The Corner

Jeff Hart and Rod Dreher, Crunchy Cons

This just in from Dallas:

Peter, I agree with you on Jeff Hart’s piece [in today’s Wall Street Journal]. We were in a staff meeting here at the Dallas Morning News, and my editor had to nudge me to get me to put down the Journal and pay attention, so captivating was Jeff’s essay. Crunchy me especially liked this passage:

But the utopian temptation can turn such free-market thought into a utopianism of its own–that is, free markets to be effected even while excluding every other value and purpose . . .such as Beauty, broadly defined. The desire for Beauty may be natural to human beings, like other natural desires. It appeared early, in prehistoric cave murals. In literature (for example, Dante) and in other forms of representation–painting, sculpture, music, architecture–Heaven is always beautiful, Hell ugly. Plato taught that the love of Beauty led to the Good. Among the needs of civilization is what Burke called the “unbought grace of life.”

The word “unbought” should be pondered. Beauty has been clamorously present in the American Conservative Mind through its almost total absence. The tradition of regard for woodland and wildlife was present from the beginnings of the nation and continued through conservative exemplars such as the Republican Theodore Roosevelt, who established the National Parks. Embarrassingly for conservatives (at least one hopes it is embarrassing), stewardship of the environment is now left mostly to liberal Democrats.

Not all ideas and initiatives by liberals are bad ones. Burke’s unbought beauties are part of civilized life, and therefore ought to occupy much of the Conservative Mind. The absence of this consideration remains a mark of yahooism and is prominent in Republicanism today. As if by an intrinsic law, when the free market becomes a kind of utopianism it maximizes ordinary human imperfection–here, greed, short views and the resulting barbarism.

Jeff goes on to talk about how important Religion is to conservatism, and

how we face now nothing less than the need to recover a solid metaphysics. I

think the free-market consumerist utopianism on the Right, which Jeff

rightly decries as harmful to the cause of authentic conservatism, is in

large part due to a loss of metaphysics. As I argue in “Crunchy Cons”…

Peter Robinson — Peter M. Robinson is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

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