Magazine May 17, 2010, Issue

The Cultural Preconditions of American Liberty

A visitor prays during mass at a Roman Catholic Church, 2010. (Cathal McNaughton/Reuters)
Rich soil is required for the health of this plant

The oft-noted fault line of the conservative movement lies between economic conservatives and libertarians, on one hand, and social or cultural conservatives, on the other. The usual requirement for broad conservative electoral success is a “fusion” of these two wings. The most principled ground for that fusion — something other than the simple desire to win elections — lies in the recognition that, if liberty is the prime leitmotif of American conservatism, there are cultural preconditions necessary to make that liberty (political, economic, and cultural) possible and fruitful.

This topic is not a new one. Any discussion of it is likely

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