conservatives

The Politicized Life

Just discovered this terrific blog over at the Washington Free Beacon, thanks to Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry.

On Forbearance: or, Why I Pity Jonathan Chait

By Flickr user Simon CunninghamIn lieu of a movie review this week, we’ve published my chapter from The Seven Deadly Virtues. (You can buy it here!) If you’re a reader of this here blog, it may seem a bit familiar to you. Consider it a thesis statement on “The Politicized Life.”

Consider it also a rebuttal to Jonathan Chait’s sad statement of intolerance. In a much-discussed essay, Jonathan Chait celebrated the politicized life, implicitly called for political segregation, and announced that he would be saddened if his daughter came home with a Republican soulmate:

The Politicized Life, Ebola Edition

This Christian woman sews dresses for little girls in Africa. DISGUSTING. GROSS. UGH. / APPop quiz, hotshot:

You’re dying of ebola and have the choice between bleeding out in the street unloved by anyone or being cared for by a Christian missionary. What do you do? What do you do?

If you’re Slate‘s Brian Palmer, that’s apparently a tougher question than you might think. Here’s Palmer:

Boycott ALL the Things!

54352612One of the mouth-breathing conspiracy theorists at Vice thinks you should boycott the NFL because a couple of NFL employees have had trouble with the law and some of the folks who are paid a great deal of money to play a game that they love of their own free will wind up with brain damage.

The mouthbreather raises a good point! We should hold all of our entertainments to these standards! Indeed, we should boycott all the things.

Andrew W.K.: ‘Party, Don’t Politicize!’

LET'S GET A PARTY GOING (AP)Andrew W.K., America’s premier partier, is no more a fan of the politicized life than yours truly. In his advice column for the Village Voice, W.K. smacks down a guy who wrote in to complain about his dad, a “65-year-old super right-wing conservative who has basically turned into a total asshole intent on ruining our relationship …

The Totalitarian Impulse and Art

I don't judge artists by their terrible politicsJed Perl has an important essay over at the New Republic on the incessant politicization of the arts by the left. As someone who has made a hobby of taking on the politicized life, you can imagine how pleased I was to read it. Perl’s thrust is this: art is separate from the artist, and vice versa. Which is to say, you can disagree with a person’s politics and still approve of—or learn something important about humanity from—their art. Here’s a taste:

Lynn Stuart Parramore: The Saddest Person in America?

mob pitchforksImagine that your life is so hollow and devoid of meaning, that you, upon hearing a song played in a grocery store, feel compelled to go home, print out that song’s lyrics, and present them to a store employee demanding that, in the future, they refrain from playing that song so as to refrain from …

When Is the Politicized Life Okay?

mob pitchforksI participated in a Bloggingheads earlier this week with Kevin Glass; our topic of discussion was something I’ve been scribbling about for the last 18 months or so. If you watch, you’ll note that there’s a picture of one Adam Kredo over my left shoulder informing everyone that my office is a “den of borderline anti-Semitism.”

I want to drill down a bit deeper into a point Kevin and I touched on briefly near the end, about when it’s “okay”* to live the politicized life. When is an opinion so outré that we should shun the opinion holder? When should we seek to impoverish those with whom we disagree?

If You Don’t Like Jason Biggs’ Twitter Feed, Unfollow Him

This person's Twitter feed can only bother you if you let it. (Photo by Flickr user titi-)There’s this show on Netflix called Orange Is the New Black about women in prison. One of the actors on this show is Jason Biggs, who has a Twitter feed. One need not watch the show to enjoy his Twitter feed and vice versa. Neither is integral to the other. There is literally no requirement whatsoever that the two of these things be consumed in tandem.

And yet, there’s a Very Serious Post over at Salon by Daniel D’Addario in which he pronounces that “Jason Biggs’s awful Twitter feed is ruining ‘Orange Is the New Black.’” I am … puzzled. Well and truly puzzled. Because, as I wrote not 50 words previously, there is literally no requirement whatsoever that the two of these things be consumed in tandem. One can watch the show and understand every single detail without ever once reading a 140-character missive from Mr. Biggs. And one can read his 140-character missives about The Bachelorette without ever once watching even a second of his television program and still understand that he thinks the program is dumb. They are not related at all. If you think OITNB is amazeballs and that Jason Biggs’ Twitter feed is utter shite—two opinions I happen to hold—you can watch the show and not follow him on Twitter. The whole point of Twitter is that you can follow whoever you want and are required to follow no one.

D’Addario seems to misunderstand how “Twitter” and “acting” works:

How to be a conservative

Here is an enlightening interview with Roger Scruton from Prospect magazine. Here is the intro:

Conservatism, the philosopher Michael Oakeshott once wrote, is not a creed so much as a “disposition,” a cast of mind rather than a set of beliefs. Roger Scruton echoes Oakeshott when he writes, in the preface to his new book “How To Be a Conservative” that the “conservative temperament is an acknowledged feature of human societies everywhere.” The conservative, in Scruton’s sense, asserts that “we have collectively inherited good things that we must strive to keep,” and is sceptical of large-scale attempts to remake the world in the image of abstract ideals. “Good things,” Scruton writes (and among those good things he numbers “law, civility, public spirit, the security of property and family life”), “are easily destroyed, but not easily created.”

Read the whole interview here and buy one of Scruton’s books.

The taxes are too damn high and there are too many of them!

The Fraser Institute released a report this morning that shows the average Canadian spends more on taxes than on anything else.

In 2013, the study finds that the average Canadian family earned $77,381 and paid $32,369 in total taxes (or 41.8 per cent of income) compared to 36.1 per cent for food, shelter and clothing combined.

By comparison, in 1961 the average family earned approximately $5,000 and spent much more of its income on food, shelter and clothing (56.5 per cent) while $1,675 went to taxes (33.5 per cent).

The total tax bill represents both visible and hidden taxes paid to the federal, provincial and local governments. This includes income taxes, payroll taxes, health taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, fuel taxes, vehicle taxes, import taxes, alcohol and tobacco taxes, and more.

Since 1961, the average Canadian family’s total tax bill has increased by 1,832 per cent, dwarfing increases in shelter costs (1,375 per cent), clothing (620 per cent) and food (546 per cent).

Of course, as John Moore of Newstalk1010 pointed out this morning, they chose the 1961 date for a reason. 1961 is the year before Canada introduced in subsequent years the Canada Pension Plan, unemployment insurance and universal healthcare. That’s fine and dandy John but, as your panel pointed out, are we getting value for the money we spend on these services? Could we do better if were able to invest the money we spend on taxes in a different way? And when is it enough? Should government expand to include even more areas of our private lives? In Ontario, we apparently just decided that government can grow even more with a new pension plan.

(And is it just me or does anyone else notice that John has increasingly become a shill for Unifor? I know he’s a spokesman for a water company but does he have a contract with Unifor, I wonder?). He certainly loves the t-shirt.

http://pic.twitter.com/pw7pAu4n8J

http://pic.twitter.com/g9e2l2n3Th

Beyond the economic issue, there are some fundamental principles at stake. In a previous post, I told you about the Danish tax that places a 180% fee on cars. Apparently, the main reason they do this is not for the environment but to ensure equality. Danes do not want some Danes to have access to goods or services that other Danes do not have which is ridiculous. The government restricts individual freedom and forces the outcomes it wants. Of course John and his Unifor buddies would say that what the government wants we want – we voted for them. But is that really true? Consider: in the last Ontario election, only 52 per cent of the population voted and the Liberals won with 42 per cent of that. That’s pathetic and hardly an endorsement of bigger government.

Taxes are unavoidable for the most part – you pay most of them even if you don’t use the services. Some of these taxes are fine are far as it goes but where is the point when government takes too much from individuals and makes some of the most important life decisions on our behalf?

I say we are beyond that point.

“We need conservatism now more than ever”

Found this article from the January 4th issue of the The Spectator and I thought I would share it with my followers. You’re welcome.

Stand up for the real meaning of freedom

We need conservatism now more than ever

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When pressed for a statement of their beliefs, conservatives give ironical or evasive answers: beliefs are what the others have, the ones who have confounded politics with religion, as socialists and anarchists do. This is unfortunate, because conservatism is a genuine, if unsystematic, philosophy, and it deserves to be stated, especially at a time like the present, when the future of our nation is in doubt.

Conservatives believe that our identities and values are formed through our relations with other people, and not through our relation with the state. The state is not an end but a means. Civil society is the end, and the state is the means to protect it. The social world emerges through free association, rooted in friendship and community life. And the customs and institutions that we cherish have grown from below, by the ‘invisible hand’ of co-operation. They have rarely been imposed from above by the work of politics, the role of which, for a conservative, is to reconcile our many aims, and not to dictate or control them.

Only in English-speaking countries do political parties describe themselves as ‘conservative’. Why is this? It is surely because English-speakers are heirs to a political system that has been built from below, by the free association of individuals and the workings of the common law. Hence we envisage politics as a means to conserve society rather than a means to impose or create it. From the French revolution to the European Union, continental government has conceived itself in ‘top-down’ terms, as an association of wise, powerful or expert figures, who are in the business of creating social order through regulation and dictated law. The common law does not impose order but grows from it. If government is necessary, in the conservative view, it is in order to resolve the conflicts that arise when things are, for whatever reason, unsettled.

If you see things in that way, then you are likely to believe in conserving civil society, by accommodating necessary change. New Labour sought to weaken our society externally and to divide it internally by its unquestioning acceptance of the primacy of EU supranational authority, internally by indiscriminate immigration, class warfare and the ‘reform’, which usually meant the politicisation, of our hallowed institutions. Conservatism, by contrast, aims at a cohesive society governed by laws of its own and by the institutions that have arisen over time in response to its changing needs and circumstances.

Such a society depends upon a common loyalty and a territorial law, and these cannot be achieved or retained without borders. But we find ourselves bound by a treaty devised by utopian internationalists in circumstances that have long ago disappeared. The EU treaty obliges its member states to permit the ‘free movement of peoples’, regardless of their desires or their national interest. With its open welfare system, its universal language, its relative wealth and its carefully defended freedoms, our country is the preferred destination of Europe’s new wave of migrants. At the top of every conservative’s agenda, therefore, is the question of immigration: how to limit it, and how to ensure that the newcomers integrate into a civil society in which free association, freedom of opinion, and respect for the law are all axiomatic.

Conservatives recognise that the right to vote out our rulers and to change our law is the premise of democratic politics. Whenever possible, they believe, our law should be made in Westminster, or in the common-law courts of our kingdom, not by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels nor by courts of European judges.

Until recently the conservative emphasis on civil society has led to an equal emphasis on the family as its heart. This emphasis has been thrown into disarray by the sexual revolution, by widespread divorce and out-of-wedlock birth, and by recent moves to accommodate the homosexual lifestyle. And those changes have to be absorbed and normalised. Ours is a tolerant society in which liberty is extended to a variety of religions, world views, and forms of domestic life. But liberty is threatened by licence: liberty is founded on personal responsibility and a respect for others, whereas licence is a way of exploiting others for purely personal gain. Liberty therefore depends on the values that protect individuals from chaotic personal lives and which cherish the integrity of the home in the face of the many threats to it.

Conservatism is a philosophy of inheritance and stewardship; it does not squander resources but strives to enhance them and pass them on. For conservatives, environmental politics needs to be rescued from the phony expertise of the scaremongers. But it must also be rescued from the religion of Progress, which urges us to pursue growth at all costs and to turn our beloved country into an array of concrete platforms linked by high-speed railways and surveyed from every hilltop by eerie wind-farms.

Those beliefs are difficult to act upon now. Through quangos and official bodies, the state has been amplified under New Labour to the point of swallowing private initiatives and distorting the long-established charitable instinct of our citizens. Regulations make it difficult for people to associate, and the nonsensical rulings of the European courts constantly tell us that, by living according to our lights, we are trampling on somebody’s ‘human rights’. Conservatives believe in rights but rights that are paid for by duties, and which reconcile people rather than divide them.

Left-wing thinkers often caricature the conservative position as one that advocates the free market at all costs, introducing competition and the profit motive even into the most sacred precincts of communal life. Adam Smith and David Hume made clear, however, that the market, which is the only known solution to the problem of economic co-ordination, itself depends upon the kind of moral order that arises from below, as people take responsibility for their lives, learn to honour their agreements and live in justice and charity with their neighbours. Our rights are also freedoms, and freedom makes sense only among people who are accountable to their neighbours for its misuse.

This means that, for conservatives, the effort to reclaim civil society from the state must continue unceasingly. One by one, our freedoms are being eroded: free speech by the Islamists, free association by the European Court of Human Rights, the freedom to make our own laws and to control our own borders by the European Union. We conservatives value our freedom not because it is an abstract possession of the abstract individual, but because it is a concrete and historical achievement, the result of civil discipline over centuries, and the sign of our undemonstrative respect for the law of the land.

This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 4 January 2014

What is conservatism?

Here are a few definitions of conservatism I’ve heard from a few of my lefty acquaintances:

–       they are for unfettered free-market capitalism

–       they represent reactionary elitism

–       they are religious fanatics and warmongers

–       they hate human rights, gay rights, “gay marriage”

–       feminists are not conservatives

–       they are all big businessmen and white guys in suits

–       they want no government at all

–       and they are imperialists and royalists and love the military

Of course, these definitions are all stereotypes and caricatures. My favourite insult is when conservatives are called Nazis. Why is it my favourite? Because it demonstrates immediately that I am dealing with someone who is utterly ignorant not only about conservatism, which is expected I suppose, but also about socialism and leftism. They are shocked when I inform them that Nazis were socialists and the farthest thing from conservatives. Nazis had more in common with communists.

So once these folks climb off the wall and ask me the question what is a conservative, here’s my response.

Conservatism is not an ideology, like communism or progressivism. It’s a disposition. There are no manifestos or guidebooks. It’s pragmatic but not dogmatic. It’s principled but not fundamentalist.

Conservatives come in many stripes and labels: fiscal, social, religious, cultural. And in different settings, they are different creatures. But what do they have in common? The best definition of conservatism comes from Russell Kirk, the father of American conservatism. I’m quoting Rod Dreher of the American Conservative magazine who cites Russel Kirk’s “Ten Conservatives Principles” in a September 22, 2012 blog post:

Dreher writes: “I should start by saying that I don’t think there is only one way to be a conservative. There is not conservatism; there are conservatisms, and they draw from each other. The best general definition of “conservative” that I know is Russell Kirk’s essay on Ten Conservative Principles. Kirk begins:

Perhaps it would be well, most of the time, to use this word “conservative” as an adjective chiefly. For there exists no Model Conservative, and conservatism is the negation of ideology: it is a state of mind, a type of character, a way of looking at the civil social order.

The attitude we call conservatism is sustained by a body of sentiments, rather than by a system of ideological dogmata. It is almost true that a conservative may be defined as a person who thinks himself such. The conservative movement or body of opinion can accommodate a considerable diversity of views on a good many subjects, there being no Test Act or Thirty-Nine Articles of the conservative creed.

In essence, the conservative person is simply one who finds the permanent things more pleasing than Chaos and Old Night. (Yet conservatives know, with Burke, that healthy “change is the means of our preservation.”) A people’s historic continuity of experience, says the conservative, offers a guide to policy far better than the abstract designs of coffee-house philosophers. But of course there is more to the conservative persuasion than this general attitude.

It is not possible to draw up a neat catalogue of conservatives’ convictions; nevertheless, I offer you, summarily, ten general principles; it seems safe to say that most conservatives would subscribe to most of these maxims.

“I [Dreher] cannot improve on Kirk’s list, but I would say that for me, the first of his Ten Conservative Principles speaks deepest to why I am a conservative”:

First, the conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order. That order is made for man, and man is made for it: human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent.

This word order signifies harmony. There are two aspects or types of order: the inner order of the soul, and the outer order of the commonwealth. Twenty-five centuries ago, Plato taught this doctrine, but even the educated nowadays find it difficult to understand. The problem of order has been a principal concern of conservatives ever since conservative became a term of politics.

Our twentieth-century world has experienced the hideous consequences of the collapse of belief in a moral order. Like the atrocities and disasters of Greece in the fifth century before Christ, the ruin of great nations in our century shows us the pit into which fall societies that mistake clever self-interest, or ingenious social controls, for pleasing alternatives to an oldfangled moral order.

It has been said by liberal intellectuals that the conservative believes all social questions, at heart, to be questions of private morality. Properly understood, this statement is quite true. A society in which men and women are governed by belief in an enduring moral order, by a strong sense of right and wrong, by personal convictions about justice and honor, will be a good society—whatever political machinery it may utilize; while a society in which men and women are morally adrift, ignorant of norms, and intent chiefly upon gratification of appetites, will be a bad society—no matter how many people vote and no matter how liberal its formal constitution may be.

Dreher adds: “I, for example, don’t see how anyone can call himself a conservative in a meaningful sense and be in favor of the unrestrained free market. But that’s an argument worth having. I don’t think it’s prudent or wise to declare that anyone who disagrees with me is therefore not a conservative. I don’t understand economics as well as I ought to, so perhaps I have something to learn from them. And, many free-market fundamentalists on the libertarian side don’t understand culture and society as well as they might, and have something to learn from people like me.

Anyway, as Kirk said, conservatism is an attitude toward the world, not a dogmatic religion. It irritates me to no end that the American conservative mind is so closed, even to thinkers and resources in its own tradition. As Kirk’s tenth canon says, “The thinking conservative understands that permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society.” That means that we have to be willing and able to think creatively about conservative principles, and apply them to new facts and circumstances.

I suppose one way to think about conservatism — sorry, conservatisms — is by asking the question, “What do you want to conserve?” Kirk once said that the traditional family was the institution most important to conserve. I agree with that, and most of my conservatism comes from that conviction. That’s why, for example, I don’t place as much value on economic liberty as many conservatives do. If an economic practice undermines the integrity of the family and the familist order (which itself depends on a strong religious sense), then I am likely to oppose it. One of the reasons I have come to be much more skeptical of the aggressively militaristic and nationalistic foreign policy many conservatives advocate is the effect of war on family life (that is, of soldiers deployed and returned), and of what the acceptance of torture does to our moral sensibility. Similarly, I am in principle willing to accept more involvement of the state for the sake of shoring up the family and the moral order than libertarians are.”

Here’s a link to Kirk’s essay: http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org/2013/12/conservatism.html

Here’s a link to Dreher’s blog post: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/what-is-a-conservative/

 

 

Who made cycling a political activity?

One would assume that cycling is not inherently a political activity but it has been turned into one, especially in Toronto. It’s now common among Torontonians to see cycling as a Lefty political movement, an activity reserved for tree-huggers, NDPers, Glenn DeBaermaker and Adam Vaughan. I shuddered every time I saw Olivia Chow and the late Jack Layton riding their tandem in the Canada Day parade. Is that how others see ME!!!

Nooooo!

The city’s left wing has usurped cycling and have turned it into a way to show your left-wing bona fides. Frankly, many conservatives resent it.  But what are we doing about it?

In a 2009 article for the Utne Reader, Jake Mohan asked the question: Do bikes and politics in the American context really have to mix? He proceeded to make the case that it should be shared by all political stripes and dared to suggest that Democrats should in some way share the activity with conservatives, after all it means “more bikes on the road—something all of us on two wheels, regardless of our political idiosyncrasies, can agree is a good thing”.

Now hold on a minute. SInce when is cycling inherently more virtuous than other ways to get around? Just look at this sub-headline in the popular lefty “Commute By Bike” blog:

“Don’t assume they” [i.e. conservatives] are “all hostile to our cause”.

Our cause? Who made it your cause? And why is it a “cause” anyway?

It’s time for conservatives to take cycling back. Let the revolution begin!

 

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