Crunchy Conservativism

Discussion in 'Politics' started by ScreamingEagle, Mar 3, 2006.

  1. ScreamingEagle
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    ScreamingEagle Gold Member

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    The New Counterculture
    Meet Rod Dreher, a conservative who is critical of capitalism.

    BY GEORGE H. NASH
    Tuesday, February 21, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST

    Rod Dreher, a columnist and editor at the Dallas Morning News, is a self-confessed member of the vast right-wing conspiracy. As a lapsed Protestant who converted to Roman Catholicism several years ago, he is an unabashed religious and social conservative. He has little use for the morally relativist and libertine tendencies of modern liberalism. Too often, he says, "the Democrats act like the Party of Lust."

    But Mr. Dreher is also a passionate environmentalist, a devotee of organic farming and a proponent of the New Urbanism, an anti-sprawl movement aimed at making residential neighborhoods more like pre-suburban small towns. He dislikes industrial agriculture, shopping malls, television, McMansions and mass consumerism. Efficiency--the guiding principle of free markets--is an "idol," he says, that must be "smashed." Too often, he claims, Republicans act like "the Party of Greed."

    Four years ago, Mr. Dreher coined the term "crunchy conservatism" (as in crunchy granola) to describe hybrids like himself: political right-wingers with countercultural sensibilities. Now, in a book based largely on interviews and his own experience, he explores the type in depth. But "Crunchy Cons" is not a pallid work of sociology. It is a rousing altar call to spiritual secession from an America that Mr. Dreher sees as awash in materialism, consumerism and "lifestyle-libertarian" thinking.

    In Mr. Dreher's view, consumer-crazed capitalism makes a fetish of individual choice and, if left unchecked, "tends to pull families and communities apart." Thus consumerism and conservatism are, for him, incompatible, a fact that mainstream conservatives, he says, simply do not grasp. He warns that capitalism must be reined in by "the moral and spiritual energies of the people." It is not politics and economics that will save us, he declares. It is adherence to the "eternal moral norms" known as the Permanent Things.
    And the most permanent thing of all is God. At the heart of Mr. Dreher's family-centered crunchy conservatism is an unwavering commitment to religious faith. And not just any religious faith but rigorous, old-fashioned orthodoxy. Only a firm grounding in religious commitment, he believes, can sustain crunchy conservatives in their struggle against the radical individualism and materialism he decries. Nearly all the crunchy cons he interviews are devoutly Christian or orthodox Jewish believers who are deliberately ordering their lives toward the ultimate end of "serving God, not the self"--often at considerable financial sacrifice.

    Mr. Dreher sees "Crunchy Cons," in part, as "a handbook of the resistance." He advocates homeschooling. He applauds community-supported agriculture, small businesses, simple living, historic preservation and much else that promotes a "sacramental" (non-utilitarian) sense of life. You cannot be truly conservative today, he avers, without being countercultural.

    These themes, of course, are not new, as Mr. Dreher acknowledges. He cites E.F. Schumacher's decentralist 1973 classic "Small Is Beautiful." He approvingly mentions Richard Weaver (1910-63), the author of "Ideas Have Consequences," and Wendell Berry, a contemporary agrarian poet and essayist. Above all, he extols Russell Kirk, the author of "The Conservative Mind" and a tireless defender of the Permanent Things. Mr. Dreher, in short, identifies himself with the venerable traditionalist school of conservatism that reaches back to Kirk, the Southern Agrarians and beyond: a communitarian conservatism profoundly disturbed not only by secular liberalism but also by the relentless dynamism of modern commercial life.

    And therein lies the significance of "Crunchy Cons." It is a reminder of the enduring tension on the right between those for whom the highest social good is freedom--the emancipation of the self from statist restraint and oppressive custom--and those for whom the highest social good is virtue: the formation of character, the cultivation of the soul.

    Fortunately, Mr. Dreher is not a dour sermonizer. He is a lively writer with a talent for quotable prose ("the point of life is not to become a more satisfied shopper"), and his sense of humor and self-deprecation help to temper his stem-winding style. He also recognizes that not everyone can afford to withdraw from the mainstream or follow the nearly monastic path that he keeps pointing to. Still, he hopes that his fellow crunchy cons and Birkenstocked Burkeans will have the courage, born of religious conviction, to resist the tides of modernity as much as they are able.

    Because Mr. Dreher offers no detailed blueprint for cultural renewal, some may dismiss his book as just another lifestyle manifesto. This would be a mistake. Like it or not, Mr. Dreher raises concerns that will not go away. America today is more broadly free and prosperous than any society in human history. We are gloriously "free to choose." But choose what?

    http://www.opinionjournal.com/la/?id=110007996
     
  2. dilloduck
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    dilloduck Diamond Member

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    :clap: :clap: :clap:
     
  3. Annie
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    Annie Diamond Member

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    http://www.nationalreview.com/goldberg/goldberg200603020807.asp


     
  4. Annie
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    the ending

     
  5. BaronVonBigmeat
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    BaronVonBigmeat Senior Member

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    I understand where he is coming from, to a large extent. Unfortunately, he probably supports government action as the solution. In fact, it was government action that created the problems he describes in the first place.

    Rampant consumerism and a negative savings rate have replaced thrift as core values. This is caused by the federal reserve system. New money is created by the fed itself but far more so by private banks out of thin air. This inflation makes credit artifically cheap (hello, housing bubble) and benefits debtors, while cheating workers and savers.

    I'm sure he's a big proponent of family values and all...which I agree with. But the best way to promote family values isn't a Bushite plan to give government money to private charities (that's outsourcing, not privatization), nor some plan to teach bible lessons in a government school. No, the best way is to create a society in which both parents aren't forced to work just to make ends meet. We used to be able to do that 50 years ago. Now we can't, because productivity gains have been swallowed up by rising taxes and federal reserve inflation since 1971.

    New Urbanism is another interesting topic. For those who haven't heard of it, it's basically the architectural form of older towns and cities; there's nothing really "new" about it. I've read some of James Kunstler's books, and while he is technically what most would call a liberal (a decentralist liberal though!), his books do a damn good job at illustrating government folly.

    Why do we have tacky, shitty strip malls? Zoning regulations, and value-based property taxes that punish developers who build nice-looking buildings. They also frequently have government-mandated parking lot minimums, thus wasting land.

    Why aren't parking lots hidden in back like they used to be, with buildings closer to the road? Because of building codes that mandate setbacks from the street. Oversize parking in front + no trees along the streets (government safety regulations) = unfriendly to pedestrians.

    Why is modern development so spread out? Because government zoning mandates it. Apartments cannot be built on top of retail establishments as they used to be because of single-use zoning. This screws the poor by forcing them to own cars, and creates traffic.

    Why is speeding such a problem? Because government regulations mandate overly wide roads and forbid "traffic calming" devices.

    It goes on and on and on. This list that I remember off the top of my head is only a small portion of how government mandates have foisted shitty cities on us. The New Urbanists' solution is only halfway correct, though. On one hand, they want to dramatically reduce and simplify the zoning laws. In one of my books, there's a picture of a NU building code book sitting next to a conventional building code book, and the NU book is practically a pamphlet compared to the other inch-thick book.

    On the other hand, many want to have regional governments mandating growth boundaries. No, no, no. This is like putting a bandaid on a bandaid. It will constrict the supply of development and keep prices way too high (see: Portland). If they want to encourage sensible, old-style development...they should advocate privatized roads, or at least privatized freeways. Traffic jams would disappear, private mass transit would take off, megabox stores would be on a level playing field vs. smaller stores without the subsidy of free roads, and developers would have a strong incentive to follow the pedestrian and mass transit friendly model that classic towns were built on.
     

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