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.