Friday, October 2, 2009

Conservatism Brain-Dead?

I can't quite decide if Steven F. Hayward is serious in asking the question "Is Conservatism Brain-dead?" Because I can't help feeling that his article in The Washington Post is Straussian. That is: it reads one way to the uninitiated and another way to those in the know.

Officially, Hayward is bemoaning that we have nothing like the weighty bestsellers of yesteryear:

The bestseller list used to be crowded with the likes of Friedman's "Free to Choose," [1962] George Gilder's "Wealth and Poverty," [1981] Paul Johnson's "Modern Times," [1983] Allan Bloom's "The Closing of the American Mind," [1987] Charles Murray's "Losing Ground" [1984] and "The Bell Curve," [1994] and Francis Fukuyama's "The End of History and the Last Man." [1992]

I have sneakily added in the publication date each book. Notice anything interesting? These books weren't crowding together. They were spaced out over 30 years! Admittedly, a lot of them crowded into the 1980s. But that was after the Reagan Revolution. The heavy lifting had been done years earlier.

No. I think that conservatism is in the cat-bird seat. And my big thing is the rise of the "chick-cons." Yes, if you look at the lists they are crowded with titles by conservative women: Return to Modesty by Wendy Shalit, Smart Sex by Jennifer Roeback Morse, Domestic Tranquility by Carolyn Graglia, The War Against Boys by Christina Hoff Sommers, What Our Mothers Didn't Tell Us by Danielle Crittenden. And let's not forget The Forgotten Man by Amity Shlaes, which is not strictly chick-con but a history of the 1930s.

Now if we descend to include important titles by men, there's the stand out Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg. That's a real bestseller. But of course there is a lot of heavy lifting going on below the radar. I'm thinking of Rodney Stark with his raft of books on the sociology of religion. There's From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State by David T. Beito and A Farewell to Alms by Gregory Clark. There's Market Education by Andrew Coulson and The Beautiful Tree by James Tooley, both on education reform. Not to mention the standout works by Peruvian Hernando De Soto including The Mystery of Capital.

My feeling is that the books below the radar are more important than the best-sellers. The best-sellers tend to come, like the conservative best-sellers of the 1980s, when it's all over bar shouting, as my grandfather used to say.

But let us get down to activism. The chick-cons are really busy networking and organizing, as you'd expect. There's NeW, the Network of enlightened Women, an organization of conservative women college students that are reading chick-con books together and doing activism. There's Smart Girl Nation. They are the ladies that first got the Tea Parties going.

I'm still not sure whether Steven F. Hayward, author of The Age of Reagan, was serious about conservatism being brain dead, or whether he was trying to fool the liberals at The Washington Post.

Doesn't matter. Conservatism ain't brain dead. It's so alive that it's scary.

1 comment:

  1. Hayward seems to be a good poster-boy for the wayward conservatives, who forgot it was all about individual liberty.