Modern Conservatism: All feet and no head?

16 Feb

Rachel Motte, over at Evangelical Outpost, published a good article a while back on headless conservatism.  Modern conservatism, and the next generation of conservatives, she fears has been taken over by media personalities and activists.  Where are the Russell Kirks, Milton Friedmans, Bill Buckleys, Irving Kristols, Francis Schaeffers, of our age?  Conservatism guided by coherent political philosophy is increasingly a thing of the past.  Instead, it is driven by soundbite rhetoric, talking heads and pundits, political party commitment, knee-jerk policy reactions, but not serious reflection on core ideas, which in the past produced cohesive types of conservatism (libertarian, paleo, neo, social).  It’s not that there are no conservative intellectuals producing this type of literature, its that these intellectuals are no longer feeding the thought — check that — rhetoric and activism of the conservative partisans these days.  Read the blog entry here


4 Responses to “Modern Conservatism: All feet and no head?”

  1. Joel February 16, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    “Conservatism guided by coherent political philosophy is increasingly a thing of the past.”

    Yes, principled conservatism has been dead for quite some time now. What we call “conservative” today would have been rightly seen as liberal/left even 50-60 years ago. If George Washington, Patrick Henry, or any of the other Founders were to see what they’re “conservative” defenders are today, they’d be in despair.


    • thereformedmind February 16, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

      Agreed. Many criticized the Christian Right for shooting before they aimed (doing their politics before their theology). Same can now be said of political conservatism. Where’s Bill Buckley when we need him?


      • Joel February 16, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

        Even conservatism under Buckley wasn’t all that great. Buckley, despite occasional rhetoric to the contrary, was more or less a secularist. He gave lip service to God and Christianity from time to time, but that was about it. He, like other conservatives, grew more and more liberal as time passed because his political philosophy was ultimately rooted in the ever “progressing” whims of humanist pragmatism and utilitarianism, rather than in the solid foundation of Scripture. What good is it to claim to be Christian if you do not think or act like one?

        For instance, have you noticed how the arguments from conservatives against ObamaCare almost exclusively revolve around the economical and practical? “It’s too expensive!,” they say. “It’s unworkable!,” they argue. Pragmatism! Utilitarianism! But no mention of the fact that such a program is inherently immoral because in order to even fund it the Commandment “Thou Shalt Not Steal” must be broken.

        Socialism — at least the forms of it conservatives don’t presently like — is only wrong insofar as it is economically infeasible and practically unworkable according to conservative logic. But what would their objection be if such socialism could be afforded and could be shown to work? Would they have an argument against it? No, they would not. And this is why liberalism continues to advance, and why yesterday’s socialism is today’s unquestioned staple of Americana. If you don’t have a principled objection to something that is rooted in the Christian ethic, it is only a matter of time before you give up on that objection, and come to embrace that which you once despised.


        In Psalm 127 we read that, “Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it.” If conservatism — especially in its present-day form — insists on being “secular,” then they are no better than those whom they oppose. Limited government and the free market aren’t going to “save” America if in the pursuit of these things the God who gives meaning to them is ignored.

        Conservatives, like their liberal counterparts, are looking for salvation in worldly political philosophies rather than in Christ. For although they know God and pay lip service to him, they do not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they have become futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts have been darkened. Is it any wonder, then, that God has not blessed the “conservative” movement all these years? That instead what we’ve seen from them is a progressing move to the futile thoughts of left-liberalism, to the point now where homosexual groups like GOProud are celebrated at CPAC?

        Secular conservatism was doomed from the start.


      • thereformedmind February 17, 2011 at 8:40 am #

        I agree, secular philosophies and political ideologies are doomed to fail when pressed far enough. My point was that Buckley functioned as a bridge between a systematic political philosophy (however flawed) and leaders/laypeople in the conservative political movement. Today, that connection is severed. I should have mentioned (updated it though) Francis Schaeffer in this regard.


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