February 23, 2006

Taking a page...

...out of Disputations' book, I thought I'd react to Dreher's manifesto with my response in italics:

A Crunchy Con Manifesto    By Rod Dreher

1. We are conservatives who stand outside the conservative mainstream; therefore, we can see things that matter more clearly.

This is elitism, not conservatism. (Not that there's anything wrong with elitism except that you can't defend democracy at the same time since the notion that the herd can't see clearly flies in the face of the democratic principle that the herd usually gets it right.)

2. Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff, and insufficiently concerned with the content of our individual and social character.

How does one categorize a thing as large as "modern conservatism"? Do you merely look at the President and Congress or have you polled all those who call themselves conservative? And couldn't you substitute "modernity" for "modern conservatism"?

3. Big business deserves as much skepticism as big government.

Uh, like, has anyone missed Enron in the news? Anyone who works in the business world knows that business is to be treated with skepticism, so this feels like a non-sequitor. But I'll grant the possibility that this hasn't sunk in yet.

4. Culture is more important than politics and economics.

Indeed, this is/was a huge blind spot for the current Administration, and everyone with a three-digit IQ now understands this. Even uber-rationalist David Brooks got the memo. Mentioning this now is like telling the farmer that his horses are clearly out of the barn long after they'd escaped from the barn.

5. A conservatism that does not practice restraint, humility, and good stewardship—especially of the natural world—is not fundamentally conservative.

Yes, I don't know how this differs from the classical notion of conservatism, which has the root word "conserve". Not controversial unless one wants to subordinate man to nature, as if man should no longer be the steward of creation but its servant.

6. Small, Local, Old, and Particular are almost always better than Big, Global, New, and Abstract.

Again, this is a mantra of conservatism, at least Russell Kirk 101 conservatism. How you implement the encouragement of the small, local, old and particular would be the interesting point here.

7. Beauty is more important than efficiency.

Indeed, this is a point well taken.

8. The relentlessness of media-driven pop culture deadens our senses to authentic truth, beauty, and wisdom.

Yes but how that relates to politics I'm unsure, unless you're seriously in favor of government censorship of Britney Spears.

9. We share Russell Kirk’s conviction that “the institution most essential to conserve is the family.”

The conservative party is already at the forefront of attempting to preserve the family. Banning gay marriage and attempting to outlaw abortion are two examples.

10. Politics and economics won’t save us; if our culture is to be saved at all, it will be by faithfully living by the Permanent Things, conserving these ancient moral truths in the choices we make in our everyday lives.

Of course. The conservative party is the party of personal responsibility, which is another way of saying the government can't save you. This is another non-sequitor. Something can be important and yet not be the most important thing.
Since I'm already beating this subject dead, I'll quote Rich Leonardi, who understands that the devil is in the details:
Don't most of us recognize and register our opposition to this [material] crassness, albeit perhaps less emphatically and sans granola, by catechizing our children? ("Pushing back against the culture" -- to use Flannery O'Connor's phrase -- and all that.)

I do hope that there isn't some sort of predictable policy agenda associated with "crunchy conservatism." Otherwise, it runs the risk of being a Catholic variation of the elusive "third way." For example, a year or two ago, a Catholic civil war erupted over the subject of Texas' CHIP, a state assistance program designed to provide healthcare to the working poor. It was more or less taken for granted that the "right" Catholic position was support for the program. Anyone who dared oppose it or pointed out its flaws was heckled as "putting his party before his faith" or "wedded to a hoary ideology."

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