And The Case For Renaissance Conservatives



And The Case For

Renaissance Conservatives

Edward Hugh is sixty-one year old ex-pat Brit, living in Barcelona who has been blogging about the coming international economic crisis for a number of years. He is regularly read by economists from London to Berkeley and was flown to consult with experts at the International Monetary fund. He lives in a farmhouse. He is a Renaissance man.

He predicted the current crisis.

“His blog posts reflect his varied interests, often citing Bob Dylan, Charles Bukowski, Jean Paul Sartre, Friedrich Nietzche and even the sociable behavior of his beloved bonobos, the primate species that is the closest relative to humans in the animal kingdom.” New York Times, Business Day, June 9, 2010

Mr. Hugh’s profile appears in today’s (June 9, 2010) New York Times, “The Blog Prophet of Doom”. Here is that LINK:


The Renaissance 411 Blog is about the future survival of western civilization, America’s special role and the coming “Super-Correction”:

About the Super-Correction

The SC is an unavoidable fiscal and political shakeup that will certainly be seen by historians as a major historical tipping point in world history. Europe and the USA will soon face the perfect storm — the convergence of the massive sovereign debt crisis, the collapse of the credit-financed economies and the breakdown of the parasitic borrowing-vote-buying feedback loop model that has driven the Western, quasi-socialist, Cadillac welfare, Ponzi-political game for the last four decades.

Will the SC herald the demise of the Western democratic model?

Will the SC ignite a world war?

Will we have both?

Or does the SC offer a unique opportunity? Rarely have the divergent paths been so obvious and their differences so stark. This is eerily like the early hours after the Titanic was fatally damaged by that iceberg collision. On April 15, 1912, life boats left for safety only partly filled because most passengers, caught up in personal comfort, still thought the disaster wasn’t real.

For some nations, the SC will be the creative crucible for a 21st century Renaissance. Because the fiscal and political conservatives are always called into service when liberal polices (in the USA both political parties are complicit) reach the point of un-sustainability, we can reasonable expect the arrival of the conservative fire trucks. But what happens next? That crucially depends on the competence, imagination and creativity of the conservative surge. This is why, in my opinion, the immediate fate of the American experiment (and the ultimate fate of Western civilization) depends on the emergence of a new animal in the political zoo – The Renaissance Conservative.

I am nominating Edward Hugh as a forerunner. Some excerpts form the referenced article:

“BARCELONA, Spain — For years, almost nobody paid attention to the sky-is-falling alarms of Edward Hugh, a gregarious British blogger and self-taught economist who repeatedly predicted that the euro-zone could not survive.”

“Germany, where the average age is 45 and rising even as the population is beginning to shrink, is a nation of savers, and public policy has encouraged keeping wages under control and building up export industries.

“By contrast, the younger Greeks, Irish and Spaniards went on borrowing binges, driven in particular by rising demands for new homes and consumer goods that, in several cases, turned into housing bubbles before going bust. Wages were pushed up, encouraging spending but soon making it all but impossible for their industries to compete with the thrifty Germans, Dutch and other Northern Europeans.”

‘“He is an information channel that I value a lot,’” said Brad DeLong, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, who was a US Treasury official… Mr. Hugh has also attracted a cult following among financial analysts.”


The HAPPY REALISTS in the Political Zoo

The European Renaissance transformed a moribund medieval culture into a vital creative one. I am convinced that a new breed of Renaissance Conservatives can do the same for American conservatism.

In the bargain, authentic, non-ideological liberalism can be resurrected in the time-honored, but moribund, liberal-conservative dialogue (NOT the duel-to-the-death of the true believers). After all, ideologies are really secular religions. They are toxic to real dialogue because they treat opposing ideas as apostasy.

At their best, liberalism and conservatism are valuable universal human tendencies wherein liberalism challenges boundaries and conservatism defends them. When liberals challenge arbitrary boundaries and conservatives defend the essential ones, a fruitful dialogue follows.

That dialogue is our society’s regulating thermostat. The prospect of its prolonged shutdown is dangerous – like turning off the regulating system in an atomic reactor.

The once robust liberal-conservative dialogic has been drowned in partisan chatter and poisoned by ideological venom.

Renaissance Conservatives are uniquely positioned to support a creative renaissance, broadband in reach (by linking commercial, moral and artistic creativity and the freedoms they require) — rooted in the life-affirming conservative ethos. The genius of Renaissance Conservatism is the recognition that creation, unmoored from the life-affirming moral order, will turn against itself, and that authoritarian civilizations that throttle creative endeavors will self destruct.

Renaissance Conservatism is to reactive conservatism as a 3d color movie is to a 19th century daguerreotype.

This is not the conservatism of your grandparents. It is the conservatism of the generations who will colonize other worlds.

Renaissance Conservatives are poised to become the forward-facing, long-game thinkers among conservatives, and the primary source of new thinking among independents. They are unapologetic American Exceptionalists because they understand WHY the Great American Experiment must succeed: Our revolution is the vanguard of life-affirming, creative civilization everywhere. The USA was uniquely founded on ordered liberty, thus institutionalizing the conditions needed to protect and promote human creative accomplishments.

Renaissance Conservatives are arriving on the scene to add new energy and purpose to a time-honored, but badly shaken world view: that of historically-rooted, backwards-facing conservatism.

Renaissance Conservatives will be self-tasked to unite the intellectual, the visceral and the populist strains of conservatism, and to restart a fruitful dialogue with the reasonable liberals. All of this is aimed at an audacious new vision. Renaissance Conservatives are about initializing a broadband cultural and political renaissance, rooted in and supported by core conservative principles.

Realistic Idealism

Ambitious goals require realistic idealism: Therefore, Renaissance Conservatives s seek to optimize the human condition without attempting to perfect it. Such a project requires a clear philosophy.

Moral Clarity

The prospect of a trip to the executioner wonderfully clarifies everything, even one’s entire world view.

Yes, any civilization is a flawed enterprise. But it remains true that civilization, as such, is our most powerful and essential social technology. Modern civilization, all warts accounted for, is the first iteration of that technology that has demonstrated the capacity to curb tyranny and rally the decent in the cause of protection of the innocent. Without the blessings of modern civilization, the good, the true and the innocent become, once again, mere prey for society’s worst predators, in and out of government.

Here is the gallows image that looms over the present world turmoil: Modern Western civilization may yet fail.

Such Great Events are rarely glaringly apparent to those swept up in day-to-day affairs. But if an autopsy is ever performed, you can be assured that the same pathogens were at work: the accumulation of moral confusion in the culture leading to the catastrophic failure of the moral immune system. This is presaged by a loss of moral confidence. These are the signs and symptoms of a profound moral failure more systemically dangerous than a biological plague.

Modern civilization is our bulwark against the next Dark Age. Its underlying moral infrastructure is our collective immune system. Modernity comes with a price: We are increasingly dependent on the blessings and protections of modern civilization and decreasingly able of surviving without its enduring existence. Therefore, our recovery from another Dark Age is not at all assured. The breakdown of the moral boundaries that conservatism has been tasked to protect is no trivial matter.

As the 21st century dawns, we may well awake to a shattering discovery: that we have arrived at the “no failure allowed” point.

Renaissance Conservatives are identified among the larger mix of mere conservatives in that they understand with bright-line clarity and urgent seriousness that the continued success of modern civilization cannot be taken for granted. Civilization is our life support system and the bulwark against the prospect of a new, barbaric Dark Age. Any failure of our civilization would take place against the backdrop of uncontrolled nuclear and biological weapons and the ongoing ‘arms race’ between humans and natural pathogens for which our bodies have no defenses.

Our survival depends on the emergence of a truly new thing: A vital, adaptive, morally centered civilization. The good news is that one such civilization has emerged, and has been partly copied: The United States of America. The bad news is that the USA is beginning to lose its sense of mission, its moral and philosophical moorings and – as a direct consequence of the foregoing – its self confidence.

Freedom as Essential to Human Survival

Renaissance Conservatives understand with equal clarity and seriousness that the continued survival of a vital and adaptive civilization requires the freedom-supporting infrastructure on which all creative and innovative enterprises are built. At the very foundation of that infrastructure lies a profound set of moral insights that the religious and secular among us (when they are wise) recognize as the Common Moral Law.

This may be the ultimate takeaway lesson of the “American experiment”, whose founding document located the moral authority for life affirming freedom outside mere human provenance.


DIFFERENTIAL ONE: Renaissance Conservatives uniquely fiercely hold all seven of the following conservative positions (at least one of which has been compromised or abandoned by a major subset of conservative thinkers and partisans):

(a) That there are only three true entitlements: (1) The right to have the laws enforced evenhandedly, resulting in equal public safety for high and low; (2) The right to retain the fruits of one’s own efforts, earnings and risks taken in the course of economic and creative endeavors, as property; (3) The right to have one’s core liberties protected against all predators, public and private, especially the right to peaceful expression, self defense and the pursuit of achievement and happiness. NOTE: These entitlements are not self-executing but require a liberty-friendly civilization dedicated to their protection. All the rest are mere benefits.

(b) That a comprehensive anti-bureaucratic ethos is essential to policy wisdom, an attitude and commitment to continuously seek ways to lift the dead hand of the stultifying, inflexible and anti-creative effects bureaucracies exert in the public and private spheres.

(c) That sound policy entails resolute support for all entrepreneurial enterprises, personal or corporate, in science, commerce and the arts, opposing the barriers, penalties, and controlling subsidies that abort and smother innovation.

(d) That the belief in the morality of freedom and its fruits must lead to policies supporting and promoting supply side resource development, especially in energy, manufacturing, food production, and opposing an ethos of denial and deprivation.

(e) That any political philosophy worthy of support necessarily fiercely protects the common moral foundations of a free and creative society, readily bridging the secular and religious foundations as necessary in service of this common purpose.

(f) That a fierce but intelligent nationalism is the natural product of a true understanding of the current plight of civilization, in turn leading to a foreign policy respecting and defending the other freedom-friendly nation states that support ours, one that actively promotes the vision of America as a revolutionary force in the world.

DIFFERENTIAL TWO: Renaissance Conservatives are pan-partisan.

This is to be a conservative alliance among republicans, democrats and independents. Renaissance Conservatives s support a principle-grounded dialogue among all reasonable players who support the vision of a vital adaptive civilization founded in enduring freedom. Any Renaissance Conservatives s clearly “get” that dialogue is not a debate. The latter is staged for the benefit of a third party audience, a show whose actors are to busy arguing to listen and think. A debate is polemic. Real dialogue is mutually heuristic.

DIFFERENTIAL THREE: Renaissance Conservatives are driven by the creative civilization imperative.

Modern liberals have forfeited their claim as friends of the “creative” forces of civilization because they have abandoned the core freedom-protecting principles that are the moral foundation of all creative activity. Liberalism has become an ideology that would differentially burden creative innovation in commerce by special taxation and regulation; that would hamper creative freedom in the arts by subsidizing the “preferred” artists; and would impose a bureaucratic load throughout the creative process. In this malign form, liberalism has become an enemy of a vital creative civilization. Renaissance Conservatives s differ from modern liberals and classic conservatives because they uniquely understand the nexus between protected freedom and creative progress. For Renaissance Conservatives s, freedom isn’t a mere indulgence. Freedom, rooted in the life-affirming moral order, is the foundation condition for human survival.

DIFFERENTIAL FOUR: Renaissance Conservatives are driven by a steady confidence in the future and a reasonable faith in the ultimate wisdom of the “common” people.

These attitudes are rooted in real world experience. Renaissance Conservatives seek incremental reform and reject those who create false crises or seek to exploit real ones.

The vision of a creative civilization is one the very scope of which confers a sense of steadiness and direction. Much as the socialist Fabians of the UK were able to dramatically repeal economic freedoms over decades, Renaissance Conservatives s will restore them in the same, steady, determined fashion. As a bonus, policy prudence allows for real world policy error correction.

Renaissance Conservatives hold venerable popular institutions in deep respect because they represent the accumulated human wisdom of centuries of “field research.” This leads to a pro-family ethos, coupled with procedural populism on the major social issues. A just and prudent government does not engage in the elitist “progressive” social engineering all too often exploited by the undemocratic left whose ideologues are dedicated to overcome all established traditions that violate politically correct norms.

Social morality should not be directed or engineered from top down as long as the sanctity and dignity of human life and our essential freedoms are protected. For example, the voters of state A should be free chose to permit homosexual marriage, and those of state B free to forbid graphic sex education or homosexual advocacy in grade schools; but no judge or bureaucrat in either state should ever be allowed to overrule the popular will. Whenever an administrative fiat or an elitist judicial ruling is used to usurp democratic institutions in the service of political correctness, the ghosts of Lenin and Stalin cheer.

DIFFERENTIAL FIVE: Renaissance Conservatives characteristically look at issues in their largest contexts; and therefore remain doggedly committed to finding bridges between secular and religious boundaries.

A. Renaissance Conservatives stand out from opportunistic conservatives because of the quality of their understanding of the nature of civilization, of the existential and cultural challenges it faces and the absolute necessity of maintaining its secure moral foundations. Free civilizations cannot long survive without a supporting moral infrastructure that sustains the institutions of law and justice such that they apply with equal force to rulers and ruled, to the winners and losers. Free civilizations will whither and die unless they respect and protect creative freedom and the institutions that protect it. This requires the broadest possible consensus. Renaissance Conservatives embrace a policy and practice of building secular and religious bridges, binding all those whose belief systems include the core Moral Law as it supports civilizations and human freedoms.

B. Renaissance Conservatives recognize America as the first modern creative civilization, the first major nation state founded on free institutions. This is America as a light to the world, the experiment that cannot be allowed to fail. This is America as the beloved homeland and the Model for the World. This is the America that will survive…even America. From the Renaissance Conservative perspective, the American model is the path to human survival. The scope of this vision leads to a recognition of the necessity of a heuristic dialogue among the non-ideologues and a pan-partisan alliance among all conservatives.

C. Renaissance Conservatives understand that the struggle between liberalism and conservatism is a universal dialogic in which conservatives are tasked to defend our essential boundaries, particularly the moral ones, while liberals (at their best) are to attack the arbitrary boundaries, particularly the social ones. Renaissance Conservatives uniquely see the rigid ideologies of the left (and many of the right) as pathologies to be overcome. We need to resume something like the Cold War dialogic between the anti-communist liberals and conservatives in the service of the larger goal – the protection of free civilization. But liberalism and conservatism have some heavy lifting to do before that can happen.

D. Unlike most contemporary liberals, Renaissance Conservatives believe in the presumptive defense of traditional boundaries, even when a particular boundary might seem unnecessary or excessive. This is because Renaissance Conservatives have absorbed the lessons of history that the rash and thoughtless elimination of traditional boundaries, however “flawed” or “old fashioned” they seem in the moment, can damage civilization. History teaches that discarding essential, but misunderstood boundaries is more dangerous than retaining the occasional arbitrary and useless ones. The excesses of the French Revolution are a chilling caution about the potential excesses of the liberal mind when un-tethered by the core Moral Law, ordinary prudence and common sense. The weakness of the Weimar Republic is another caution.

This “new nationalism” has particular traction during an economic crisis when fiscally prudent jurisdictions are at risk of being buried by their improvidently extravagant neighbors.

DIFFERENTIAL SIX: Renaissance Conservatives are innately predisposed to realistic, long term optimism, colored by intellectual humility.

The commitment by Renaissance Conservatives to the great dialogic is not some incidental, side issue. Both conservatives and liberals supported the Civil Rights movement, only to witness with growing dismay the excesses of excessive victim politics and reverse discrimination. Liberals and conservatives supported free market experiments in the form of “contracting out” government services, superficially harnessing market efficiencies, then serving as a cover for crony politics and corruption. Liberal and conservative fads all too often fail.

Whenever error and failure are possible, humility and good humor are the order of the day. In the real world, error and failure are not just possible, they are inevitable. The legendary Murphy – of Murphy’s Law- is the patron saint of the Renaissance Conservatives.

Only ideologues cling to a failed model in the face of mounting evidence.

DIFFERENTIAL SEVEN. Renaissance Conservatives have a sense of humor.

Whenever error and failure are possible, humility and good humor are the order of the day. In the real world, error and failure are not just possible, they are inevitable. The legendary Murphy – of Murphy’s Law- is the patron saint of the Renaissance Conservatives.

Humor is the creative human impulse at play. As Eric Hoffer (that self-taught longshoreman genius for the common people) once pointed out, some of the most powerful practical innovations first appeared as toys (e.g., the first steam engine was just a toy for ancient Roman children). As supporters of creative civilization and the creative process generally, both in technology and the arts, Renaissance Conservatives are distinguished from many classic conservatives by honoring the spirit of play and the value of humor.

Renaissance Conservatives celebrate the uniquely American culture that generated Star Trek, the series whose message was that there is a future, the culture that produced that unforgettable salutation of science officer, Spock: ‘Live long and prosper’. This stands in sharp contrast to the unspoken slogan of the dying left: ‘Don’t live too long or prosper too much….’


Leave a Reply