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For the term "american spectator".

It’s Too Bad We’re Not All NatCons Now

Gosh, that guy Reagan was really good.

Neal Freeman wrote last week in The American Spectator that the “National Conservatives,” as they style themselves, and Christopher DeMuth, the chairman of the two conferences the NatCons have held, have chosen to “move on” (as Freeman puts it) from fusionism. (Full disclosure: I was a sponsor of the two NatCon conferences, and I’ve known Neal since we both worked in the Buckley for Mayor campaign in 1965 — eat your heart out!) Before looking at Freeman’s objections to the NatCons, we should take a quick look at what fusionism actually is. The term was coined back in the ’60s at National Review to describe the coalescence of libertarians, traditional conservatives, and anti-communists. At the 1981 Conservative Political Action Conference, President Reagan said this about it:

It was Frank Meyer who reminded us that the robust individualism of the American experience was part of the deeper current of Western learning and culture. He pointed out that a respect for law, an appreciation for tradition, and regard for the social consensus that gives stability to our public and private institutions, these civilized ideas must still motivate us even as we seek a new economic prosperity based on reducing government interference in the marketplace.

Gosh, that guy Reagan was really good.

It’s not quite clear precisely what Freeman is objecting to, his prose is such … fun to read. He took Daily Themes at Yale (first taught in 1907), the same course Buckley took: 300 words a day. Only the best survive, like Buckley and Freeman. Now Freeman can write sentences like, “The NatCon political model appears to be neither Napoleonic France nor Churchillian Britain but Orbanian Hungary. When national conservatism first came on stage, some of us were expecting a bit more fanfare from the brass section.” Chuckle, chuckle, chuckle. But what does it mean? What, precisely, is it that Freeman is objecting to?

We learn, in the very last sentence of his piece: it’s the planned economy, as advocated, he claims, by various people in the NatCon world.

Freeman relates that he once ran a business that could not compete with foreign imports, but he chastises those who say, as he says Rod Dreher does, “We need to unapologetically embrace the use of state power.” To do what?

Freeman is not fair to many of the NatCon folks: there’s lots to object to in our current economic arrangements before becoming an advocate for a socialist planned economy. Does anyone think what we have now is a free market? We should remember President Obama’s proposed TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), from which we can develop this axiom: no trade governed by a 2,000-page treaty can be called “free.”

If the current laws and regulations that govern business activities in this country could be printed (even in one-point type) on only 2,000 pages, every day would be the Fourth of July in this land for a generation. What this country needs is to repeal a thousand laws. For a start.

In taking a swipe at the NatCons, Freeman gives DeMuth a pass, but says, “His fellow NatCons are less measured. Spend an hour at the bar with a NatCon and you get the full, splenetic file” on how bad the libertarians are; that their solution to every problem is to cut the income tax. I was at the last NatCon conference in Orlando in November and missed seeing Freeman at the bar; nor did I get the impression that the NatCons had a bad enough impression of libertarians.

To wit: at the evening session on November 1 in Orlando the panel showcased two homosexuals, one of whom said, “The Catholic Church lost its moral authority in country after country. That was not because of liberals; it was because of the Catholic Church, specifically, the behavior of priests.” That’s rich, coming from a homosexual who said also, “There’s nothing so ridiculous as one male adult telling another male adult what to do with their genitalia.” My end of the bar required another round before quieting down.

Freeman also picks on J. D. Vance, currently running for the nomination for the U. S. Senate from Ohio. Vance has said (but was he joking?) that we (the government presumably) should seize the Ford Foundation’s $20 billion and distribute the funds … in a better manner than the foundation does. It’s not likely that Vance meant that exactly as it sounds: he is objecting, one assumes, to the lopsided power that lefties and wokies have gained in this country, including, as we saw just a year ago, the power to affect the outcome of elections.

About which something should be done!

Just what is a puzzle not yet solved, so far as we are aware, by the strict devotees of fusionism. One problem, surely, is that many corporations have simply become too big. Just because antitrust laws were abused in the early decades of the 20th century doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be applied appropriately now. It is most relevant to note that in the very first issue of National Review, Buckley wrote about monopolies: “The competitive price system is indispensable to liberty and material progress. It is threatened not only by the growth of Big Brother government, but by the pressure of monopolies — including union monopolies.” That sounds like an endorsement of government’s muscling in, not just a nostalgic longing for Southern agrarianism.

Big corporations, with armies of lobbyists and lawyers that outnumber the troops of Mordor — all armed with limitless budgets for wining and dining — influence the making of public policy with the goal, and the result, of making it increasingly difficult for small businesses to compete with them. China isn’t our only problem.

The size of government, mega-corporations, and most especially high-tech monopolies is a problem, though not the only problem. Those monopolies, with the gravitational force of Saturn, shape business, and they shape, and trash, the culture. It is not likely that little Burkean platoons of citizens gathered together here and there across the plains can escape that force; they will need to band together in something like, well, like government. During the Cold War we — we conservatives, we fusionists even — put up with a government larger that we wanted because a government of that size was necessary to keep us free (the Lions Club couldn’t develop Star Wars). Now we need to curtail the power, not just of big government, but of big business as well — mega-corps, big banks, high-tech monopolies — and the Lions Club can’t do that either.

We say, and not ritually, that a government big enough to give us all we want is big enough to take it all away — which is why we don’t want a government that big: not big enough to give us all we want, but only those things government should give us, primarily protection from our enemies foreign and domestic, and the other items enumerated in our Constitution, properly understood.

Our government today is a lot bigger than it was when Reagan made his remarks about fusionism in 1981. Our big government itself, including the Supreme Court, has been the instrument for abandoning our traditions and trashing our culture (rampant pornography), our mores (rampant, and subsidized, illegitimacy, homosexual marriage), our faith (driving God from the public square and from public schools), and our belief in the sanctity of human life, and the very definition of men and women. None of that trashing, now far worse than it was in 1981, is part of “the deeper current of Western learning and culture” that Reagan spoke about. Which of those issues would not have been a concern of the founding editors of National Review, or the solons of fusionism?

The people and the states should manage their own affairs, consistent with the goodness the Founding Fathers sought to embody in our system, but they cannot unless we dismantle more than a century of big government — the legacy of Wilson and Roosevelt and Johnson and Nixon and Bush and Obama — and the plagues big government, as well as the Supreme Court, has over the years visited on us, freed from any notion of good that the Founders had. We tend to forget that this country was founded not just to be free, but to be good as well.

So there is much work to do. We are adults, however, experienced in the ways of Washington, and we know, we know, that enacting a specific legislative provision to solve this problem or that problem will always be easier than repealing a major law or overturning a Supreme Court decision, which probably requires a full-scale attack on the zeitgeist. And so we propose discrete fixes … and then the number of laws and their complexity grows.

And with it, the need for National Conservatives to gather together to plan for — to plot and scheme for — a revival of the spirit of liberty and goodness that vouchsafed this nation to us, a revival that would make our ancestors proud, and our children free and good.

Published:

January 11, 2022
The American Spectator

The Miracle of Christmas

Looks like God is the world’s best physicist.

The most extraordinary letter received here in 2021 (or perhaps in the last five years) was a response to an email of mine on colleges’ appointing atheist chaplains. The letter (edited to protect the writer) went as follows:

The appointment of an atheist as a chaplain doesn’t seem to me to be, by itself, a calamity for civilization. Over here, we have a long and respectable tradition of Anglican atheism. My wife’s tutor at university was perfectly willing to admit to being an atheist, on the grounds that his own values coincided so closely with the church’s doctrine.

When I was in boarding school, I realized that I really didn’t believe some of what I was being told in confirmation class and wondered if I should proceed anyway. So I confided to my housemaster, who replied, “Of course, you must go ahead, my dear boy: the church needs your support.”

Then, to my astonishment, he revealed to me that he had never actually believed in God. However, he said, the church, alongside the monarchy, was the most important institution in the country.

Subsequently, he was elevated to a far more august position in the church, and attended chapel for many years in full processional vestment, at least eight times a week during term.

And do not forget the Non-Believing Bishops. I’m not sure how many there have been over the years, but there were at least three prominent ones: Richard Holloway (Edinburgh), David Jenkins (York), and Shelby Spong (Newark, New Jersey). If the church can put up with atheist bishops in its own hierarchy, an atheist chaplain in a university doesn’t look that threatening.

Surely what matters is not what these clerics believe (or don’t believe), but what they say and what they teach when doing their jobs.

If you’ve been wondering why Western civilization is collapsing, now you know. The bishops and who knows how many clerics have been lying for years.

And make no mistake: the bishops were lying. At the ceremony of the consecration of a bishop, the candidate is asked, “Are you persuaded that the holy Scriptures contain sufficiently all doctrine required of necessity for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? And are you determined out of the same holy Scriptures to instruct the people committed to your charge, and to teach or maintain nothing as required of necessity to eternal salvation, but that which you shall be persuaded may be concluded and proved by the same?” He answers, “I am so persuaded and determined, by God’s grace.”

The letter writer may think the lyin’ bishops were doing their jobs teaching, and the tutors too. A better guess is that their pupils saw right through them.

One survey last year showed that by 2018, only 12 percent of the national population of Great Britain identified as belonging to the Church of England or its sister churches in Scotland and Wales. In addition, surveys show that as few as 1 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds now identify as Anglicans. What else would you expect from a “respectable tradition of Anglican atheism”?

A few years ago, in Norwich, England, they built a 15-meter amusement slide in the middle of the cathedral; Rochester Cathedral, just outside London, installed a mini-golf course inside the building for a month; in 2016, Gloucester Cathedral transformed its 1,300-year-old building into a skate park for a skate festival; and Blackburn Cathedral has its own brand of gin — all done, of course, to attract people who probably saw right through the lyin’ bishops and tutors. To repeat: what else would you expect from a “respectable tradition of Anglican atheism”?

So, then, how do those respectable Anglicans think life on Earth began? How do they think we humans got here? On the back of a lyin’ bishop? And what was he standing on? Another lyin’ bishop? And that one? For them, is it lyin’ bishops all the way down?

Belief in God may be only a matter of faith today. But someday, and perhaps soon — maybe in only the next hundred years — the existence of God may be so obvious that only a moron, or an Anglican bishop, will be able to doubt it.

In 2009, this column reviewed Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell. Meyer’s essential premise was that there are times when we see something so improbable we say, “Somebody did that.” If you’re at a casino and the ball lands on 16 red 10 times in a row, you know someone’s cheating. You know that because for the ball to land on 16 red more than a (very) few times in a row is so improbable that “someone” (i.e., an intelligence, e.g., a crooked croupier) must be making it happen.

Meyer said we should bring that same skepticism to the idea that life developed by chance. Some people think that life on Earth had an eternity to develop. Not true. The Earth has only been cool enough for life to exist for a relatively few years (maybe four billion). Meyer says that in that relatively short time, all the necessary proteins needed to service a minimally complex cell would have to have developed. The odds of that having happened, he says, are about 1 in 1041,000  (that’s 10 with 41,000 zeros after it). So, yes, that could have happened “by chance,” but we should bring the same skepticism (actually, a whole lot more) to its having happened by chance that we would bring to the behavior of the monotonous roulette wheel.

And now there’s more. In his book Miracles, Eric Metaxas describes some other facts that, if they were just ever so slightly different, would mean that life on Earth couldn’t exist. Here are only three: If our planet were just a little larger, its gravitational force would be stronger, and it would pull all the methane and ammonia down to Earth, and life couldn’t exist. But if Earth were just a little smaller, water vapor, essential to life, would dissipate into the atmosphere, and life couldn’t exist.

If the Earth rotated just a little more slowly, the days would be too hot and the nights too cold for life to exist. But if it rotated just a little faster, the rotation would produce winds sufficiently high to make life impossible.

And a sine qua non for life on Earth is Jupiter, our solar system’s vacuum cleaner. Because Jupiter is so huge (318 times the mass of Earth), most of the comets flying around our solar system get diverted from crashing into Earth by Jupiter’s gravitational pull.

There are, according to Metaxas, hundreds of these variables essential to human life. What are the odds that they all — every single one — are just the way they are by chance?

Zero! That we exist is, in a word, a miracle.

But there’s more. Metaxas says the fine-tuning required for life to exist is nothing compared to what is needed for the universe to exist. He writes that astrophysicists now know that the “values of the four fundamental forces — gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ nuclear forces — were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang…. Alter one value, and the universe could not exist.” The odds, he continues, are a bit like “tossing a coin and having it come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row.” Forget about the roulette wheel.

St. John’s Gospel begins, “In the beginning was the Word … ” “Logos” is the Greek word for “word,” but it also means “reason” or “order.”

So, in the beginning was the ordering of, for example (as Metaxas says), the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force, which, if it had been off by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000 (one quadrillion), would have prevented stars from ever forming at all.

So, yes: in the beginning was the Word.

And then, 2,021 years ago, the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.

Merry Christmas.

Published:

December 24, 2021
The American Spectator