Some people think—mistakenly—that conservatism is a collection of “positions” on various issues, such as abortion, trade, immigration, physician-assisted suicide, decriminalization of drugs, capital punishment, and war. This is to mistake conclusions for premises. Conservatism, like progressivism, is a political morality: a set of moral principles that govern the relation of the individual to the state. Different conservatives have different lists of principles (within limits, of course), assign different weights to them, and specify them differently. This generates disagreements among conservatives. These disagreements, and the arguments that flow from them, are healthy, provided that they are civil, respectful, and rational—as they almost always are, for conservatives value civility, respectfulness, and rationality. This column by George Will sets out some of conservatism’s principles. Long before I was a conservative, I admired Will’s ability to say so much, so well, in 750 words. Now that I’m a conservative, I admire his ability even more. It’s a shame that conservatism is not taught (or even taken seriously) in political philosophy or political theory courses at the university level. Many college textbooks (I have examined a good number) have no section, and some have no reading, on conservatism. No wonder people have misconceptions about it! When they hear the word “conservative,” they think of Ronald Reagan, William F. Buckley, and Tom DeLay. They should think of Edmund Burke, Michael Oakeshott, and Roger Scruton, any one of whom can run intellectual circles around progressives. Teaching political philosophy without discussing conservatism is like teaching epistemology without discussing foundationalism or teaching ethics without discussing deontology.
Thursday, 31 May 2007
Here is a scene from today’s stage of the Giro d’Italia, won by Italian Alessandro Petacchi. Italian Danilo Di Luca is the overall leader by a comfortable margin (2:24) with three stages to go.
As some of you know, I’ve had a running “debate” (mainly in the comments section of this blog) with George Jochnowitz about homosexual “marriage.” George thinks any two adults (why just two?) should be allowed to marry. I think marriage should be limited to heterosexual couples. George asks why. I say it’s because marriage is about children. George replies that (1) not all heterosexual couples have children and (2) some homosexual couples have children. He thinks that, to be consistent, I must limit marriage to those couples, whether heterosexual or homosexual, who have children. I think George is wrong about this, and I’ve explained why ad nauseam, but suppose he’s right. It doesn’t follow that homosexual couples who don’t have children should be allowed to marry, and that’s the vast majority of them. In other words, the most he can get me to admit is that (1) some heterosexual couples—the ones without children—should not be allowed to marry and (2) some homosexual couples—the ones with children—should be allowed to marry.
Addendum: I have a nice graphic to illustrate my points, but it’s on a post-it note. If someone would make a two-by-two box diagram for me in an uploadable format, I’d appreciate it. On the left, it should read (from top to bottom) “heterosexual” and “homosexual.” On the top, it should read (from left to right) “children” and “no children.” The four boxes have numerals in them: “1” in the heterosexual/children box, “2” in the heterosexual/no children box, “3” in the homosexual/children box, and “4” in the homosexual/no children box. If someone sends such a graphic to me, I will post it as an addendum and restate my claims in terms of the numerals. Thanks in advance.
Addendum 2: Canadian Libertarian (a.k.a. Robert S. Porter) made the following box diagram for me (click to enlarge):
Let me restate things in terms of the diagram. My claim is that only those in boxes 1 and 2 should be allowed to marry. This is the traditional view of marriage. George asks why I would so limit it. I reply that marriage is about children. George replies that if this is the case, then I should limit marriage to those in boxes 1 and 3 rather than to those in boxes 1 and 2. In other words, I should deny marriage to those in box 2 and extend it to those in box 3. Note that nothing I have said in my exchange with George commits me to allowing those in box 4 to marry. George wants people in any of the four boxes to be allowed to marry. I have a question for George. Should polygamy be allowed? If not, why not? You’ve said that dogs can’t benefit from marriage, but three or more adults can.
This column by Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal is so blindingly stupid that I don’t know where to begin. Conservatives aren’t opposed to the market, and there is no incompatibility between letting the market work and respecting the rule of law. For the last time (I hope), what conservatives want is lawful, controlled immigration. In other words, we the people—American citizens—decide how many and which foreigners to let in. Those who are here illegally must be punished and then deported. Those who are waiting in line to immigrate will then be processed in accordance with our decisions.
Why is it permissible for a woman to refer to a man as a “stud,” a “hunk,” or “beefcake,” but impermissible for a man to refer to a woman as a “fox,” a “chick,” or a “broad”?
My cousins Craig and Kevin Hicks are dairy farmers, specializing in organic milk. They also sell pasture-fed beef and pasture-fed chicken. I spent some of the best times of my life on their farm in North Branch, Michigan. Here is their website.
This column by advocacy “journalist” Linda Greenhouse made me roar with laughter. One of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s apologists (law professor Pam Karlan) said that Justice Ginsburg is upset whenever her colleagues disguise their political judgments as law. What’s funny about this is that no member of the Court has done more to turn law into politics than Justice Ginsburg. She is result-oriented. And don’t you love the part near the end of the story about how Justice Ginsburg has based some of her rulings on personal grievances? I quote:
Professor Liu said that when he read the dissent on Tuesday, it occurred to him that in recounting the workplace travails of the plaintiff, Lilly M. Ledbetter, Justice Ginsburg was also telling a version of her own story. “Here she is, the one woman of a nine-member body, describing the get-along imperative and the desire not to make waves felt by the one woman among 16 men,” Professor Liu said. “It’s as if after 15 years on the court, she’s finally voicing some complaints of her own.”
What in the world do her personal travails have to do with anything? That’s not law; it’s lawlessness.
I suppose I shouldn’t expect much from a politician who declaims on science, religion, or their intersection. Senator Sam Brownback’s New York Times op-ed column of this date raises more questions than it answers. Let me make a couple of comments. First, Brownback is correct to distinguish science proper from various philosophical theses, such as methodological naturalism, to which it is sometimes conjoined. For example, the claim that science is the only source of knowledge is not itself a scientific claim, so, when scientists assert or assume it, they are going beyond the scope of their expertise. Second, Brownback says at least twice in his column that he accepts the view that “small changes” occur “within species.” Does he deny that species themselves evolve? If he does, then he is rejecting a central tenet of Darwinian natural selection. A Christian such as Brownback can easily accept Darwinian natural selection in its entirety, simply by maintaining that the entire process was originated by God, for the purpose of bringing it about that there are human beings.
To the Editor:
David Brooks (“The Vulcan Utopia,” column, May 29) criticizes Al Gore’s style (although the sentence he cites is clear and perfectly understandable), speaks disparagingly of Mr. Gore’s “best graduate school manner,” pans his knowledge of history and distorts the central message of Mr. Gore’s new book, “The Assault on Reason.”
My question to Mr. Brooks: Wouldn’t it be nice to have a president who read and understood history, who could write a book (“An Inconvenient Truth”) that has captured the imagination of the world, who takes time to look into the future and who respects reason?
Mr. Gore’s call for more rational discourse in light of an administration that seems to have abandoned such discourse in favor of extreme partisanship, blind authoritarianism and faith-based foreign policy seems exactly the kind of clarion call our nation needs.
An earlier Age of Reason, also called the Enlightenment, countered the excess of superstition, emotion and irrationality that had prevailed in the previous centuries and paved the way for much of the progress in the West since.
Robert A. Rees
Brookdale, Calif., May 29, 2007
Why is it so hard for people—even (especially?) intelligent, highly educated people—to distinguish between law and politics? It’s the job of Congress, not the courts, to make policy. It’s the job of courts to interpret, apply, and enforce Congress’s political judgments. The editorial board of The New York Times criticizes the Supreme Court for not making policy. Note that in the final paragraph of the editorial opinion, the board urges Congress to amend Title VII. This shows that at some level, the board knows that it’s a matter for Congress, not the Supreme Court. Or maybe the board doesn’t give a damn whose job it is to make policy, as long as the “right” policy gets made. To progressives, the end justifies the means.