Tuesday, April 17, 2012

WSJ Interview with Roger Scuton (Who – Supposedly Britain Foremost Conservative Philosopher) Reveals the Intellectual Bankruptcy of Modern Conservatism

It is Intellectually Bankrupt Because it is not Conservatism

Each Saturday the opinion section of the Wall Street Journal presents an interview with someone they think is important and serious enough to deserve that space in the newspaper.  Actually, the term ‘interview’ can only be used in the broadest sense, since the series are usually more opinion mongering by the interviewer and not much of the actual interview.  Still this doesn’t mean the pieces are not interesting.

This week the ‘interview’ is with Roger Scruton who is described as Britain’s main Conservative philosopher.  That alone is enough to attract our attention, because everyone who is not a Conservative longs to hear from someone who may be a real Conservative with intellectual honesty and the ability to make a good case for Conservatism.  Alas that is not the case here.

For example, Mr. Bruton takes it upon himself to define liberalism, and of course if an opponent of liberalism  is allowed to define both his own and his opponent’s position, it is highly unlikely that the opposing view will prevail.  Here is what Mr. Bruton says about those with whom he disagrees.

Mr. Bruton, Now in Residence at
a Conservative Think Tank -
Where Else
What of liberalism? "My own view," he tells me, "is that left-wing positions largely come about from resentment—I agree with Nietzsche about this—a resentment about the surrounding social order. They have privileges, I don't. Or, I have them and I can't live up to them. Things should be organized differently.

"And there's always some sense on the left that power is in the wrong hands. You know, that the world is misgoverned. And in particular, the nearer something is to yourself, the more you feel that on the left. There's this rejection of your own country, of your own government."

Everyone will of course recognize this as the caricature it is, the old ‘class warfare’ argument dressed up in obscure language.  If you want to look for angry resentful people, just go to the nearest Tea Party rally, and select a person at random.

Of course, this so-called philosopher is equally disingenuous about Conservatism.

Rather, conservatism is a rejection of utopia for reality—a preference for improving society bit by bit over fixing society by rubbing it out. If conservatives maintain any principled allegiances at all, they are to one's own people and place, and to the rituals, customs and social knowledge contained therein. Anything beyond that depends on the circumstances.

Yeah, ask Rush Limbaugh if he or anyone else understands that gibberish.

Let’s look for example at one area of Mr. Bruton’s Conservatism and see how it stacks up against Conservative policy.

On immigration policy: "The real cure to immigration, obviously, is to make sure that there is prosperity around the world so that people don't have the motive. Not just prosperity, but freedom."

Now this is a true statement, one we all agree with.  But notice the policy implications.  To create prosperity and stability in nations that have neither requires international economic activities by government, something despised and rejected by Conservatives.

On environmentalism he says this

The environmental movement's task, Mr. Scruton argues, is to remind people why they should want clean air and green land in the first place—and to empower them to make the change themselves.

Again a reasonable position, but one that leads to policy prescriptions of government regulation.  In a society of private property only government can prevent individuals from polluting the air and water and land in the name of private enterprise and property rights.  Convincing an oil company that should not pollute the aquifer because it is not nice won’t work.  Collective action, which can only come from government regulation is required.

So at the end of the day here is simply another so-called Conservative, spouting platitudes, defining his opponents views and positions in order to attack them and in the end demonstrating why Conservatives have to manipulate the democratic process and have a massive advantage in funding in order to win.  In a fair fight, with equal knowledge and resources on both sides, they lose. 

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