Next Conservatism, The

Cloth $24
160 pages, 6" x 9", introduction, notes, index

Buy Now

Next Conservatism, The

Weyrich, Paul M. and Lind, William S.

Since November’s election, conservative columnists have filled the op-ed pages with calls for a new conservative agenda. In The Next Conservatism, two of the conservative movement’s best-known thinkers, Paul M. Weyrich and William S. Lind, offer exactly that. More, they offer a new kind of conservative agenda, one that reaches far beyond politics to grapple with the sources of our nation’s cultural decay.

The Next Conservatism recognizes that culture is more powerful than politics. Nevertheless, it offers an engaging menu of political reforms, all under the rubric of “Restore the Republic!” No enthusiasts of Imperial America at home or abroad, Weyrich and Lind seek limited government, jealous guardianship of civil liberties, and a Washington liberated from the power of the New Class, the interests that feed off our nation’s decay. To these frequent conservative themes, Weyrich and Lind offer something new: a warning of a general crisis of legitimacy of the state itself, which can lead to a Hobbesian state of anarchy. How might we save the state while avoiding the jaws of Leviathan? The Next Conservatism offers innovative ways to thread that needle.

Meanwhile, what of America’s culture? Did its decay over the past half-century “just happen”? Weyrich and Lind argue no; rather, much of our degradation was deliberate, the work of the poisonous ideology of cultural Marxism, AKA “Political Correctness.” The Next Conservatism takes the reader on a fascinating historical tour of the origins of Political Correctness in the infamous Frankfurt School, a gathering of heretical Marxists whose goal from the outset was the destruction of Western culture.

Weyrich and Lind then proceed to “deconstruct” the left’s program for America, debunking Feminism, “racism,” and  environmentalism along the way. Reflecting the thought of Russell Kirk, The Next Conservatism condemns ideologies left and right, calling instead for a return to traditional ways of living, ways that reflect wisdom accumulated generation by generation. Only thus, they argue, can conservatives win a culture war many regard as hopelessly lost.

Old ways, in turn, lead to a Next Conservatism appropriate for hard times. Virtue, Weyrich and Lind offer, is to be found in modest living, not conspicuous consumption. The Next Conservative agenda rejects environmentalism but includes conservation, the return of the family farm, New Urbanism and the revival of such ‘oldies but goodies” as streetcars and passenger trains. A new theme, Retroculture, sums up a conservatism that recognizes that what worked in the past can work again today, and in the future as well. Our ancestors were no fools, the authors suggest, and “Back to the Future!” can serve as a powerful conservative rallying cry.

Having laid the political and cultural groundwork, The Next Conservatism then turns to conservative governance. In foreign policy, the authors call for minimizing foreign entanglements, though with a strong national defense and a military reform to adapt to face Fourth Generation warfare rather than the Second Generation America adheres to. For the economy, the authors call for repairing and expanding our national infrastructure, sound money, and protecting American industry, seeing labor as a potential ally. In both national security and economic security, the authors insist that good governance include moral security; drawing from the New Urbanism, they offer a “moral transect” that allows everyone to do what he wants, but not always where he wants. The public square, they suggest, should be safe for families.

Respecting the careful limits on government power a restored republic would embody, The Next Conservatism calls for redeeming America not through legislation but through a new conservative movement. Unlike the old movement, the next conservative movement would be a league of people who pledged to live their lives by the old rules. While conservatives would remain engaged in politics, they would rely on a vastly more powerful force of example, the examples of lives lived well in traditional ways. This next conservative movement would appeal far beyond the ranks of political conservatives, to all Americans who know that something has gone tragically wrong in the life of our nation.

The Next Conservatism offers a vision of vast sweep, far beyond anything coming out of Washington. At a time when most Americans find life growing more difficult, it proposes a path to a new America that is also the old America, the good, comfortable America we had and have lost.

The late Paul M. Weyrich was one of the principal organizers of the Religious right. He was the founding president of the Heritage Foundation, and in 1977 he founded Free Congress Foundation.

William S. Lind is known internationally for his work in military theory. He writes regularly for The American Conservative and currently serves as a Center Director for Free Congress Foundation.