Sunday, November 30, 2008

What We Believe

The December 1st issue of National Review had a host of articles on the future of the conservative movement in wake of this year's election. They authors are some of the best and brightest minds on the right and if you can get your hands on that issue, I would encourage you read the lot of them. One article that caught my attention was by Yuval Levin called Back to Basics, Ahead to Particulars. I found this passage in particular--on common beliefs shared by conservatives--to be especially insightful:

The common core of beliefs that unites conservatives lies deep, providing a foundation but not a whole political edifice. Just about everyone who calls himself a conservative, for instance, is more grateful for what works in our world than angry about what doesn't. And just about everyone who calls himself a conservative believes that the most significant human problems result from human failings, rather than from imperfect distributions of material resources--and so are permanent rather than transitory.

Because we are grateful and impressed that anything works at all, we value the social and political arrangements that make things work, and we seek to build on what is best about them rather than start over. Different institutions have evolved this way over time to address permanent human problems.

The family is our way of contending with permanent moral imperfection and the permanent challenge of rearing the young. The next generation begins where every human generation has always begun, not where the latest liberal education fad left off. It must be raised more or less as good men and women through the ages have always been raised, and must be offered an example of time-tested moral living. Future moral progress has to be continuous with past moral progress.

The market is our way of contending with permanent intellectual imperfection, and of channeling individual avarice toward common prosperity in a free society. Alternative ways of pursuing prosperity tend to fail because they fall back on two delusions: that we can know enough to govern the economy in every detail, and that a reallocation of resources can eradicate poverty.

A strong military and an attitude of watchful caution are our ways of contending with the permanent belligerence of mankind and the permanent danger of hostile nations with an interest in weakening or harming us. We do not think that the absence of perfect peace is the result of temporary misunderstandings, and we have learned from history that peace is best achieved through confidence, strength, and interest-driven alliances abroad--and through economic prosperity and moral constancy at home.

Levin goes on to say that rather than changing these foundational principals, conservatives need to do a better job of understanding the issues of the day and explaining how these principals apply to them.