by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The idea holding together the conservative movement since the 1960s was called “fusionism.” The concept, which always worked better as an organizing principle than a philosophical one, was that freedom and virtue were inextricably linked. Virtue not freely chosen wasn’t virtuous. Or as Frank Meyer, the foremost architect of fusionism, put it: “Truth withers when freedom dies, however righteous the authority that kills it; and free individualism uninformed by moral value rots at its core and soon brings about conditions that pave the way for surrender to tyranny.”
This idea may have passed its sell-by date. …
… Today, conservative forces concerned with freedom and virtue are pulling apart. The catalyst is a sprawling coalition of self-described nationalists, Catholic integralists, protectionists, economic planners, and others who are increasingly rallying around something called “post-liberal” conservativism. By “liberal,” they don’t mean contemporary progressivism as represented by the Democratic party. No, they mean classical liberalism, the Enlightenment worldview held by the Founding Fathers.
What the post-liberals want is hard to summarize beyond generalities. They seek a federal government that cares more about pursuing the “highest good” than protecting the “libertarian” (their word) system of individual rights and free markets.
On the other side are more familiar conservatives who, like George Will in his brilliant new book, The Conservative Sensibility, still rally to the banner of classical liberalism and its philosophy of natural rights and equality under the law. “American conservatism has a clear mission: It is to conserve, by articulating and demonstrating the continuing pertinence of, the Founders’ thinking,” Will writes.