Conservatarian Cooke-ness

When I was a young man, I used to hear old people say something along the lines that young people would listen to each other, but never to those older than them. The sign a young man was maturing was when he sought out the advice of older people. This always seemed strange to me. I knew young people were idiots, including myself. Taking advice from any of them seemed like idiocy to me. I was young and dumb, but not that dumb. If I needed help, I went and found an old guy.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned that I was way dumber than I realized in my youth. While I was right to seek out information from older people, I was not very good at figuring out which old people were worth consulting. That comes with age and experience. As you get older, you acquire your own knowledge, but you also get better at figuring out who is worth listening to or reading. Number one on the list of people you ignore is young people. God bless ‘em, but they don’t know anything and they don’t know anyone who knows anything.

That all came to mind while reading this post by Charles Alphabet Cooke on National Review. He is out with a book called the Conservatarian Manifesto. From the post:

The book is in part a look at the growing number of self-identified “conservatarians” — those people whose worldview is broadly right-leaning, but who are dissatisfied with the Republican party and with much of libertarianism. I also make some suggestions as to how conservatives can update their offering, propose a framework within which their various constituents can once again co-exist, and take on the notion that there is such a thing as a “social issue” per se. At the book’s heart is a sustained defense of federalism and of a thriving and diverse civil society.

My first thought, was that Mr. Cooke is a little young to be offering up a new political philosophy. Last week he was riding his Big Wheel around the driveway. His writing has the feel of the college sophomore coming home for Winter Solstice, lecturing the family about the real world. Even when you agree with him you cringe a little.

Putting my mean spirited bigotry towards the young to the side, I was reminded of when Rod Dreher went bonkers a decade ago and tried to build a cult around breakfast cereal. His shtick was “granola conservatism” otherwise known as “crunchy cons.” He defined these individuals as traditionalist conservatives who believed in environmental conservation, frugal living, and the preservation of traditional family values. They also express skepticism about aspects of free market capitalism and they are usually religious (typically traditionalist Roman Catholics or conservative Protestants).

Of course, those of us who remembered when guys like Joe Sobran and Sam Francis were writing for respectable publications knew that conservatives were never capitalists nor prone to worship at the altar of free markets. Dreher’s “new” flavor of conservatism was just the original product with some of his own eccentric foibles sprinkled on top. It’s why no one remembers “granola conservatism” or Rod Dreher. It was the rantings of a young man in the sophomore stage of his life.

Cooke’s new brand of conservatism sounds just like libertarianism circa 1984. Thirty years ago libertarians were the guys who did not want to fight the Left over issues like abortion and they thought guys like Jerry Falwell were icky and gross. Libertarians famously broke with Reagan over, wait for it, the war on drugs. I know, it sounds crazy, but that was one of the main reasons Ron Paul gave for bolting the Republican Party in the Reagan years.

Cooke’s proposed new cult is basically 1980’s libertarianism with less of an emphasis on free weed. The obvious irrationality is the same we see with libertarianism. If people are to be free to organize themselves as they see fit, that means people will want their government to do a lot of things libertarians find unpleasant. The only sort of human that could live in a libertarian paradise is a person who detests his fellow humans so much he refuses to have anything to do with them. Otherwise, social creatures put rules on one another in order to facilitate mutually beneficial relations. That scales up to what we know as culture.

But, culture is tough intellectual ground to cover and most libertarians are simply not bright enough to master the material. Young people like Mr. Cooke have been marinated in Cultural Marxism since birth and that means they have a Pavlovian response to anything that bumps into culture. That response is to run and hide under the bed or, if they are a true believer, scream at the heretic until he runs and hides under the bed.

The only debates worth having in a civil society are cultural debates. What kind of people we choose to be is the only thing we can leave to the next generation. It is what they will stand upon as they decide how they will order themselves and how they will choose to be remembered. The reason these debates get so ugly and nasty is because they are so important. No one gives a crap about tax policy enough to lose a friend over it. People care about the culture and they are willing to fight over it, unless they are a conservatarian, I guess.

12 thoughts on “Conservatarian Cooke-ness

  1. @wilson:

    What are Libertarian & Conservative Societies? I’m a novice, but have been told I’m a “Libertarian” rather than reading their “Heroes” & self-proclaiming. I did enter discourse on IP with some (self-proclaimed?) L’s wanting forever IP-ownership of everything from words to exclusive pony-tail rights for the 1st girl that made one, all enforced by force (private armies, I think) – a scary group. But others asserting L status insisted everything from no IP to limited copyrights and/or time-limits being OK – a full range posited by L-claimants.

    For brevity rather than definiteness doesn’t Conservative mean “stuck in the mud?” Women stay at home; punishments due for my old lascivious college parties; better join the church – types?

    For brevity again, Ron Paul spoke of a military for defense rather than no military & thus longer lived than your guppy and certainly not Conservative in his decriminalizing drugs.

    Burke’s quote addresses “sort of people” that I do not know how to recognize & certainly not in my group of L-leaning friends who the media certainly would not classify as conservative. Not very helpful.

    Only recently read Z & initially he seemed bright enough, or at least could write well, until this article wherein he seems to have gone nuts on those who I’ve considered Libertarians. Either he is nuts or I don’t know what definition of Libertarians he uses.

  2. A libertarian society might have the lifespan of a guppy, if it could avoid being eaten by other fish first. The libertarian society which survived would have quickly become a conservative society.

    “This sort of people are so taken up with their theories of the rights of man that they have totally forgotten his nature. The restraints on men, as well as their liberties, are to be reckoned among their rights.”–Burke

  3. Kathleen:

    I think we can see anarchy in action: The world & its nation states.

    The Libertarianism-leaning types I’ve read & talked to (Economists mostly plus STEM profs a few lawyers & doctors) would generally improve the lot of us all but for gov workers, the pols & their cronies.

    The pols have indeed conditioned the public with the media saturated with the 2-Party mouths disgorging mostly nonsense + gov-speak K-12 ed. How else could the black families & black teen employment been so relatively harmed? Relatively because the US poor are better off consumption-wise than in the 50s but much poorer than if gov had not so intruded. According to a 2013 study by Economics Profs Dawson & Seater had Fed Regs remained at 1949 level our current median family income would be $330,000/yr vs the existing $53K/yr & Econ Prof MJ Perry said it probably understates the case because the study does not include State & Local Regs nor the cost of “Rent seeking” developing all those regs. Thus, I see it as an education problem created by & for gov, while acknowledging some people blindly see inequality as more important than their own well being.

  4. Tex: yes, you are right about Libertarians and utopian society. They do not advocate for that, but for what you’ve stated in your last paragraph. I do not think anarchy is utopian in any way, either. When I think of anarchy, I think of chaos and no rule of law.

    I still think Libertarianism would not work in our country as things stand now. Too many people, and that includes the political class, receive money and other benefits from the government. People have been conditioned over the decades to turn to the government for help and benefits at the expense of those who pay the taxes, and would be hard-pressed to stand on their own two feet. I find Libertarianism interesting and I think when the Fed government goes bust or shrinks dramatically sometime over the next decade, people aren’t going to have any choice but to rely on themselves: Libertarianism via Reality. Or mass poverty, take your pick.

  5. @Kathleen:

    I’m a mathematician & have read little of forms of gov; however, as I understand it your “utopian society. . . able to regulate itself without governmental authority,” seems more descriptive of the Anarchists than the Libertarians who seem to base their ideas on gov only doing those things it needs to do, a small fraction of what it does do.

    I’ve read some calling for, I guess no gov, with private “enforcers” hired to maintain “contracts” & assume, without knowing, those are a minority. I’ve read a little more from Libertarian leaning Lawyers & Economists who are hopefully the majority. The latter concepts seems most workable though probably not electable because it requires our rulers, the 2 parties, to give up enormous power & wealth.

    The Libertarian materials I’ve read suggest it requires much less of a “utopian society” and pretty much leaves people alone to pursue their own “life, liberty & pursuit of happiness.”

  6. While I am very sympathetic to the Idea of Libertarianism, I can’t see it working in a multicultural, pluralistic society raised on the promise of State benefits extracted from the productive members of our society. And really, all by itself, the philosophy of Libettarianism is dependent upon a utopian society, a society willing and morally able to regulate itself without governmental authority. We haven’t been that society in over 150 years.

  7. It was my own experience that, when confronted with facts that contradicted my strongly held opinion, it took months or sometimes years to arrive at that truth, but arrive I did. That is the sort of thing I attempt to impress upon young people, observations that are brakes to the stream of bad information which cements bad ideas in them through repetition.

  8. “If people are to be free to organize themselves as they see fit, that means people will want their government to do a lot of things libertarians find unpleasant.”

    Kinda like 2 wolves & a Lamb with the majority vote determining the dinner menu.

  9. When I finally got to that “Ask folks who’ve actually been around…” age (22 or so), I found the quieter folks, who weren’t in the “business” of frequently spouting unsolicited advice, the most valuable sources.
    Which means I’ve disqualified myself as a contender of course.
    Paradox I suppose.

  10. I would ask you to imagine someone whose sense of taste is fucked up to the point that anything they put in their mouth tastes like raw sewage.

    They could understand the need to eat, but would be hard pressed to understand why anyone would enjoy it.

    I understand the need for social mores. I cannot understand the people who revel in them.

  11. “The only sort of human that could live in a libertarian paradise is a person who detests his fellow humans so much he refuses to have anything to do with them.”


    “Utopia, it turns out, is standing alone on the hilltop drenched in the blood of your former comrades.”

    You really are on a roll. And I say that as someone who “detests his fellow humans so much he refuses to have anything to do with them.”

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