Friday, August 13, 2004

Even Sometimes Love 

"I think a lot of people in our time who have become conservatives did it because they had a certain and particular kind of mind. To choose just one facet, they have a natural respect and even sometimes love toward human beings, while at the same time having no illusions--none--about who we are. Man is not perfect and is not perfectible, at least by other men. We are what we are; God made us and gave us freedom; we use it to ill and good; man best operates through certain arrangements and traditions, and those arrangements and traditions are best animated by respect for the individual and love of liberty."

Now Is the Time
By Peggy Noonan

Peggy Noonan's essay for WSJ's OpinionJournal offers a clear look at the "heart" of one conservative's mind. Noonan is not what one would call a "mainstream" conservative -- at least not in George W. Bush's Republican Party. Her political views are closer to the libertarian variety: a gaseous, parricidal blend of classical liberalism and objectivism that has taken a backseat to neoconservatism and Christian fundamentalism as conservatism's prodigal philosophy.

Judging by her attributions, it's clear that she holds classical liberal values in high regard -- perhaps as high as the regard she holds for her illusions. Yet she frames "those arrangements and traditions best animated by respect for the individual and love of liberty" as things that interest only "a certain and particular kind of mind." Understandable, considering that her fellow "particular minds" keep the word "liberal" covered in chickenhawk feces. As a result of this ritual soiling, (to deprive liberals of an honest historical narrative), Noonan's brand of conservatism resists the honest historical narrative required of any serious philosophy.

To be fair, an honest historical narrative would only be a slight improvement. There's still the problem of the ever-evasive illusions.

To paraphrase her certain and particular words, (honest historical narrative added): "I became conservative because I believe in classical liberal values, and, I believe that human beings are fundamentally and helplessly flawed. Don't complain to me because it wasn't my idea; that's the way the Big Guy made us. And by the way, that's why I'm helping President Bush get reelected."

Talk about illusions...

Perfectibility is a comically impossible standard. If civilization relied on perfectibility, human beings would still be swinging from vines. Why bother to improve anything if it can't be made perfect? Have you ever met a person with that attitude?

The "god" device is an intellectual copout, as well as an appeal to ignorance. Thanks, but no thanks. You may have to drink poison as the cost of doing business, but please don't piss in the public well.

Noonan's conservatism abolishes every incentive for a concept to which conservatives love to pay lip service: personal responsibility. If people are not "perfectible," and things like freedom are magical gifts from above, then what business is it of hers to attempt to improve perfect the lives of others? Personal responsibility is redefined as the responsibility of a person to look away. Nifty excuse -- if only she practiced it.

Despite the "hands-off" implications, and despite her professed respect for the individual, she's eager to support insanely aggressive policies to affect the lives of every one of us. Go figure. But hey, right or wrong, someone has to defend the unpopular position. (That's why Gosh made conservatives.)

In the end, it's not whether we choose to interfere in the lives of others; we're going to do it anyway. What counts is how we interfere. If only certain and particular people were more liberal with their love...

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