Magazine December 17, 2020, Issue

Before NR: Wandering in the Wilderness

Russell Kirk, 1950s (Wikimedia)
Conservatives were once a lonely band of freethinkers

In the early 1950s, liberal intellectuals shaped the American zeitgeist, while conservatives, to quote Yale professor Willmoore Kendall, manned “tiny outposts” over a broad front, rarely communicating with one another.

When 39 American and European conservative intellectuals, calling themselves “traditional liberals,” formed an organization in the spring of 1947, they did not meet in America but thousands of miles away in Mont Pelerin, Switzerland. Their mood was somber, for statism had permeated the governments of Western Europe while communism ruled in Eastern Europe with a little help from the Soviet Army. Led by the Austrian economist F. A. Hayek, these free-market

This article appears as “Wandering in the Wilderness” in the December 17, 2020, print edition of National Review.

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