I just recently caught up with the exchange on conservatism and the culture wars between Brink Lindsey and Ramesh Ponnuru, in which Lindsey exhorts conservatives to give up any further efforts in the culture war, which he deems finished. And I also heard some of a Cato Institute talk that featured Lindsey and David Brooks, who agrees with Lindsey on this point. I agree with Peter Wood who commented on PBC that if the culture war is over, efforts to reform the university are pointless, and we obviously don’t think such efforts are pointless or we wouldn’t be here at PBC. Neither would the Manhattan Institute have initiated its Minding the Campus feature. Neither would Regnery be issuing its politically incorrect guides to various subjects. And so forth.
I also think that Lindsey’s view of modern life as the “exuberantly pluralistic pursuit of personal fulfillment through an ever-expanding division of labor” is utterly soulless.
Also, Lindsey made some remarks in his part of the exchange, that the Right should be embarrassed about previous racism, sexism, and prudery. I don’t have the exchange in front of me now, but I think that’s close to what he said. In the National Review I read as a teenager, edited by William Buckley, I don’t recall any of that. I recall its being sound, elegant, rational, cultured, with high intellectual standards. Lindsey should be prevailed upon to give specific examples of what he means by the sins of the Right in these areas.
Also, Lindsey says no one wants to “go back.” This is always held as the rod over anyone who expresses dismay at current affairs. The answer is, well you don’t want to “go back,” doooo yooooo? The implication being that before the counterculture we lived in a virtual dark age. This is a rather tyrannical rewriting of the past. Also, it is interesting that one of the premier libertarians, Charles Murray, whom I call a libertarian with a heart, has written a whole book on why he is a libertarian and in almost every category of policy that he considers, he finds it was done better in the past.
But the bottom line for me is, anyone asking conservatism to relinquish its stance for traditional values is asking conservatism to drop dead. If you take what Romney has called the three-legged stool of Reagan- Republican conservatism, the standard for patriotism and national defense can be carried by moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats like Joseph Lieberman. The standard for free market economics and limited government can be carried by libertarians, only too well, I might add. But the standard for social values can be carried only by conservatives, the only political segment to care about them, and the only segment that understands the important philosophical and spiritual connections among the three. So we should recognize that when people tell us to relinquish cultural values as an ongoing concern, they are telling us to commit cultural suicide.