Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Comment on Jonah Goldberg's; Denationalizing Our Politics

In a column/post yesterday Jonah Goldberg gives us a glimpse into a new book from Yuval Levin arguing for a more decentralized politics. As someone who came into the conservative fold after hearing James Buckley’s A Plea for a Return to Federalism I’m sympathetic to the idea.

But my thinking and reading since that speech has led me to conclude, that however fine the idea, the emphasis was/is a mistake. Arguing for decentralization confuses cause for effect or put differently it ignores that in politics as in modern architecture, form follows function.

It was Michael Oakeshott who argued that our politics were dominantly enterprise association and rationalist. As anyone who has been in a decentralized business knows, the pull to the center is constant and never resisted for very long (usually the first hint of trouble). As to rationalist politics, Oakeshott defined it as “the politics of perfection and of uniformity” and noted that circumstances—the unique conditions that would argue for a decentralized approach—“are for the rationalist to be overcome, not accommodated.”

In short, decentralized politics is a fine idea but to bring it about you have to target its rationalist/enterprise association underpinnings.

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