T Nation

Conservatism & the Virtue of Hope


I've been doing a great deal of thinking about what it means to be a Conservative, particularly given the current political realities we face, and especially the problem - the sin, really - of despair.

I started looking around for general principles and came upon Rep. Thaddeus McCotter's platform and thought it was decent, as far as it went:


Then I decided to draw up my own list of Conservative principles.


Nevertheless, given everything that's happening in America, I have been falling for the temptation of despair. Like all sin, despair is merely a dead end masquerading as something else (wisdom, excitement, etc.)

Tiribulus pointed out that we ought to be careful about "tying our well-being to human institutions."

He is absolutely correct in this. And I began to think more about this more.

We cannot solve our predicament (the accretion of extra-constitutional, unchecked powers at the expense of liberty) via our own merely human contrivances: indeed, that is what is luring us into this "fallen city" in the first place.

Hope is not lost if we see into the nature of the problem - our fallen & deeply flawed human nature - and come to see that the solution cannot be one of our own making.

What we face isn't really fundamentally a political problem but a spiritual one. And only by having a one foot in the City of God can we even hope to help redeem the perpetually falling City of Man. Only action that embodies the truth animated by the author of all values can save us.

That, of course, means reorienting ourselves to Christ. Which means changing ourselves - first and foremost.

Two related quotes I came across in my reading this morning:


So we not only need to return to founding principles, we need to vow to a fidelity to the truth: discerning it, holding on to it, expressing it, not betraying it.

Moroever, we need to expect the same of people around us, especially the people for whom we cast votes and those who hold positions of power - and hold them accountable if they fail to live up to those expectations.


I like this thought.

While I don't subscribe to the idea that human nature is fallen -- I am not a Catholic or a WFB disciple or even really a conservative -- we could use a little virtue. And I have definitely seen it in people who subscribe to your philosophy. Real compassion, real intellectual honesty. I like the idea that you are more likely to win, in a practical, political sense, by making yourself better. You win by being so much better that even your enemies are forced to respect you. Even if you lose today, you win later.


Sounds more like religious conservatism than political conservatism... which I guess is actually classical liberalism.

At some point the gods of the English language need to hash out the meanings of these terms for the 21sst century.


Phrases that should disappear from Conservative political rhetoric:

"Phase out"

"Starve the beast"

"Tax Cuts"

I'm not despairing. I'm content in my pessimism.


Katzenjammer, I like your thinking. More people need to wake up, and realize it is not republican and democrat anymore. It is progressives and REAL AMERICANS. The progressives are ruining the country little by little. Let me give you a quote from Thomas Jefferson.. "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for men of good concience to remain silent." That is one of my favorites from him, so speak up, but speak the truth, and we will win.


That's why I like Latin, it doesn't change.


"Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains on their own appetites. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there is without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters."

-Edmund Burke, on the inseperable connection between virtue and liberty


Why can't I write like that?


I second that. I also want to highight this bit right in the middle:

Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, [b]and the less of it there is within, the more there is without.[/b]

Burke was prescient in his warnings against libertinism-and-license-posing-as-liberty.


Because no one would understand you.


You guys are killin me with these great threads lately. I haven't even had time to respond in the other one yet, but this has been my cry since I've been around here. If men will not govern themselves there will be plenty of volunteers to do it for them and hedonistic libertinism is a fleeting and in the end illusory and bastardized freedom as well as the very absence of actual self governance.

If people fail to maintain responsible private families, somebody will erect a "village" that is happy to absorb the wreckage. Until that collapses too.


So many good responses!

We must start with the truth; more specifically, we must start with looking at ourselves honestly: what kind of person am I? What do I stand for? What does my word mean? Do I truly act charitably to everyone around me (however hateful)? Can I be trusted?

I like what Beck had to say last night:

"No peace without hope. No hope without liberty. Not liberity without integrity. No integrity without virtue. No virtue without enlightenment. No enlightenment wtihout truth."

Which reminds me somewhat of what philosopher Peter Kreeft so often repeats:

"Sow a thought, reap an act;
Sow an act, reap a habit;
Sow a habit, reap a character;
Sow a character, reap a destiny."


Well said and I couldn't agree more. Someone will govern your person and family - the choice is who.

Once that choice is clear, perhaps people might be startled into actually thinking about what is happening.

Then again, it appears that some people prefer to be ruled, than the discipline of self-rule.

Why anyone prefer anything but self-rule is totally beyond me. Well, actually, maybe not. The Grand Inquisitor anyone?


That is an exceedingly wise & beautiful passage - and articulates the theme so well, and in so few words, that it almost makes me wonder what else there is to say...LOL.

Any idea where it's from? Mabye Reflections on the Revolution??


I'm trying to think of a politically conservative idea that did not have its fundamental origin in - or continual nourishment by - Judeo-Christian principles, beliefs and traditions. Can't think of any. Can you?

Words have histories. If we use them without awareness of their resonant histories, I'm afraid we're liable to confusion.


Yep. x2



I grew up in Northeast liberal circles here in Boston - and among liberals who make a big show of their alleged compassion. When it really comes down to it, though - that's all it was and is, a big show.

What they really mean, I think, is that they vote for (allegedly) "compassionate policies" - but to me, they example the Scrooge principle: because in their actual lives, and towards people around them, they are often incredibly self-absorbed and frankly uncompassionate. They give very little time and money to anything or anyone, excepting themselves and their own careers, of course, which they narcissistically obsess over.

And the Scrooge principle is this silent assumption: "are there no work houses?" Meaning, Scrooge absolves himself from helping others because someone else (the gubbymint) is already (again, allegedly) doing so. The result is a kind of hell.

Charity cannot be done by proxy. Charity must be lived by each and every one of us. That is the basis of genuine love and community.

And yet, among the Conservatives I have known, particularly Catholics, I have never seen less lip-service to compassion; and yet, they give enormous time and resources to the poor; and not only to the poor in material wealth, but the poor in spirit. Or just someone who needs a helping hand with something - being attentive to the needs of others. It's the opposite of self-absorption, which is a chronic illness of our times (and a sin..haha)

A friend of mine tells a story about how hard it was to walk down the street with Mr. Buckley - because he would stop every few seconds to lend a hand, to give words of encouragement, to praise someone, etc. Once he approached a hung over looking man in a cafe, who looked sad, and a little unkempt. He went up, adjusted the man's tie and suit, lent him his hankerchief, said a few words into his ear, and left. My friend looked back and saw a man beaming. Transformed. Nearly transfigured. That's what I mean.