool taste." Prof. Bacevich admits that what he offers "may not satisfy purists" and "doesn’t rise to the level of qualifying as anything so grandiose as a coherent philosophy," but the fact of the matter is that it says nothing.

Yes, the calls for (1) "[p]rotecting the environment from the ravages of human excess," for (2) "[e]xposing the excesses of American militarism and the futility of the neo-imperialist impulses to which Washington has succumbed since the end of the Cold War," for (3) "[i]nsisting upon the imperative of putting America’s fiscal house in order," for (4) "[l]aying claim to the flagging cause of raising children to become responsible and morally centered adults," for (5) "[p]reserving the independence of institutions that can check the untoward and ill-advised impulses of the state," are all well and good, 3/5 of them (the odds numbers) explicitly called for by the maligned Ron Paul (and no one else of consequence, I might add, although that "may not satisfy purists" like Prof. Bacevich and his fellow "Obamacons") and the other 2/5 (the even numbers) supported by the good doctor although through non-interventionist principles, not through what Justin Raimondo calls "the mailed fist of the State," as the crunchy cons would have it.

I was thrilled, for about five minutes, when I read Rod Dreher's Birkenstocked Burkeans ten years ago, until I realized that what he and his ilk were offering was worse than nothing; it was bon vivant Statism.

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Blogger Mark D. said...

That's the problem with the Crunchy Con crowd: the fail to embrace the skepticism towards the state that has long been a hallmark of the Burkean tradition within conservatism. Kirk certainly understood this, as did Weaver, and although he was a Left-Conservative, so did Christopher Lasch.

Conservatism is about balance -- to avoid the moral anarchy and nihilism of libertarianism while also avoiding the statism of the Left and the neo-cons. Sadly, for all their promise, many in the Crunchy Con set fail to maintain the balance.

February 6, 2013 at 11:49 PM  
Blogger Iosue Andreas Sartorius said...

Glad you are with me on this. We're closer than I ever imagined. You even sound like a libertarian!

February 7, 2013 at 12:00 AM  

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