Friday, July 27, 2012

What Will Happen to the Non-Libertarian Right?

Recently I wrote the first part of a three-part post called Why I am a Conservative, which I thoroughly enjoyed writing even if nobody else is especially interested. Using the title made me curious as to what other articles and posts appeared on an internet search if I entered in those words.

I found the results depressing. In virtually all cases, with one or two welcome exceptions, "conservative" meant free market, libertarian, anti-government, and sometimes a US foreign policy "hawk". The concentration was virtually always upon economic matters, sometimes to the exclusion of any others.

Some of the articles were by former leftists who had kept their anti-establishment, anti-traditional, lifestyle libertarian views intact but had come to the view-- naturally, I think-- that anti-statism and free market economics fit these better than their hitherto socialistic opinions.

Yesterday, while browsing the magazine rack in Eason's, I came across a magazine called Total Politics whose cover story was an interview with Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Conservative backbencher who is often hailed as an "old-fashioned" Tory. He looks the part and he sounds the part, with his upper-class accent, air of refinement, and cultural allusions. But a quick skim through the article showed he had little to say about the preservation of Englishness, the bolstering of family life, the importance of community, religion, or any classically High Tory subjects. It was pretty much all to do with money.

And that's your conservative today. I have had one protracted debate with a correspondent who insists he is a solid Catholic but who also insists that "greed is good" and that Rerum Novarum was "a rush of blood to the head". (One of these "Why I am Conservative" essays was written by a Christian who described his priorities as "God, my family, and my country, in that order" but who also said, "I don’t resent wealthy people. To the contrary, I want to become one of them one day.")

Some residual elements of traditional conservatism might survive alongside this passion for the free market and radical individualism-- most of these essays mentioned an opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, as well as a commitment to patriotism.

But can these hangovers long survive when individual choice has become an idol? My guess is that social and cultural conservatism will become more and more irrelevant as the political landscape is increasingly dominated by the liberal left on one side and the libertarian right on the other.

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