Monday, January 31, 2005

Modern Conservatism:

A couple days ago I contrasted the "Myth of Liberal Neutrality" with modern conservatism. The latter, I claimed, is based on the ancient and medieval insight that government exists, at least in part, to foster virtues in its citizens. The idea is that even the most private and personal of decisions can have public consequences. Even the simple act of sex between consenting adults affects our common life, as anyone at all familiar with the problems of illegitimacy and sexually transmitted diseases knows. Hence the authority of “the people” to speak through the government on issues such as homosexuality and marriage.

There is another and somewhat paradoxical aspect to modern conservatism, however, that I neglected to mention but which George Will writes about in his latest column. It's worth a read if you can get over the pro-Bush rhetoric. Here's the money quote:

Bush has said ``I don't do nuance,'' and his ``ownership society'' agenda -- from Social Security personal accounts to health savings accounts to tax cuts -- is explicitly explained as soulcraft. Its purpose is to combat the learned incompetence of persons who become comfortable with excessive dependence on and supervision by government. His agenda's aim is to continue, in the language of his inaugural address, ``preparing our people for the challenges of life in a free society.''

That is the crux of modern conservatism -- government taking strong measures to foster in the citizenry the attitudes and aptitudes necessary for increased individual independence.

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