This website has always at the forefront of this debate.
Over the past two years though, I have developed a more nuanced position on the liberty question as I have refined my analysis. Instead of a blanket condemnation of liberalism, I now see modernism as the greater problem. We’re arguing over an aesthetic that has become conflated with progressive liberalism and which is polarizing the country along a traditionalist/cosmopolitan axis.
“The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of government,” George Washington said, “are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.” Not long ago, virtually all American conservatives would have applauded those words—and described themselves as protectors of that limited-government ideal.
These days, the first president’s words would be controversial among the growing ranks of national conservatives. They are so disgusted with the nation’s cultural trends that they no longer want to bother with preserving that sacred fire. They echo an Old World approach. In Europe, conservatives rarely focus on preservation of liberty, but on using government to promote the religious and cultural traditions of their respective nations.
That’s a far cry from our founders, who expressed the ideals defined in the Declaration of Independence—”that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” Governments, they wrote, derived “their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
Because conservatives here tried to conserve our nation’s traditions, conservatism has long been associated, at least rhetorically, with these ideals. Following the Trump-induced emergence of right-wing populism, however, many American conservatives no longer see the government as a referee that protects individual rights – but as something that should intervene aggressively to assert a set of collective values and goals. …”
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