Gregg’s Hopes for Conservatism Future

Gregg’s Hopes for Conservatism Future December 13, 2014

Related to my Free-Market Catholics Are Losing Their Faith (in Capitalism), which describes one answer, the Acton Institute’s director of research Samuel Gregg offers another, asks “what a conservative fundamental transformation of America would look like.” In Conservatism After Obama, he writes:

Since John Stuart Mill’s time, modern liberals have been much better at grasping the importance of establishing and then dominating the parameters ofwhat issues are discussed in the public square and how we do so. In the aftermath of Obama, it’s time for conservatives who want to see fundamental transformation of a different kind to summon the moral courage to do the same. . . . In short, conservatives determined to roll back America’s steady slouch toward a progressivist dystopia must . . . [establish] a full-spectrum conservative agenda as the new normal.

Gregg answers his question by proposing two classic writers “as starting points for those conservatives who want to delegitimize modern liberalism, overturn its political gains, and replace them with entirely different political parameters.” The two are Edmund Burke and Adam Smith, whose writings he commends for their treatment of what we today call “crony capitalism” — “a problem that’s corrupting American economic and political life” — the “the executive branch’s undermining of the separation of powers,” and foreign trade, and for what they can tell us about dealing with Islamist movements.

The answer I described in Free-Market Catholics he describes as trying “to outflank modern liberals on their own turf.”

Since 2008, some conservatives have responded to modern liberalism’s advances by trying to show that they’re more effective at realizing goals like social justice. This isn’t a problem in itself because, depending on how something like social justice is defined, such claims happen to be true.

The downside to seeking to outflank modern liberals on their own turf is that key liberal preoccupations will continue dominating public discussion at the expense of more distinctly conservative concerns. Moreover, no matter how much conservatives try, does anyone doubt that most Americans still equate social justice with government programs ranging from wealth redistribution to “diversity-enhancement” policies?

I don’t it is trying to outflank liberals on their own turf but a natural development of certain strains of Catholic Social Thinking in response to present conditinos, adn I don’t think that Americans equating social justice with government programs is the problem he thinks it is, and would argue that the more important question is not what conservatism would look like but what Catholicism requires, but I commend the article as one taking on the challenge.


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