Now We Have “Ethical Conservatism”

Conservative Inc. and the Republican Party are struggling to come to terms with what the neocons did to the movement and the party, particularly the Bush years. The “new” conservatism was supposed to do all the things Reagan failed to do by appealing to a broad audience on liberal terms. Instead, it turned the GOP into the Democratic Party circa 1975, with endless wars of choice in the Middle East. The latter is a debacle from which the country may never emerge.

Anyway, The American Conservative is featuring a long essay from somepne named Brain Patrick Mitchell. He is some sort of political thinker slash theologian, pushing a new political theory. His “new” contribution to the hyphen party is ethical-conservatism,. which is different from other conservatism because it is ethical. That sounds a lot like the Bush compassionate-conservatism of a decade ago. It actually starts out on an interesting footing

The modern age is an age of anarchy, an era of habitual rebellion against old ways and existing order in the name of liberty, equality, enlightenment, and progress. It began as a rebellion against religious hierarchy, burgeoned into a rebellion against political monarchy, and finally boiled over in a rebellion against social patriarchy, leaving in its wake a new civilization endlessly at war with civilization itself.

Raised to rebel, the modern, anarchistic, progressive personality is always impatient with the world as it is and ever insistent that it change to suit him. Believing himself innocent, he blames others for the suffering he sees, indicting Society, Civilization, the Church, the State, the Establishment, the System, the Corporations, or the Man for crimes against the People and the Planet. Consistent with the age’s Luciferian culture of grievance justifying rebellion, the progressive lives passionately and impulsively as the hero of his own personal revolution, in which anything that stands in his way—that limits his autonomy, inhibits his self-expression, frustrates his ambitions, convicts his conscience, offends his sensibilities, or denies him satisfaction—can be condemned as unfair, unjust, intolerant, and therefore intolerable.

That’s some fine writing and a rare attempt to take an honest look at the people cult running America since the end of World War II. I don’t agree with his analysis, but I don’t think he is too far from the truth. It is rare to see an attempt to understand the Left on its own terms so that’s encouraging, even if it misses the mark.

This is the spirit riling the two competing passions of our age, libertine individualism and envious egalitarianism. Both deny the moral relevance of the objective other to the subjective self. Both insist on the self as the point of origin and reference for all definitions of goodness, truth, and justice, in effect replacing the First Person of the Holy Trinity with the selfish first person—the singular “I” in the case of individualism, the plural “we” in the case of egalitarianism.

This is where this type of analysis falls down the stairs. The writer sets up a false dichotomy and then uses it as a launching pad for his own opinions that he thinks are unique and different from whatever else is kicking around today. It has always struck me as a get out of jail free card. If you can dismiss current reality, you’re free to indulge in whatever you like. Libertarians tend to do this by pretending Left and Right are two sides of the same coin, when they are right there with them.

That said, I’m all in favor of rejecting the left-right model of describing political thought in the modern age. That is nothing more than a tarted up version of the Left’s us-versus-them world view. It is how you end up with Hitler on the Right, alongside Burke and Reagan. Somehow we are to believe that the polar opposites are Hitler on one end and Marx on the other. The truth is that all of these sects are the sons and daughters of the marriage of Rousseau and Hobbes.

The one thing I think he needs to explore more deeply is the Left’s impulse to destroy for the sake of destruction. He gets into it a little, but can’t seem to bring himself to accept that it is destruction for its own sake. The old 1960’s rallying cry of “burn, baby burn!” is instructive. There are no rallying cries from the Left that bring images of anything other than destruction. Whatever Utopian fantasies are at the start of the movement, the end is always about pulling the roof down.

It’s what makes all of these attempt to slap a new coat of paint on the Baby Boomer Conservatism pointless. White Americans are throwing in the towel on their race and culture. People who stop having children are saying it is better to have never been born than to carry on the traditions of their age. You’re not turning the tide with ten point plans and clever tax reform proposals. At least this brand of hyphen philosophy gets a little closer to the truth.

12 thoughts on “Now We Have “Ethical Conservatism”

  1. “I believe anonymity has something to do with it as well.”

    True, and anonymity is important where trust is low. Same with autonomy and individualism, both requisite Liberal Commandments. These notions are paradoxically personalized and universal since they form part of a herd mentality. This phenomenon demonstrates well the danger of applying naked principle without a particular, concrete existence. Such a tangible and distinct existence is what liberals seek to destroy.

  2. Hannon-“Liberalism develops in city centers where hands are idle and where there is plenty of time to stew over undeserved wealth and class disparity.”
    I believe anonymity has something to do with it as well. In the “sticks”, despite assurances of “privacy”, folks actual contributions to the “community”, DESPITE “credentials”, are no secret.
    Sorry Janet “That dog just won’t hunt” is usually enough to get folks away from late night entertainment an hour earlier, and out of bed an hour earlier in the morning. Over simplified sentiment to be sure, but hopefully all here are familiar with (ie) “The Grasshopper And The Ants”, or perhaps, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”.
    OT: While everyone is oohing and aaahhing over those “pretty” fireworks in the sky, try to imagine what they would be like if they were shrapnel loaded bombs, launched by your “neighbors” in the next town over because you, and your sphere of community, had the AUDACITY to deny them “free stuff” for not pulling their weight, and tell them “Sorry, that dog just won’t hunt!”.

  3. Liberalism develops in city centers where hands are idle and where there is plenty of time to stew over undeserved wealth and class disparity. Little wonder then that those so disposed will see destruction as a guiding principle.

    Traditionalism is the host for these wider experiments and does not “develop” so much as endure. The focus is on building, as noted above, and this is generally satisfying– and often extraordinarily productive– where conditions are not unbalanced.

    I will make a point of asking liberals what it is they are _building_ with their progressivism. I should be surprised if anyone offers something more creative than “a just society”.

  4. Two examples:
    “Your not turning the tide with ten point plans and clever tax reform proposals”.
    “If your a lonely, miserable failure in life, why not try to burn the world down because you don’t fit in it”.
    It’s not ‘your’ in these examples, but ‘you’re’, because ‘you are’ is economised to ‘you’re’, not ‘your’. Get it?

    • It’s a blog, not instructions for dismantling a bomb. Close enough is good enough here.

  5. “Libertarians tend to do this by pretending Left and Right are two sides of the same coin.”
    Capital L maybe. small l (ok me) believe the majority of the existing GOP (as opposed to “the Right”, or “Republicans”)and recent Democrat converts of convenience to “progressives”, are two sides of the same coin.
    I have to go Shakespeare(ish) on this one.
    “To be, or not to be, there is NO hyphen”

  6. I dunno, when you have this many narcissists and nihilists running around unsupervised, the only way to get rid of them is the fire, which — as you ably point out — is what they yearn for anyway. But the yeomen among us (since it is my belief you can’t be a small freeholder type without at least a very basic moral foundation) hold back since they figure the fire will take with it too many innocents. Thus Abraham’s rather involved negotiation with the Big Guy over Sodom and Gomorrah. But in the end, He is going to do what He is going to do and we have his promise that he won’t off us all.

  7. “…the end is always about pulling the roof down.” Judge Bork said it. Ayn Rand said it. And now THE Z. We can take it to the bank.

    I wonder still if one should act according to the knowledge that the roof is coming down or that the roof indeed has already come down. Haven’t quite worked that through yet, but with the acceleration of events lately I’d say it probably doesn’t matter which.

  8. Edaddy, I don’t see the difference between consuming and destroying. If you make pate out of the goose that laid the golden egg, you’re destroying the future which is exactly what leftist policies have done. They have stripped America of it’s vitality, resources and attempted to turn it’s men into sissies.

  9. Is the Left’s impulse really to destroy? I rather sense that their impulse is to CONSUME. Maybe I have it backwards …

    Historically, the Left consumes everything “upon their lusts” until all is gone, after which the productive Right rebuilds. The Right is a productive class not out of ideology. They are productive simply because it is their nature to build.

  10. Understanding the so-called “left” on its own terms requires, first, an examination of what in the world could possibly make so-called “leftist” policies attractive to anyone with a nominal command of recorded history and a modicum of critical thinking skills.

    That is, what’s missing from Mitchell’s litany of progressive behavior – fairly accurate as far as he takes it – is WHY these folks CHOOSE to act as they do; WHY are folks attracted to ideologies which perennially demonstrate their unsustainability to the tune of tens of millions murdered by their own governments?

    By failing to ask and investigate this question, like almost all self-described “conservatives” – who consistently mistake so-called “progressives” for fully-realized, fully mature adults with a legitimate world view – Mitchell makes the fatal (i.e., socially suicidal) mistake of putting “progressive” and “conservative” viewpoints on equal footing. Ultimately, this leads to the notion that ongoing compromise with their preferred policies is called for. That inevitably leads to the ratcheting, wretching lurch ever “leftward”, read: toward the totalitarian end of the political spectrum.

    More detail:

  11. Dr.Z,
    Cogent analysis of the nihilistic tendencies of the left. It’s interesting how many stunted, twisted personalities and shameless degenerates populate leftist movements. If your a lonely, miserable failure in life, why not try to burn the world down because you don’t fit in it.
    They use the schools and media to pour gasoline on the fire of envy, class hatred and dissatisfaction while praising Barbarians and subhuman riffraff cultures like Islam(curse Mohammed’s wretched name). Great Blog!

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