"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Frank S. Meyer on the conservative approach to the state

“The conservative — who understands also that power in this world will always exist and cannot be wished out of existence — stands for division of power, in order that those who hold it may balance each other and the concentration of overweening power be foreclosed. He stands for the limitation of the power of the state, division of power within the state, a free economy, and prescriptive protection of the rights of individual persons and groups of individual persons against the state. But he does not see the state as an absolute evil; he regards it as a necessary institution, so long as it is restricted to its natural functions: the preservation of domestic peace and order, the administration of justice, and defense against foreign enemies.”

-- From The Twisted Tree of Liberty (National Review, Jan. 16, 1962).

1 comment:

Tom Van Dyke said...

He stands for the limitation of the power of the state, division of power within the state, a free economy, and prescriptive protection of the rights of individual persons and groups of individual persons against the state.

How quaint.

I use the word "quaint" in that I fear that modernity, with its belief in human cleverness and in the human will to conquer reality--that is, nature, specifically man's nature--argues against the prudential, the wise. Madison, et al., set up not just a checks-and-balances regime where somewhat wise men would restrain each other's excesses--for the problem with fully wise philosopher-kings is they come along only every century or 3--but that the base human ambition and hubris from which none of us are exempt might be harnessed rather than extinguished.

I know you're a student of the early days of Buckley-esque American conservatism, Mark and indeed, the emphasis here is on "American." This could have been written by any 19th-century admirer of the American experiment, especially a non-American one!

To cut to the chase, Social Security was a good and even necessary idea, even if it was a fiction as presented to the Supreme Court as "insurance" by FDR.

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/362915/social-security-fable-andrew-c-mccarthy

I remember a meme somewhere that the first manifestation of "humanity," or "civilization," was when mankind stopped letting its parents die when they were no longer fertile, productive, or even self-sustaining.

As "conservatives" in 2017, we are not the conservatives of the Buckley era 60 years ago, who still railed against Social Security as an institution if not a communist plot.

Nay, nay, the conservatives of 2017 fight to preserve--conserve--"save" Social Security. To be honest, "conservatism" as political philosophy would never have ginned up a system to protect widows, orphans, and the elderly. That was social-political creativity. Almost by definition conservatism is not creative in that way.

Yet creativity is an essential human quality. To frustrate it is to defy man's nature. Just as leftism/socialism cannot create wealth by taxing the creative and productive to death, or by ordering and central planning it [!], conservatism is not the motor of wealth creation either. But in its conservatory function it is also far too prone to stifling creativity, which makes it a negative, not a liberating dynamic.


But he does not see the state as an absolute evil; he regards it as a necessary institution, so long as it is restricted to its natural functions: the preservation of domestic peace and order, the administration of justice, and defense against foreign enemies.”

Well, that don't feed Grandma. To my knowledge, in all of Christendom no Grandma ever starved to death; but Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Christendom anymore.