Yesterday I objected to my NRB colleague Lori Heine’s criticism of social conservatives as “statist control freaks.” At her blog, she has some more remarks on the subject. She mention’s she’s got a NRB rebuttal to my piece waiting in the wings, so I’ll hold off responding for now. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: Here’s Lori’s NRB reply. I’ve penned an upcoming response which entails some of the themes she touches on at her blog, so I’ll use this space to comment on something else she said yesterday:
First of all, I will again explain my take on social conservatism in general. According to my understanding, it can really only be said to mean one of two things. Either it concerns itself with politics — which is to say, with the workings of government — or it is the self-definition of swelled-headed narcissists who fancy themselves more moral, or more pious than anybody else (usually without any substantial evidence to back it up). NRB’s editors take issue with lumping all social conservatives together as big-government meddlers, and perhaps they are right. But I have not yet heard a better definition than the two that I have given.
Er, what? I’m not sure just what the first option’s supposed to be referring to, and the second – “the self-definition of swelled-headed narcissists who fancy themselves more moral, or more pious than anybody else (usually without any substantial evidence to back it up)” – is an egregiously insulting mischaracterization that’s hard to take seriously. Speaking of a definition “without any substantial evidence to back it up”…
Social conservatism actually isn’t all that hard to define. I’d argue that it’s simply the recognition that a self-governing society cannot be sustained without certain moral principles and institutions, and that while, to use Vindicating the Founders author Thomas West’s phraseology, government can’t “by itself produce the passions and convictions” America needs, it can “weigh in on the side of them” in certain ways, within the confines of the Constitution and consistent with natural liberty.
America’s Founding Fathers certainly didn’t believe that protecting natural rights and maintaining basic infrastructure were government’s only proper functions: George Washington tells us that morality, one of the “firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens,” is an “indispensable support” to political prosperity. John Adams writes that policy should “regulate” human passions, because it is “of the highest importance” that they be “arranged on the side of virtue.” Charles Rowley of George Mason University writes that for James Madison, “a republican order must have a moral content, a cluster of values, without which it would lose its meaning.” Even the Founders we consider relatively secular agree—Thomas Jefferson fears what might become of nations which fail to admit “a chapter of morality in their political code,” while Benjamin Franklin hopes the nation’s “virtues public and private grow with us, and be durable,” because “only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.”
Also, It’s a little surprising to see myself referred to as a “doe-eyed innocent”; that’s certainly not what a lot of other people would call me…
UPDATE 2: Here’s my NRB response.