“Families are the primary transmitters of human capital”


Family is utterly basic


In the inaugural issue of National Review, all the way back in 1955, William F. Buckley Jr. wrote that “A conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.”


I am, in that sense as in others, profoundly a conservative.  And this article and  this article illustrate one of my reasons for being so.


I’m afraid that we’re making an epochal, culture-altering, civilization-transforming decision on the basis of sentimentality and slogans . . . and precious little serious thought.


I might note, too, that the prophet Jeremiah was right.  The term jeremiad has become a mode derision, but, in fact, Jerusalem was destroyed just as he warned it would be.



  • Jon

    W.F. Buckley may have written or said that “A conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.” But he didn’t write it in the inaugural issue of National Review. He wrote: “It [National Review] stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.”

    • DanielPeterson

      Thank you for correcting a remembered quotation.

  • paizlea

    I understand the conservative desire to proceed slowly, although it all too often sounds more like not proceeding at all. The problem stems, in my opinion, from the desire to wait and see, without any alternative suggestions as to how to remedy to problems progressives are trying correct. Is it any wonder that conservatives are seen by progressives to be nothing more than obstructionist?

    • DanielPeterson

      And conservatives tend to think that “progressives” are loons, or worse. Each pole has its characteristic defects, pushed to the extreme.

    • http://kgbudge.com kgbudge

      Progressives and conservatives really do see the world differently, which likely accounts for the dim view progressives take of conservatives.

      Progressives see a world full of problems, and wonder why they haven’t been solved already. They have a tendency to think it is only the benightedness of their ancestors that explains why they inherited these problems, and to think that the obstructionism of their political opponents is the best explanation for why problems still exist.

      Conservatives see a world full of trade offs constrained by the tragedy of the human condition. They have a tendency to think that the present set of trade offs likely were the best our forebears could have been expected to come up with, and they tend to think that the present limitations of humanity mean that trade offs are still unavoidable. They are skeptical of “solutions” to “problems” that they believe are really attempts to push the trade offs in news directions without much though about the unintended consequences.

      The truth lies somewhere between. The knowledge base of humanity does increase with time, and some old trade offs may no longer be necessary or have a new optimum. Only the most reactionary of conservatives oppose all reform, but most conservatives prefer gradual and incremental reform that minimizes the danger of disastrous unintended consequences. I am sufficiently impressed by some of the disastrous unintended consequences of the progressive agenda over my lifetime that I am firmly in the conservative camp.

      Sociological research always strikes me as a bit squirrelly, but there are some studies suggesting that conservatives are much more likely to understand where progressives are coming from than progressives are to understand where conservatives are coming from. This ought to be sobering to progressives, but I think conservatives and progressives alike could do with a dose of humility, remembering that the opposition really can be loyal.

  • RaymondSwenson

    In my experience, “progressives” see human societies as mechanisms full of inefficiencies that need to be eliminated so the social machine can achieve the top priorities of the progressives, without interference from competing goals.

    To conservatives, the inefficiencies of societies are of two kinds. The first kind is the accommodation to human freedom that limits the powers of governments to get what they want. To conservatives, this is not a bug, but a feature. Thus, the US Constitution is a pattern that dictates a Federal system that is a great sprawling beast, with power distributed between Federal, state and local government, and at each level power is divided among legislative, executive and judicial functions. This makes each part of government weaker and strengthens individuals and mediating institutions like churches and companies.

    The second kind of inefficiency that conservatives see are the operation of old progressive mechanisms that are still cranking along even though the rationale for their existence expired long ago, and progressives refuse to admit that any idea they created has failed ad needs to be scrapped. Conservatives see progressives as insisting that their programs failed only because they were not given enough money, and time, and power. After 100 years of progressive politics, the most “preservative” of political movements are progressives who refuse to admit any of their ideas failed, and they insist on funding and running them. What is a more preservative part of government than Social Security? Everyone knows it cannot be sustained in the face of the shrinking cohort of younger Americans who pay into the system, and the expanding cohort of 80 and 90 year olds, and an index that exceeds inflation. Allowing us to invest half the money , the half we each pay in, would let the dynamism of the economy make up for these problems, but progressives cannot allow CHANGE to their outmoded idea, especially if it means losing government control of the money.

  • RaymondSwenson

    Another example that progressives are the real preservative political movement: taxpayer financed public schools as a state monopoly. Even when government funds healthcare, we don’t insist that all doctors and nurses have to be employees of the government, or that all hospitals must be government owned buildings. Yet we see progressives insist that education taxes are so sacred that they can only be spent on government buildings and government employees. A completely different model is offered by the financing of university level education, which includes government owned colleges and private colleges, all of which also are supported through gifts and endowments and investments, government grants for the poor and veterans, government-subsidized student loans, and business income from intellectual property created by university researchers.

    If parents are competent to pick a college, why not K through 12 schools? But progressives cannot allow competition and choice that destroys their virtual monopoly on indoctrinating the young.

    Over and over, progressives are more interested in preserving the status quo than conservatives, whenever change would decrease their power over society.

    • DanielPeterson

      Excellent point.