“[N]o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” — The Constitution of the United States of America
I have a confession to make: I’ve been lying to you. I actually do still have political opinions. In fact, I have very strong political opinions. I’ve been extremely interested in politics since I was about ten, and I read quite a bit on political issues. I simply no longer express myself publicly on partisan politics except to my immediate family and to friends who, I’m confident, will not be scandalized and will not sever their relationship with me if they hear my opinions. And, unfortunately, in our current extremely polarized political climate, that’s a very small group.
I launched this blog partly to argue for my political views. When I first joined Patheos, I asked them whether it would be acceptable to them if I sometimes wrote on non-religious (and especially political) themes. And they responded that, yes, it would be. FAIR LDS also approached me about “adopting” my blog, but I warned them off, saying that I would sometimes express my political and economic and other views (which I do not confuse with my religious opinions).
But I’ve abandoned that goal because I was given strong reasons to believe that expressing my opinions on political matters would, given today’s divisive situation, risk substantial damage to the Interpreter Foundation (to which I’m deeply committed).
Here are some hints, though, that will help others to divine my general political position if they ever care to try:
- I eagerly watched “The Speech” — Ronald Reagan’s famous televised address on behalf of Senator Barry M. Goldwater — on 27 October 1964. My parents supported Lyndon B. Johnson, who would go on to win by a landslide, but I was an enthusiastic, visible, and vocal Goldwater supporter.
- I am exceedingly old, but I was still years away from being eligible to vote in 1964. I nevertheless pulled the lever for Senator Goldwater during that year’s presidential election. (My brother took me into the polling booth with him and allowed me the honor.)
- I’ve subscribed to the conservative opinion journal National Review with only relatively minor interruptions — e.g., during (part of) my mission in Switzerland and while living in the Middle East, where the mail service was so reliably unreliable as to make a subscription essentially worthless — since about the age of thirteen or so.
- In high school, I read everything I could get my hands on — both fiction and non-fiction — from Ayn Rand, although, given my religious beliefs and values, I could never go full-on Objectivist.
- From my teenage years, people like Edmund Burke, Friedrich von Hayek, Thomas Sowell, Robert Taft, William F. Buckley, Ronald Reagan, Ludwig von Mises, George F. Will, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Charles Krauthammer, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, William Kristol, Walter Williams, Russell Kirk, Antonin Scalia, and Milton Friedman have ranked among my heroes.
- Witness, by Whittaker Chambers, had a huge impact on me when I first read it in high school.
- As a student, I picked the famed conservative writer William F. Buckley up at the airport when he came to speak at BYU and, with him, visited with the First Presidency of the time (Spencer W. Kimball, N. Eldon Tanner, and Marion G. Romney).
- In 1976, having won an essay contest celebrating the bicentennial of Adam Smith’s famous free-market class The Wealth of Nations, I participated in that year’s meeting, in St. Andrews, Scotland, of the Mont Pelerin Society. While there, I met and spent time with Milton Friedman, George Stigler, F. A. Hayek, John Chamberlain, and other famous advocates of free-market economics.
- I seriously considered studying economics in graduate school. Had I done so, I would have sought to study, if I could, at the famously conservative/libertarian University of Chicago.
- As a new member of the faculty at Brigham Young University, I hosted Dennis Prager during his two- or three-day visit to campus.
- I’ve spoken several times and participated twice in debates at the massive annual libertarian FreedomFest. During those gatherings, I’ve had dinner with people like George Will, Steve Forbes, Senator Rand Paul, and John Mackey.
- While Mike Lee was still considering a run for the Senate, a friend and I took him out to lunch at the Brick Oven, where my friend, especially, tried to persuade him to declare his candidacy.
- I wish that politicians knew more about basic economics.
- I love Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson and Frédéric Bastiat’s The Law, and I wish that everybody would read them.
- I wonder if even ten percent of the Congress of the United States have ever actually read the federal Constitution.
- I consider myself a free-market, federalist, constitutionalist conservative and a social conservative, with strong libertarian sympathies.
- I’ve been delighted with several recent decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States.
- My brand of conservatism is not only a matter of public policy, but, even beyond that and more fundamentally, entails strong standards of character, integrity, morality, decorum, and behavior.
- I am very unhappy about the state of political and civic discourse in the United States, shocked at the direction we seem to be heading, deeply discouraged by the available partisan options, and genuinely very much worried for the future of my country and its fundamental institutions. Apart from divine grace, I don’t see them as indestructible. And are we worthy of divine grace? I’m not sure.
Herewith, five quotations from Mr. Buckley:
“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 obliged to confess I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University.”
“The largest cultural menace in America is the conformity of the intellectual cliques which, in education as well as the arts, are out to impose upon the nation their modish fads and fallacies, and have nearly succeeded in doing so. In this cultural issue, we are, without reservations, on the side of excellence (rather than “newness”) and of honest intellectual combat (rather than conformity).”
“To fail to experience gratitude when walking through the corridors of the Metropolitan Museum, when listening to the music of Bach or Beethoven, when exercising our freedom to speak, or . . . to give, or withhold, our assent, is to fail to recognize how much we have received from the great wellsprings of human talent and concern that gave us Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, our parents, our friends. We need a rebirth of gratitude for those who have cared for us, living and, mostly, dead. The high moments of our way of life are their gifts to us. We must remember them in our thoughts and in our prayers; and in our deeds.”
“We find that in the absence of demonstrable truth, the best we can do is to exercise the greatest diligence, humility, insight, intelligence, and industry in trying to arrive at the nearest values to truth. I hope, of course, to argue convincingly that having done this, we have an inescapable duty to seek to inculcate others with these values.”
Posted from Newport Beach, California