Posts Tagged ‘Russell Kirk’
November 29th, 2011 at 1:06 pm
Goeglein’s Fortunate Friendships

A couple of months ago I reviewed the new book by former Bush aide Tim Goeglein, who headed outreach to conservative groups, for National Review. In my largely favorable review (unfortunately, available online only to subscribers; if you want to see the whole review and you ARE a subscriber, please look back and check it out), I wrote that perhaps the single most enjoyable parts of Man in the Middle was Goeglein’s fond, elegant and moving section on his fortuitous friendships with conservative intellectual forebears William F. Buckley and Russell Kirk. (Note: I also recommended Goeglein’s book during the American Spectator’s annual “books for the holidays” section in the December issue just hitting subscribers now.) Well, now NRO has run that whole section of the book on its web page. It’s a great read.

I found this to be a particularly important paragraph, one that too many conservatives no longer pay heed to, because too many so-called conservatives are indeed ideologues. Here’s the passage, with my emphasis added:

Russell changed my life by seeding my intellectual curiosity. I came to see that his external life was much smaller than his internal world, which was large, deep, and wide. He taught me to be wary of ideologues because they got in the way of a good life. He famously said that “ideology is anathema.” Conservatism, I came to see, because of the influence of Russell, was not an ideology but instead a way of life. There is no official or unofficial handbook for what constitutes conservatism, and in fact the conservative life is various.

This is also a good passage:

The glue of the American conservative movement is the Madisonian view that our framers created a government of strictly enumerated and restricted powers that give most power to the states and to the American people, not Washington and its permanent, ever-expansive bureaucracy.

I came to see the conservative intellectual and journalistic world as a vibrant place, peopled by talented individuals whose own diversity of opinion, outlook, and styles destroyed the myth that there was anything like unanimity on the American Right. Yet there was a singular devotion among all conservatives to first principles and to the idea of American exceptionalism best exemplified in adherence to and respect for our nation’s founding documents, none more so than the Constitution. That idea bound all American conservatism and was the foundation of some of the most fortunate, blessed friendships of my life.

Now, why do I share these now? Because conservatives need to take a broad view, need to see their cause as a broad-based movement that extends beyond politics into culture, and that fosters friendships as, second only to the family, the glue that holds culture together.

Now while ideology is not a great thing, a governing philosophy is. In another part of the chapter that NRO ran, Goeglein noted that Buckley was a libertarian economically. Economic libertarianism, especially rooted in a constitutional/legal framework as Goeglein explained, is (with a minor tweak or two) the economics most conducive to mass prosperity and to the ending of blight, poverty, and suffering. So I believe. So most conservatives believe. I’ve digressed a bit, but the underlying philosophical substance Goeglein describes, while describing his friendships with two great men, is exactly the sort of broad-minded (free-thinking, of what one might also call a libertarian cast of mind) attitude that conservatives, and all Americans, ought to hold dear.