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 Wanted: A New Conservatism 

May 31, 2007 
new conservatismGeorge F. Will, spokesman for the hence-thus-indeed coffee-table school of conservatism, whose utterances seem meant to sound like old translations from some august language, has once more done what he does best: set my teeth on edge with yet another pronouncement on what the contemporary conservative position ought to be.

Today's column is "Wanted: A New Conservatism" -- Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.new conservatismIn recent weeks Will has all but endorsed Rudy Giuliani (whom else?) for president and ridiculed Ron Paul, who takes the U.S. Constitution seriously, as an anachronism. I imagine he slapped his flippers together in glee when Giuliani attacked Paul for saying the obvious, that the 9/11 attacks were motivated by American foreign policy, rather than by virginal American innocence. Paul might have been speaking for Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton, men to whom Giuliani would have little to say, unless he could say it with his middle finger.

new conservatismHence, according to Will, conservatives thus should insist indeed that “the argument about whether there ought to be a welfare state is over.” I don’t know what he reads, but within the last hour (several hours after I read that sentence!) I saw a review of a new book arguing that the welfare state should be done away with. Hence, thus, and indeed my foot.

new conservatismWhere does the Constitution authorize any such thing? How does Will square the mammoth Federal welfare state with anything in The Federalist Papers, where the Federal powers are said to be “few and defined”? Well, Will has also declared the Tenth Amendment to be “dead as a doornail,” so maybe anything written two centuries ago is now defunct under the Living Document doctrine. Or is the whole darned Constitution subject to some statute of limitations?

new conservatismAs long as there are men like Will asserting that all is well with the present system, there will be need of other men to contradict them. The word conservative is vain unless you can define what most needs to be conserved, because most things are bound to perish.

new conservatismCase in point: I have to move from my old house to a small apartment this week. I own well over 10,000 books. I can fit about a fifth of them into my new place. That means I face thousands of choices, many of them painful.

conservatismConservatism is like that. You have to keep making hard choices. That’s why I’m a little startled when anyone calling himself a conservative starts by deciding that the Constitution, or any of its key provisions, can be thrown out with the rubbish.

[Breaker quote for Wanted: A New Conservatism: Or a really old one]new conservatismYou expect it of a party hack like Giuliani, of whom it would be flattery to say that crassness is second nature to him, when he manifestly knows no other. He calls killing children in the womb a constitutional right. But George Will should know better. Has he forgotten his own arguments?

new conservatismThe truncated, perverted version of conservatism now called neoconservatism in the media is “conservative” only in the sense that sodomy is “sex.” The real thing can be found in the American Founders and, in England, in the writings of such men as Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke, John Henry Newman, and C.S. Lewis.

new conservatismWhat American conservatism needs now can be summed up in a single word: purification — an inward regeneration, without the slogans and gimmicks of the last few decades — supply-side economics, term limits, and all the other familiar but desperate substitutes for simple principle. We are all bored and jaded with these by now.

new conservatismThe change will have to come from young people who, without being zealots, refuse to compromise as their elders have. We need a pacific patriotism that doesn’t confuse war with “defense,” welfare with “compassion,” or the sheer multiplicity of arbitrary (and even criminal) powers with the rule of law. These are all lies that may be brushed aside, and the sooner the better.

new conservatismThe old conservatism has had its day, and it has failed as dismally as the old liberalism. Even some of the old conservatives are finally starting to realize that. As the Federal Government spends trillions of dollars per year, mostly borrowed or virtually counterfeit, the compromises of the last few generations are bound to buckle and collapse.

new conservatismStart with a simple question: How would honest Americans be worse off if the Federal Government, in its present form, just ceased to exist?

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2007 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
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