Yuval Levin on American Conservatism
The FiveBooks Web site has an interview with Yuval Levin in which Mr. Levin recommends five books on American conservatism. The interviewer, Jonathan Rauch, offers some of his own thoughts in questioning Mr. Levin:
[Rauch]:So what do Hayekans do, or Burkeans do, when they reach 2010. You've got big government, bigger than they've ever liked, but big government itself has become embedded in mores and traditions. Are you stuck between a revolutionary fervour to overthrow it all, and a shrugging acceptance that we're stuck with it? Or is there some third path?
[Levin]: I think you look for ways to roll it back gradually. Burke in the Appeal draws a distinction between change and reform in politics. Reform is a way of building on what works about your society and fixing what doesn't work. It doesn't mean you leave things as they are; it means that in calling for change and in setting out change, you begin from where people live, you begin from what works in people's lives. And today certainly some of that is the welfare state. But that doesn't mean that's where you end up. And I think it actually means resistance to radical expansions of the welfare state, to things that aren't well-established, or that aren't ancient. I think that in that mix there is a place for modern conservatism to make its case for a different kind of society, but not fundamentally different, not radically different...
[Rauch:] My fear is that modern conservatism has become a protest movement politics, which imagines itself to be revolutionary, but has no plausible means of bringing a revolution about. I worry a great deal about that.
[Levin:] If you begin with Burke, conservatism has always been, to some extent, a protest movement. It in fact began in response to modern liberalism. But what these books suggest is that there are ways of carrying out that response constructively and responsibly. And I think there are, I think there still are.
by Editor | Jul 19, 2010 at 11:11 am
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