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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page xxv of George Will’s 2019 book, The Conservative Sensibility:

The progressives’ indictment is that the [American] Founders’ politics is cramped and uninspiring because it neither aspires to, nor allows for, the integration of the individual’s spiritual needs and yearnings with the individual’s political identity and activities. To this indictment the American conservative’s proper response is a cheerful, proud plea of guilty. The world has suffered much, and still suffers, from politics freighted with the grand ambition of unifying the individual’s social and moral lives. Such politics inevitably aims to fuse individuals into an organic community, with little social space in civil society for institutions – civic, religious, commercial – that can respond to human needs with politics largely left out.

DBx: As is becoming fashionable to say in enthusiastic agreement: This.

Sadly, the myth that everything is, or ought to be, political is being peddled and swallowed increasingly also by many conservatives (although, of course, not by George Will). Oren Cass, for example, is among those who tell us that the state is justified in restricting people’s freedom to trade in order to prevent workers from losing the meaning they find in their existing jobs. More generally, free markets are accused of undermining family, community, and (again) “meaning” – the protection of which is alleged to require an active, compassionate state.

At work here also are other (un)intellectual and (un)ethical forces, but one of these (un)intellectual forces is the rise of the simple-minded notion that the source in society of order – or, at least, of good order – is the state. If it were true that good social and economy-wide order must be consciously created, then it would be true also that politics infuses nearly everything in life, for the state’s importance would be paramount. The political contests would be among those who have different notions of the particular sorts of orders that ought to be imposed by the state, the secular creator. In such a reality, those who argue to reduce and keep strictly confined the role of the state would be proponents of disorder.

But not only is it untrue that order in society and the economy is created by the state, almost the opposite is the case. Society and the economy are emergent and organic – “the results of human action but not of human design” – and attempts to change that order consciously through state coercion nearly always spread cancerous disorder, disharmony, and discord.