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The Limitations of Capitalism
The institutions outside of it — the Burkean little platoons — need to pull their weight.

Volunteers with the Points of Light organzation lend a hand at a school in East Harlem, N.Y.

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Jonah Goldberg

One of the biggest problems facing the Right these days is an inability to answer the question, “How should we live?” One reason for this is that we don’t want the government imposing an answer. Another reason is that we rightly don’t want to tell other people how to live. A third is that the conservatives who do try to tell everyone how to live are simply buzzkills and pariahs in the mainstream culture. A fourth reason is that we simply assume that the institutions of civil society that we draw meaning from are adequate for others to draw meaning from as well. And maybe they are — but something is stopping a lot of people from drawing sustenance from the Burkean little platoons of civil society. And, as a result, many are also having trouble making the most of what capitalism has to offer.

This was my point about how the Constitution is powerless against Satan. A healthy society should not have to resort to constitutional arguments to explain why building a shrine to devil-worshippers on public land next to the Ten Commandments is incredibly stupid. Indeed, if all you have left are constitutional arguments, you’ve lost.

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“Today, the New Left is rushing in to fill the spiritual vacuum at the center of our free and capitalist society,” Irving Kristol wrote over three decades ago in Two Cheers for Capitalism. Indeed, because they are liberated from the need to pay tribute to the idols of the old order, the Left has always had an easier time telling people how they should live. Conservatives — who wish to conserve what is good or even eternal about the old order — are always at a disadvantage in this regard. (Our advantage is that our ideas may be boring but they have been proven to work. “What is conservatism?” Abraham Lincoln asked. “Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried?”)

Thanks to the mostly healthy influence of libertarianism, conservatives have lost interest in making arguments about right and wrong, good and evil, honorable and dishonorable, preferring instead to fall back on the principles of the Constitution, federalism, and individual liberty. We’ve largely gotten out of the business of telling people how to live. And that’s probably a good thing, at least in most circumstances.

The problem is that the Left hasn’t gotten out of that business — at all. It is selling people an answer to “How should we live?” It’s fine for us to point out the deficiencies of their offer. But it would be nice if conservatives had a counter-offer that people wanted to hear.

 

Various & Sundry

Zoë is home. She is still in rough shape but on the mend. It didn’t sound like she’d survive last week (her white-blood-cell count basically dropped to nothing). She didn’t eat solid food for almost a week. She’s skin and bones now and her gastrointestinal discipline is roughly on par with Joe Biden’s verbal discipline. We have concerns about medical and behavioral issues, but for now we’re just happy she’s out of solitary confinement at the vet. Please, puppy buyers take note. Parvo is some serious stuff. Anyway, thanks for all the support. Here she is in my lap on the way home from the vet yesterday.

My column today is on Wendy Davis — the superhero of abortion rights for whom talking about abortion is kryptonite.

I had a grand time out in LA for the 200th Ricochet podcast recording (here I am hashing out everything with Dennis Prager). Really, a wonderful bunch of people. Even James Lileks.

Speaking of Lileks, given the nature of the V&S portion of this “news”letter, it’s kind of outrageous that I’ve never linked to his wonder-emporium of the fun and bizarre. You should spend the whole day there.

Undersea circles solved.

Sell your kid into slavery, buy a great TV. (See the reviews.)

Punxutawny Phil’s record.

Government goons destroy kids’ fort.

Ten movies Roger Ebert really hated.

Eight Super Bowl commercials for companies that don’t exist anymore.

Speaking of losers and football, do you remember the “Loser Bowl”?

Cutting out the bad-Chinese-food middle man! Man allegedly adopted plump black cats so he could eat them.

20 photos of the best snowmen ever made.

38 pieces of food-inspired clothes and accessories that look “dope.

Self-portrait in cake.



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