Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Jonah Goldberg interviewed; Fusionism & Federalism - post III

Over at Powerline.com Steven Hayward has posted two segments to date of his interview with Jonah Goldberg covering the topic of becoming Goldberg. The first segment is here http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2015/10/how-jonah-goldberg-became-jonah-goldberg-part-1.php and the second segment is here http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2015/10/how-jonah-goldberg-became-jonah-goldberg-part-2.php . At the end of the second segment [spoiler alert] Goldberg brings up the topic/idea of Fusionism and Federalism.

Fusionism for the uninitiated is the attempt, primarily identified with Frank Meyer, to reconcile conservatism and libertarianism within the larger American conservative movement. I take it that Goldberg is amenable to the fusionist idea and he provides the foreword to a recently re-released edition of Meyer’s book on the subject http://www.amazon.com/What-Conservatism-Classic-Leading-Conservatives/dp/1610171403/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1444136016&sr=1-5&keywords=frank+meyer

And one thing that surprises me, at least a little, is that no one with fusionist inclinations has realized that this site’s house philosopher is very much a fusionist. There are multiple reasons for why the political philosopher Michael Oakeshott hasn’t caught on in America, but one of them is that he is difficult to categorize and this difficulty is attributable to his not fitting comfortably in either the libertarian or the conservative camp. Indeed, both of the recently published companion books that explore Oakeshott’s work contain essays on the question of whether he should be considered a liberal [classical/libertarian], or a conservative, and the debate over whether there is one Oakeshott or an early and late Oakeshott has within it something of the same dispute. In short, someone interested in the idea of fusionism could do worse than look to Michael Oakeshott [I would suggest something other than Rationalism in Politics].

As to Federalism, this goes back to my roots. It was a James Buckley speech titled A Plea for a Return to Federalism that prompted me to look into conservative thought. And yet despite my own conversion, I’ve come to the conclusion that the conservative emphasis on Federalism is largely a mistake. Not the idea itself, although I have some reservations, but as a way to grow the conservative flock. My objection is that the Federalism argument confuses cause and effect and thus it is a discussion that exists entirely within the conservative tent.

In Rationalism in Politics, Oakeshott identifies two general characteristics of the type:

“They are the politics of perfection, and they are the politics of uniformity…there is no place in his [the rationalist] scheme for a ‘best in the circumstance’, only a place for the ‘best’; because the function of reason is precisely to surmount circumstances….Political activity is recognized as the imposition of a uniform condition of perfection upon human conduct.”
Now I take it that Progressivism is thoroughly rationalist. The replacement of federalism with centralization is therefore form following function. A plea for Federalism is to focus on the result rather than its cause and as such is likely to fail.

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