- We are conservatives who stand outside the conservative mainstream; therefore, we can see things that matter more clearly.
- Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff, and insufficiently concerned with the content of our individual and social character.
- Big business deserves as much skepticism as big government.
- Culture is more important than politics and economics.
- A conservatism that does not practice restraint, humility, and good stewardship—especially of the natural world—is not fundamentally conservative.
- Small, Local, Old, and Particular are almost always better than Big, Global, New, and Abstract.
- Beauty is more important than efficiency.
- The relentlessness of media-driven pop culture deadens our senses to authentic truth, beauty, and wisdom.
- We share Russell Kirk’s conviction that “the institution most essential to conserve is the family.
- “Politics and economics won’t save us; if our culture is to be saved at all, it will be by faithfully living by the Permanent Things, conserving these ancient moral truths in the choices we make in our everyday lives.
I recently got to thinking about my own beliefs and lifestyle, inspired in part by my readings in Dr Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot, his Portable Conservative Reader, and Liberty and Equality, by Erik Maria Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, but especially How To Think About The Planet: The Case for an Environmental Conservatism, by Sir Roger Scruton, and in part by my recent move to a small, rural town. When I remembered Dreher's 'granola conservatism', I went back and reread his original essay in the NR to compare his definition with my thoughts. As I mused over his article, I realised that Dreher had basically 'rediscovered' traditionalist conservatism, or High Toryism.
In The Conservative Mind, Dr Kirk lays out six 'canons' of a conservatism that would be called traditional. They are:
- Belief that a divine intent rules society as well as conscience... Political problems, at bottom, are religious and moral problems.
- Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of traditional life, as distinguished from the narrowing uniformity and egalitarian and utilitarian aims of most radical systems.
- Conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes...
- Persuasion that property and freedom are inseparably connected, and that economic leveling is not economic progress...
- Faith in prescription and distrust of "sophisters and calculators." Man must put a control upon his will and his appetite.... Tradition and sound prejudice provide checks upon man's anarchic impulse.
- Recognition that change and reform are not identical.
(Kirk, Russell (1953)The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot. Washington, D.C.:Regnery, pp. 7–8.)
Another list of traditionalist conservative principles, the common principles of the early Conservatives of Western Europe (roughly, from Burke to Donoso Cortes).
1. God and the divine order, not the natural order, must be the starting point of any understanding of society and history.
2. Society, not the individual, is the subject of the true science of man.
3. Tradition, not pure reason, is the only possible approach to reform of government and society.
4. Organism, not social contract, is the true image of social reality.
5. The groups and associations of society, not the abstracted individual, are the true seats of human morality – and also of human identity.
6. True authority springs directly from God and is distributed normally among a plurality of institutions – church, guild, social class, and family, as well as political state.
7. A tragic view of man and history is required, one that sees the recurrence of evil and disaster in human affairs, not the kind of linear progress assumed by the Enlightenment.
Robert Nisbet in his foreword to The Works of Joseph de Maistre (Schocken, 1971)
Wikipedia defines High Tories in the modern age as the following:
High Tories prefer the values of the historical landed gentry and aristocracy, with their noblesse oblige and their self-imposed sense of duty and responsibility to all of society, including the lower classes. Whilst not against private enterprise, they do however reject the values of the modern commercial business class which they see as a pursuit of individualistic, unchecked greed that destroys a sense of community and holds no regard for religious or high cultural values. Their focus is on maintaining a traditional, rooted society and way of life, which is often as much threatened by modern capitalism as by state socialism. A High Tory also favours a strong community, in contrast to Whig, liberal and neoconservative individualism.
(Wikipedia, Article, 'High Tory', as of 05 November 2017, 21.14 CST)
Now, let's go through Dreher's 'Manifesto' point by point. His first point,
We are conservatives who stand outside the conservative mainstream; therefore, we can see things that matter more clearly.
This is pretty self evident. Traditional conservatism has been outside the conservative mainstream since the 1960s. Yes, it is still an intellectual current, but the 'average' conservative 'man in the street' has no idea what it is. In fact, whilst this rift began decades ago, in the new conservative era of Donald Trump, the rift has become an abyss.
Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff, and insufficiently concerned with the content of our individual and social character.
How true! To be a 'conservative' today seems to mean that one must be rich (or at least want to be, and be striving for riches), to be near the seats of power, and to be able to display one's wealth in the form of expensive consumer goods. Little attention is paid to either the character of the individual 'conservative', or to the societal collapse proceeding apace around us.
Big business deserves as much skepticism as big government.
This has become an oxymoron. Big business is big government and big government is big business! And to make matters worse, it tends to be becoming more and more interlocked, with executives in large corporations moving to head the government agencies overseeing the industries whence they came, and vice versa.
Culture is more important than politics and economics.
This ought to self evident to any conservative, but it has been forgotten or ignored by many of those calling themselves 'conservatives' today.
A conservatism that does not practice restraint, humility, and good stewardship—especially of the natural world—is not fundamentally conservative.
This is especially interesting. Prior to the rise of National Socialism in Germany, the 'environmental movement', 'whole food', organic farming, and such, were seen as conservative, indeed Catholic, ideas. They were a response to the soullessness of laissez faire capitalism and the centralising, environmentally heedlessness of socialism in its various incarnations.
However, since Hitler and his brown-shirted socialists adopted many of these ideas, after the 1939-45 War they were discredited, only to be taken up a couple of decades later by the Left.
Small, Local, Old, and Particular are almost always better than Big, Global, New, and Abstract.
This pretty well sums up the way I live now. In a small town, in an old house, surrounded by old things. This is a recurring theme in traditional conservatism, going back to Edmund Burke, who said, we must learn "to love the little platoon we belong to in society." My little platoon(s) are my family, my parish, and my town.
It also explains my attachment to the Tridentine Mass, the old Roman Breviary, and my loyalty to my Queen, Elizabeth II, and my Chief. Malcolm MacGregor of MacGregor. The Mass and the Breviary go back well over a thousand years. Monarchy is as old as human society, and the monarchy to which I am attached goes back to the House of Wessex in the 6th century. My clan goes back to Alpin, King of Dalriada, in the 9th century, from whose son, Gregor MacAlpin, the Clan Gregor descends. These are old things.
Beauty is more important than efficiency,
The failure of this point in the modern world, conservative or not, can be seen in a variety of fields, including architecture and industrial design.
The relentlessness of media-driven pop culture deadens our senses to authentic truth, beauty, and wisdom.
This would be laughable if it wasn't so serious. The United States now has a President who was (is?) a 'media-driven pop culture' star! Pop culture 'icons' are held up as political philosophers. Movies, music and art no longer make any attempt at portraying truth, beauty or wisdom.
We share Russell Kirk’s conviction that “the institution most essential to conserve is the family.
Again this is at the very root of traditional conservatism. The traditional conservative, whilst freely admitting the dignity and importance of the individual, sees that individual as a member of those 'little platoons' that Burke mentioned. The first of those platoons is the basic unit into which we are born.
Politics and economics won’t save us; if our culture is to be saved at all, it will be by faithfully living by the Permanent Things, conserving these ancient moral truths in the choices we make in our everyday lives.
A simple statement of Traditional, High Tory Conservatism, which needs no further comment.
OK, having commented on each point in Dreher's 'Manifesto', where do I stand? Well, as I think is amply clear from other posts, my writing over the years, participation on fora, etc., I am definitely a traditional conservative and High Tory. But, I am also an environmentalist, reusing and recycling. We grow as much food as we can and buy at our local farmers' market when it's open. When we buy eggs, they are free range farm eggs.
As I've pointed out in The Vagaries of Diet, my Other Half is a vegetarian, so I eat little meat at home. Given the mass of grain used to produce most commercial beef, chicken, and pork, between 2.5 lbs. and 3.5 lbs. of grain per pound of edible meat (Don't believe me? You can check the figures in this article, How Much Feed Does it Take To Produce a Pound of Beef?). So, eating less meat fits in with Dreher's 5th point, as well as being healthier for me. However, I like fish, squirrel and rabbit, so next year, I plan on getting a combined small game hunting and fishing license. Since I'm an Old Curmudgeon, the State of Nebraska makes the license available for only $5.00.
We shop locally, supporting small, locally owned businesses. I even get my hair cut in a salon, because the nearest barbershop is in the next town north on the highway about 10 miles away. That's not local! We have a Dollar General store and a Subway sandwich shop in town, as well, but we don't eat at Subway, and we only buy at Dollar General what we can't find elsewhere in town. At least, when we buy there, the wages paid stay here.
So, it looks like I'm also a CrunchyCon!