The Corner

Re: Calling Mr. Dreher

Glad to, Peter.

1) If Hillary Clinton means that it takes the government to raise a

child, then obviously I strongly disagree. But I take her to mean that

the social context in which one raises a child is important. Michael

Medved has made the same point before, saying that you and your spouse

can do a terrific job of making sure your kids don’t watch trashy TV,

etc., but if the parents of your kids’ peer group don’t do the same

thing, you face a much more difficult struggle to keep your kids solid.

One reason Julie and I relocated to Dallas from NYC was because it’s

easier here to find people who share conservative moral and religious

values — which is to say, it’s easier to find friends for our boys to

play with whose parents share our values, and will help us raise our

kids by reinforcing our own mores.

2) Because I believe we are made in the image of God, I believe that

there is a deep longing in our souls for the good, the true and the

beautiful. Of course history is full of examples to the contrary, and

I’m the last person to believe in the innate perfectibility of man. But

I do believe quite sincerely that even those who have given themselves

over to wickedness in some sense, underneath the twistedness and

brokenness, can hear the call to goodness and truth and beauty, and

respond. Anyway, a political order that doesn’t recognize this, and

commit itself in some sense to virtue, is in some sense lacking.

Dorothy Day, I think it was, said the good society is not one that

forces people to be good, but one that makes it easy to choose to be

good.

3) Rod certainly means this. Does the reader honestly believe that

civilization is merely a collection of human desires, no more? Or that

rightly considered, it is built around an idea of virtue? Good grief,

what would the reader say to John Adams, who wrote: “We have no

government armed with the power capable of contending with human

passions unbridled by morality and religion. …Our Constitution was

made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to

the government of any other.” In other words, as I write in my book, “a

people lacking in the kind of self-restraint provided by authentic

religious belief and moral custom are going to find the effects of its

private pursuits and passions overwhelming the battlements of

constitutional government.” Look, this thing we call Western

civilization, which I’d very much like to keep, is built around some

pretty basic ideas having to do with the human dignity, human nature

and our duty to God, if you like, and each other; it is not built

around the multiplication of desires. I’m talking about the difference

between a citizen and a consumer.

Also:

Dreher claims conservatives have lost respect for authority,

families, communities, and generations past and future.

Dreher’s solution – legislate new economic and social policies.

Wrong. As I noted in my Times piece, I consider crunchy conservatism to

be a kind of what Vaclav Havel called “antipolitical politics,” in

which people who identify with this sensibility devote themselves

chiefly to their families and the little platoons in their lives, as a

way to rebuild civil society. A stronger civil society means we can all

do with much smaller government, for starters. Still, there is a role

for government to play in making it easier for people to devote

themselves to strengthening their families. The pioneering role of the

homeschooling movement, with its legislative victories in places like

Texas and Virginia, have done a world of good in this regard. Reihan

Salam and Ross Douthat recently wrote an excellent piece in the Weekly

Standard proposing a more family-friendly economic policy for the GOP.

There are things the government can do legislatively to strengthen the

family, and thereby strengthen society, but ultimately this is

something that we have to do for ourselves.

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