|India, China, and the Disciplinary Society||Conservative Off-site: Mission Statement|
by Christopher Chantrill
December 11, 2008 at 4:12 am
FOR THE next month our Democratic friends will be focusing on the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States. Its 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, its 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. Thats 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 Novaks 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 Voegelins 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 dont 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 doesnt get its fingers into every pie as it does today. That would be an America that wasnt 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.
Buy his Road to the Middle Class.
[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.
[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050
Civil Societya complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churchesbuilds, 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
[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists, she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican
[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State
These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self
Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism
For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008
As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable...
[1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006
No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.
Lord Salisbury, Letter to Lord Lytton
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
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