For various reasons I haven't been able to get back to my current series on my old bookselling haunts. That sort of writing (not that it is of great quality, but that it is very personal) requires more of me than other word scatterings. Perhaps later in the week.
I have been tempted to write something on Kirk's 6 Canons of Conservatism, elsewhere called his 10 Principles of Conservatism, which came up in a recent discussion, maybe later on that.
For now Dreher on Brooks.
Kirkian conservatism is a political thematic, if you will. I'm not sure that it is an actual political philosophy. In any event, whatever it is, I can't find where Kirkian conservatism comes down on actual policy matters, and let me let you in on a little secret, most discerning reader, politics ultimately comes down to policy, and law, and, you know, concrete stuff. Get it? [Modestinus points at some of these realities in this post, which every distributist should read - and which Moddy should turn into a book.]
So Kirk sometimes espoused support for environmental regulations. But as a commenter on the Dreher thread accurately notes, Kirk also "spoke frequently about voluntary community vs. coerced community." And as you know Kirk was very much on the side of voluntary community.
So what does a Kirkian conservatism do with actual environmental policy? Let's get more specific - what does it do with Monsanto and its GMOs and intellectual property claims? Lay it out for me. As I know more than a fair share of conservatives who refer to themselves as being inspired by Kirk or even as Kirkian and/or Burkean (via Kirk) conservatives, I can tell you than Kirkian conservatism seems to have little to no bearing on the actual policy positions of those who like to bear his name. And let's be forthright - it's actual policy that makes the difference between whether or not our great grandchildren are all sterile because of GMO corn (if that fevered fear of certain leftists I know turns out to be true), and not our rhetorical preferences or our sentiments.
As I see it, a self-proclaimed Kirkian conservatism is usually, but certainly not always, akin to Crunchy Conservatism, which means that we want a conservative rhetoric which makes us feel like we are not the assholes that Dubya/Rove/Cheney/McCain/and-in-a-pinch-Romney diehard supporters are, but we're still going to vote for movement conservatives Huckabee and then Santorum when given the chance and we're going to actually, when pressed, support movement conservative positions (especially domestic ones) well more than half of the time. We want a kinder, gentler version Paul Ryan, if you will, though one deemed just as sexy.
But neither life nor politics works that way.
Dreher wants to return to a "traditionalist conservatism." He uses the turn your TV off trope in his call to intellectual and traditional conservative arms. But what does he really want more than a changed rhetoric? What does he really want more than a slight dressing down of some of the more pushing-the-envelope elements of movement conservative domestic fiscal policy and military policy? What does he want to do with Social Security? What does he want to do with Medicare? How does he want them funded and budgeted? How does he want them administratively organized? What does he want to do with environmental regulation? What, exactly, is he going to do about the Koch Bros plant not all that far from me or him in Crossett, Arkansas, and how, exactly, is his policy decision informed by a Kirkian conservatism? Wouldn't it be great if the Kochs voluntarily cleaned up that plant? My daughters would like pink worker fairies (we don't do princess fairies in our household) with magical powers to clean up their rooms. Some shit doesn't happen.
I don't mean to suggest there there should be a policy opinion hegemony among those toting around Kirk, Nisbet, and Weaver. As you probably know, I belong to a couple of radical leftist groups, and have friends in many others, and I can assure you that those who tote the name of Marx around have varied opinions on policy. But they all are (often enough) able to argue why a given policy position is in line with a Marxist political/economic orientation. And most of the time their defenses of their policy positions along Marxist lines are plausible, or plausible enough anyway. It is hard for me to imagine a Kirkian approach to the Koch plant in Crossett that is such that I read/hear it and think "yeah, that is definitely Kirkian." Hence my position that Kirkian conservatism is thematic, and doesn't really orient one to specific ways of handling policy decision making or even general trajectories of approaching policy position making.
This isn't to say Kirk is bad for this reason or that his words are useless. Far from it. I much prefer Kirk to most other American conservative thinkers. Themes can be helpful. Then again, we live in the age of überlifestylization, in which we hold to very little that goes deeper than the thematic, so perhaps turning to the thematic too often approaches the danger of offering an easy catharsis to commodity fetished souls. I don't know. But I do think that if you are going to call for a return to a traditionalist, Kirkian conservatism, and you can't tell me with some precision what this means in terms of policy positions and how those policy position decisions are integrally related to Kirk's thought, you are posturing, and intellectually masturbating. Not that I would ever accuse Dreher of that though, of course.....