Monday, July 15, 2002

Crunchy Conservatives

I think Rod Dreher is on to something with the crunchy conservative thing. (Remember, though, that this is really nothing new. It was TR who started the National Park system.) I have recently found myself shopping at Wild Oats market, making my own bread (from a sourdough culture I started myself), and shopping 3-4 times/week to work with fresh foods. The gas mileage on my car is one of the major determining factors in buying it, and as soon as GM comes out with that hybrid minivan they've been talking about (35-40 mpg for a minivan!) I'm all over it. I recycle (except paper, which is as dirty a process as there is) and brew my own beer (well, some of it). Cheese and wine-making cannot be far behind. Now that I have found sandals made in the US (instead of China) I am spending nearly all my time in crunchy-attired feet.

One interesting thing to note: Dreher, Peter Kreeft, and I, all have beards. I wouldn't place a large wager on it, but I might make a modest bet that bearded conservatives are disproportionately "crunchy."

And, I would say that it is conservative crunchies who are being truest to their principles when they do crunchy things. Conservatism is about giving people the power to make real, honest choices about their lives: to work and worship as they please; to live where they please; to spend extra money on what it pleases them to buy, be it an ugly 12,000 sq. ft. home or organic produce for 20% more than the grocery store kind. Modern liberalism is about removing choices (except for the only acceptable "choice") and forcing everyone into conformity with whatever the intellectual fad of the moment is. As libertarianism has crept into conservatism, it has paradoxically caused a limiting of choices for conservatives. It is now seen as contradictory to be conservative and conservationist, where once it was the most natural connection in the world. The setting aside of vast swaths of land to be preserved as open space for hunting, fishing, recreation, camping, hiking: these conflict with no known principle of classical liberalism. They actually exemplify one major aspect of it: the classical virtue of Temperance, by moderating the tendency to consume and exploit.

Libertarianism, by denying the power of virtue, particularly in the public arena, has forced a conservative retreat from such concepts, and conceded the ground to lefties, who don't so much deny Virtue as conceive the State (rather than God) to be the source of it.

Perhaps what is needed is a public "coming out" party for all the like-minded conservatives. If enough of us come forward, we may moderate the tendency of many companies to cater to their apparently liberal-dominated customer bases, and perhaps detach Fresh Fields from Planned Parenthood, so that Emily Stimpson can go back to getting her herb-crusted tofu there.


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