George Will’s June 4 article, “Making a case for U.S. conservatism,” was a reminder of how out of touch conservative intellectuals can be. Will’s self-importance really comes through when he implies that the Republican Party’s return to the traditional philosophical precepts of conservatism would be enough to demonstrate its superiority over the Democrats.

Will laid out a version of America’s two-party system so idealized and so removed from everyday politics that it read like a recruitment pamphlet for the local campus Objectivists club. Never mind that it is Republicans who have been running up deficits and managing corporate corruption for the past quarter century, while party strategists try to appease diverse supporters ranging from Christian fundamentalists and military veterans to oil industry lobbyists and the National Rifle Association.

Will proclaims that “conservatism is realism, about human nature and government’s competence.” Yet conservatives are ideologically inclined to start from theory (or their religion) and then filter through the facts, or ignore the facts altogether. When it comes to human nature, they elevate the observations of pre-Industrial Age philosophers on concepts like “self-interest” above the findings of modern social science.

And they fail to explain why, in this day and age, the ability to govern is best guided by intellectual conservatism, rather than by pragmatism, nonpartisan cooperation and an openness to novel approaches and grassroots innovations.

scott mintz

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