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India, China, and the Disciplinary Society Conservative Off-site: Mission Statement

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Conservative Off-site: Vision Statement

by Christopher Chantrill
December 11, 2008 at 11:12 am


FOR THE next month our Democratic friends will be focusing on the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States. It’s a good opportunity for conservatives to have an “off-site.”

You all know what that is. You take off a day or two from work and go to a convention facility where, facilitated by an expensive consultant, you and your co-workers figure out what it is you are supposed to be doing.

I know. You are asking: Do we have to? Hey, it’s an opportunity to clear our minds and think Big Ideas.

The first thing to do at an off-site is to develop a Vision Statement. That’s a blue-sky definition of what your organization does, a statement of its values. It is not a nuts-and-bolts thing about what you are going to do next week. For instance, if President Reagan had ever gone on an off-site, he would probably have created a Vision Statement something like this:

I will lead America towards that shining city on a hill, because America is “still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom” whose best years are yet to come.

Good old Ronnie. There was a man who never needed to go on an off-site and figure out what life was all about.

But Ronald Reagan is gone now. It falls to us to devise a Vision Statement for a post-Reagan era. How hard can it be?

First of all, the Vision Statement must cover all the bases of Michael Novak’s three sectors: economic, political, and cultural. This is just common sense. All Novak is saying with his three sectors is that our modern society is best understood as three centers of power, three ways in which we all interact with society.

(If you want to be sophisticated about it, you can rumble on about Eric Voegelin’s notion of the “leap in being” from compact to differentiated knowledge. Simple minds think in terms of “society” but we sophisticated conservatives have made the leap in being to a higher, nobler understanding of society where we differentiate society into three parts.)

In the economic sector, conservatives believe in the fundamental community of interests. We believe, unlike many others in our society, that Americans can offer their labor in the marketplace and themselves into marriage, and their children into the world, and trust that everything will turn out all right. But we don’t want to talk merely about the free and competitive marketplace. Conservatism must not just appeal to men, who believe in competition, but belong also to women, who major in cooperation.

When it comes to the political sector, we believe in freedom. That means we believe in law, which is the sophisticated way of resolving conflict, and we believe in limited government, because you cannot have freedom unless you limit the powers of government. We do not, by the way, believe in “pure” or, as our lefty friends say, “genuine” democracy. Our US Constitution was designed as a blend of the democratic principle in the legislature, the monarchical principle in the presidency, and the aristocratic principle in the judiciary. And a good thing too.

When it comes to the moral/cultural sector, we conservatives believe in transcendence. We do not believe that the “answer to life, the universe, and everything” can be captured or achieved in this material, mortal life alone. We believe that meaning, as a fundamental mystery, must transcend mortal life. There is a word for this ultimate mystery. It is God.

I think we are ready to put our Vision Statement down on paper. Here it is:

We believe in an America that lives and works together, with limited government, under God.

Everything in this terse statement is pregnant with conservative meaning. When we talk about an America where we “live and work together” we are evoking the system of voluntary cooperation under law that we call capitalism. But we also include the girl side of voluntary cooperation, the community of women working and relating together, sharing and caring. The conservative economy is not just guys battling all the other guys for market share, but gals trying to make the whole world into a relationship.

When we talk about an America with “limited government” we are talking about an America where the government doesn’t get its fingers into every pie as it does today. That would be an America that wasn’t spending 20 percent of GDP on government pensions, government healthcare, government education, and government welfare.

When we talk about an America “under God” we are talking about an America where the dominant belief system is transcendent religion not secular religion.

But what do you think? What do you think our Vision Statement should be? Feel free to comment and help develop a vision for the future of conservatism.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness... But to make a man act [he must have] the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action


“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison

China and Christianity

At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing


[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm

Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust

Class War

In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status... Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher... The academics lost their power and prestige and... have been gloomy ever since.
Freeman Dyson, “The Scientist as Rebel”


Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority — the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says ‘we should...’.
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity

Conservatism's Holy Grail

What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph


“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh

Democratic Capitalism

I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all. In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism

Drang nach Osten

There was nothing new about the Frankish drive to the east... [let] us recall that the continuance of their rule depended upon regular, successful, predatory warfare.
Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion


“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State

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