Thursday, February 9, 2012

Some thoughts on the Goldberg, Uncommon Knowledge interview

In the prior post I link to Jonah Goldberg being interviewed on Uncommon Knowledge, and again I would recommend you give it a listen.  Before letting it go, a couple of points on the start of the conversation.

First, it was cynicism which originally led me to conservatism.  As a smart, hip (well at least in my mind) high school senior I was a cynic and by default a liberal.  But a speech at the local college by James Buckley titled A Plea for a Return to Federalism made clear to me the point that Jonah makes, that conservatism is more in tune with cynicism—at least a certain kind of cynicism-- than liberalism.  In later years that cynicism has become far less important to my thinking than it was then.  Then I thought liberalism was fine but would never work, now I don’t think it is fine.

Second, when Mr. Goldberg discusses the limitlessness and never ending action of liberalism it is important to listen closely.  He says of the liberal view:

There is always more to be done, never mission accomplished and now let us go back and do the things that keep society healthy.”

Realize that the distinction here isn’t one of activity or action per se.  As Oakeshott remarks somewhere in rejecting the notion of small government, “the government should be as big as it needs to be.”  The difference is that for liberalism activity is directed towards the mission, it is the endless construction of The Tower of Babel, whereas for conservatives action is doing the things that keep society healthy which is to make adjustments and tend to the new dissonances that arise from a dynamic society.  Conservative action is like the adjustment that seems to occur in the strike zone in baseball which is regularly modified to maintain the right balance between hitter and pitcher. 

Finally, the host Peter Robinson brings up the Soviet era anecdote that if the West accepted all of the USSR demands what they would get would be the next set of demands.  I agree with Goldberg that this is also true of liberals, but I think the exact same thing could be said of Newt Gingrich.  That is why character issues and electability aside I’ve been rather harsh on Gingrich.  Newt calls himself the true conservative but I would argue what he really is, is a right wing progressive.

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