1. A couple of readers suggested that I drop the pointy headed Strauss stuff and comment on the trendy localism posts of the Porchers, the (First) Thingers, and all that. My real experience is that most of them were kind of boring—no offense.
2. It goes without saying that I’m against “localism” or “traditionalism” or any other “that’s the ticket” ism as a solution to the pathologies specific to modern life. Jody Bottum and some others are right to remind us that local life has its own pathologies. That’s a good shot against the selective nostalgia of all romanticism. It also means a stronger local life might balance out us cosmopolitans (like Deneen, who jets all over the place evangelizing localism). A lot of localist “theory” is an admirable self-help program, and certainly many are improved by it. But self-constructing roots–or trying to horn in on the roots grown by others–is going to work less than perfectly. And it often deserves to be poked fun at in the style of the classic GREEN ACRES. This is not exactly real criticism either–all forms of human life have their laughable and screwed-up parts.
3. Because of nationalizing influences (which give us stuff like justice and prosperity), local life is a lot less racist and anti-semitic than it used to be. So localism and localists aren’t even unwittingly encouraging those “redneck” (hardly the same as localist) pathologies now. We do have to remember that a lot of nationalization was in response to racism, and even that it might have been better had the South been more reconstructed than it actually was. It wasn’t Lincoln who destroyed the sense of place in the South, but the South’s refusal to give up what it should have given up. Too many localists (although not so much those in blogland) remain nativists, forgetting the greatness of America–which is about the romance of citizenship or a home for all the homeless–described by Chesterton.
4. The distinctively local features of life in Floyd County, GA are God, family, and country. This is a land of evangelical patriots, and they always tearfully stand up when they hear Lee Greenwood. I would like to see the localist theorists say more good about those actually living the home-grown life. Their faith and their churches lack aesthetic sense, they shop at Wal-Mart, they talk a lot about hunting, God, cars, football, and golf, they are very charitable and neighborly, and they have huge screen TVs. They like both country and rock. They vote Republican for pretty legitimate God and country reasons. I can’t say it’s bad that their lives have been improved by anti-racist and (yes) anti-sexist justice and even by having enough prosperity to travel around some in jet planes and on Interstates. They don’t have to choose, often, between making money and staying near the extended family. Hardly anyone farms for a living.
5. We do have people living the more totally organic life around here: aging hippies, home schoolers of a certain kind, a few professors, and others too. But they’re “secessionists.” They have their own little communities and often their own little churches. They don’t run the place, and the major charitable and community undertakings aren’t theirs.
6. The most localist thing Rome, GA has done in recent years is to get its own minor league baseball team and a cute little stadium. Everyone goes there, and people drive up from Atlanta for the excellent cheap seats and fine concessions.
7. I am really, really for SUBSIDIARITY. That is, government policy ought to promote voluntary caregiving based on love. We should take pride that, even now, most Americans still believe the sick, the disabled, and frail elderly are the responsibility of the family. In the European social democracies, most people regard them as the government’s problem. Thinking about that fact alone should have been reason enough both not to have voted for Obama and to have worked instead, with Yuval Levin and others, to get McCain to read, take seriously, and really defend his health care alternative.
These aren’t really serious, they’re easy to understand, and there’ll be more.