Monday, May 10, 2010

What makes America exceptional? What kind of liberty is worth preserving?

For the reasons already stated, today’s liberals, such as Obama and his supporters in our cultural and intellectual elites, are not fully honest about their radical autonomism. For they either can’t or won’t acknowledge its internal incoherence and its disastrous consequences, which we see all around us in the breakdown of the family and the erosion of individual liberty at the hands of the state. But conservatives aren’t being fully honest either. The conservative “movement” in America has long been an uneasy alliance of classical liberals and religious conservatives, and it has never tried to resolve that tension. It is united only in its opposition to what has come, since the New-Deal era, to be called liberalism. But without a way of at least addressing the tension creatively, conservatives are doomed to fighting a long retreat, a rear-guard action against liberalism that never really takes on that enemy at its core.

And that, in the last analysis, is why I’m uneasy about calling myself a conservative. Until conservatives can agree on the kind and meaning of the liberty that makes America exceptional, they won’t be able to agree on what’s worth conserving, and hence on an alternative to an ever-advancing but profoundly corrosive liberalism.

Michael Liccione, "What's Exceptional about Conservatism?" (Sacramentum Vitae May 9, 2010.


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