First off, who would have guessed that—to judge by the ratings—the most interesting issue ever raised by POSTMODERN CONSERVATIVES is the TV replacement for George Will?

Not only that, the founder of the POSTMODERN CONSERVATIVE blog—JAMES POULOS—has emerged as the candidate of THE AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE. I will resist the urge to enter into a polemic on whether AMERICAN CONSERVATIVES are really conservatives. Or on whether James is disqualified from being conservative rep by his Obamaconism. If James were to emerge as the longest of long shots, he would add style and wit to the show. And Tocqueville would certainly get mentioned some. Maybe he can pave the way for Pete.

The most interesting comment in the thread, for me, came from Carl. He doubts MARK STEYN would be a good choice, because his biting humor is too fatalistic.

And then he added his excellent new post on LIBERTY, which includes some thoughtful comments on the problem of nouveau conservative fatalism. The old alliance between sensible LIBERTARIANISM and SOCIAL CONSERVATISM can’t hold in the face of the vanishing middle class, the birth dearth combined with increasing longevity, the depoliticizing challenges of the 21st competitive marketplace, the irresponsibility of our techno-meritocracy, our inability to keep Locke in the Locke box on issues having to do with families and our erotic lives, and the connection between increasing individualism and growing dependency on the state summed up in the phrase “single mom.” And don’t forget the irresistible techno-imperatives of biotechnology, terrorism, political correctness, the reduction of higher education to low-level techno-vocationalism, the emptying out of American religion, the unmanageable debt, our demoralized and underfunded military, and the surge of the Chinese.

We conservatives know that the human issues involved in all of the above are more urgent than global warming and related concerns. But nothing keeps us from being fatalistic about that too.

In addition to bitterly humorous fatalism, we have the more angry version coming from Pat Deneen and others in the-abyss-that-comes after-virtue camp. For them, only a religious revival that remedies the deficiencies of our country since its secular/constitutional/Federalist beginning can really help us now. And their remedy doesn’t, obviously, animate either of our two major parties.

Don’t forget that our best libertarians, such as Tyler Cowen, have lost confidence in the connection between techno-liberty and fairly egalitarian prosperity.

Can we say that our tendency toward fatalism is less about THE ROAD TO SERFDOM and actually more about musings about TECHNOLOGY enveloping everything? I hasten to add that I’m not fatalistic at all, and I don’t think either CAPITALISM or TECHNOLOGY account for anywhere near everything about who we are. For one thing, we have Carl’s incurable love of liberty, not to mention his love for America. From his view, our problems are mainly ones of prudence and confidence, both of which can be fixed by the right kind of statesmanship.

Articles by Peter Lawler

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