Conservatives may hope that liberalism’s better angels prevail. But the ravages of ideological liberalism, especially the damage done by the sexual revolution to family and community, require active redress. Conservatives, drawing on the wisdom and traditions we have sustained (and which have sustained us), must help our culture relearn essential parts of being human.
Pillar: Politics & Law
The third pillar of a decent society is a just system of politics and law. Such a government does not bind all persons, families, institutions of civil society, and actors in the marketplace to itself as subservient features of an all-pervading authority. Instead, it honors and protects the inherent equal dignity of all persons, safeguards the family as the primary school of virtue, and seeks justice through the rule of law.
Did Lincoln regard the Constitution as “broken” and therefore in need of replacement? Or did he believe that the Declaration of Independence represented America’s aspiration to end slavery, and infused the Constitution with this same aspiration?
We are increasingly becoming afflicted by the who/whom logic of Lenin. For Lenin, when it comes to political aggression, what matters is who performs the action and upon whom it is performed. But, in reality, the whom you attack is a who in reality. Just as you are a self, so too are they a self.
Where there is a mutual commitment to truth and truth-seeking, relationships can be built between religious believers and secularists, and they can indeed reason together. The minimum condition is this: interlocutors, however wide and deep their substantive philosophical or other differences, need to share the conviction that business between them is to be conducted in the proper currency of intellectual discourse—namely, reasons, evidence, and arguments.
“Much American (and British) media depiction of faith—sadly, but perhaps inevitably – tends to be primary colored, inadequately nuanced, and at odds with what I have found to be the case from my fifty years’ engagement with the United States.” An interview with the British historian of America, Richard Carwardine.
If we think there’s too much government regulation, then the authentically conservative solution is not to say, “Well, let’s just try to operate a landscape of isolated individuals jostling in a competitively economic marketplace,” but “Let’s create institutions of countervailing power so that where exploitation is happening, the people themselves are equipped to resist it, and the government doesn’t need to intervene to fix it.” If designed correctly, a system of sectoral labor unions can actually help achieve the conservative goal of limited government.
Sunday marks exactly three full decades after the fall of the Soviet Union. This anniversary arrives at a portentous time when Marxist critiques of capitalism is becoming relevant again. Marx’s legacy is hard to pin down because his influence is paradoxical. The measures Marx influenced “tamed” the excesses of laissez-faire capitalism and removed the need for revolution; yet his influence has led to the fulfillment of considerable portion of his programme.
The texts I reflect on illuminate core themes of Public Discourse’s work: cultivating a proper understanding of reason, appreciating the indispensability of moral formation, and framing law around eternal moral truths. I was deeply honored and delighted when R. J. Snell and the current editorial team invited me to join them as a contributing editor, and I look forward to more conversations to come.
Plaintiffs have filed lawsuits arguing that mandates without religious exemptions violate their free exercise of religion. Given the thorny legal questions involved, and the possibility of inflaming the polarized situation further, the Supreme Court will likely allow the issue to percolate in the lower courts and resist the invitation to rule on whether the First Amendment requires religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccines.
Chief Judge Jeffrey Sutton’s new book, Who Decides?, provides a powerful argument for ordinary people who feel powerless in their ability to affect the course of national politics. State constitutions provide an alternative venue for meaningful political change and are an important way to exercise constitutional self-government.
In his recent book, Glenn Ellmers argues that the political philosopher Harry V. Jaffa can help us meet the manifold challenges of the crisis of the West. Jaffa’s teachings on statesmanship and prudence provide a path to reverse America’s decline.
When it comes to climate change, liberals are correct. Yet they fail to see how the same arguments they use for climate action—acting in the face of uncertainty, limiting individual choice for the common good—can also be used to justify a bit of soft social conservatism.
Let Casey stand, and its abortion license fall.
The day you pass pro-life legislation, if you’re trying to win people over, should also be the day that you are passing new spending bills to support adoption, to support pregnant mothers—to support, not just crisis pregnancy centers, but crisis first-two-years-of-life centers! And that doesn’t have to mean bureaucratic welfare-state spending. But it means some kind of spending, in a way that I think many people active in the pro-life movement are comfortable with. Many people in the Republican Party institutionally are obviously not.
In Part I of this article, we established that many of the reasons some Jewish Americans passionately oppose overturning of Roe v. Wade are either overblown or baseless. Today, we highlight one of the ways in which overturning Roe will help to foster a political culture of federalism and subsidiarity that benefits religious minorities.
This two-part article addresses how American Jews should think about looming changes in the Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence. Today, the authors discuss why many fears commonly expressed by Jews regarding a post-Roe world are overblown or outright false. Tomorrow, they will explain some of the under-appreciated ways that overturning Roe will benefit vulnerable religious minorities.
Safetyism and Wokeism are fellow travelers, joined at the hip in many more contexts than not. Both elevate people’s subjective and emotional experiences, so long as they point in a progressive direction, over what is biologically or scientifically true. It is time for both conservatives and traditional liberals to wake up to this reality, which requires more consistently translating our convictions into action.
Roe is indefensible as a matter of honest constitutional interpretation. It short-circuited the political process and poisoned the Court. Its systematic flaws, widely acknowledged by a variety of progressive and pro-choice legal scholars, caused the judiciary to become the branch most, not “least[,] dangerous to the political rights of the Constitution.”
A functioning constitutionalism that protects the people’s rights and fosters good governance requires a sound political theory behind it. Times have changed since the American Founding, but Thomas is right that the natural law teaching in the Founders’ political theory remains as sound and useful as ever.
The ideas that the truth about the human condition is radically contingent on history (historicism) and that we can speak rationally only about facts and not at all about “values” or moral principles (positivism) lead inexorably to a failure of all conviction, and ultimately to nihilism. What results is fanaticism: the impulse to bend others to one’s will, despite—or precisely because of—the lack of any rational foundation for one’s preferences.
When “lost world” or original position doctrines inform our search for justice, we are much less likely to work to improve social conditions in the real world. “Second-best justice,” on the other hand, seeks the reasonable solution to a dispute, one acceptable to all parties that repairs communal harmony to the greatest extent possible. Perfection does not enter the equation, either as an original state or as a goal.
Correctional facilities must grapple with unprecedented levels of overcrowding, violence, and suicide, as well as rampant mental illness among inmates. The tightening of budgets and the resulting loss of vocational, educational, and treatment programs pose additional difficulties. In the midst of these struggles, faith-based approaches, led by faith-motivated volunteers and prisoners, are providing the most innovative, holistic, and effective programs available in correctional facilities today.
As the Democratic Party at the national level moves further into abortion extremism and the exclusion of those who dissent, it is hard to imagine the party embracing a more moderate and inclusive stance. But electoral consequences in the 2022 midterms could prompt this awakening.
Catholics in colonial America pioneered a vision of liberty of conscience grounded in human dignity that would eventually be affirmed as doctrine by the second Vatican Council. A new book by Michael Breidenbach illustrates how unsettled the issue of papal temporal authority was in the founding era, and how damaging papal insistence on it was to the survival of Catholic minorities in English and colonial life.
Roe could be reversed in one of two strongly pro-life ways. The Court could declare that the child is a fellow human being and a person, and is thus constitutionally protected prior to birth. Or the Court could in effect encourage each state to recognize the child as one of us. The latter could well be politically preferable.