Five Books on American Conservatism



Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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30 Responses

  1. Avatar Simon K says:

    What strikes me is that that’s an overwhelmingly libertarian or classically liberal collection of books. Even Michael Oakeshott doesn’t get a look in, although Leo Strauss does. There are only two distinctively conservative books in the top 10, and one of those only counts because its a rant about how horrible liberals are.Report

  2. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    These guys aren’t ‘conservatives’ they’re neocons. No Voegelin? This list is nonsense.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      @Robert Cheeks, These guys aren’t ‘conservatives’ they’re neocons.

      We need to make this into a macro.

      God knows, I think this very thought 80% of the time whenever someone says that so-and-so is a “Conservative”.Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

        @Jaybird, yes, JB, we need a little more righteous analysis around here! They split hair on the librul but lump all conservatives into one basket and shout, “See how smart I am!”Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          @Robert Cheeks, I suppose I oversimplify with my sixish/sevenish categories of Conservative.

          Perhaps we ought to come up with a Field Guide and/or Taxonomy…

          Social Conservative. Quote: “The culture’s going to hell in a handbasket.”
          Related to:

          Fiscal Hawks. Quote: “We could easily cut spending in, at least, the Department of Agriculture, Labor, Energy, Education, Housing and Urban Development, and Homeland Security. Also the CFTC, FCC, FMC, FTC, GSA, NASA, NARA, NLRB, OPM, SSA…”
          Related to:

          Defense Hawks. Quote: “We need to ensure the safety of our Country, our Families, and our Way of Life from foreign threats.”
          Related to:

          We could probably do better and get more granular (also: accurate) and come up with better (funnier) quotes.Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

            @Jaybird, Dude, you’re like a master of definative political terminology!Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              @Robert Cheeks, I am certain that I left out at least two types of Conservatives (and probably five).

              I imagine that each major leg of the stool has enough cousins for us to name at least one more for the Hawks and the Fiscons.Report

          • Avatar Simon K says:

            @Jaybird, I’d be intrigued to read a more complete list. One interesting difference from the different types of liberals and libertarians that get discussed is that these are differences in policy areas of emphasis, and don’t necessarily compete (you can be a social conservative and a fiscal conservative without much trouble) whereas we tend to break libera-thingummies up by philosophical orientation instead – you can’t be both a libertarian and social democrat.

            So are there differences in philosophical orientation between conservatives? I think there are, but since I find conservatism quite hard to understand I’m not the best qualified person to comment.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              @Simon K, Neocons/Theocons and Libertarians are, more or less, diametrically opposed. Defense Hawks and Paleos aren’t exactly buddies (given the isolationist, er, “non-interventionist” bent of the Paleos).

              I suppose that the biggest question and area of dispute between conservatives is: How many spheres of influence ought the government have?

              Do you think that the government ought to “Protect Traditional Marriage”?

              Well, this is a different idea than people who think that “Marriage should be left up to the States”.

              (Where would “Strict Constitutionalists” go? Paleos?)

              People who are for the War On Drugs vs. people who are anti-Prohibitionist would be another area of dispute.

              Sodomy laws would be another.

              How many spheres of influence ought the government have?

              I think it’s safe to say that the mainstream left is most likely to have “more than the conservatives” as their answer (with the poor “liberaltarians” not mentioned because they’re still saying “guys? guys?” in the darkened room where they were left after Obama’s election).

              Anyway, that’s where I see the hugest difference in orientation. Where ought the government stick its nose?

              Perhaps a followup distinction might be: How powerful ought the government be where it does have the authority to do nose-sticking?Report

            • Avatar Simon K says:

              @Simon K, Seems like a very minarchist assessment. I somehow doubt that the social conservatives or hawks would express the key point of difference the same way. If they did I’d feel a lot more comfortable with them. I became pretty clear under the Bush administration that not just the neo-cons, but many of the other hawkish types and even the soc-cons didn’t particularly care where the government stuck its nose provided it paid lip service at least to their pet issues.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              @Simon K, Seems like a very minarchist assessment.


              I somehow doubt that the social conservatives or hawks would express the key point of difference the same way.

              I’d love to read their taxonomies.Report

  3. Avatar Travis says:

    The eight previous years of neoconservative rule masquerading as “conservative” has, unfortunately, poisoned the well for years to come.

    Having spent my young adult years (17-25) growing up under the Bush Administration, the word “conservative” to me is now irredeemably associated with foreign wars of aggression, fiscal incontinence, rampant civil liberties violations and hostility to gay rights.

    Why would I ever, ever trust those people with the government again?Report

    • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

      @Travis, Why…Barack Obama and the Democrats! However, all you have to do is join the TPers, through out the RINOS and Neos and you’ve got your ‘conservative’ party probably with cohones.
      Quit whining and do it, or shut up!Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      @Travis, I’ve recently purchased a “Reagan in ’80” t-shirt.

      I only bought that one because they didn’t have any “Eisenhower in ’52” shirts.

      Maybe I should do the research and make a Cafepress “Coolidge in ’24” shirt and just start wearing that.Report

      • Avatar JosephFM says:

        While you’re at it, I think I would like a Romney ’68 shirt.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling says:


          I was quite young at the time and would welcome a correction, but I don’t recall Romney’s religion even being mentioned in ’68. We were, in at least that way, a better country then.Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

        @Jaybird, Can you provide a link?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          @Robert Cheeks, Here you go:

          I cannot and would not condone many of the other shirts on that site and Maribou would shun me if I wore some of them in public and *KILL* me if I wore others under any circumstances (e.g., the “I survived roe v. wade” shirt) but the “Reagan in ’80” shirt strikes me that it would do a good job of communicating dissatisfaction with the current bunch of children running for office while still scandalizing my (her) social circle while skirting, without crossing, “I am not going out with you if you wear that” territory.Report