The Corner

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Disordered Souls!


If this piece by Rod Dreher is a harbinger of the future of conservatism, I shudder:

Today, the greatest threats to conservative interests come not from the Soviet Union or high taxes, but from too much individual freedom. Look around you: Americans have been poor stewards of our economic liberty, owing to cultural values that celebrate unfettered materialism. Our families and communities have fragmented, in part because we have embraced an ethic of extreme individualism. Climate change and a peak in oil production threaten our future because we have been irresponsible caretakers of the natural world and its resources. At best, the religious right stood ineffectively against these trends. At worst, we preached them, mistaking consumerism for conservatism.

All political problems, traditional conservatism teaches, are ultimately religious problems because they result from disordered souls.

Good grief, where to begin? Perhaps with the observation that to the extent there is a problem it is not a matter of too much individual freedom, but the uses to which that freedom is put. Freedom and responsibility are not mutually exclusive. In fact they ought to reinforce each other. In a less nannied, more realistically run world they would: Actions have consequences and all that.
As for the suggestion that “traditional” conservatism  “teaches” (oh, spare me) that all political problems are “religious” problems because “they result from disordered souls,” I suppose it rather depends on who Rod means by “traditional” conservatives — and, to be fair, he cites some names — but I can tell him that if he had presented that particular idea to the Tory grandees of Victorian England (and who could be more traditionally, and, no less importantly, instinctively, conservative than that?), he would have been greeted by astonishment, guffaws and, from the more charitable, kindly offers of a calming glass of brandy.