Potpourri 7/7/17

  1. Voting against our own interests
  2. Moldering Whiggishness
  3. What constitutes the West?
  4. Standard versus Strong Town
  5. No sympathy for MSM
  6. Climbing the ladder


David French is tired of the media hectoring rubes for “voting against their interests”:

Family dissolution is perhaps America’s foremost driver of poverty and dependency …  Now, between the two parties, which one has centered its appeal around married parents with kids and which party has doubled down on single moms? Even worse, the Democrats’ far-left base has intentionally attacked the nuclear family as archaic and patriarchal. It has celebrated sexual autonomy as a cardinal virtue. Then, when faced with the fractured families that result, it says, “Here, let the government help.”

[S]ince when is a vote a mere economic decision? Should every family sit down at their supper table, open their calculator apps, and do simple math based on each party’s government giveaways? Are you really telling a family that values religious liberty, abhors abortion, seeks a more decisive approach to jihadists, and believes good citizens should be armed citizens that they’re voting “against their interests” if their senator’s policy will increase their insurance premiums?

It’s not that simple, and wealthy progressives — the very people who are most likely to advance the argument that working-class Republicans vote against their interests — understand this all too well … Wealthy liberals routinely vote for higher taxes to fund public schools, state and federal welfare programs, and other government benefits that they’ll never use. Why? Because they are trying not just to maximize personal benefit but to create a particular kind of society that they believe is most conducive to human flourishing. They’re not simply thinking about themselves — and that’s to their credit. It’s time for progressives to understand that conservatives have the same mindset, just filtered through a fundamentally different ideology.

(David French)


Some Editors at National Review had a podcast discussion about America. Their colleague Jonah Goldberg was surprised that staring around the 50-minute mark, they downplayed American Exceptionalism. In the poorly-framed “Is America a nation or an idea?” debate, he’s definitely on the “it’s an idea” side.

Michael Brendan Dougherty, one of the editors, replies (in part):

As our conversation proceeded I had ventured that perhaps there was something in the American ideal that went beyond the classical liberalism that Charlie likes and included something Whiggish.  Instead of merely ordered liberty there is something in the American ideal that is restless for the progressive emancipation of people from all external restraint. I see this line of thinking throughout America’s history. I see it in Thomas Paine. I see it throughout the 19th century, in men like Walt Whitman and Mark Twain, or in the the Liberal Leagues that endorsed Blaine amendments. I see it in the progressive movement today.

Jonah may disagree that these things are related to each other, or that they form a part of the American ideal and I’d be happy for someone to prove it to me. But I suspect this Whiggishness is one part of the American ideal. I think it was  bequeathed to us by the way Protestantism has moldered in America.  And I find it not just wrong on an abstract level, in the way it reasons about history, but threatening to the liberty of my family and the Roman Catholic Church to which I belong. I hear its voice in Supreme Court Justice William Douglas, who wrote a concurrence alleging that Catholic education was “propaganda” and that its schools failed to teach “Americanism.” I hear it when Hillary Clinton tells us that “religious beliefs will have to change.”

Is it so shocking that a Roman Catholic, steeped in the traditions of his Church, finds a blemish in the ideals of Protestants and Deists? …

Thank you, Michael. That HRC is not in the White House, orchestrating the compelled change of religious beliefs in America, is a very silver lining of a very dark cloud.


Conservatism has always been problematic in America, where the word itself has acquired more meanings, some of them quite bizarre, than in Europe. A quite common habit, to give an example, of mentioning libertarianism and conservatism in one breath, thereby suggesting that they are somehow essentially related, is proof enough that a conservative agenda is difficult for the Americans to swallow. If I am not mistaken, the Republican Party has long relinquished, with very few exceptions, any closer link with conservatism. If conservatism, whatever the precise definition, has something to do with a continuity of culture, Christian and Classical roots of this culture, classical metaphysics and anthropology, beauty and virtue, a sense of decorum, liberal education, family, republican paideia, and other related notions, these are not the elements that constitute an integral part of an ideal type of an Republican identity in today’s America. Whether it has been different before, I am not competent to judge, but certainly there was a time when the intellectual institutions somehow linked to the Republican Party debated these issues. The new generations of the neocons gave up on big ideas while the theocons, old or new, never managed to have a noticeable impact on the Republican mainstream.

Given that there is this essential philosophical weakness within the modern Republican identity, Donald Trump does not look like an obvious person to change it by inspiring a resurgence of conservative thinking …

The liberal progressives have managed to impose on our minds a notion that Christianity, classical metaphysics, etc., are no longer what defines our Western identity. A lot of conservatives – intellectuals and politicians – have readily acquiesced to this notion. Unless and until this changes and our position of what constitutes the West becomes an integral part of the conservative agenda and a subject of public debate, there is not much hope things can change. The election of Donald Trump has obviously as little to do with Scholasticism or Greek philosophy as it has with quantum mechanics, but nevertheless it may provide an occasion to reopen an old question about what makes the American identity and to reject a silly but popular answer that this identity is procedural rather than substantive. And this might be a first step to talk about the importance of the roots of the Western civilization.

(Ryszard Legutko via Rod Dreher)


I’ve been a fan of Strongtowns.org for several years. They publish so much now that it’s hard to keep up, but here’s a helpful précis:


(H/T Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry)


[A]s we engage the world in wonder, we have to climb up ladders of truth, goodness and beauty until we encounter those things not in things but in and as themselves. Learning to climb these ladders is what Aristotle, Plato, and the western tradition in general have understood education to be.

(James Matthew Wilson, The Vision of the Soul: Truth, Goodness and Beauty in the Western Tradition, pp. 61-62)

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There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.