Non-Crazy Conservatism

Daniel LarisonDaniel Larison wrote a short article last week, Bobby Jindal and the “Party of Growth.” As I read it, I found that I was very much in agreement. But how could that be? It was published in The American Conservative.

It was not that the ideas were solid. I often agree with sensible conservatives. Ramesh Ponnuru of the National Review Online is often very good. But I don’t think he’s much fun. He’s a National Review guy, and though he may be no older than I am, he seems so.

This isn’t to say there aren’t conservatives who strike me as more part of my generation. Tucker Carlson, for example, has a style I appreciate. The problem is that he’s an idiot. And that is very true of the Republican “young guns” generally.

But check out Larison on Jindal’s big speech:

Jindal opens with a complaint that Republicans have become too focused on “zeroes” and “number-crunching” and government book-keeping, which he believes puts Republicans at a disadvantage in any debate with their opponents. Then in the next breath, he expresses his irritation that bad or irrelevant ideas such as term limits and the balanced budget amendment are not taken seriously. Because these ideas are not taken seriously, Jindal proposes instead that the GOP focus all of its attention on promoting growth and opportunity…

The closest that Jindal comes to specific suggestions for becoming the “party of growth” is to say that Republicans must “promote the entrepreneur, the risk-taker, the self-employed woman who is one sale away from hiring her first employee.” In other words, the party must become even more preoccupied with celebrating entrepreneurs along the lines of the second day of last year’s convention.

I love that italicized “even more.” That’s really what made me think this was a new kind of conservative. Larison goes on to explain how Jindal and most Republicans misunderstand the idea of “American Exceptionalism.”

As a result of Larison’s brief article, I did a little research on The American Conservative. All right! I looked on Wikipedia! It said:

It reflects traditional American conservatism that has argued vigorously against American interventionism, against a debt-based fiscal policy used to finance adventurism abroad and government growth at home, and against the intrusions on Americans’ private lives by state security apparatus. In general, TAC represents an anti-war and Old Right voice against the dominance of what it sees as a neoconservative strain on the Right.

And that made me think even more highly of them. Most people who claim such interests call themselves libertarians, even though they are not up to the challenges of individualist anarchism. (Really: who is?) But these people put on no such airs. They’re just conservative, in the way that the word used to be defined. And that probably means they want a small government, but they aren’t against the very idea of government. What’s more, they are clearly against the government’s most pernicious powers—just the opposite of the modern Republican Party.

I’m sure I would disagree with a lot of the gang at The American Conservative. But we could definitely work together. And the stronger their voice gets the better it will be for the country.


When I talk to people with very different political beliefs, I normally find that we agree on results, just not means. The problem I have with the modern Republican Party is that they claim to agree with me on results, but I just don’t see that. They seem to want to make the rich richer at the expense of the poor. Their insistence that we reward “risk taking” undermines their argument. It implies that we should just accept the fact of inequality because some people win the lottery and others don’t. We know that really is the way the world works, but it shouldn’t be what we aspire to. Out of the mouths of Republicans, it is just an apologia for the way things are.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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