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Kling is on the money with the incentives. In fact, the government should tilt whenever feasible toward the creation and maintenance of stable families because they insure the survivability of the state and a people. Kling stumbles, however, when he brings out the old canard that “[g]overnment cannot legislate morality.” What else does the state legislate? The point of political debate is whose morality will triumph in the public sphere. We may well decide the government should stay away from certain moral areas, thus drawing walls around them. Likewise, we may find ourselves in situations where something frankly immoral should stay legal (for practical reasons, perhaps, or to reduce tensions between rival groups). Still, none of this means there’s a wall between law and morality; the two are very much in communion as can be seen with the moral rhetoric that surrounds any debate from taxes to stem-cell research.
6. We maintain an ongoing conversation about morality and ethics. This conversation is informed by the Ten Commandments and Biblical scripture. It is informed by the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, and Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. It is vital to continue the conversation, even when consensus is difficult.
There is a conversation, true, but as conservatives, we know that we’re not going to reinvent the moral wheel. Conservatives have to fight against the moral fragmentation of America. A common moral framework is essential if the country is going to stay one country. Our common tradition has been provided by the Bible. Even for nonbelievers this has been a moral and cultural touchstone and we are in danger of losing it.
7. Like new businesses, new moral ideals can revitalize our society, even though many of them fail. For example, we recognize that we are a better people without racial segregation or barriers to the education and career opportunities for women. However, we judge some social experiments to be failures, including eugenics, Communism, and nihilistic cultural relativism.
True, no real conservative denies progress. But let us remember that the language of the civil rights movement, at least the successful language, resonated deeply with the common moral tradition of America. That language reminded us of who we are and who we were meant to be.
8. Our ideology does not have to be sustained by military suppression. Although it can inspire people to fight against tyranny, ultimately our ideology allows us to live in peace.
I’m not exactly sure what Kling is driving at, but there’s that word again: ideology. It is needlessly offensive to a good number of conservatives, and it should be replaced with “philosophy” or “principles.” We could debate this forever, I suppose, but an ideology implies, more so than the term philosophy, a substitute religion or an attempt to explain all of reality by a nifty list or theory. As conservatives know in their bones, reality has a way of getting out of the conceptual traps we set for it. That’s why we believe in free markets, not planned economies; limited but effective government, not a centralized, ever-growing state. That’s why we balk at one-size-fits-all approaches to social and political problems. That’s why we hold man to be imperfectible and that attempts to fashion the “perfect man” lead to gulags and gas chambers. That’s why we don’t attempt to overthrow God and install Reason (or, these days, Tolerance or Diversity or Equality) on the altar.
9. We believe that people all over the world yearn for liberty, and for them we stand as a beacon and a champion. But we recognize that freedom is not ours to give when community leaders are not ready to seize the opportunity that it offers.
I’d like to believe that “people all over the world yearn for liberty,” but I think that’s a dangerous proposition without some serious caveats. People no doubt wish to be free of an oppressor’s boot, but do they merely wish substitute their own heel? How many, then, know how to be free? There has to be room for trial-and-error on the part of a newly freed people as well as for transitional stages as they learn to exercise their natural rights to life, liberty, and property. And, on a more pessimistic note, even in countries with a tradition of political freedom, how many people chose security over liberty? Conservatives have to make the case for liberty, for liberty does not come naturally like night follows day.
10. When foreign leaders issue threats against us, we take them at their word and act accordingly.
We must not seek fights, but we’d better be ready to fight economically, politically, and militarily. I’d go step further. A sizeable swath of the West appears to believe, to one extent or another, that there really are no enemies, except perhaps George W. Bush. From the rooftops, conservatives must speak the truth to those with little hearing: What we have is worth preserving and it can be lost. We do have enemies who seek our destruction, and our enemies include not only terrorist groups but nation-states.
There are some glaring omissions in Kling’s principles — there’s no recognition of property rights, for instance, as fundamental to both economic and political liberty — but they provide a good starting point for debating the meaning of conservatism.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online