Re-Cons of the world, unite: You have nothing to lose but your pessimism.

“Re-Cons of the world, unite:

You have nothing to lose but your pessimism.

INTRODUCTION

This is not the conservatism of your parents or grandparents. This Introduction and the longer work that follows will outline the shape and design of a new conservatism, a vision so deeply associated with human progress that in thirty years it will achieve the standing in the academy and dominant media that conventional liberalism achieved in the 1980’s and 1990’s. In fifty years it will be the ground on which the free social order everywhere stands, framing the dialogue between reasonable liberals and conservatives.

So we necessarily enter this discussion by taking the long view. Over the last century, conservatism and liberalism were locked in an eternal dance, each contributing movement, each rising up periodically to check the excesses of the other. But from time to time, “weaponized” ideologies (such as class-warfare-driven socialist engineering or paranoia-infected-arch-libertarianism) ripped through the dance floor, shutting down the dialogue and crippling the dancers.

Optimally, liberalism exists to challenge traditional social and economic boundaries, while conservatism is tasked to mount a principled defense. The human condition is advanced whenever essential boundaries, founded in the enduring moral strata of the human condition, are upheld, but non-essential boundaries are reasonably and incrementally modified. The natural and necessary balancing relationship between liberalism and conservatism, ever necessary, requires a baseline level of sanity. In this era, sane liberalism has been silenced by the “progressive” left.

For all permissions, contact Jay B Gaskill via e-mail at Law@jaygaskill.com

The task of liberating the liberals from an illiberal ideology has fallen to the conservatives.

Progressivism is a misleading label. It is currently in vogue among the post-Marxist, Marxist left who have abandoned the temporarily unpopular label, liberalism. [Who has not read the refrain: “I’m not a liberal. I’m a ‘progressive’. Who can be against social progress?”] The term and concept were taken from the playbook of the Fabian socialists of late 19th and early 20th century Britain.[1] The Fabians were crypt-Marxists who planned to incrementally and peacefully “advance” England into a socialist state. This was to be a humanitarian utopia in which all of the essential elements of economic life had been gradually brought under government’s benign, democratic – bureaucratic control. The real world outcome was a Labour Party controlled state, representing the institutionalization of poverty and decline. That pattern held unchallenged sway until conservatives under PM Margaret Thatcher (1979-1990) pushed back.

Granted, there was no violent revolution. In contrast with their brothers and sisters in Soviet Russia, the Fabians and their allies kept the essence of English democracy, though in a tamed form, while the Marxist goal – obtaining state “ownership” of the “means of production” (effectively all hiring, prices and wages) was accomplished via stealth. A vast web of regulation and control, implemented by bureaucrats and state-empowered labor leaders, was state ownership by another name. The stagnant UK is still attempting to extricate itself from the suffocating spider web of a full century of failed Fabian socialism.

Contemporary American “progressives” are stubbornly trying to take America down the same dismal path. A popular form of insanity consists in persisting in a delusion in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, suspending the laws of cause and effect. These ideologues simply do not accept the view that the rough and tumble of private interactions among a free people can ever serve humanitarian aims as well as the bureaucratic state can, especially when it is operated under the appropriate party control, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. The sane American liberals have yet to break free from their “progressive” managers.

Yet reality trumps utopian myth. All authentic, lasting human progress has been achieved through the fruitful interaction of two forces: (1) creative innovation, especially when the exchange systems of free commerce are able to make the blessings of our creative accomplishments widely available; (2) the elimination of arbitrary boundaries to human achievement, such as race, gender, royal privilege and political connections.

The quixotic attempt to impose an actual equality in human circumstances, especially using the coercive means available to governments, has repeatedly failed. All enforced egalitarian policies have been counterproductive at best, and at their worst have opened the gateway to the tyrannical suppression of human creative progress, a down-slope that inevitably led to the infamous genocides of the 20th century. It is no coincidence that whenever a tyranny achieves power somewhere in the world, the most creative people under its control will take to boats, trains and planes. Even now, their destination is the ideal refuge, freedom in the USA.

A truly new conservatism is at hand. It shepherds the one vision that will displace progressivism, the energy and purpose that can balance unchecked liberalism, and the inspiration to restart the dance-of-sanity that leads to real human progress.

This conservatism combines three essential elements:

A comprehensive, broadband respect for all human creative activities, commercial and artistic, for their interconnections and dependence on the institutions that protect risk, accomplishment and creative freedom;

The absolute necessity of a life-affirming ethos, rooted in deep moral tradition, that unites and supports a system of laws and institutions designed and tasked to maintain the special conditions of freedom and security from predators (private and government) needed for a healthy, creative social and economic order;

The commitment to the American constitutional design as the first and best such model. American exceptionalism is the Great Experiment than cannot be allowed to fail, the vanguard of realistic hope for the rest of the world.

The name of this new force in the world is Renaissance Conservatism. The Re-Cons, are entering stage right, headed for center stage. How will you know them?

Re-Cons happily affirm the salutation of the archetypal science officer Spock of the Star Trek myth: “Live long and prosper!”

…and calmly, but firmly reject the grim injunction of the progressive left –

“Don’t live too long or prosper too much….”

Of course, there is more. Read on….

Jay B Gaskill

Attorney at Law

RENAISSANCE CONSERVATISM

And The Great American Rescue

Analysis & Proposal

By

Jay B. Gaskill

FIRST CONSIDERATIONS

Political parties are the carriers of the Great Ideas, or they are coalitions interested in shared outcomes, but rarely both. When they are both, they benefit from mutual dialogue and competition. When they are neither, they become opportunistic coalitions bound by shared power without coherent purpose. It is time for a robust, future-directed renaissance conservatism to become the decisive influence within both parties.

That renaissance begins as soon as you absorb the implications of this message.

This article outlines the case for a transformation of conservatism into a new thing, a movement rooted in traditional conservative values and principles but drawn forward by a much larger vision – that of a thriving, creative civilization held up by two pillars, renaissance conservatism and a deeper, more reasonable liberalism. Because what passes for liberalism in the present moment is too infected with pathological post-modernism, the revolution will be led by the conservatives until liberals’ wiser angels prompt them to join the struggle to and the great dialogue among the reasonable minds.

America’s recovery will begin with the conservative recovery. But any conservative recovery that fails be robust and coherent, fails period. A successful conservative recovery in the current left-leaning environment is necessarily organized around the real life concerns that transcend popular ideological stereotypes.

Ultimate political success depends on policy success. This prospect in turn rests on the ability of conservatives at every level to find, sell and implement the solutions the very efficacy of which will serve to expose the dysfunctional approaches of the current crop of illiberal-liberals.

Renaissance conservatism, as I outline it here, immediately overcomes the conservative reputation for status quo thinking. It will swiftly become the one conservative brand that will be trusted to effectively and creatively solve the problems that liberalism typically neglects to actually address – as opposed to merely posturing about them. As it happens, these are the primary problems facing America in its current malaise: a moribund, outsourced, consumption-driven economy in failure, after years of ineffectual liberal tinkering, irresolution, failed experimentation, and dismal results, achieved though complacency and business as usual Beltway politics.

Any short list of our biggest problems will include four areas:

(1) the looming energy insufficiency;

(2) the prospect of food supply shortages (already foreshadowed by rising prices);

(3) the stifling of creative thinking through the political and cultural censorship called political correctness, media group-think, and the smothering of the arts via bureaucratic subsidies and political “expectations”;

(4) the growing toxicity of post modern relativism, giving rise to deteriorating family relationships, cultural baseness, educational failure and growing moral illiteracy; all of the these malign developments are the toxic consequences of moral boundary decay.

A truly effective conservative program will replace the acceptance of scarcity with the pursuit of abundance, trump ineffectual gestures with creative accomplishments, unmask the politics of posture, strengthen our firewalls against predators, corruption, and disease, and secure family life from the forces, economic and cultural, that threaten to dissolve it .

Here are the watch words of the recovery:

· Energy Abundance, trumping an energy-starved economy and hostage oil;

· Food Abundance, driving internal prosperity and better exports;

· A Creative Surge, restoring America’s cultural and innovative primacy;

· Healthy Boundaries, promoting public safety, family ties, and honesty/integrity in public and private life.

The renaissance conservative movement will attract the participation of competent, forward-looking conservative leaders with strong communication skills because it is the wave of the future.

The renaissance conservative movement needs exceptional leaders at every level, respected and charismatic men and women who are comfortable explaining creative conservative principles and programs in a way that educates the larger public as it drives policy. Conservatives are needed in both parties, in the academy and the media. The renaissance conservatives can do what no conservative movement before have every accomplished; they can move opinion and dominate effective policy.


THE DEATH OF CONSERVATISM AS WE KNEW IT?

On January 26 2009 New York Times ran the last column written by William Kristol, the paper’s token Neo-Con. Bill Kristol remains the editor of The Weekly Standard and a leading conservative voice.

His last New York Times piece (“Will Obama Save Liberalism?”) began with a premature epitaph:

“All good things must come to an end. Jan. 20, 2009, marked the end of a conservative era.” Then Mr. Kristol made several telling points:

· “Conservatives have been right … about Communism and jihadism, crime and welfare, education and the family.

· “Lest conservatives be too proud, it’s worth recalling that conservatism’s rise was decisively enabled by liberalism’s weakness.

· [Quoting Harvard’s Harvey Mansfield] “From having been the aggressive doctrine of vigorous, spirited men, liberalism has become hardly more than a trembling in the presence of illiberalism. … Who today is called a liberal for strength and confidence in defense of liberty?”

· “[M]odern conservatism, led at the crucial moment by Ronald Reagan … assumed the task of defending liberty with strength and confidence. Can a revived liberalism, faced with a new set of challenges, now pick up that mantle?

· “Sixty-seven years ago…another liberal president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt… quoted Paine: “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

· “Can Obama reshape liberalism to be, as it was under F.D.R., a fighting faith, unapologetically patriotic and strong in the defense of liberty?”

WHY THE FUTURE NEEDS CONSERVATISM

The future needs conservatism because otherwise it cannot avoid the recurring excesses of liberalism. The Congressional Correction of November 2, 2010 represented the first stirrings of a resurgent conservatism as a necessary restraining force.

This discussion is occasioned by the abuses of a contemporary form of liberalism that has wedded itself to the modern bureaucratic state as the primary instrument of social and economic progress and to the notion of equality of actual circumstance as the measure of that progress.

Much more can be said about the historic role of liberalism and conservatism as the two great themes that have shaped our institutions over time. Historically, liberalism has tasked itself to challenge boundaries – moral, political and social – while conservatism has been cast in the role of their morally blind defender, often unfairly.

Sometimes the roles are reversed, as when the opponents the old establishment become a new establishment, increasingly oppressive, intolerant in the pursuit of tolerance and other virtues, heedless of the irony captured by the widespread use of the term political correctness.

And some threads of conservatism are founded in principles that themselves transcend social boundaries, such as the vision that any common person should be able to achieve great success solely by the application of talent and diligence, his or her established political and family connections notwithstanding.

The question of the decade is whether and how soon conservatism can be more than a restraining force, whether conservatism can constitute a new, forward-leading governing paradigm.

Until November, 2010, liberalism was a runaway train because its natural balancing principle, conservatism, had been knocked off the rails. To be fair, the liberal derailment was occasioned by the negligent cooperation of some putative conservatives (AKA the establishment republicans), leading to a bi-partisan economic mega-crisis that should have been anticipated, if not averted. But my analysis is not about the misbehaviors of political parties. The very essence of the derailment event was too obvious to be ignored, except by its blind engineers: It was liberalism that ran off the tracks. Conservatism, as such, was not operating the locomotive.

In truth, most principled, dedicated conservatives have lived in a virtual cultural exile among the USA’s ruling elites for years. Out-of-the-closet vocal conservatives were excluded from the centers of power in the Beltway, exiled from the Academy, banished from the K-12 Principate and reviled by the one-note media mavens. Exceptions were seen as “outliers” (when intelligent) or “raving idiots” (when merely “populist”).

This state of affairs was so toxic that the old fashioned Enduring Principles liberals (successors to Hubert Humphrey, Daniel Moynihan and Henry Scoop Jackson) have almost no political stake in the modern Democratic Party, and no audible voice. Liberalism will not recover its balance and relevance, until it shrugs off the influence of the illiberal, arch-egalitarian left.

The correction of November 2, 2010 has provided an opportunity for the Democratic Party to remake itself without the toxic influence of the proto-Marxist, politically correct left. But the country at large does not have the luxury of time to wait for that process to work itself out. For now, the opportunity and the obligation to set a new course falls to the conservatives (most, but not all of whom are republicans). The watershed elections of 2012 were one of those hinge moments that can shape American polity for a generation.

Change is inevitable, but our essential moral boundaries – and the practical social boundaries that moral principles require – constitute the essential life support of civilization. Conservatives remain the main bulwark of moral boundaries. Liberalism will flourish only within the reasonable constraints of those same boundaries.

To regain their historical relevance, conservatives need to make the transition from “fire truck conservatism” – the bulwark against excessive liberalism – to a bolder, more optimistic, more self-confident leadership role as the vanguard of progress. To navigate this transition, conservatives will need to attain, reveal and demonstrate deep authenticity, both moral and philosophical, and to clearly and explicitly link their world view to a sound theory of creative innovation.

Conservatives will need more than “the vision” thing. Conservatives now must have actual Vision. In the 18th and 19th centuries, conservatism was captured by the image of a cadre of privileged ones dedicated to the amoral defense of entrenched advantage. The liberal failures in the 20th and 21st centuries demonstrate that the amoral defense of entrenched advantage is not inherently wedded to the left or right side of the aisle.

The sins that attend unchecked political power are ecumenical.

Conservatives of the 21st century have been given a window of opportunity to redefine themselves, the chance to replace a false image as the guardians of privilege with the fact of integrity and a resolute commitment to a better, if not perfect world.

Nothing less will do.

A Practical Dilemma for Republicans and Conservative Democrats

On November 2, 2010, conservatives acquired a working majority in the US Congress and a working stalemate in the US Senate.

The president was been forced to accede to those new forces, at least as to the continuation of the lower income tax rates opposed by the left. As the new congress is sworn in a new question presents itself: What to do with victory?

Twenty-first Century, American conservatism is in the position of the talented understudy who suddenly gets center stage when the star falters.

Not every understudy gets a second chance.

A partisan Op Ed in the 12/7/10 New York Times by Timothy Egan, identified the Obama problem as the absence of the “Big Idea”. As he put it, “A Big Idea, understood by all, would provide a narrative framework for the upcoming skirmishes with Republicans, whose only idea is to keep rich people from paying their fair share of taxes. That, and denying Obama a second term. What may have lulled Obama into his thoughtful stupor was the historic magnitude of his election. Yet being the first black president is not an idea. Hope is not a theme. Change We Can Believe In is not a governing principle.”

.http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/06/a-big-idea/?ref=opinion\

Two years later, Mr. Kristol’s challenge is still posed to us: Under whose leadership will that fighting faith, strong in the defense of liberty, actually arise? Will it take place as a result of Mr. Obama’s leadership? Forgive my realism, here. Having closely followed this president’s ideology, rhetoric and performance to date, a change in leadership is needed…a personnel change from top down.

“Oh, the vision thing…”

George H W Bush

THE NEW BIG IDEA IS…

At this writing, few of us can discern any reasonable prospect that Mr. Obama’s governing clique will suddenly reconstitute itself as the vanguard if a patriotic fighting faith, dedicated to the defense of liberty. But no observer of the scence can ignore the new force that is poised to auger in an unapologetically patriotic defense of liberty. The thirst for liberty manifest in the populist energy and anti-government sentiment that are driving the Tea Party movement is as significant and potent as that driving any movement, populist or otherwise, in America’s past. But the hoped-for Big Idea is about governance. Without the unifying vision of a coherent idea, amy populist movement, however energetic, is an inchoate instrument of lasting change. Its unity-in-opposition can swiftly disintegrate into bickering without more.

But there is a Big Idea, the vision just now being articulated. It will shape a coherent, forward-looking, political movement, one that embraces the passion of Tea Party populism, the creative legacy of classic liberalism and the cutting edge of a new conservatism. When and if it takes, it will gather the intellectual force to challenge the prevailing politically correct intelligentsia that dominates the academy and the old media. It has deep taproots in the American founding, and also in the European Renaissance. It is powerful enough to gain traction on Main Street and in the most enlightened parts of the academy; there it will operate to strengthen and multiply the lonely voices of sanity and innovation that have been ignored or drowned out by the chatter of the politically correct.

Its main tenets can be distilled into six propositions:

· Civilizations come and go but the ones that tower over the rest – and have the best chance of surviving – are the ones that foster and promote human creative potential. It is no accident that, whenever authoritarian regimes seize power, the most creative members of the captive civilization attempt to leave. Nor is it just by chance that the truly free societies foster the efflorescence of creative energy and accomplishment.

· Creative activities flourish in zones of protected freedom and liberty where the fruits of innovation – artistic and technological – are legally protected as earned property. The model of a free, independent creative civilization was a new development in human history. Foremost among these models in world history is the United States of America, the constitution of which enshrines free speech, free commerce, patent and copyright protections among the many other blessings of freedom.

· The survival of the human race is riding on the success of that experiment.

· Creative activities flourish under conditions of protected freedom, and the creative activities that sustain civilization are not limited to the creative arts but include commerce, exploration and technology. Capitalism, in the form of free commerce, restrained only by reasonable, impartial laws designed to protect honest transactions and public health and safety, is the necessary ally of creative freedom in all its other manifestations, and vice-versa.

· The protection of all creative activities requires a life-affirming, liberty respecting ethos, comprehensive and robustly protected by a deep respect for the underlying moral order. And to make these protections real and enduring robust legal institutions must be dedicated to the protection of ordered liberty. As we Americans have learned, these institutions include an authentic constitution, a concrete bill of rights, and a robust system of checks and balances against the concentration of power.

While modern liberalism has been temporarily self-disabled by the unbalanced left, and traditional conservatism is struggling to make the transition from a provisional unity-in-opposition (the excesses of the left have united many strange bedfellows) to the path of intelligent, forward-aimed governance, something new is appearing from offstage. These six elements link a common understanding of the American founding principles, a shared commitment to put the USA back on the path to greatness and the underlying conditions for a creative renaissance.

WHY

THE NEW BIG IDEA IS…

RENAISSANCE CONSERVATISM

Renaissance Conservatism answers a second question as well: What to do with victory?

Renaissance Conservatives (Re-Cons) are about ruthless hope, promoting and defending a practical ethos rooted in life affirmation, the deeply principled respect for the constitution and an abiding enthusiasm for creative innovation, leading to a commitment to promote innovative supply-side strategies for every human good. All this is tempered by the hard won wisdom that government, at best, is a non invasive adjunct to the human project, not that architect and certainly not the superintendent.

Therefore Re-Cons resolutely endorse polities of abundance and strongly reject the passive acceptance of unnecessary scarcity. This ethos is best captured by the salutation of the archetypal science officer Spock of the Star Trek myth –

“Live long and prosper!” …and rejects the grim injunction of the left –

“Don’t live too long or prosper too much….”

In the world view of renaissance conservatism, all life-affirming human creative endeavors are part of the same protected activity. The artists and musicians do not dismiss the technologists, scientists, engineers, and the geniuses of free commerce as peripheral to the human condition, and the artisans and capitalists do not ignore nor denigrate the creative contributions of artists.

Humanity has benefited from both the wheel and the song.

All forms of life affirming creative innovation are needed in the mix to sustain a living civilization against its ongoing challenges. And all forms of human creative activities and enterprises require protected zones of freedom, security for collaboration and the fruits of their work, protection from predators and a bulwark against those in and out of government who would enslave creation. The human creative enterprise needs these things as much as life on earth needs water to survive. The Great American Experiment, was protected zone of freedom that became a nation state with a unique constitution, one designed to perpetuate the blessings of ordered liberty to future generations, which – as it turns out – was uniquely configured to be the cradle of creative civilization.

Liberty is indivisible.

We cannot, as modern humans, pretend that one can enjoy “artistic freedom” without the economic freedom to buy, sell, build and own. The power and inclination to throttle one category of freedom dooms the other.

We Americans made the first truly transformative revolution in world history, one that Thomas Jefferson and others recognized for what it really was: a threat to the old world order. We were and are a threat to the constellation of retrograde forces in the world that would hold back the freedom-driven creative forces needed for humankind to thrive and prosper everywhere.

This frames and outlines the conservative transformation into vanguard of progress. It will have a special authenticity, suggesting more than meets the eye. On further examination, renaissance conservatism will be revealed to rest on a foundational philosophy, a world view in which America is valued, not arbitrarily, nor as a “perfect kingdom”, but as the primary modern exemplar of a free and creative civilization, the experiment that became the model. Renaissance conservatism sees America at it best, as the model for the world to follow, the noble experiment that has matured into a vanguard.

I cannot overstress the importance of a conservatism founded in a deeper philosophy. Any political orientation without a foundational philosophy contains no checks or balances outside the calculus of its success or failure. By foundational philosophy, I simply meant to convey the notion of a common moral understanding that transcends mere fad and custom. For renaissance conservatives this is the moral understanding that animated the founding of the United States that in turn can become the foundation of a free, life-affirming, thriving civilization.

And I cannot overstress the importance of the moral underpinnings of the foundational philosophy. Among all conservative philosophies, one stands out among all the others as containing the elements of a vanguard of progress, the indispensable facilitator and mediator of constructive change, the commitment to freedom as morally necessary to human creative progress, and life affirmation as the moral wellspring. It is Renaissance Conservatism, as this New Idea is more fully developed in the following pages.

A moral foundation necessarily entail moral boundaries, the articulation and preservation of which are the historical legacy of conservatism, writ large. Contrast two signal transformative events in human history, one recent and one not.

There was a burst of creative energy in the Weimar Republic of Germany, 1919-1933, ending with Hitler’s ascent to power. The Weimar Republic was born during the crippling reparations following Germany’s crushing defeat in WW I, and under pressure from left and right, it experienced a burst of cultural energy characterized by a mood of bleakness and failure (often described as “modernism”), manifested in the literature of geniuses like Brecht and Mann and the atonal music of Berg and Schoenberg. This bleak ethos found political expression the theories of the so called Critical Theorists of the Marxist Frankfort School. One prominent line in the Weimar mix was a Marxist spin-off that led to attacks on traditional beauty, as they were seen as part of the ideology of capitalism (much as religion was the “opiate of the people”. One later writer described the role of “modern” music as a “message of despair”. This period inaugurated an anti-life ideological crippling of the creative process; it marked the beginning of popular alienation from the “elite arts.”

The predictable result was a catastrophic loss of confidence in the value of liberal civilization itself, providing an opening for Nazism. The failure of moral boundaries and the concomitant undermining of life affirmation and a commitment to creative freedom, led directly to the Hitlerian nightmare.

There was a far earlier burst of creative energy in Florentine Italy that sparked a Renaissance that led directly to modern Western civilization.

There are many differences between these two events, of course. But I respectfully submit that the core difference was that the first Renaissance was grounded in a life-affirming, morally grounded ethos and the Weimar experiment was not. One development flourished in conservative soil, and the other died in liberal backwash and opened the door to the holocaust.

A Message to Paleo-Conservatives

Whatever you think about those creative communities near your local golf course, occupied by scruffy, tattooed, pierced rebels, they are one of your tribe. All human creative endeavors writ large, in all their manifold forms – artistic, commercial and technological – are absolutely essential for human survival and prosperity. The success of the human project depends not only on the continuity of civilization; it depends on the emergence and triumph of life affirming creative civilizations. Life affirming freedom is the legacy of conservatism.

Liberty is indivisible. Human creativity is indivisible.

There is no sharp dividing line between innovations in the arts, the sciences, human exploration and technological advance, except as these activities and endeavors further or impede human life in all its fullness and glory.

As it happens, the United States of America – from its very founding documents and personalities, in its a historically unique convergence of political philosophy, moral underpinnings and practical wisdom, became the very crucible of a new, creative civilization.

All friends of liberty (under whatever umbrella or none at all) need to remain alert and active. As Andrew Jackson said – “But you must remember, my fellow-citizens, that eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing. It behooves you, therefore, to be watchful in your States as well as in the Federal Government.” From President Jackson’s Farewell Address, March 4, 1837.

Wasting No Crisis

The operatives on the left still live by the motto, “Never let a crisis go to waste.” So what is the next crisis? It is the rapid collapse of the federal debt financing system. This will be a conservative Katrina moment or it will be the conservative rescue moment, the arrival of adult supervision. If conservatives produce the masterful exercise of prepared leadership, a grateful nation will remember as our grandparents remembered FDR.

No one will question that a crisis of government finance is owned by the liberal elites. We will need an American Margaret Thatcher (of either gender) with common sense and an iron spine, someone who can shame the weak souls among the putative patriots, “not to go all wobbly.”

And we need smart, articulate, tough conservatives in elected office who are willing to show some fire in the belly and stiffness in the spine…because they are driven by core principles and love the USA. We will need men and women at all levels in and out of government who are unwilling to be distracted by trivia in order to band together:

...to contain all entitlement growth; 
...to stop all further federal borrowing; 
...to forcefully un-tether the business sector from the petty bureaucratic stranglehold of third world minded politicians and government functionaries; and 
...to unleash the US military to punish our real enemies with unforgettable consequences and unflinching resolve. 

All this needs to be explained and sold on several levels, starting with the kind of discussion that a certain subset of our liberty-friendly liberal friends can also hear. As to that subset, I recommend that your welcome the promotion of Renaissance Conservatives, the forward aimed creative-adaptive conservatives who are committed to engineering an American Renaissance. They are your liberators.

These new conservatives, the Renaissance Conservatives or the “Re-Cons” are to be the vanguard of the restoration of freedom, entrepreneurship and a creative surge here and in the world at large. ”

“A Re-Con Précis

Re-Cons celebrate the equality of one’s legal status and the dynamic inequality of a creative society…equally. Re-Cons share three core liberal commitments: the respect for human dignity, the fierce protection of free expression and the integrity of democratic/republican governance.

But Re-Cons clearly grasp the taproot connections between liberty and liberty’s vital support systems: Between society’s commercial & technological innovations and our other creative endeavors, especially in the arts and exploration; between the vitality of our creative endeavors generally and the health and ultimate survival of civilization; between the baseline conditions of security and freedom and the vitality of the human creative enterprise.

Re-cons ‘get’ American Exceptionalism: They/we recognize the emergence of the American experiment as the world’s first, truly vital creative civilization. Re-Cons are hard nosed, liberty-loving realists who clearly recognize that the emergent historical and institutional challenges to America (atavistic, faux-modern and postmodern) are the challenges to creative civilization itself. Recons understand that the enemies of creative civilization are targeting America as their main obstacle. This challenge frames the urgent necessity of a renaissance within conservatism the USA, leading to a renaissance of a creative conservative-liberal dialogic, leading to an American renaissance, leading to a world renaissance.

The hallmark themes of Renaissance Conservatism are life affirmation, freedom affirmation and the celebration and support of creative activities in all spheres (artistic, commercial, scientific and exploration), all of which are seen as an indivisible moral and practical imperative. Re-Cons love creative freedom and its fruits so much that they respect the dangers of government meddling, and understand that the selective bureaucratic promotion of some creative activities over others is subtle censorship. Re-Cons support free, untrammeled patronage of creative pursuits, encouraged but not controlled by the state.

Yes there is some heavy lifting ahead, but……..One bright day, a robust, self confident conservatism will arise from the ashes. When it does, it will be that really new, old thing: a vital self-confident, forward-looking conservatism.

Here is how you will tell: Renaissance Conservatism will be as attractive in its own way as was the liberalism that inspired the under the first Civil Rights movement. It will supply the sort of energy, both intellectual and idealistic, that captures minds and creates key leaders in both parties.

The Re-Con movement eventually will infiltrate the media, the academy and even the Nanny Principia with a single, bright line goal: …to reinvigorate Western Civilization by reigniting the American Revolution.

RENAISSANCE CONSERVATIVES, THE HAPPY REALISTS

Renaissance conservatism adds new energy and purpose to a time-honored, but badly shaken world view: that of historically-rooted, backwards-facing conservatism.

Renaissance conservatives – or Re-Cons – are 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. Re-Cons 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, re-cons 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 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 to survive 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.

Re-Cons 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

Re-Cons 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.

The contrast with current liberalism is self evident, but there are also significant differences with come contemporary conservatives as well.

Six Differentials

How Re-Con’s Differ from Other Conservatives

DIFFERENTIAL ONE: Re-Cons 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: Re-Cons are pan-partisan.

Re-Cons exist to forge working policy alliances among republicans, democrats and independents. Therefore, Re-Cons support a principle-grounded dialogue among all reasonable players who support the vision of a vital adaptive civilization founded in enduring freedom. For Re-Cons 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: Re-Cons are driven by the creative civilization imperative.

In the old mold, liberals claimed a natural affiliation with the creative artists, while fully willing to use the same artists as propagandists; yet the same liberals failed to see the creative innovations in technology and commerce as just one more facet of the human creative project. In the old mold, conservatives were often alienated from the artistic communities, while supporting technological and commercial innovation.

Latter-day political liberals have forfeited their claim as “best friends” of the creative forces of civilization because they have abandoned the core freedom-protecting principles that constitute the very 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.

Re-Cons differ from both modern liberals and paleo-conservatives because they uniquely understand the vital nexus between protected freedom and creative progress in all its forms. For Re-Cons, freedom isn’t a mere indulgence. Freedom is rooted in the life-affirming moral order and its robust protection constitutes the essential condition for human survival.

DIFFERENTIAL FOUR: Re-Cons 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. They lead Re-Cons seek incremental reform and to 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, Re-Cons will restore them in the same, steady, determined fashion. As a bonus, policy prudence allows for real world policy error correction.

Re-Cons 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: Re-Cons characteristically look at issues in their largest contexts; and therefore remain doggedly committed to finding bridges between secular and religious boundaries.

A. Re-Cons 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. Re-Cons 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. Re-Cons 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 Re-Con 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. Re-Cons 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. Re-Cons 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 liberals, Re-Cons believe in the presumptive defense of traditional boundaries, even when a particular boundary might seem unnecessary or excessive. This is because Re-Cons 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 untethered by the core Moral Law, ordinary prudence and common sense. The weakness of the Weimar Republic is another caution.

DIFFERENTIAL SIX: Re-Cons are innately predisposed to realistic, long term optimism, colored by humor and intellectual humility.

The Re-Con commitment 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 Re-Cons. Only ideologies cling to a failed model in the face of mounting evidence.

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, Re-Cons are distinguished from many classic conservatives by honoring the spirit of play and the value of humor.

THE AMERICAN RECOVERY

Vision requires perspective. I invite you to step back and look at the really big picture for a moment. Human history from the Roman Empire to the present day presents a Darwinian drama, the life-death struggle of competing forms of civilization for survival on the world stage. The American experiment was something entirely new on the planet, a new model of what a civilization can become. For this reason alone we were and are seen as a threat to the competing models. But we are not alone. Civilization in all its freedom-friendly forms is under attack, particularly those nodes of civilization that are most “American” in their organization and character. And 20th and 21st century weapons have ramped up the stakes. We have arrived at the “We dare not lose” level of the struggle.

One general type of civilization is uniquely equipped to survive the challenges of resurgent atavism, post-modern tribalism and the collapse of self confidence of the secular intelligentsia. That general type is the creative /adaptive civilization model. The American experiment was the first, but far from the last such creative civilization. Creative civilizations must prevail in the present century or the entire game could be lost to a new Dark Age.

But without a resurgent conservative movement, ascendant and respected in the culture, the media and in government, most of the freedom-respecting zones of Western civilization will go under…possibly for a very long time. I would prefer to avoid a Dark Age rather than attempt to climb out of one.

Conservatism is the key ingredient in the defense of any healthy, creative civilization. Such a civilization is necessarily held up by two pillars: renaissance conservatism and a deeper, more reasonable liberalism. I don’t like the rhetoric of apocalypse. Yes, the stakes are high, but I am confident that a renewed conservatism linked to the rescue of creative civilization will in fact prevail. Yes, there is peril. Yes, there are existential risks. This is why this vision has both historical relevance and urgency.

What passes for liberalism in the present moment is far too infected with pathological post-modernism to be a constructive player in the coming struggle. The next “winds of change” will necessarily be led by the conservatives, at least until the reasonable liberals come out of the closet to join us. Among the current crop of postmodern liberals, reasonable minds are as rare as classical guitar players among a flock of turkeys.

→→→THE POPULIST REFORMATION←←←

Populist is meant to describe the politically relevant precepts, attitudes and core positions that distinguish an enduring majority of adults from the political elites that depend on their approval.

American politics has evolved two cooperating political elites, each of which runs one of the two parties and shares three common traits: (1) high education levels, (2) important wealth (3) a distrust of the populist vote bordering on fear. Winning elections for each requires a periodic courting ritual during which the populist vote (on which success depends) is earnestly sought, followed by a measure of post-election betrayal.

The corporate country club conservatives and the Lexus limousine liberals have so far succeeded in achieving a rough division of the populist center: social populists on one side, economic populists on the other. Conservatives need to change that.

Both elite and popular opinions are subject to fads. The populist positions that interest me are the ones that endure from election to election and will be relevant to the specifically American political scene over the next decade or so.

When manipulative elites ignore or marginalize the popular moral ethos, sneering at the under-educated and unsophisticated “ordinary people” and when they promote policies that violate common sense, there will be trouble. When judges and bureaucrats abuse the public trust by overriding the popular will on essential “family values” issues, a populist rebellion is inevitable and appropriate. When an economic crash is due to elite neglect and misconduct, there will be hell to pay.

As the conservative elites grapple with the implications of coming populist unrest and possible eruption, everyone should remember that the main populist strands of opinion, concerns and perspectives are not the only such threads in American politics, just the ones most often neglected by the elites of the left and right.

This is why populism tends to erupt from time to time, instead of congealing around a particular party or set of interest groups.

The center of gravity of American populism is located among those who are too busy working, earning and living real lives (elites would say “mundane” lives, here) to become political junkies. They periodically awake…like the mythical sleeping giant…only when provoked by prolonged policy neglect or irritated into sufficient anger by repeated disregard of their core values and concerns.

Whenever the elites forget who really serves whom for long enough, there is a populist eruption. History reminds us that the consequences of these eruptions can be very destructive. The world is full of demagogues ready at the first opportunity to ride popular discontent into power and thereafter to drive the civil order into the ground. This is why it becomes an imperative for American conservatives to take stock of the truly valuable populist contributions, and to lead the way to a populist reformation.

By populist reformation I mean a procedural and substantive reconciliation between the political elites and the most valuable elements of the popular ethos. Consider free trade as a sacrosanct political doctrine:

Working people rarely are impressed by any doctrine or theory that has the practical result of taking away good jobs, reducing the stability and amount of their incomes and that appears to lower their country’s standing in the world. A conservative populist will find, advocate and proactively implement policies that restore American manufacturing capability and the attendant job base. A conservative elitist will passively accept the perpetual irrelevance of the “manufacturing problem” because doctrine says that we are always “better off” relying on cheap foreign suppliers.

In effect, the elites of both parties think that we can prosper with lower incomes for the formerly well off, compensated by even higher incomes for the new “information workers”, especially when the life styles of the newly marginalized workers can be subsidized with cheap goods from China. Heads up to the elites: The credit crash has changed all that.

Populism has a sharply different look and feel in the USA as opposed to, say, Venezuela or Iran because the American middle class is so well entrenched and numerous that its numbers overwhelm those who cling to hereditary privilege.

While ours is not a fully “classless” society, its various divisions tend to be blurry and membership levels very fluid as people and families migrate from hardship to wealth and back again. This is the country where the less wealthy can reasonably aspire to wealth and the wealthy can reasonably worry about losing everything.

The Manipulative elites vs. the Productive Doers

In this milieu, there are only two great “class” divisions in the populist mind that really matter: those who work, create value and struggle to make productive things happen for themselves, their families and the community at large, and those who manipulate the former group.

In the populist mind, the manipulative class includes the idle rich, the idle poor, and the political and cultural leaders who exploit the productive “class”.

The coming populist reformation will be driven by the events and exigencies of the next few years because these challenges will bring the failures of elites of right and left to address the core populist values and concerns into sharp relief.

The elites could have seen this coming. Think of the California tax revolt, the popular resistance in many states to judicial or administrative attempts to impose political correctness (as in the aborted attempt to conflate gay rights with the earlier post-slavery struggles of the civil rights era) and the abrupt right turn by the democrats on the border security issue.

What are the challenging events and exigencies of the next few years? The broad outlines are already clear. The pattern was first evident with the oil and hostage crisis under the non-populist President Jimmy Carter and became blatant with the 9-11-01 attacks on American soil. We are energy vulnerable, economically vulnerable and culturally vulnerable.

There are a number of vital sub-issues, among them the primacy of the English language, the obligation of the elites to control the influx of unassimilated “outsiders” and to vigorously promote the assimilation of the “newly arrived” and the fervent wish of those who work for a living to be able to retain their earnings. These populist issues (in altered form) are alive and well in Europe where the elites may have irretrievably mucked things up. Here, the American elites on the right and left are on notice that there is still time to avert disaster.

Incidentally, when one is discussing disaster in the context of growing populism, ‘disaster’ can take one or both of two forms: (1) The trigger event that inaugurates a true populist eruption – through neglect or deception – actually happens; (2) We get a powerful, irresponsible populist figure on the stage bent on ‘sticking it to’ the elites.

The notion of a populist reformation is that the elites will be able to reconcile rational policy to the main populist concerns before a triggering disaster takes place. The game so far has been one of obfuscation, placation and deception. In the hyper information age, this game is now over. Information flow has been democratized. But the dominant media is still in charge….

21st CENTURY POPULISM

WHY AMERICAN POPULISM IS UNIQUE

There is an apparent contradiction for anyone who tries to write sympathetically about populism, because doing that is an “elite” activity.

Or is it? My favorite populist thinker of the 20th century was Eric Hoffer, the immigrant longshoreman. He was self educated, trenchant and brilliant. His signature work, “The True Believer” was a classic takedown of the elites of communism, Nazism and the religious authorities. The same quasi-religious organizational structure was shared by the two bloody secular religions of the 20th century.

I had the privilege of seeing this passionate, insightful longshoreman twice when I was a student in the Bay Area. He was a man who maintained from life experience that the common people were “lumpy with talent” and that the idle intellectuals were a dangerous combination of skill and lack of judgment.

As a student, I worked in road construction and enjoyed the company of these older guys for whom a 10 hour day with a shovel or jackhammer was a career, as opposed to a source of tuition money. As a lawyer, I’m now unable to deny my “elite station” in life.

My predicted populist reformation is not a populist revolution. We’ve seen far too many of those events; they end badly for the working people these revolutions purport to help.

Instead, I am predicting (and supporting) a mutual adjustment of the relationship between the manipulative elites and the productive men and women who actually make things happen.

I should acknowledge here that a legitimate populist movement can accommodate local custom as when popular sentiment clearly differs from the mainstream. I’m thinking of opinion favoring celebrations of gay marriages in one jurisdiction and the passionately opposing abortions in another. It will always be an open question for conservative populists just how much local variation on sensitive issues is appropriate. But for conservatives, there can be no accommodation for the anti-democratic reversal of the popular will in important aspects of family life, particularly by judicial or administrative fiat.

This reformation is only possible in contemporary America because here the distance between elites and non-elites is smaller than anywhere else in the world, and the fund of experience, common sense and talent in the “populist sector” often exceeds that of the elites.

Ours is a unique situation, the product of three converging social forces:

(1) The democratization of information flow (note that the cyber-revolution is already changing the information dominance of the academy);

(2) the democratization of economic processes (success of the pricing systems and entrepreneurial models of modern capitalism that are copied within socialist economies produce a sort of quick-entry elite group and destabilize the older ideological and hereditary elites);

(3) The decline of the authority of the manipulative elites because of the corrosive effects of an overly-fluid relativistic value perspective that has caused the withering away of the traditional moral underpinnings of all ruling cliques everywhere that the post-modern ethos has penetrated.

Just how dramatically different is the American situation? Compare just two examples:

In rural India, the ancient practice of suttee (sati) is still being practiced. Widows are expected to be burned alive on their husband’s funeral pyre. The urban elites of India condemn (and prosecute) this barbaric “populist” practice as murder.

In this country, a late term unborn male, heart beating, just short of unassisted viability outside the womb, is dismembered at the prospective mother’s request. Some of our elites defend this as a “therapeutic medical procedure” and as a “proper exercise of female autonomy”. Some of our populists condemn the practice as “barbaric, approaching infanticide” or even as “murder”.

Leaving aside all of the constitutional law arguments and nuanced public policy debate on the abortion issue, we elites might reasonably concede that it is not at all clear whether the elite position always represents the more enlightened moral perspective.

This raises the major reason that our current circumstances auger a populist reformation that will soon effect a transformation in one or both of this country’s political parties.

The older established elites operated openly, sustained by a mantle of moral authority grounded in deep tradition and/or universal moral principles commonly accepted as normative by an overwhelming majority.

The post modern elites are so disconnected from the popular ethos that they must attempt to operate in the background, their actual attitudes and positions cloaked with three well-honed opinion-shaping “technologies”: deception, obfuscation and distraction. This is a hard act to maintain in the information age, much like that of the emperor who thought none of his subjects would notice that he was naked.

A necessary caveat: At this point I might seem to have romanticized the populist ethos. This is really the contrast effect. The modern populist perspective looks very good next to the post modern moral ambivalence and narcissistic indulgence (including a tendency to faux moral posturing) that prevail among the manipulative elites.

Naturally, there are aspects of the populist mindset (especially on the fringes) that I don’t share. For example, I am much more inclined to support changes in public policy and private practice that include our gay and lesbian friends in the mainstream than is typically acceptable within the populist mindset. But I differ with the typical elite perspective that dismisses American populist thinking as retrograde or barbaric. And I strongly agree with the populists who would not conflate the full social integration of our tiny gay subpopulation with the epic struggles against slavery. In the main, the distinctively American version of populism has captured a great deal of folk wisdom and common sense morality that the elites dismiss only at their peril.

A special qualification: By contrasting the manipulative, non-productive elites with the much larger group of us who are engaged in productive work, I have radically changed the contours of the normal populist-elite divide, and effectively reduced the number of issues held in common that define the populist perspective.

I would specifically include among the populist cohort those of us who toil at creative tasks. The creative-productive among us have their own set of “issues” with the manipulative, non-productive elites.

Modern American populism, in this expanded and general sense, is much more functionally egalitarian than non-American populists and much more so than our own manipulative elites who profess an ideal utopian equality that is functionally empty.

At the deepest, often unexamined level, our elites have a very strange egalitarian notion indeed, one driven by the psychological contradiction between an ingrained narcissism and the need to be “well thought of”. I see three elements operating in the manipulative elite mindset: Those who think alike are morally equal. Material inequalities of all kinds should be redressed by some kind of compensation. The manipulative elites manage to feel insulated against the (truthful) allegation that they’re part of the “inequality problem” by selectively demonizing the people who don’t think like them. After all (these elites typically think) that retrograde, unenlightened mindset is the root cause of all the world’s ills.

Our home-grown populists are united by a common experience of productive struggle. That experience validates the common morality of earning which leads quickly to the idea that all men and women are entitled to keep the fruits of their productive efforts. Inequalities tend to be readily accepted by the populist mind when they are not accomplished by fraud and are not defended by hypocrisy.

There are conscientious and reasonable members of the manipulative elites who will be able to accommodate the coming populist reformation. But this will require some self-reassessment. I see several takeaway points that will be central to this process:

All of the most salient and durable populist positions represent “field tested” values, enduring social norms whose utility is well established. These include tough “rule-consequences” policies for crime control, the obvious morality of retribution against our enemies on the foreign policy stage, the need for robust protection of the earned fruits of the productive efforts of “the people”, and for strong, effective policies to protect the health and stability of the families who make and rear children.

The elites would be wise to respect all strongly held populist positions (whether they agree with them or not) such that major reversals or changes should never be accomplished via deception or manipulation.

I believe that there is a coming populist reformation, presaged but not yet defined by the teat Party Movement. It will be driven by the events and exigencies of the next few years because these challenges will bring the failures of elites of right and left to address the core populist values and concerns into sharp relief. At the

moment, the political elites are predominantly liberal. This is an opening, the major conservative opportunity of the century.”

“21st CENTURY POPULISM

WHY AMERICAN POPULISM IS UNIQUE

There is an apparent contradiction for anyone who tries to write sympathetically about populism, because doing that is an “elite” activity.

Or is it? My favorite populist thinker of the 20th century was Eric Hoffer, the immigrant longshoreman. He was self educated, trenchant and brilliant. His signature work, “The True Believer” was a classic takedown of the elites of communism, Nazism and the religious authorities. The same quasi-religious organizational structure was shared by the two bloody secular religions of the 20th century.

I had the privilege of seeing this passionate, insightful longshoreman twice when I was a student in the Bay Area. He was a man who maintained from life experience that the common people were “lumpy with talent” and that the idle intellectuals were a dangerous combination of skill and lack of judgment.

As a student, I worked in road construction and enjoyed the company of these older guys for whom a 10 hour day with a shovel or jackhammer was a career, as opposed to a source of tuition money. As a lawyer, I’m now unable to deny my “elite station” in life.

My predicted populist reformation is not a populist revolution. We’ve seen far too many of those events; they end badly for the working people these revolutions purport to help.

Instead, I am predicting (and supporting) a mutual adjustment of the relationship between the manipulative elites and the productive men and women who actually make things happen.

I should acknowledge here that a legitimate populist movement can accommodate local custom as when popular sentiment clearly differs from the mainstream. I’m thinking of opinion favoring celebrations of gay marriages in one jurisdiction and the passionately opposing abortions in another. It will always be an open question for conservative populists just how much local variation on sensitive issues is appropriate. But for conservatives, there can be no accommodation for the anti-democratic reversal of the popular will in important aspects of family life, particularly by judicial or administrative fiat.

This reformation is only possible in contemporary America because here the distance between elites and non-elites is smaller than anywhere else in the world, and the fund of experience, common sense and talent in the “populist sector” often exceeds that of the elites.

Ours is a unique situation, the product of three converging social forces:

(1) The democratization of information flow (note that the cyber-revolution is already changing the information dominance of the academy);

(2) the democratization of economic processes (success of the pricing systems and entrepreneurial models of modern capitalism that are copied within socialist economies produce a sort of quick-entry elite group and destabilize the older ideological and hereditary elites);

(3) The decline of the authority of the manipulative elites because of the corrosive effects of an overly-fluid relativistic value perspective that has caused the withering away of the traditional moral underpinnings of all ruling cliques everywhere that the post-modern ethos has penetrated.

Just how dramatically different is the American situation? Compare just two examples:

In rural India, the ancient practice of suttee (sati) is still being practiced. Widows are expected to be burned alive on their husband’s funeral pyre. The urban elites of India condemn (and prosecute) this barbaric “populist” practice as murder.

In this country, a late term unborn male, heart beating, just short of unassisted viability outside the womb, is dismembered at the prospective mother’s request. Some of our elites defend this as a “therapeutic medical procedure” and as a “proper exercise of female autonomy”. Some of our populists condemn the practice as “barbaric, approaching infanticide” or even as “murder”.

Leaving aside all of the constitutional law arguments and nuanced public policy debate on the abortion issue, we elites might reasonably concede that it is not at all clear whether the elite position always represents the more enlightened moral perspective.

This raises the major reason that our current circumstances auger a populist reformation that will soon effect a transformation in one or both of this country’s political parties.

The older established elites operated openly, sustained by a mantle of moral authority grounded in deep tradition and/or universal moral principles commonly accepted as normative by an overwhelming majority.

The post modern elites are so disconnected from the popular ethos that they must attempt to operate in the background, their actual attitudes and positions cloaked with three well-honed opinion-shaping “technologies”: deception, obfuscation and distraction. This is a hard act to maintain in the information age, much like that of the emperor who thought none of his subjects would notice that he was naked.

A necessary caveat: At this point I might seem to have romanticized the populist ethos. This is really the contrast effect. The modern populist perspective looks very good next to the post modern moral ambivalence and narcissistic indulgence (including a tendency to faux moral posturing) that prevail among the manipulative elites.

Naturally, there are aspects of the populist mindset (especially on the fringes) that I don’t share. For example, I am much more inclined to support changes in public policy and private practice that include our gay and lesbian friends in the mainstream than is typically acceptable within the populist mindset. But I differ with the typical elite perspective that dismisses American populist thinking as retrograde or barbaric. And I strongly agree with the populists who would not conflate the full social integration of our tiny gay subpopulation with the epic struggles against slavery. In the main, the distinctively American version of populism has captured a great deal of folk wisdom and common sense morality that the elites dismiss only at their peril.

A special qualification: By contrasting the manipulative, non-productive elites with the much larger group of us who are engaged in productive work, I have radically changed the contours of the normal populist-elite divide, and effectively reduced the number of issues held in common that define the populist perspective.

I would specifically include among the populist cohort those of us who toil at creative tasks. The creative-productive among us have their own set of “issues” with the manipulative, non-productive elites.

Modern American populism, in this expanded and general sense, is much more functionally egalitarian than non-American populists and much more so than our own manipulative elites who profess an ideal utopian equality that is functionally empty.

At the deepest, often unexamined level, our elites have a very strange egalitarian notion indeed, one driven by the psychological contradiction between an ingrained narcissism and the need to be “well thought of”. I see three elements operating in the manipulative elite mindset: Those who think alike are morally equal. Material inequalities of all kinds should be redressed by some kind of compensation. The manipulative elites manage to feel insulated against the (truthful) allegation that they’re part of the “inequality problem” by selectively demonizing the people who don’t think like them. After all (these elites typically think) that retrograde, unenlightened mindset is the root cause of all the world’s ills.

Our home-grown populists are united by a common experience of productive struggle. That experience validates the common morality of earning which leads quickly to the idea that all men and women are entitled to keep the fruits of their productive efforts. Inequalities tend to be readily accepted by the populist mind when they are not accomplished by fraud and are not defended by hypocrisy.

There are conscientious and reasonable members of the manipulative elites who will be able to accommodate the coming populist reformation. But this will require some self-reassessment. I see several takeaway points that will be central to this process:

All of the most salient and durable populist positions represent “field tested” values, enduring social norms whose utility is well established. These include tough “rule-consequences” policies for crime control, the obvious morality of retribution against our enemies on the foreign policy stage, the need for robust protection of the earned fruits of the productive efforts of “the people”, and for strong, effective policies to protect the health and stability of the families who make and rear children.

The elites would be wise to respect all strongly held populist positions (whether they agree with them or not) such that major reversals or changes should never be accomplished via deception or manipulation.

I believe that there is a coming populist reformation, presaged but not yet defined by the teat Party Movement. It will be driven by the events and exigencies of the next few years because these challenges will bring the failures of elites of right and left to address the core populist values and concerns into sharp relief. At the

moment, the political elites are predominantly liberal. This is an opening, the major conservative opportunity of the century.

THREADS OF AMERICAN NEO-POPULISM

There are the prominent threads in the reemerging American populism. They will shape the parties and the political discussion over the next decade:

[1] PROCEDURAL POPULISM

The signal anti-populist development of the last 65 years was the emergence of governance via non-elected institutions under the control of the non-populist elites of the two parties. Principally the courts and the administrative agencies, these new power centers have quietly and not so quietly set public policies in motion that never could have gathered sufficient popular support. Examples of this, abound, many obvious. The signal pro-populist development in the same period was the emergence – principally in California producing what some political scientists are now calling “hybrid government” of the popular initiative as a tool for setting social and tax policy in ways that the legislative bodies. controlled by party elites, did not.

[2] ME-FIRST NATIONALISM

Starting with Ross Perot several election cycles ago, this is the many headed hydra that the elites in both parties fear the most, and it is the most universal form of populism. The failure of the Soviet Empire as an international model is a classic case of a putative universal ideology hitting the nationalist wall. Note that party elites of all stripes tend to be more internationalist than the so called “common people”.

[3] TOUGH MINDED POPULISM VS. THE WIMP ELITES

This covers a whole range of issues from the death penalty for Hannibal Lector to the prosecution of high placed banking and Wall Street crooks, from a hand line on terrorism to another mass murder on American soil. These issues will be pivotal in the next decade and they may be unnecessarily interesting for those of us who prefer to live in safety.

[4] COMMON SENSE ECONOMICS

The revolting specter of a broken financial system fueled by pampered executives (as many of them democrat-pandering as republican-pandering) who pursue ultra short term paper profits over long term real world gains is so profoundly unsettling that a populist rebellion is inevitable in some form. The fears and anxieties in the current electoral-economic situation introduce a mob psychology wild-card effect that will mask the larger trend…but not for long.

Most conservatives are not yet wrapped in elitist cocoons and not yet ready to surrender the future to elite leftist fools. Conservatives should be willing to step up to the task at hand.

Armed with an intelligent and conservative populism, moved by the vision of a better civilization, we should be prepared to challenge the liberals to engage with us in next Dialogic Period.

The first of the two major political parties that manages to integrate the populist reformation with its own ethos can become a durable majority. If both achieve this, we will enter a long and healthy Dialogic Period.

Each party needs a leader whose visceral commitment to a muscular and farsighted defense of the homeland is immediately recognized as authentic, a leader who speaks with a distinctly American voice, with the voice of a modern populist. The remaining populist issues, as important as they are, will remain secondary until the jihad against civilization has been decisively defeated.

This must be content not stylistic populism because Americans can tell the difference.

Here’s what the post 9-11 version of a renewed American populism might look like:

Populism speaks with the confident assertion of American Exceptionalism, the ideal of America as representing the powerful social exemplar for the world.  This is the populism that animated the chants of rescue workers in the rubble of the World Trade Center, “USA! USA!”



Populism is rooted in our common American social values, especially the historically pro-family social traditions that govern in the heartland.  These values trump all the non-democratic institutions of governance.



Populism values the contribution of all newly arrived Americans but recognizes that the current very low rate of assimilation poses a threat to American cultural integrity.  There is an emerging populist consensus about immigration: the rigorous exclusion of illegals coupled with robust restrictive border control and a very high priority for assimilation into American culture and values.



Populism is authentically tough on crime and terrorism. National and domestic security considerations (especially during the current wartime conditions -- think of FDR’s “Freedom from Fear”) trump all bureaucratic processes, political correctness, isolationist obstructionism, and fractious interest group politics.  A self confident populist administration would overcome the narrow civil libertarian objections to “racial” profiling to exclude terrorist suspects and to the use of biometric identification technologies and terrorist lists for all those entering the U.S.



A populist environmental policy is explicitly pro-human, with equal emphasis on resource preservation and people access.  Environmentalism by the people and for the people prevails over those who worship the environment as some quasi-deity or who elevate the protection of obscure species at the expense of the concerns of ordinary people.



Populists favor and honor productive work (which includes the critically important work of child rearing) over all forms of subsidized idleness. Few living democrats seem to honor the pro-work ethos of FDR’s New Deal except in hollow rhetoric.



Populists agree that the burdens of taxes must be meaningfully reduced on those who are actually working for a living.  This issue transcends all the other left-right, partisan issues on tax policy.



Populist economic and social policy is governed by the goal of promoting upward mobility without undermining the value of the goal: to be successful, financially secure, and to be allowed pass on those benefits to one’s family. 

Liberals find it incomprehensible that “ordinary” working people, who (from the perspective of the Euro-centric left) have no prospect of gaining great wealth, would nevertheless oppose confiscatory taxation of estates. This is because these liberals don’t take the American dream as seriously as do the so called “common” people. There is a core populist agenda which sounds discordant to liberal ears.

Eventually the political landscape will be reformed. Even the shadow of jihad against the West will fade.

Then we will be forced to face and solve the energy production independence issue. And that other, sleeper issue, that won’t go away, will be center stage: Who will be working in this country at what jobs, for whom and at what pay?

Recovering the Dialogic Period

One party government is inherently dangerous. A two party government is the most stable and productive of the various competing models …providing there is a bi-partisan overlap embracing those essential steps and policies needed to preserve civilization. Such a core foreign policy consensus was achieved in the US from FDR through John Kennedy, a period of about 35 years.

This was the Dialogic Period of US politics. The conservative renaissance will be aided by the renewal of such a consensus and the dialogic will be propelled by the emergence of renaissance conservatives as players.

At the most generic level, the terms “liberal” and “conservative” describe the polarity between one’s approach to boundaries (in human thought, relationships, interpersonal definitions, categories and moral precepts). Liberalism in this sense is the tendency to dissolve, negate or weaken boundaries, and conservatism is the counter-tendency to harden, affirm or strengthen them.

During the Dialogic Period, the Democratic Party once contained its own subset of the dialogic – hawks like Washington State’s Senator Scoop Jackson, doves like Gene McCarthy, and intellectuals like Daniel Moynihan and George Kennan.

William F. Buckley was the quintessential dialogic conservative.

But the ascent of the 60’s liberals remade the Democratic Party into a narrow corridor, a claustrophobic compartment defined by an ideology that was never really shared by the populist center.

ESCAPING THE TOXIC POLITICAL LEFT

This is not an analysis of historical liberalism as a discipline or conscientious approach to political and social problems. I am using the term “political liberal” in a special sense to identify a partisan pathology. I am describing the subset of self styled “liberals” or “progressives” for whom belonging to “tribe liberal”: (a) is kind of a calling, in which some one’s declaration that “I’m a liberal” sounds very much like “I’m a Seventh Day Adventist” (my apologies to all SDA’s…this is just an illustration); (b) the liberal self-identification is meant to immediately imply a specific litany (dare I say catechism) of specific doctrines. In general these are the positions that are shared by the left wing of the Democratic Party and the Green party. Because of the fierce hold of this pathological form of liberalism on the mind (pathology in the sense of a moral disability), any cure must come before of authentic dialogue can work. The good news is that most of these people are closet moderates who have adopted political liberal camouflage.

A short list of the defining positions of political liberals would include many laudable liberal sentiments shared by most conservatives (such as opposition to racism and the devaluation of women; the concern for the protection of the quality of the natural environment). All of these are mainstream issues and sentiments widely shared by almost everyone, including all renaissance conservatives.

But in the “fevered minds” of political liberals, these sentiments become conflated into an epic struggle against the grotesque foes of all that is good and true. This is a mythic “liberal” construct in which all middle class whites are inherently racist; all heterosexual males are irredeemably sexist; and all businesses (save a select few who donate heavily to liberal causes) are bent on raping the environment.

It is no coincidence that political liberals thickly populate some of the wealthiest and best educated coastal and urban communities in America. They are bound together, not only by a political religion, but by shared experiences. For the most part, they constitute social cohorts that enjoy six linked sets of shared assumptions and attitudes:

A comfortable hedonism enjoyed by predominantly well educated post-religious middle class and upper class sub-populations;
A “hip” social outlook that tends to mask or anesthetize moral qualms about the enjoyment of their position; effect this is a shared social milieu in which “style” and social “sophistication” operate to confer on their life styles a sort of genteel veneer of social virtue, one characterized by “tolerance”;
Compartmentalized morality, especially in the arts, an attitude that holds that the arts are generally to be free of all traditional moral stances and constraints, except for a small sub-component (honored more by gesture than actually patronized) in which the condemnation of oppression and the celebration of the oppressed are featured elements;
Non judgmental attitudes about “sins” of the educated and tolerant, overlooking drug abuse, “life-style” motivated abortions, serial divorces and a whole range of sexual behavior typically condemned in less “sophisticated” cultures;
The tendency to see morality as the avoidance of social criticism, leading to a tendency to take the ‘on-stage’ or cinematic moral stand;
The notion that morality is properly and even sufficiently manifested by moral gestures. As a result, “correct” positions and stances trump all gritty engagement with the world, even at the expense of practical results.

How do we explain the fierce grip maintained by the religion of political liberalism over its adherents? Liberalism’s ability to transmute its “correct” stances and gestures into a tower of humanitarian virtue has an extraordinary effect: within the liberal-left bubble such stances and gestures serve to shield the comfortable hedonist life styles of its main adherents from moral criticism.

Thus the religion of liberalism represents a form of social détente and clever camouflage.

The faux-religion of political liberalism has three principal canons:

[1] Nationalization of charity:

Humanitarian endeavors cannot be effectively performed, nor equitably supported unless they are done by government agencies. This has the virtue of insulating its adherents from real moral claims on their personal resources. In effect, the political-moral stance that begins with the phrase, “I support (you can fill in the blanks with a liberal cause here)”, becomes the equivalent of, “I gave at the office.”

[2] Social Marxism:

This stance (going by various other names of course) dictates that a doctrine of (pretended) social equality substitutes for the now discredited ruthless redistribution of all wealth. This stance (which was really the ur-source of political correctness) allows its adherents to accomplish (or at least favor) the humiliation and social repression of those whom its shifting fashions might choose to label oppressors. This is a low cost approach to egalitarianism and protects those whose sophisticated hedonism would otherwise be criticized. The appropriately expressed politically correct bromides are the camouflage of “undeserved” well off.

[3] Collective Expiation of guilt:

Social survivor guilt, the inevitable result of a sense of “unearned” well being, is expiated by this religion’s ritual practices. These rituals, for the most part, consist of bumper stickers, public gestures, cocktail party banter, and occasional political activity in support of liberal causes.

The psychological strength of the liberal religion derives from four related developments in the human condition, mostly confined to the highly developed and prosperous communities in Europe and the Americas:

  1. The collapse of traditional religious and other transcendent moral claims on the individual among the dominant intelligentsia of the developed world;
    
  2. The persistent, nagging voice of residual conscience, still suffered by those anti-traditional secularists who have not yet succumbed to outright nihilism;
    
  3. The emperor-has-no-clothes fragility of the whole act, such that any invalidation or repudiation of a part of the doctrine threatens the whole;
    
  4. The deep psychological dread of any prospective return to individual accountability measured by an authoritative moral system.
    

THE DEFENSE OF LIBERTY

A FIGHTING CREED

The ideologies of the left are dying, but the thirst for liberty and the institutions and values that support it, have never been stronger. Here are the elements of a new creed, one that should, but does not yet cross the major red vs. blue political divide.

Individuals – but not collectives - are endowed with basic rights.
Individual rights come with the concomitant individual obligation to respect the rights of others.
Collectives are social and political constructs that possess no inherent rights at all but exist with such organizational purposes, functions and revocable powers as were entrusted to them by free individuals.
Government does not create rights, but exists to preserve their individual exercise by maintaining the moral, legal and security infrastructure of civilization.
The right to an adequately funded, robust law and justice system, together with the necessary police, security and military forces to protect all citizens from predators (whether home-grown or invaders) is the only true entitlement; everything else is an optional expenditure.
The rule/consequences model, grounded in the natural moral law, is the foundation of social morality and of civilization.
The earning/keeping principle and the right to live one’s own life and to take one’s own risks are the bedrock of human dignity and a free society.
The right of individuals to freely engage in mutual, honest, peaceful exchange relationships under conditions of creative, commercial and communication freedom is the foundation of a civilization worth defending with blood.
Coercive threats to the rights, values and conditions of freedom set out above -- whether the threat emanates from other individuals, groups, countries or the government itself - must be opposed with courage and all necessary force.

Some Practical Elements of a Renaissance Conservative Movement

Populist conservatism:

Renaissance conservatism will be seen as constructively redefining and incorporating a sophisticated populism. In this development, conservatism helps gives birth and shape to a populist reformation;

Conservatism as a universal idea:

Conservatism’s insights into the human condition will be seen as a necessary feature of a healthy, developing and growing civilization and, inter alia, as providing a constructive redefinition of liberalism. In this development, liberalism is not repudiated, just called to its highest form and partly integrated. This strengthens the conservative critique of modern and postmodern liberalism’s excesses;

Creative conservatism:

Renaissance conservative values and policies will be recognized as a vital support system for a specifically creative civilization. This thread is separate from the populist reformation discussion. I am personally persuaded that the pursuit of a truly creative civilization, as a movement, and as an organizing political / moral principle, will be the principal engine of constructive change in the world for the foreseeable future. In this context, the creative forms of civilization will be seen as profoundly normative, and as presaged by the ongoing American experiment. Conservatives must be in the vanguard of that movement.

Renewal of the Dialogic Period:

Renaissance conservative ideas will be instrumental in restarting the Dialogic Period. A fresh, positive vision of civilization enriched by conservatism’s contributions is the most effective way to restore balance to a media crippled by the ideologies of the extreme left. To transform the currently sclerotic media will require the power of fresh ideas driven by the dawning realization that the pursuit of creative civilization is the wave of the future (I expand on this below).

Getting Blue Dog & Reagan Democrats back in the game:

Renaissance Conservatism is more than a shotgun marriage of convenience and political exigency. It represents the careful integration of faith in liberty, the populist reformation, the restored Dialogic Period, the advent of bipartisan conservative alliances, and the political adoption of the Creative Civilization Model. Neither conservatives nor liberals can exclusively “own” the creative civilization.

THE CREATIVE CIVILIZATION PARADIGM

OUR “HINGE OF HISTORY” MOMENT

I can’t over-stress the point that this is a radical new paradigm. The next wave of the future will be the advent of specifically creative civilizations of which the United States of America is the first, most successful, most powerful and most significant exemplar.

Civilization is soft technology. It represents the single innovation of Homo Sapiens that is most responsible for the dramatic increase of human freedom and welfare. Civilization is a rational exchange system among people which adjusts power relationships (and therefore resource allocations). It requires and therefore preserves and defends group norms, and acts as a carrier for group memory. The group norms appropriate to civilization exhibit a remarkable cross-cultural correspondence. All such norms concern the relationships between human purposes and human power.

Civilization in its most developed form follows the “Western civilization” model, a product of Greco-Roman organization, Judeo-Christian values and Anglo-American jurisprudence, with accrued innovations from all the other successful models.

Western civilization is fragmented and unstable at the moment, held in temporary suspension by its decaying traditions against a storm of destructive challenges. The current challenges are deadly. They represent a unique admixture of atavistic, nihilistic and paleo-ideological forces. We who are committed to the preservation of civilization need to achieve general agreement about that which we will fight to preserve. We are called by history to locate the foundational norms, values and principles on which, together, we intend to stand.

We remain at risk, in large part, precisely because Western civilization seems unable to reach that sort of general agreement. This is a “software” problem, to borrow a contemporary metaphor. Western civilization’s operating system has become unstable because of virus that attacks all values, including those on which the operating system itself crucially depends.

The failure of modern free civilizations to survive intact in the face of the current set of challenges would usher in a Dark Age from which we may not be able to recover, given the size of our footprint on the world, the virulence of the pathogens that follow us wherever we live and the scale and seriousness of the instabilities in the biosphere on which we rely. The current set of challenges has taken us to a crossroads.

The sign at the intersection identifies only two branches: “Repair or fail”.

The last eight millennia of the human story can be described as the post-primal struggle between competing civilizations. In all of human history only a few nodes within the civilized zones of the world sheltered robust, well supported instances of creative efflorescence.

We are now poised at the threshold of an emerging model of civilization, one that is self-consciously organized to generate the cultural, esthetic, spiritual and technical innovations necessary for humanity to thrive in relative peace and freedom, while retaining that essence that makes us truly human. Its successful adoption will propel the advancement of the human species for the next eight millennia.

POINTS OF LIGHT & DARKNESS

[What follows is intended as a thematic sketch, not a comprehensive survey of the history of human innovation, but I think the emergent pattern is telling. Some references are listed in the footnote.[2]]

Over the span of pre-modern human history, the creative nodes within the human experience stand out like brightly lit cities on the dark side of the earth as seen from space. We think of Florentine Italy, the efflorescence of science in Ninth Century Islam, the many sparks in Western Europe and England. But as we approach the modern era, among the sparks and bursts we see a creative blaze forming on North America.

Beginning in the mid 1800’s, the face of America would appear on our imaginary dark-side-of-earth map as a series of brilliant flares, completely unprecedented in their scope and intensity. The flames of innovation and creative energy in the USA soon became a firestorm.

The FIRST SPARK: Athens 500-300 BCE

Starting with geniuses named Aristotle, Plato, Archimedes and Pythagoras, and others – all were figures dismissed by the postmodern cultural left as “dead white men”, an astounding efflorescence of logic, history and the arts flourished in ancient Greece.

Even 21st century readers are occasionally startled by the modernity of some of these creative achievements, compared with the many dreary subsequent eras. The seminal efflorescence of creative and exploratory thought in ancient Greece was made possible by conditions of peace, leisure and a culture of free and lively discourse, taking mostly within a protected “creative zone”, sometimes during wars. The classical period left the world a seed legacy of unequaled and incalculable value.

The Long Darkness

Flash forward to post-Roman Imperial Europe. All human memory of that Greco-Roman cultural and creative outpouring was reduced to a precious few ancient Greek texts that resided mostly in a handful of monasteries after the economic, cultural, political and military disintegration of the Western Roman Empire. Europe slipped into that prolonged cultural amnesia we call the Dark Ages.

The Islamic World’s Efflorescence 750–1250 CE

During Europe’s later Dark Ages, Cordoba, capital of Islamic Spain, was the leading knowledge center for Europe. In the 800’s, the library of the monastery of St. Gall, the largest in Continental Europe, held only about 36 volumes. But Cordoba’s library contained a half million. During this remarkable time of Arab creative efflorescence, intellectual developments like the number zero, the decimal system and basic algebra emerged; they later would form the foundation for the scientific revolution.

I note particular admiration the work of Al-Khwarizmi (Alghorismus) after whom the algorithm was named. Muslims not only passed on Greek classical works but also introduced new scientific theories, including the theory of the pendulum, the basis for measuring time.

The European Renaissance 1100-1650 CE

Europe’s first Renaissance began with the recovery of the writings from the Greek creative period partly facilitated by the contemporary Irish monks (See Cahill’s “How the Irish Saved Civilization’) and partly as a result of the contributions by the Muslim scholars and their Spanish connection. In the 12th century in Europe, all scholars agree that a dramatic surge in inventions and innovations took place. More useful innovations directly affecting day-to-day life emerged than in the preceding thousand years. I note especially advances in printing, spectacles, time keeping, and navigation. Great ships were built and the Age of Exploration began.

Europe’s second renaissance started in Italy, particularly in Florence (think of the Medici family’s protection and patronage, and of geniuses like Leonardo and Michelangelo). The creative surge began in the 1300’s and ran at least until the 1600’s.

The Anglo-Euro-Japanese-American Techno-renaissance 1700-2000

But the greatest economic and technological progress in all human history was concentrated in a 110 year period starting about 1890. During this period the US moved from agrarian irrelevance to the most powerful industrial nation in world history generated a third of the industrial output for the whole planet. The intellectual seeds of this explosion were planted in the 18th century.

Among the innovations of the 1700’s were:

The Steam Piston Engine, The Mercury Thermometer, Iron Smelting,The Franklin Stove, The Lightning Rod, The Steam Car, The Steamboat, The Circular Saw, The Hot Air Balloon, Bifocals, The Automatic Flour Mill, The Threshing Machine, Artificial Teeth, Vaccination …

Note the acceleration in the: 1800s:

The Locomotive, The Submarine, The Screw Propeller Steamboat, The Steam Locomotive, The Gas Stove, The Band Saw, The Arc Lamp, The Miner’s Safety Lamp, The Stirling Engine, The Stethoscope, The Bicycle, The Electric Motor, Portland Cement, Photography, The Internal Combustion Engine, The Friction Match, The Thermostat, The Magnetic Acoustic Telegraph, The Reaper, The Electrical Generator, The Braille System, The Refrigerator, The Combine Harvester, The Incandescent Light Bulb, The Sewing Machine, The Electric Printing Press, The Steel Plow, The Magnetic Telegraph, The Electric Telegraph, The Closed Diving Suit, rubber Vulcanization, Artificial Fertilizer, Anesthesia, The Typewriter, The Fax Machine, The Ice Cream Maker, The Pile Driver, The Safety Match, The Pneumatic Tire, The Sewing Machine, the Rotary Printing Press, The Safety Pin, The Telephone, The Passenger Elevator, Gyroscope, Bunsen Burner, Celluloid, Undersea Telegraph Cable, Oil Drill, Lead Acid Battery, Light Bulb, Linoleum, Pasteurization, Player Piano, Roller Coaster, Barbed Wire, Dynamite, Vacuum Cleaner, Cable Car, D C Electric Motor, Electric Street Car, Gasoline Carburetor, Loudspeaker, Stapler, Induction Motor, Phonograph, Microphone, Cathode Ray Tube, Cash Register, Roll Film, Safety Razor, Seismograph, Metal Detector, Electric Fan, Blowtorch, A C Electric Motor, Automobile, Motorcycle, A C Transformer, Gasoline Engine, Contact Lens, Gramophone, Ceiling Fan, AC Electric Power System, Kodak Camera, Ballpoint Pen, Harvester-Thresher, Escalator, Zipper, Adjustable Wrench, Photography, Telephone-Exchange, Carburetor, Tuned Wireless Communication, Radio Transmission, Milking Machine, Diesel Engine, Radiotelegraph, Remote Control, Car Self-Starter, Magnetic Tape Recorder, Gas Turbine…

Now take in a partial overview of the really big explosion in the 20th Century:

The Neon Lamp, Rayon, Electrocardiograph, Powered, Controlled Airplane, Tractor, Radio Tube Diode, Sonar, Helicopter, Washing Machine, Cellophane, Geiger Counter, Gyrocompass, Neon Lighting, Hydroplane, Parachute, Radio Receiver, Stainless Steel, X-Ray, Liquid Fuel Rocket, Tungsten Filament, Pyrex, Sonar Echolocation, Cruise Missile, Radio Crystal Oscillator, Polygraph, Radar, Sound Film, Television, Wind Tunnel, Xenon Flash Lamp, Aerosol Spray, Cotton Picker, Sliced Bread, Electric Dry Shaver, Antibiotics, Electroencephalograph, Band Aid, Synthetic Insulin, Mechanical Potato Peeler, Rigid Dirigible Airship, Microwave Optics, Disposable Razor Blade, Vacuum Cleaner, Air Conditioner, Radio Telescope, Nylon, Turboprop Engine, Jet Engine, Ballpoint Pen, Xerography, Fiberglass, View-Master, Computer, Velcro, Nuclear Reactor, Undersea Oil Pipeline, Aqua-Lung, Electron Spectrometer, Slinky, Microwave Oven, Atomic Weapons, Mobile Telephone Service, Bikini, Transistor, Polaroid Camera, Long Playing Record, Holography, Atomic Clocks, Credit Card, Oral Contraceptive, Nuclear Power Reactor, Floppy Disk, Optical Fiber, H Bomb, Hovercraft, Medical Ultrasound, Radar Gun, Geodesic Dome, Hard Drive, Video Phone, Videocassette Recorder, Jet Boat, Integrated Circuit Chip, Communications Satellite, Pacemaker, Laser, Optical Disc, Cochlear Implant, Human Spaceflight, Light-Emitting Diode, Space Observatory, Computer Mouse, Space Dock, AT M, Hypertext, Video Game Console, Packet Switching, ARPANET, Relational Database, Space Station, E-Mail, Liquid Crystal Display, Microprocessor, Pocket Calculator, MRI machine, Ethernet, Personal Computer, Microcredit, Microfinance, Gas-Electric Hybrid Vehicle, DNA Sequencing, Digital Camera, Gore-Tex, Personal Stereo, Mobile Phone, Spreadsheet, Compact Disc, Scanning Tunneling Microscope, Artificial Heart, Internet, Lithotripsy, Polymerase Chain Reaction, DNA Fingerprinting, Statin Cholesterol Drug, Digital Light Processing, World Wide Web, Global Positioning System, LED, Non-Mechanical Digital Audio Player.

And so it goes…”

“THE CREATIVE INFORMATION EXPLOSION: 1900-Present Day

Marshal McLuhan (1911-1980) is forever known for a single aphorism, “The medium is the message”. Less well known is the fact that he was a converted Roman Catholic and the “patron saint” of WIRED magazine.

A renaissance conservative needs to be aware of McLuhan’s insights on more than a superficial level.

Consider that in McLuhan’s conception all of the new communication technologies (think print technology, then the new media) profoundly affect the way we think, act and understand the world.

McLuhan has persuasively argued that print communication technologies created the modern Western world. The print culture was inherently individualistic, leading to democracy and capitalism. In the 1960’s, he predicted that profound social changes would result as we entered the era of “electronic interdependence”. The new communication and information transfer technologies would de-emphasize reading in favor of graphics and sound, causing the culture to migrate from fragmented individualism to a “tribal base”, the so-called “global village.”

We might now detect a return to individuation as a result of the phenomenon of the individual, handheld multi-media device.

Electronically recorded and transmitted music and images, increasingly available and at decreasing unit cost, have made music from Beethoven to Beyonce, drama from Shakespeare to the Matrix, available on a hand held device almost anywhere on the planet earth 24/7/365. Censorship has become more difficult at the same time that intellectual piracy and the glut of raw talent clamoring for attention have made individual creative endeavors less profitable for the individual aspiring artist.

But the information technology explosion has generated a parallel explosion in the creative arts. Tracking the constantly expanding numbers of movie and television productions during the 20th century is like tracking the first nanosecond of the Big Bang or the fist second of a nuclear explosion.

Among the new art forms, still in their infancy (at by the development standards of pre-modern eras) are these:

Movies, live action;
Movies, animated;
Movies, live action or animated with computer generated effects;
High fidelity, surround sound;
Light Sculpture;
Augmented natural music (think of the amplified rock guitar and the electronic keyboard)
Electronic music;
Interactive “smart” sculpture;
Stage plays or events enhanced by the forgoing;
Video games;
Virtual reality constructs, including fully recreated live concerts & interactive fiction....

Cultural conservatives who are hostile to modernity in all its manifestations can contribute less to the discussion than the renaissance conservatives. The creative arts deserve conservative support, especially as they celebrate beauty, life and human freedom in the context of the love of beauty and the celebration of life.

AYN RAND & THOSE CREATIVE INDUSTRIALISTS

Late in the 20th century, the understood scope of human creative activity was broadened to include technology. This was a key insight of the American, former soviet émigré, novelist / philosopher, Ayn Rand[3]. It follows that a creative civilization must necessarily have a free economic system as well as robust protections for creative expression and free communication.

There are certain moral and practical principles that make up the foundation of an explicitly creative civilization. Providentially, these moral and practical principles were set out in the American founding documents.

Creative activity flourishes in an intensely free society and withers in a bureaucratic tyrannical one. No wonder America is the paradigm exemplar of the creative society.

Almost every innovation listed in the previous section represents the happy confluence of at three forces: (1) Creative freedom; (2) Protection of the creative process either via a powerful patron or a robust patent / copyright intellectual property system; (3) and in the 20th century, the operation of the risk-incentive-profit sequence.

It is not coincidental that the technical or so called “industrial” creative innovations since 1700 have collectively done more to improve the lot of the so called common people than all the previous creative innovations in art and science combined. We should not forget that the epicenter of these innovations, of their inspiration, application and development, was and still is the United States of America.

The insight that a civilization should provide the foundations of law and peaceful transitions of power is incomplete. The atavistic forces that would cripple or destroy Western civilization carry a sharp lesson for us. When the Taliban took over on Afghanistan, creative people were forced to flee.

While the spread of an authoritarian and fanatical theocracy that animates the jihad against the West minimally meets the definition of ‘a civilization”, it is manifestly hostile to free human creative endeavors. This prompts us to take up the simple, but profound agenda that will transform the conduct and defense of all modern civilizations for centuries to come. The task of furthering the expansion of creative civilizations and defending them – and their free institutions – has from now on become the overriding goal of the human enterprise.

The universal goal of purposively fostering creative civilizations means that the idea of American Exceptionalism is not jingoism, but the epicenter of an uncompleted world revolution.

To survive and flourish over time, a civilization must provide robust, proactive protection for all peaceful creative activities – and the special conditions of freedom in which the human creative enterprise flourishes. In this new paradigm, creative activities (and the concomitant freedom of expression and communication) are to be defined very broadly, including but not limited to the free exchange of political ideas, art forms, cultural, spiritual and esthetic creative products, technological innovations, and human exploration of the cosmos. As to all of these creative expressions of our humanity, the protection of intellectual property and robust firewalls against censorship are paramount among the creation-friendly conditions that civilizations are now charged to provide.

Therefore it would be a profound mistake for conservatives to neglect the creative arts as if they were some inessential frill in a creative civilization, in contrast with technological innovation. And it would be even a greater a mistake for the liberals to embrace the creative arts against technological innovation in some deluded Luddite frenzy.

CONSERVATIVE VALUES & THE HUMAN CREATIVE ENTERPRISE

Modern conservatives are the political world’s most reliable friends of personal safety and liberty. They are the architects the conditions and institutions that hold up human freedom and liberty, the very soil of all human creative activities. Conservatives were the first to extol and advance the virtues of human technological creativity as a vital strand of the human creative enterprise. In this new era they are the friends and allies of human creative activity everywhere it is repressed.

Beyond that, conservatives almost uniquely understand the critical role of boundaries as part of the creative support system. Boundaries are as essential the creative enterprise as cell walls are to biological function. From the moral and legal boundaries that make creative civilization stable and capable of self-defense, to the deep understanding of moral limits that will enable us to survive our own terrifying inventions, the conservative instinct to protect essential boundaries is part of the creation support system.

Conservative communities need to be in fruitful liaison with the creative arts communities. The creative arts, in their highest forms, operate to challenge trivial boundaries, but illuminate our essential ones. This essay is not the place to go much farther with this, so I conclude with three takeaway points:

(1) Because conservatives are natural defenders of freedom, they (we) understand at the gut level that art should not ever be harnessed to any political agenda or religious institution.

(2) All art is worthy of strong conservative support (and the individual patronage of conservatives) when it celebrates life and freedom;

(3) Artists were the original entrepreneurs.

The current century has begun to expose more clearly than ever before that there are striking differences among competing civilizations based on the degree to which each protects, supports and/or promotes its inner creative functions. We should never forget that when authoritarian regimes assume power, the creative types flee, many to America. Recall the fleeing artists from the former Soviet Union. Notice the contemporary anti-creative tendencies in authoritarian mainland China and the theocracy in Iran. Examine the politically correct soft censorship in left-dominated universities on our own soil. The battle for creative civilization has just begun

While some civilizations promote freedom as a general good, and others promote certain arts as a national goal, little conscious, intentional value has been assigned to the task of protecting and fostering creativity within a civilization as one of its primary raisons d’être.

That must change.

Instances of creative efflorescence in the past have been driven by unusual circumstances, as in very local zones of protection and patronage –think of ancient Athens where slaves allowed the leisure for the creative class, and Renaissance Florence where creative artists flourished under the protection and patronage of the Medici family.

For most of our history, the elites tended to think of the whole notion of human creative activity as something confined to the fine arts. But the creative cyber-explosion of the 20th Century is changing our understanding. Creativity includes more than paintings, sculpture, literature and music. The creative stepchildren are innovations in technology, commerce, and social organization. I am persuaded that the new creative civilization paradigm will broadly integrate all aspects of human creativity, including exploration and all of the attendant support activities.

And I also must note that there has been a profound disconnection between human creative activities and the field of morality and ethics, such that – especially in religious traditions –notion of “good” and “holy” were confined to worship and interpersonal altruism, while the labor and sacrifice of someone in the throes of creative inspiration tended to be marginalized as self indulgent egoism. I believe that this balkanization of human value systems will break down in the current century, as the inherent value of explicitly creative civilizations takes hold. I should add that the creative civilization paradigm fully answers the moralist critique of libertarianism as mere libertine indulgence. In a creative civilization there is a vital, overriding interest in liberty: it is the very soil of all human creative activities.

THE AMERICAN RECOVERY PROJECT

Any conservative recovery that fails be robust and coherent, fails period. A successful conservative recovery in the current left-leaning environment will necessarily be organized around the real life concerns that transcend popular ideological stereotypes.

Ultimate political success depends on the ability of conservatives at every level to find, sell and implement good solutions, the very efficacy of which will serve to expose the dysfunctional approaches of the current crop of illiberal-liberals.

Renaissance conservatism, as I have described it here, immediately overcomes the conservative reputation for status quo thinking. This will swiftly become the one conservative brand that trusted to effectively and creatively solve the problems that liberalism typically neglects to actually address – as opposed to merely posturing about them. As it happens, these are the primary problems facing America in its current malaise after years of ineffectual liberal tinkering, irresolution, failed experimentation, and dismal results.

Any short list of our biggest problems will include these four areas:

(5) the looming energy insufficiency;

(6) the prospect of food supply shortages (already foreshadowed by rising prices);

(7) the stifling of creative thinking through the political and cultural censorship called political correctness, media group-think, and the smothering of the arts via bureaucratic subsidies and political “expectations”;

(8) the growing toxicity of post modern relativism. This has given rise to deteriorating family relationships, cultural baseness, educational failure and growing moral illiteracy. All of these malign developments are the consequences of moral boundary decay.

A confident and forward conservative program will replace the acceptance of scarcity with the pursuit of abundance, trump ineffectual gestures with creative accomplishments, unmask the politics of posture, strengthen our firewalls against predators, corruption, and disease, and secure family life from the forces, economic and cultural, that threaten to dissolve it.

Here are the watch words of the recovery:

· Energy Abundance, trumping an energy-starved economy and hostage oil;

· Food Abundance, driving internal prosperity and better exports;

· A Creative Surge, restoring America’s cultural and innovative primacy;

· Healthy Boundaries, promoting public safety, family ties, and honesty/integrity in public and private life.

The Renaissance Conservative movement will attract the participation of competent, forward-looking conservative leaders with strong communication skills because it is the wave of the future.

The Renaissance Conservative movement needs exceptional leaders at every level, respected and charismatic men and women who are comfortable explaining creative conservative principles and programs in a way that educates the larger public as it drives policy. Conservatives are needed in both parties, in the academy and the media. The Renaissance Conservatives can do what no conservative movement before have every accomplished; they can move opinion and force a return to the Dialogic Period in each of the three power centers.

The political liberals who dominate the democratic and green parties, the media and the academy are a small, deranged minority that has achieved undue influence because no one has challenged their narrative with enough coherence, consistency and force. The time has come to expose the naked emperors. Creative civilization is the almost self-evident wave of the future. An America imbued with fresh self-confidence and purpose is an America deeply renewed. America’s renaissance conservatives of both parties are called to lead the way.

Our liberal friends are welcome to follow.

THE RE-CON SURGE NEEDS YOU

Renaissance conservatives are linked by personal predisposition and a common ethos to all of the creative ventures of humanity, particular those that celebrate human life, beauty and creation itself and the technologies that make it all possible. Our task is to link this ethos to the larger agenda of forming, fostering and protecting a creative civilization, to all of its creative features, technological, spiritual and artistic, and to demonstrate in all its forms, and to join our rhetoric, actual behavior and policies, such that they are deeply linked to this end. Here is the message:

All benign human creative activity transcends party, politics and ideology. And bless the rebellious, anti-conventional members of our creative subcultures. Pierced body parts and purple hair included, they are your allies … even if they don’t yet “get it.” The hallmark themes of Renaissance Conservatism are life affirmation*, freedom affirmation and the celebration and support of creative activities in all spheres (artistic, commercial, scientific and exploration), all of which are seen as an indivisible moral and practical imperative.

  • Setting aside the legal and theological discussions of early pregnancy issues, Re-Cons support a culture of strong life-affirmation, rejecting the notion that any creative civilization can long endure when involuntary euthanasia – in whatever form or guise – is promoted or encouraged.

Re-Cons love creative freedom and its fruits so much that they respect the dangers of government meddling. They/we understand that the selective bureaucratic promotion of some creative activities over others is subtle censorship. Re-Cons support free, untrammeled patronage of creative pursuits, encouraged but not controlled by the state. Creative activities thrive where bureaucratic power and an ethos of sameness are on the defense. The affirmation of heroic achievement and the celebration of our non-equalities are essential components of any truly creative society.

Calling on Guard Dog Republicans, Blue Dog Democrats and Tall Puppy* Independents:

JOIN US!

*Note: The Australian folk warning cautioned us not to be seen as the “tall poppy” in the field because they are the first to be cut down. Re-Cons celebrate the tall poppies and the policies that protect them from the effects of destructive envy. I prefer the term ‘tall puppies” to capture the notion of adorable tall poppies.

INVITATION

Contemporary conservatism will recover enduring relevance only by taking front stage as an agent of positive change, as a movement that transcends partisan lines. When a renewed, forward looking conservatism becomes a vital influence within both parties, liberalism will self-repair, becoming the other voice for freedom and creative action, the Dialogic will restart and the Renaissance will have begun.

Today, the USA hesitates at a crossroads, facing a fiscal crisis that masks an even deeper moral one. The choices are between competing versions of America, and our own personal futures. The steps we take now will represent a choice of goals and outcomes:

[ ] Live long and prosper.

[ ] Don’t live too long or prosper too much.

[ ] Continue to endure the dead hand of bureaucratic political correctness.

[ ] Live in the fresh air of a free people, creative, candid and unafraid to be human.

[ ] Enjoy an open, dialogue among freedom loving, life affirming creative adults.

[ ] Suffer toxic bickering and posturing over victim status issues.

[ ] Submit to an authoritarian ideology.

[ ] Seek happiness in a truly free society.

Hint: 1, 4, 5, 9

Where do you want to be? What are you willing to do? When are you willing to do it?

As Hillel the Elder said, “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”

Contact Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law: law@jaygaskill.com

[1] Starting in 1884, the intellectual, Sidney Webb, his wife, Beatrice Potter Webb, George Bernard Shaw, GDH Cole, Graham Wallace, and others, promoted a gradualist, incremental implementation of comprehensive socialism in Great Britain. With ties to the London School of Economics, the Fabians took their name from the Roman General Fabius, who successfully opposed Hannibal by biding his time. The Fabian influence on the British Labour Party remained decisive until the ascendance of the centrist PM Tony Blair (1997-2007).

[2] A great deal has been written about the history of technological innovation, but little if anything, connecting the dots to the Renaissance periods in European history, even though Leonardo Da Vinci was the emblematic crossover figure between the artistic and “practical” achievement. Among the most valuable sources for further research: The Lever of Riches, by Joel Mokyr, Oxford 1990; Structures of Change in the Mechanical Age: Technological Innovation in the United States, 1790—1865, by Ross Thompson, John Hopkins 2009; Technological innovation as an Evolutionary Process, John Ziman, Ed., Cambridge University Press 2000: The Timetables of Technology: A Chronology of the Most Important People and Events in the History of Technology, by Brian H Bunch & Alexander Hellemans, Simon and Schuster 1993; An Encyclopedia of the History of Technology, Ian McNeil, Ed. 1990, 1996 Routledge; Fortune is a River, Leonardo Da Vinci and Niccolo Machiavelli’s Magnificent Dream to Change the Course of Florentine History by Roger Masters, Penguin 1998, 1999.

[3] The daughter of a commercial family whose property was confiscated by the Soviets, Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum escaped to the USA, eventually changing her name to Ayn Rand. In her breakout novel, The Fountainhead, the nexus between creative freedom and intellectual property is explicit, and in Atlas Shrugged, the underlying links between artistic innovation, invention and commercial freedom are central to the storyline. Her philosophical writings, loosely grouped under the rubric, Objectivism, have been scathingly dismissed by the left as amoral. But Ms. Rand’s passion for creative freedom as a moral imperative was a specific commitment that transcended “mere” greed and belied the parodic attempts to marginalize an original, serious ethic, sharply relevant to the modern human condition.

“THE CREATIVE INFORMATION EXPLOSION: 1900-Present Day

Marshal McLuhan (1911-1980) is forever known for a single aphorism, “The medium is the message”. Less well known is the fact that he was a converted Roman Catholic and the “patron saint” of WIRED magazine.

A renaissance conservative needs to be aware of McLuhan’s insights on more than a superficial level.

Consider that in McLuhan’s conception all of the new communication technologies (think print technology, then the new media) profoundly affect the way we think, act and understand the world.

McLuhan has persuasively argued that print communication technologies created the modern Western world. The print culture was inherently individualistic, leading to democracy and capitalism. In the 1960’s, he predicted that profound social changes would result as we entered the era of “electronic interdependence”. The new communication and information transfer technologies would de-emphasize reading in favor of graphics and sound, causing the culture to migrate from fragmented individualism to a “tribal base”, the so-called “global village.”

We might now detect a return to individuation as a result of the phenomenon of the individual, handheld multi-media device.

Electronically recorded and transmitted music and images, increasingly available and at decreasing unit cost, have made music from Beethoven to Beyonce, drama from Shakespeare to the Matrix, available on a hand held device almost anywhere on the planet earth 24/7/365. Censorship has become more difficult at the same time that intellectual piracy and the glut of raw talent clamoring for attention have made individual creative endeavors less profitable for the individual aspiring artist.

But the information technology explosion has generated a parallel explosion in the creative arts. Tracking the constantly expanding numbers of movie and television productions during the 20th century is like tracking the first nanosecond of the Big Bang or the fist second of a nuclear explosion.

Among the new art forms, still in their infancy (at by the development standards of pre-modern eras) are these:

Movies, live action;
Movies, animated;
Movies, live action or animated with computer generated effects;
High fidelity, surround sound;
Light Sculpture;
Augmented natural music (think of the amplified rock guitar and the electronic keyboard)
Electronic music;
Interactive “smart” sculpture;
Stage plays or events enhanced by the forgoing;
Video games;
Virtual reality constructs, including fully recreated live concerts & interactive fiction....

Cultural conservatives who are hostile to modernity in all its manifestations can contribute less to the discussion than the renaissance conservatives. The creative arts deserve conservative support, especially as they celebrate beauty, life and human freedom in the context of the love of beauty and the celebration of life.

AYN RAND & THOSE CREATIVE INDUSTRIALISTS

Late in the 20th century, the understood scope of human creative activity was broadened to include technology. This was a key insight of the American, former soviet émigré, novelist / philosopher, Ayn Rand[3]. It follows that a creative civilization must necessarily have a free economic system as well as robust protections for creative expression and free communication.

There are certain moral and practical principles that make up the foundation of an explicitly creative civilization. Providentially, these moral and practical principles were set out in the American founding documents.

Creative activity flourishes in an intensely free society and withers in a bureaucratic tyrannical one. No wonder America is the paradigm exemplar of the creative society.

Almost every innovation listed in the previous section represents the happy confluence of at three forces: (1) Creative freedom; (2) Protection of the creative process either via a powerful patron or a robust patent / copyright intellectual property system; (3) and in the 20th century, the operation of the risk-incentive-profit sequence.

It is not coincidental that the technical or so called “industrial” creative innovations since 1700 have collectively done more to improve the lot of the so called common people than all the previous creative innovations in art and science combined. We should not forget that the epicenter of these innovations, of their inspiration, application and development, was and still is the United States of America.

The insight that a civilization should provide the foundations of law and peaceful transitions of power is incomplete. The atavistic forces that would cripple or destroy Western civilization carry a sharp lesson for us. When the Taliban took over on Afghanistan, creative people were forced to flee.

While the spread of an authoritarian and fanatical theocracy that animates the jihad against the West minimally meets the definition of ‘a civilization”, it is manifestly hostile to free human creative endeavors. This prompts us to take up the simple, but profound agenda that will transform the conduct and defense of all modern civilizations for centuries to come. The task of furthering the expansion of creative civilizations and defending them – and their free institutions – has from now on become the overriding goal of the human enterprise.

The universal goal of purposively fostering creative civilizations means that the idea of American Exceptionalism is not jingoism, but the epicenter of an uncompleted world revolution.

To survive and flourish over time, a civilization must provide robust, proactive protection for all peaceful creative activities – and the special conditions of freedom in which the human creative enterprise flourishes. In this new paradigm, creative activities (and the concomitant freedom of expression and communication) are to be defined very broadly, including but not limited to the free exchange of political ideas, art forms, cultural, spiritual and esthetic creative products, technological innovations, and human exploration of the cosmos. As to all of these creative expressions of our humanity, the protection of intellectual property and robust firewalls against censorship are paramount among the creation-friendly conditions that civilizations are now charged to provide.

Therefore it would be a profound mistake for conservatives to neglect the creative arts as if they were some inessential frill in a creative civilization, in contrast with technological innovation. And it would be even a greater a mistake for the liberals to embrace the creative arts against technological innovation in some deluded Luddite frenzy.

CONSERVATIVE VALUES & THE HUMAN CREATIVE ENTERPRISE

Modern conservatives are the political world’s most reliable friends of personal safety and liberty. They are the architects the conditions and institutions that hold up human freedom and liberty, the very soil of all human creative activities. Conservatives were the first to extol and advance the virtues of human technological creativity as a vital strand of the human creative enterprise. In this new era they are the friends and allies of human creative activity everywhere it is repressed.

Beyond that, conservatives almost uniquely understand the critical role of boundaries as part of the creative support system. Boundaries are as essential the creative enterprise as cell walls are to biological function. From the moral and legal boundaries that make creative civilization stable and capable of self-defense, to the deep understanding of moral limits that will enable us to survive our own terrifying inventions, the conservative instinct to protect essential boundaries is part of the creation support system.

Conservative communities need to be in fruitful liaison with the creative arts communities. The creative arts, in their highest forms, operate to challenge trivial boundaries, but illuminate our essential ones. This essay is not the place to go much farther with this, so I conclude with three takeaway points:

(1) Because conservatives are natural defenders of freedom, they (we) understand at the gut level that art should not ever be harnessed to any political agenda or religious institution.

(2) All art is worthy of strong conservative support (and the individual patronage of conservatives) when it celebrates life and freedom;

(3) Artists were the original entrepreneurs.

The current century has begun to expose more clearly than ever before that there are striking differences among competing civilizations based on the degree to which each protects, supports and/or promotes its inner creative functions. We should never forget that when authoritarian regimes assume power, the creative types flee, many to America. Recall the fleeing artists from the former Soviet Union. Notice the contemporary anti-creative tendencies in authoritarian mainland China and the theocracy in Iran. Examine the politically correct soft censorship in left-dominated universities on our own soil. The battle for creative civilization has just begun

While some civilizations promote freedom as a general good, and others promote certain arts as a national goal, little conscious, intentional value has been assigned to the task of protecting and fostering creativity within a civilization as one of its primary raisons d’être.

That must change.

Instances of creative efflorescence in the past have been driven by unusual circumstances, as in very local zones of protection and patronage –think of ancient Athens where slaves allowed the leisure for the creative class, and Renaissance Florence where creative artists flourished under the protection and patronage of the Medici family.

For most of our history, the elites tended to think of the whole notion of human creative activity as something confined to the fine arts. But the creative cyber-explosion of the 20th Century is changing our understanding. Creativity includes more than paintings, sculpture, literature and music. The creative stepchildren are innovations in technology, commerce, and social organization. I am persuaded that the new creative civilization paradigm will broadly integrate all aspects of human creativity, including exploration and all of the attendant support activities.

And I also must note that there has been a profound disconnection between human creative activities and the field of morality and ethics, such that – especially in religious traditions –notion of “good” and “holy” were confined to worship and interpersonal altruism, while the labor and sacrifice of someone in the throes of creative inspiration tended to be marginalized as self indulgent egoism. I believe that this balkanization of human value systems will break down in the current century, as the inherent value of explicitly creative civilizations takes hold. I should add that the creative civilization paradigm fully answers the moralist critique of libertarianism as mere libertine indulgence. In a creative civilization there is a vital, overriding interest in liberty: it is the very soil of all human creative activities.

THE AMERICAN RECOVERY PROJECT

Any conservative recovery that fails be robust and coherent, fails period. A successful conservative recovery in the current left-leaning environment will necessarily be organized around the real life concerns that transcend popular ideological stereotypes.

Ultimate political success depends on the ability of conservatives at every level to find, sell and implement good solutions, the very efficacy of which will serve to expose the dysfunctional approaches of the current crop of illiberal-liberals.

Renaissance conservatism, as I have described it here, immediately overcomes the conservative reputation for status quo thinking. This will swiftly become the one conservative brand that trusted to effectively and creatively solve the problems that liberalism typically neglects to actually address – as opposed to merely posturing about them. As it happens, these are the primary problems facing America in its current malaise after years of ineffectual liberal tinkering, irresolution, failed experimentation, and dismal results.

Any short list of our biggest problems will include these four areas:

(5) the looming energy insufficiency;

(6) the prospect of food supply shortages (already foreshadowed by rising prices);

(7) the stifling of creative thinking through the political and cultural censorship called political correctness, media group-think, and the smothering of the arts via bureaucratic subsidies and political “expectations”;

(8) the growing toxicity of post modern relativism. This has given rise to deteriorating family relationships, cultural baseness, educational failure and growing moral illiteracy. All of these malign developments are the consequences of moral boundary decay.

A confident and forward conservative program will replace the acceptance of scarcity with the pursuit of abundance, trump ineffectual gestures with creative accomplishments, unmask the politics of posture, strengthen our firewalls against predators, corruption, and disease, and secure family life from the forces, economic and cultural, that threaten to dissolve it.

Here are the watch words of the recovery:

· Energy Abundance, trumping an energy-starved economy and hostage oil;

· Food Abundance, driving internal prosperity and better exports;

· A Creative Surge, restoring America’s cultural and innovative primacy;

· Healthy Boundaries, promoting public safety, family ties, and honesty/integrity in public and private life.

The Renaissance Conservative movement will attract the participation of competent, forward-looking conservative leaders with strong communication skills because it is the wave of the future.

The Renaissance Conservative movement needs exceptional leaders at every level, respected and charismatic men and women who are comfortable explaining creative conservative principles and programs in a way that educates the larger public as it drives policy. Conservatives are needed in both parties, in the academy and the media. The Renaissance Conservatives can do what no conservative movement before have every accomplished; they can move opinion and force a return to the Dialogic Period in each of the three power centers.

The political liberals who dominate the democratic and green parties, the media and the academy are a small, deranged minority that has achieved undue influence because no one has challenged their narrative with enough coherence, consistency and force. The time has come to expose the naked emperors. Creative civilization is the almost self-evident wave of the future. An America imbued with fresh self-confidence and purpose is an America deeply renewed. America’s renaissance conservatives of both parties are called to lead the way.

Our liberal friends are welcome to follow.

THE RE-CON SURGE NEEDS YOU

Renaissance conservatives are linked by personal predisposition and a common ethos to all of the creative ventures of humanity, particular those that celebrate human life, beauty and creation itself and the technologies that make it all possible. Our task is to link this ethos to the larger agenda of forming, fostering and protecting a creative civilization, to all of its creative features, technological, spiritual and artistic, and to demonstrate in all its forms, and to join our rhetoric, actual behavior and policies, such that they are deeply linked to this end. Here is the message:

All benign human creative activity transcends party, politics and ideology. And bless the rebellious, anti-conventional members of our creative subcultures. Pierced body parts and purple hair included, they are your allies … even if they don’t yet “get it.” The hallmark themes of Renaissance Conservatism are life affirmation*, freedom affirmation and the celebration and support of creative activities in all spheres (artistic, commercial, scientific and exploration), all of which are seen as an indivisible moral and practical imperative.

  • Setting aside the legal and theological discussions of early pregnancy issues, Re-Cons support a culture of strong life-affirmation, rejecting the notion that any creative civilization can long endure when involuntary euthanasia – in whatever form or guise – is promoted or encouraged.

Re-Cons love creative freedom and its fruits so much that they respect the dangers of government meddling. They/we understand that the selective bureaucratic promotion of some creative activities over others is subtle censorship. Re-Cons support free, untrammeled patronage of creative pursuits, encouraged but not controlled by the state. Creative activities thrive where bureaucratic power and an ethos of sameness are on the defense. The affirmation of heroic achievement and the celebration of our non-equalities are essential components of any truly creative society.

Calling on Guard Dog Republicans, Blue Dog Democrats and Tall Puppy* Independents:

JOIN US!

*Note: The Australian folk warning cautioned us not to be seen as the “tall poppy” in the field because they are the first to be cut down. Re-Cons celebrate the tall poppies and the policies that protect them from the effects of destructive envy. I prefer the term ‘tall puppies” to capture the notion of adorable tall poppies.

INVITATION

Contemporary conservatism will recover enduring relevance only by taking front stage as an agent of positive change, as a movement that transcends partisan lines. When a renewed, forward looking conservatism becomes a vital influence within both parties, liberalism will self-repair, becoming the other voice for freedom and creative action, the Dialogic will restart and the Renaissance will have begun.

Today, the USA hesitates at a crossroads, facing a fiscal crisis that masks an even deeper moral one. The choices are between competing versions of America, and our own personal futures. The steps we take now will represent a choice of goals and outcomes:

[ ] Live long and prosper.

[ ] Don’t live too long or prosper too much.

[ ] Continue to endure the dead hand of bureaucratic political correctness.

[ ] Live in the fresh air of a free people, creative, candid and unafraid to be human.

[ ] Enjoy an open, dialogue among freedom loving, life affirming creative adults.

[ ] Suffer toxic bickering and posturing over victim status issues.

[ ] Submit to an authoritarian ideology.

[ ] Seek happiness in a truly free society.

Hint: 1, 4, 5, 9

Where do you want to be? What are you willing to do? When are you willing to do it?

As Hillel the Elder said, “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”

Contact Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law: law@jaygaskill.com

[1] Starting in 1884, the intellectual, Sidney Webb, his wife, Beatrice Potter Webb, George Bernard Shaw, GDH Cole, Graham Wallace, and others, promoted a gradualist, incremental implementation of comprehensive socialism in Great Britain. With ties to the London School of Economics, the Fabians took their name from the Roman General Fabius, who successfully opposed Hannibal by biding his time. The Fabian influence on the British Labour Party remained decisive until the ascendance of the centrist PM Tony Blair (1997-2007).

[2] A great deal has been written about the history of technological innovation, but little if anything, connecting the dots to the Renaissance periods in European history, even though Leonardo Da Vinci was the emblematic crossover figure between the artistic and “practical” achievement. Among the most valuable sources for further research: The Lever of Riches, by Joel Mokyr, Oxford 1990; Structures of Change in the Mechanical Age: Technological Innovation in the United States, 1790—1865, by Ross Thompson, John Hopkins 2009; Technological innovation as an Evolutionary Process, John Ziman, Ed., Cambridge University Press 2000: The Timetables of Technology: A Chronology of the Most Important People and Events in the History of Technology, by Brian H Bunch & Alexander Hellemans, Simon and Schuster 1993; An Encyclopedia of the History of Technology, Ian McNeil, Ed. 1990, 1996 Routledge; Fortune is a River, Leonardo Da Vinci and Niccolo Machiavelli’s Magnificent Dream to Change the Course of Florentine History by Roger Masters, Penguin 1998, 1999.

[3] The daughter of a commercial family whose property was confiscated by the Soviets, Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum escaped to the USA, eventually changing her name to Ayn Rand. In her breakout novel, The Fountainhead, the nexus between creative freedom and intellectual property is explicit, and in Atlas Shrugged, the underlying links between artistic innovation, invention and commercial freedom are central to the storyline. Her philosophical writings, loosely grouped under the rubric, Objectivism, have been scathingly dismissed by the left as amoral. But Ms. Rand’s passion for creative freedom as a moral imperative was a specific commitment that transcended “mere” greed and belied the parodic attempts to marginalize an original, serious ethic, sharply relevant to the modern human condition.

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