What is Paleoconservatism, Part V: The Fatal Attraction of Politics
The Role of Government
In striking out on our own, we did not intend to surrender the wisdom painfully acquired by earlier generations of classical liberals, libertarians, and small-government conservatives. If government interference in private life was a major source of social and moral dissolution, then it made no sense to call upon governments to save the family, restore community, or promote great art.
In calling for a restoration of manhood and womanhood and family autonomy, we were not so naïve as to believe that some think tank or magazine or gaggle of political intellectuals could draw up a package of magical legislation, complete with taxes and incentives that would restore American social life. On the contrary, we knew that things would probably get much worse before the first steps could be taken toward restoration. But having an ideal in mind, we also knew that we had to oppose any social legislation, whether it came from far left Democrats or center left Republicans, that did not shift power and wealth--however slightly--away from government and toward families and local communities.
Such an approach is both practical and principled, and its practitioners are not likely to be taken in by Potemkin Village projects that go by the name of “revenue sharing” or “the new federalism” or “school choice.” If a voucher plan will increase the power of the federal government over private schools (as most proposals will), it is necessary to oppose them, along with national legislation in favor of the family, restricting divorce, and defining life. When we have a Christian country, it will be time enough to consider expanding the social authority of the state.
Ordinarily, conversion is a process undergone by persons and families, kindreds and communities. We do hear of tribal leaders who compelled their Frankish and Anglo-Saxon barbarian subjects to accept baptism, apparently believing that Christian rituals were like magic talismans and rabbits’ feet. These mass conversions did provide security for Christians and offered encouragement to those who were seriously interested in the Faith, but in the end we are all like the Hercules at the crossroads, when he had to decide between the charms of Virtue and Vice. This is a depressing thought for all the born followers who believe that by electing a president or passing legislation they are doing something practical to change the world.
What is true of Christian conversion applies to all attempts at moral, social, and aesthetic reform. It has taken several centuries for the revolutionary left to infiltrate and corrupt all the institutions of our common life, and, short of poisoning the drinking water in every faculty lounge, bishop’s study, artist’s studio, and television station in Europe and North America, there is little that can be improved by direct action.
I have already pointed out in general terms the folly of any government project to restore the family, and it is always amusing to hear the appeals made by pro-family conservatives who call upon the United States, the United Nations, and the governments of the world to rescue the family. To put the family values in a very small nutshell—which, being composed of small-minded nuts, is where it belongs, they do not understand the nature of the problem and, therefore, can only make the plight of the family worse than it is already.