Monday, September 21, 2009

Irvin Kristol RIP

Whatever they tell you, people make a difference. You can talk all you like about productive forces, race, class, and gender. There's no doubt that they make a difference.

But who can doubt that a man like Irving Kristol, "godfather" of the conservative movement, made a huge difference? Now he is dead, aged 89.

I probably first became aware of Kristol in the 1970s when he appeared regularly on the Wall Street Journal edit page. Editor Bob Bartley had a "Board of Contributors," weighty names that would each contribute to the conversation about once a month. And then I became a subscriber to The Public Interest, which Kristol edited.

Why did Kristol make a difference? Probably it was just that conservatives were looking for a voice like his, which gave conservatives the courage to put their heads above the parapet and brave the brickbats from the liberal left.

Those heady days of the late 1970s that culminated in the improbable election of Ronald Reagan are over now. And even though liberals have rejected the manly conservatism of Reagan, the de-politicized economy and the sunny faith in the United States as a people that must have freedom, it probably doesn't matter. The folly of the Obama administration will see to that.

Very soon, liberals will have to abandon everything they hold dear as they cut spending. Why will they cut? Because the American people will be standing over them with ballot papers.

The rout of the liberals is up next. But I look to the future, which I believe requires a woman-centered conservatism. By that I mean a conservatism that heals the textured web of relationship that must be the center of any worthy society. A free economy is necessary, but it is not sufficient.

Whenever I get a chance, I like to invoke the importance of Michael Novak's social model, what I call the Greater Separation of Powers between the three sectors: political, economic, and moral/cultural.

I was thinking last week that the political sector is for people who like to compel, the economic sector for people who want to serve, and the moral/cultural sector is for people who want to inspire.

That moral/cultural sector, I feel, is the particular abode of women. It has suffered a serious impoverishment in the last century, as Irving Kristol noted in his 1991 speech at AEI. The great mistake of feminism was to redirect the enthusiasm of women out of moral/cultural influence and into politics, the locus of power and compulsion. That was a mistake, because power and compulsion are not the strong suits of women.

The next conservative tide must deal with the spiritual impoverishment of our times, the long withdrawing roar of the moral/cultural sector. And the people on the crest of this tide will be conservative women.

It would be a great monument to the memory of a great American, Irving Kristol.

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