The Corner

The Conservative Big Three

Peter Berkowitz has a good piece in today’s Wall Street Journal on what conservatives believe and how they enjoy a philosophical debate lacking on the left. I’ve written a bit on this second point a few times (see here and here for two examples). Meanwhile, Peter Lawler asks whether it’s really true that Kirk, Strauss and Hayek constitute conservatism’s Big Three. That’s a toughie and I think the folks with the most interesting answer to that question would be Hayek, Strauss and Kirk themselves. Isn’t influence a more diffuse phenomenon? Lots more folks were probably directly influenced by, say, Tom Sowell, George Will and William F. Buckley than those Big Three, but Sowell, Will & Buckley were in turn deeply affected by them. Maybe the best way to think of Berkowitz’s Big Three best represent three major themes in modern conservatism: Order (Kirk), Rights (Strauss) and Liberty (Hayek). Another interesting question might be: is that it? Or should Berkowitz have offered a Big Four or Five?

Update: A couple readers rightly complain that I shouldn’t ascribe “rights” to Strauss as the natural right he talks about is more like natural law rather than what we today might call rights. They’re right, but in my defense, I was hopped up on cold medicine.