Conservatism in the Days ahead

As this is my final issue as Publisher of the Tory, this letter will be my opportunity to both say goodbye and introduce the next Publisher of this magazine. It’s been a great honor to serve as the Tory’s Publisher in the last year, and I’d like to thank the excellent staff that I had for an exciting year. Special thanks also, to those who read us loyally.At this time I would like to also introduce the new Publisher, David Byler. David has been a committed staff member of the Tory, serving in the past as Production Manager and as a staff writer before assuming the Editor-in-Chief position last year. I look forward with great anticipation to see how the Tory will progress during his tenure as Publisher.

One mark of the Tory in recent years has been the magazine’s role as a space for conservative voices in the Princeton community. The magazine has never been committed to any one particular political cause. Instead, we have tried to provide space for students with moderate-to-conservative leanings to think and sharpen one another in thought. This commitment to providing a broad conservative space has manifested itself in the wide range of topics we’ve touched on in the last year. For example, we’ve analyzed the University’s treatment of small departments, investigated the problems with its new Greek Life policies, considered the future of conservatism after 2012, and defended the possibility of conservative women against the dominant liberal narrative of a so-called conservative “war on women.”As Publisher, I am extremely proud of much of the work that the Tory has been able to do in the past year. The above-listed articles are a testament to a great variety in content while maintaining consistency in quality. My hope for the Tory is that this breadth will be preserved going forward. In particular, I am wary of the magazine being simply a voice for social conservatives or fiscal conservatives. In light of the 2008 and 2012 elections, many have been asking whether social conservatism and fiscal conservatism ought to be married within the same political movement. In light of the apparent difficulty of Republicans to nominate a candidate who seemed fiscally responsible and socially conservative, and because of the growing demographic of those who identify as fiscally conservative but apathetic when it comes to “the social issues” some ask whether social and fiscal conservatism are simply aligned by convenience.This question seems to me ill-posed on a number of levels. Policy recommendations are the result of political philosophies interacting with the real world, which suggests that what one really ought to ask is whether there is a political and moral philosophical system of convictions that causes one to fight for limited national government and individual (and state) freedoms on the one hand, and traditional social institutions and mores on the other. The next question one ought to be asking is whether this system offers explanatory or practical benefits that its alternatives don’t, and if so, whether we ought to adopt it.

Professor Robert George seems to think such a system is plausible; more than that, he advocates for it. In a column published in First Things ten days after the November elections (“No Mere Marriage of Convenience”) he proposes a three-pillared understanding of a healthy society. The first pillar is the respect for all human persons, the second is the institution of the family, and the third is a fair system of law and government. Crucially he sees each of these as fundamentally necessary for the others to flourish. For example, respect for all persons is fundamental to just governing and without healthy familial institutions basic cultural goods such as respect for other people and civility flounder. In addition, societies where government is unjust cannot have sustainably healthy businesses and economies, thus causing the detriment of all persons who participate in the economy (virtually all persons). Professor George’s column provides a wise analysis of the contemporary spat between the fiscally and socially conservative wings of the conservative movement at large, and whether or not one finds his argument wholly convincing, I’m inclined to think that there is truth to be found in what he says. Importantly conservatives at Princeton and at large cannot simply bend to the narrative that fiscal and social conservatism are incompatible. Though one may adhere to a philosophy that renders them so (and that is one’s prerogative), it certainly is not an open-and-shut problem. Instead, we must critically examine this narrative and ultimately decide for ourselves whether it is believable.

Yours in Final Valediction,

Toni Alimi ‘13

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One thought on “Conservatism in the Days ahead

  • June 2, 2013 at 7:34 am
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    The obvious weakness of current defences of the marriage of ‘fiscal conservatism’ (by which the purveyors of which usually intend to say ‘liberal free-market capitalism’) and ‘social conservatism’ is that it ignores differences in the economy of today vs. 50 or 100 years ago and the economic interests of … small-c ‘conservative’ people.

    Arguments in defence of the historically unusual ‘American conservative’ synthesis paint pictures of small communities with thriving independent, small businesses and churches, working together and prospering when these businesses are left alone by the State to acquire reasonable capital to support churches and other civic organisations.

    The true outcome of contemporary ‘fiscal conservatism’ is globalist financial capitalism, destroying regulations often designed with more conservative than socialist intentions, creating an economy that has no use for rural communities in First World countries, no use for small farms, no use for local business that might compete with corporations in which the powerful global banks invest, and certainly no use for paying workers in the US enough to support their families without forcing the mother to work and certainly not enough for them to build their own, independent civic organisations.

    You can eliminate all taxation and regulation on business – as long as you do not distinguish between large and small business, or between American and international, this will be no match for the forces of globalisation unless and until the price for production in the US is roughly level with that for producing abroad. Yet, at that point we shall have a Third World country.

    In summary, small-government liberalism and social conservatism can be married in a rural, agrarian society, but you cannot combine advanced global financial capitalism with any attempt to preserve cultural traditions. The pictures painted by those who defend this union hearken unto either this 19th-century, long-forgotten past, or the mid-20th century industrial society that was in no way ‘fiscal conservative’ in its contemporary use (of course it was more fiscally conservative in reality – meaning, it incurred less debt, but was more restrictive and statist).

    I think it is time for people to update their ideology.

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