What liberals can learn from the author of The Culture of Narcissism – The Week

In Lasch’s view, the mainstream progressive Left lost its way as soon as it set itself the task of saving capitalism from its excesses rather than proposing a more radical critique of the social, moral, and economic damage it does to settled ways of life. Instead of championing the well-being of average Americans, the Left came to valorize ideals of consumption and meritocratic striving. Along the way, it also fetishized efficiency and productivity as measures of the good life, and bought into the notion that the nation should strive for constantly expanding economic growth, with individuals chasing endlessly after a standard of abundance that’s always just out of reach.

The result is widespread spiritual misery and accompanying social pathologies, including violence, drug addiction, and depression, as Americans spend their lives in grinding pursuit of a fulfillment in luxury, novelty, and excitement that can never be achieved.

via What liberals can learn from the author of The Culture of Narcissism – The Week.

Misunderstanding Communitarian Conservatism | The American Conservative

Are forms of dependence moderated by personal connections, shared obligations, and some level of accountability different from the dependence involved in market relation? The communitarian conservative argument is that they are because they both reflect and satisfy our need for community, in addition to fulfilling specific social functions. When progressives and some libertarians consider a pastor, philanthropist, or local worthy, they see a would-be boss whose illegitimate power is derived from social capital rather than financial capital. Communitarian conservatives, on the other hand, see authority rooted in place and tradition, and based on enduring cooperation rather than a momentary calculus of interests.

Such authority is a risk to liberty if liberty is understood as individual autonomy. But that is precisely the definition of liberty that communitarian conservatives reject. For communitarian conservatives, liberty means civil freedom tempered by social interdependence and moral restraint. Whether such order can survive in modern America is a different question. — Samuel Goldman

via Misunderstanding Communitarian Conservatism | The American Conservative.

The Object of Life is Love

At the back of every discussion of the good society lies this question, What is the object of human life?  The enlightened conservative does not believe that the end or aim of life is competition; or success; or enjoyment; or longevity; or power; or possessions.  He believes, instead, that the object of life is Love.  He knows that the just and ordered society is that in which Love governs us, so far as Love ever can reign in this world of sorrows; and he knows that the anarchical or the tyrannical society is that in which Love lies corrupt. — Russell Kirk

via The Object of Life is Love.

Live-Blogging The Second Inauguration Of Barack Obama – The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Beast

Anthony Quinton once called conservatism the “politics of imperfection.” I believe Obama to be, at his core, a fusion of that great conservative insight into human affairs with that great liberal passion for a better future for more and more human beings: something perfectible, but never perfect.

Over the years, I’ve never let go of that understanding of conservatism’s core truth – that all politics ends in some version of failure, that we cannot change and should not want to change the whole world over night, that constant failure is integral to human life and action – and the key spur to fleeting success. But I’ve also come to accept and more firmly believe that the flip-side to that must never be cynicism or retreat or nihilism. It must be to play our part where we can to fight injustice, knowing that our achievement will be partial, knowing that as soon as we have solved problems, new ones will replace them, and knowing that the process never ends. In fact, the true hero is the one who acts even in the knowledge of inevitable failure, who puts the realizable good before the unrealizable perfect. Yes, over the last six years, Obama has helped me understand his method of community organization, of leading from behind. And it is as conservative in its understanding of how society really changes from below as it is liberal in its refusal to relent against injustice.

via Andrew Sullivan, Live-Blogging The Second Inauguration Of Barack Obama – The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Beast.

Big Government, Complex Government, and the Future of Conservatism | The American Conservative

One issue is the size of government, as indicated by government spending per capita, government spending as a share of GDP, or other broad measures. The other is the complexity of government, as measured by the proliferation of the tax code and regulations, subsidies for particular industries, or other specific policies. Size and complexity often go together: the labyrinth of the defense budget is a good example. But they need not do so: although Social Security is fiscally gargantuan, it is a rather simple program.

Conservative critiques tend to identify gargantuan size as the main problem with modern administrative state. This argument, however, usually fails to connect with ordinary citizens, who generally like big government provided that it is delivered in a predictable and relatively transparent way. Social Security, again, is a case in point. According to this poll, for example, 53% of American prefer raising taxes to changing the retirement age or lowering benefits.

via Big Government, Complex Government, and the Future of Conservatism | The American Conservative.

No largescale project will succeed if it is not rooted in our small-scale practical reasoning. For it is we in the end who have to act, who have to accept and co-operate with the decisions made in our name, and who have to make whatever sacrifices will be required for the sake of future generations. It seems to me that current environmental movements, many of which demand far-reaching and even unimaginable government projects, as well as fundamental changes in our way of life, have failed to learn this lesson. Their schemes, like their cries of alarm, frighten the ordinary citizen without recruiting him, and he stands in the midst of a thousand warnings hoping to get through to the end of his life without going insane from the noise.

Roger Scruton in How to Think Seriously About the Planet: The Case for Environmental Conservatism, quoted in Roger Scruton and Environmental Conservatism | The American Conservative

No largescale project will succeed if it is not rooted in our small-scale practical reasoning. For it is we in the end who have to act, who have to accept and co-operate with the decisions made in our name, and who have to make whatever sacrifices will be required for the sake of future generations. It seems to me that current environmental movements, many of which demand far-reaching and even unimaginable government projects, as well as fundamental changes in our way of life, have failed to learn this lesson. Their schemes, like their cries of alarm, frighten the ordinary citizen without recruiting him, and he stands in the midst of a thousand warnings hoping to get through to the end of his life without going insane from the noise.

Roger Scruton in How to Think Seriously About the Planet: The Case for Environmental Conservatism, quoted in Roger Scruton and Environmental Conservatism | The American Conservative

Economically speaking, both major-party candidates are prisoners of outmoded ideologies. Obama, a Keynesian without gusto, has been remarkably short on proposals for reviving the economy: he offers just more of the same. Romney pins his hopes to “growth” stimulated by low taxes and lower interest rates, a recipe that notably failed to cook up a solution to the impending crisis during the Bush years. Where the economy is concerned, Obama has had basically nothing to say, and nothing Romney says can be trusted.

Daniel McCarthy, How Does a Traditionalist Vote? | The American Conservative