The Corner

“Conservative”

Andrew – As you know I am sympathetic to your point of you on this (and I’m sure John Pod’s ears are burning that he has silenced himself on this).

But, I think there’s a basic conceptual problem here which stems from the fact that — contrary to stereotypes — conservative dogma remains unsettled. And as I’m writing a column on this right now, I thought I’d jump in.

I’ve long argued that there are two kinds of conservatives, those who are anti-Left and those who are anti-State. These two approaches usually overlap not just in terms of factions, but in our own minds. Most of us are a little of both. As a libertarian I think it’s fair to say you’re considerably more anti-State than you are anti-left. George W. Bush is considerably more anti-Left than he is anti-State. But does that make him less of a conservative?

Here’s a hypothetical. Imagine that Bush or some other Republican managed to purge successfully the entire staff at PBS, NPR and the Corporation of Public Broadcasting. Imagine he replaced them with die-hard conservatives and libertarians of all stripes who produced indisputably conservative or rightwing programming — of very high quality no doubt. But imagine the News Hour with a decidedly conservative sensibility. Imagine outstanding documentaries depicting Castro as a murderous thug and Stalin as a co-equal of Hitler in historic evil. Imagine stories on how regulations and bureaucracy stifle new medicines from coming on the market. Etc etc.

According to the way you seem to be describing things, conservative state-controlled radio and TV is oxymoronic. But how many people would agree that this new PBS is a leftwing or “non-conservative” enterprise? The left surely would think not, and my guess is a great many conservatives wouldn’t either. Libertarians would call it conservative “statism” or some such.

In short, I think Bush is a big government conservative, but he’s still a conservative.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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