Since we’ve been on a bit of a political kick, I thought I would post another political comment. Coming off a discussion of gay marriage here, it is not big secret that I am generally conservative on many issues. I am a conservative for at least two reasons:
a) We’ve arrived at a ridiculous state of affairs where inferior intellects put themselves forth as critics of the greatest minds, books, and ideas of our tradition. This undermines the deposit of wisdom left by the tradition, particularly in the intelligentsia.
b) I think moderation is the most important virtue in politics. Reform is preferable to revolution. Our government is designed to be conservative – in virtue of having 3 branches (the legislative branch split in two), it is slow moving and inefficient, and so is reform minded instead of revolution minded. Increasingly, the left is dominated by an immoderate desire for cultural revolution.
But I am not a conservative ideologue. I am seriously bothered by the radical libertarian movement of the Tea Party. I disagree with the Tea Party for three main reasons. (i) Libertarianism depends upon a false anthropology of radical individualism. I am an Aristotelian on this – man is a social animal. (ii) Libertarianism is ideological and so does not allow for the practice of prudence. (iii) There is a strident anti-intellectualism in the Tea Party movement.
I got more than a few chuckles reading this recent letter to the editor in the Utah Statesman (our student newspaper). It concerns the upcoming vote on a county-wide public library system here in Cache Valley. He claims that the county-wide library system is “largely viewed as a socialist power grab”. Huh? Here is my question: Since when did the conservative desire for limited government turn into opposition to all government at any level?
My complaint is that there is no prudence in this. To me, the conservative principle is not limited government per se, but the principle of subsidarity. The principle of subsidiarity is a principle that suggests that matters should be handled at the most local and smallest possible level. At what level issues should be handled is always, then, a question of prudence rather than ideology. Immigration reform, for instance, appears to be the sort of thing that even conservatives, in accordance with subsidiarity, should think is best handled at the federal level. Other issues could be well-handled at a more local level. Prudence.
But the letter to the editor that rants against the county library does not allow for prudence. As I understand it, most counties do have county-wide library systems because the county level is the proper level of authority – in accordance with subsidiarity – for the effective delivery of library services.
While I am not registered with either party (and have never voted a straight ticket), I hope that the Republican Party does not get co-opted by this libertarian Tea Party wing. What they need is someone like Buckley, who rid the party of unsavory elements like the John Birchers.