15 min read
July 28, 2023
Dear Intelligent American,
There is a Freedom Conservatism movement afoot, launched with a recently released “statement of principles” drafted by, and signed by, many names you likely know. It hearkens Reagan and Buckley and even Old Boss Bill’s historic home (“Great Elm”) in Sharon, CT, where the famous 1960 Sharon Statement was birthed.
Does an obligation come with the signature?
In addition to enumerating the principles of Freedom Conservatism, signatories of the Statement have made three specific commitments related to reducing the cost of living, restoring America’s fiscal sustainability, and addressing the downstream effects of slavery and segregation. From the text of the Statement:
“We commit to reducing the cost of living through competitive markets, greater individual choice, and free trade with free people, while upholding the rule of law, freedom of contract, and freedom of association.
“We commit to building a constructive reform agenda that can restore America’s fiscal sustainability, ensuring that future generations inherit a more prosperous and secure nation than the one we now inhabit.
“Many who descend from victims of [slavery and segregation] now face economic and personal hurdles that are the direct result of this legacy. We commit to expanding opportunity for those who face challenges due to past government restrictions on individual and economic freedom. We adamantly oppose racial discrimination in all its forms, either against or for any person or group of people.”
Good and interesting stuff. At The Washington Free Beacon, Matthew Continetti defends it. Read the statement in its entirety and draw your own conclusions and inspirations. Your Humble Correspondent finds one concern, a not-small one, about who seems not to be invited to the party: God. Amidst the statement’s articulation of rights, freedoms, and liberty, there is no reference to the Creator who endowed them.
Well, let us leave this and other concerns and reflections on the statement to bigger brains, such as this from The American Mind by the great conservative intellectual Daniel J. Mahoney.
If It’s Elucidation You Seek, You Have Come to the Right Place
1. At The Wall Street Journal, David Oshinsky argues that it is time to bring back mental asylums. From the commentary:
In the past decade, a growing number of scholars from across the ideological spectrum have suggested a return to asylums. Among them is Ezekiel Emanuel, a leading medical ethicist, who joined with two colleagues in 2015 to recommend the building of “safe, modern and humane” state institutions to end the revolving door of homelessness-hospitalization-prison that passes for policy today.
The model they suggested is the Worcester Recovery Center in Massachusetts, a facility for 320 long-term patients with private rooms and “a recovery-inspired residential design.” Opened in 2012 on the grounds of a long-abandoned state asylum, it cost $300 million to complete, making it one of the most expensive non-road construction projects in the state’s history.
There is little doubt of the need for it, and the early signs, including surveys of recovery outcomes, are encouraging. Since the goal is to serve patients, rather than to warehouse them, the price can be steep. In 2015 Massachusetts spent $55,000 per prison inmate, with some additional costs for those with serious mental health issues. Meanwhile, the Worcester Recovery Center, with an annual budget of $60 million, spent close to four times that sum per patient. How this will play out in the long run, and how many other states will follow, remains to be seen.
2. At The College Fix, Maggie Kelly delves into college “inclusive language guides” and finds a bumper crop of absurdities. From the piece:
Because our language and our minds are flexible, fortunately we need not follow the recommendation of university “inclusive language guides” to stop using “dark” or “black” to describe anything negative in order to think positively about people with black skin.
It is not clear that the inclusive language proposals would reduce racism. But they would unacceptably restrict our imagination and our descriptive vocabulary.
“Associating whiteness with purity, cleanliness and goodness and blackness with evil and destruction serve to reinforce harmful tropes and the constructed racial hierarchy in which Black and Minoritised people are pushed to the bottom,” according to “Contains Strong Language: A Guide to Talking About Racism,” which came out this month.
The guide suggested that we “replace” every usage of “phrases like “‘denigrated’, ‘black mood’, ‘dark times’, or ‘whiter than white’.”
3. At Plough Quarterly, our dear amigo Bill Kauffman pens a requiem for one community’s beloved, penny-pinching substitute teacher. From the remembrance:
In mid-2022, Jim was diagnosed with Stage 4 esophageal cancer. As is surely typical in such cases, he couldn’t quite believe it was happening to him. His physical decline was gradual, then precipitous. One week he was tooling around town, attending any public reception offering free food, and the next he was in the hospital, gravely ill. Jim hadn’t been abed for more than a week before a hundred or so high-school students crammed into the hospital’s lobby and serenaded him with Christmas carols. Frail as he was, Jim, eyes clouded and voice whispery, sat in his wheelchair and fist-bumped the kids as they passed by.
By Christmas Day he was in Crossroads House, the local hospice. A doula said that no resident had ever had so many visitors. Former students poured in as if streaming from a firehose. Jim’s room contained an enormous poster board on which dozens and dozens of high schoolers had written messages of love and mercy and pleas “not to leave us yet.”
One of my visits could have been a scene in some gentle comedy. His naked body curled under a blanket, Jim struggled to speak. “Billy,” he rasped, “when it’s near the end, you realize something.” I leaned my ear closer. What do you realize at the end? Jim fell asleep. I never did learn this secret. Perhaps it is only vouchsafed to those on the verge.
4. At National Review, Wilfred Reilly considers the demographics and urges Americans not to commit national suicide. From the article:
All of this seems likely to get worse (at least from the perspective of those who like babies) rather than better, across the middle-distance future. According to the most recent official OECD figures, which track quite well with those for the USA, the average age for first marriage is 31 years of age for women and 33 for men. In contrast, as I recently pointed out in a “controversial” online thread which drew both passionate condemnation and praise, the peak point for human fertility appears to be about age 23. For a variety of reasons—no doubt including simple disinterest among harried junior executives—Americans who have not yet had children by age 30 are only about 50 percent likely ever to do so.
And, importantly, the younger generations arising behind the often-mocked Millennials—which are frequently praised for being “based” and rejecting the work-focused materialism of their parents—are empirically even less likely to jump right into family life after college or law school. As I noted in a recent article for NR, many members of Gen-Z (“Men Going Their Own Way,” for example) seem to reject conventional dating and romance totally. Today, only 30 percent of senior high-school students have ever had sex even once, and only 21 percent are currently involved in a “sexually active” love relationship. About 20 percent identify as gay or otherwise “queer.”
5. At Front Porch Republic, Nadya Williams thinks deeply about how best to fill time when one has time to fill. From the piece:
There are, for any given moment, many wonderful and less-than-wonderful things we could be doing with our time. Let us consider one of the latter. The latest statistics suggest that twenty-three percent of American adults watch Netflix every day, averaging sixty-nine hours of streaming per month, some even streaming it during work. Others do not watch it every single day, and others simply use other streaming services. Between one thing or another, though, we are a nation of passive entertainment, and this has significant implications for our character formation. While there are plenty of useful or wholesome options on Netflix and similar streaming services, much of the content is decidedly unsavory. It could, in other words, if ingested habitually and in high quantities, have a negative effect on one’s mind and soul. Perhaps, also, there could be further negative effects on the body, for watching a movie is yet another sedentary activity, and most of us have plenty of those in our lives already, thanks.
And so, we are getting to the crux of the issue at hand: assuming we accept that it matters how we fill our time and our minds, just how exactly do we make the determination for what is the best use of our time? I propose two chief criteria, considering specifically content and relationships.
First, when it comes to filling our time and our minds, we want to start with things that are good and beautiful in a sense that is greater than our own age. There are so many beautiful books out there, many more than we could read in our finite lifetime. There is, furthermore, great art to experience in museums and at concerts and dramatic performances. We can also make art ourselves for our own joy. I think about the hours each week that my daughter spends painting and coloring. I enjoy it even more now that she seems to have moved on from painting and writing on the walls. My middle son just performed in a children’s community theater musical production that required him to memorize close to eighty lines of text, some of it set to music, and learn the choreography. I have rarely seen him as happy as he was while working on his role. Finally, we try to spend at least two hours outside each day, usually at a playground or park. I could talk about the scientific benefits of physical activity and fresh air, or I could just say: everyone is in a much better mood and sleeps better at night whenever we get plenty of time outdoors.
6. At USA Today, Elizabeth Grace Matthew—wife and mom of three boys—pushes back on the “trad wives” trend and its disconnect with history. From the piece:
To cast as “traditional,” women’s sole focus on domesticity and child-rearing is ahistorical. It wasn't until America industrialized in the 1800s, and labor moved off of farms and into cities, that middle- and upper-class white women whose husbands earned enough to support their families began to define “ladyhood” as synonymous with distance from production.
Meanwhile, Black women, Irish immigrant women and poorer white women without the financial security to focus their attention solely on homes were excluded from this new definition of femininity.
By the late 1800s, this distinctly modern ideal of womanhood that captivates today’s trad wives was inextricable from whiteness and male-produced wealth.
In short, being a trad wife is anything but traditional. It's also not a viable model for marriage or family formation in a nation where women are primary breadwinners in 42% of families and co-breadwinners in 22% of households, and where many men struggle to find professional footing in a post-industrial economy.
7. At The American Conservative, George D. O’Neill Jr. posits that the Democratic Party needs RFK Jr. From the piece:
RFK solves many of the Democrats’ problems. He is younger and more physically fit than Biden. He is engaging and charming to everyday Americans. Kennedy also has a disarming way of violating all of the progressive rules and saying the forbidden words. In short, what he says just makes sense.
Take immigration as one example. The far-left progressive gospel dictates that any border restriction is a crime against humanity. In a May 3 tweet, Kennedy offered up this commonsense alternative position: “Is it possible to be pro-immigration AND pro closing the border? Yes. America should be a haven of freedom and prosperity, open to law-abiding migrants who will contribute to our society. However, immigration must proceed in an orderly, lawful manner. Right now we have chaos at the border. Human trafficking, criminality, intolerable stress on border states like Texas. It is a humanitarian nightmare.”
For many Democrats and even right-of-center voters, Kennedy’s statements are a breath of fresh air. He isn’t ranting about so-called racist policies of Republicans. He isn’t denying the human crisis at the border. Instead, he is giving voice to what many Americans think about the undeniable brokenness of our immigration system.
8. At Law & Liberty, Mark David Hall and Jordan J. Ballor explain their project to assess the health of religious liberty in the 50 states. From the piece:
In some important instances, the federal government has attempted to protect religious liberty against the states through statutory law, but by and large protections depend upon the states themselves. How well have they done?
To answer this question, the Center for Religion, Culture, and Democracy launched the Religious Liberty in the States project, with Sarah Estelle, an economist at Hope College, engaged to create an objective index that measures and compares how well states protect religious freedom. The first edition of the index and report was released last September, and the second edition of the index releases today, with a full academic report to come later this year. In its second year, the index considers 34 distinct items and 14 safeguards that are available in some but not all states. States are given a simple score of 1 for each item they protect, and a 0 if they fail to protect an item.
So, for instance, states that exempt clergy from prohibitions against serving alcohol to minors receive a single point on that item, whereas states that don’t receive a zero. Similarly, states that provide a religious exemption from vaccination requirements for school children receive a point, and states that do not receive no points. Aggregating fourteen safeguard scores produces one RLS index score per state. (An extensive discussion of the methodology is online at the RLS website and in the first year’s full report, available for download).
9. At the Hoover Institution’s Strategika, Ralph Peters says NATO is “the ‘Comeback Kid’ who never left.” From the piece:
Through all the criticism, NATO triumphed—that word is carefully chosen—as Europe-at-peace achieved levels of prosperity unimaginable in the first bleak, hungry post-WWII years. The fighting stopped and a battered continent bloomed. Far from being a strategic money pit, NATO proved to be the bargain of the last century and may prove an even better deal in this one.
NATO is often frustratingly bureaucratic, but the ornate bureaucracy in Brussels and Mons prevents rash errors. NATO can appear inefficient—but what greater efficiency could we ask than prolonged peace on a continent soaked in blood for millennia? To Americans in particular, NATO can appear “all hat, no cattle,” yet look how prodigiously its varied members, with only a few exceptions, have supported Ukraine. NATO’s collegiality, if sometimes strained, has served multiple operational-handyman purposes, as well: Officers from diverse countries and varied military cultures learn to work together under common protocols—an enormous advantage, should a “black swan” war erupt: It’s far better to go to war with a team that’s been practicing together for decades, rather than a pick-up squad already under fire.
But the greatest value NATO delivered has been that “dog that didn’t bark,” the many wars that didn’t happen. For all the ingrained animosity, Turks and Greeks have not gone to war with each other, nor have yesteryear’s trigger-happy nationalists in Central and Eastern Europe resorted to force to advance mythologized territorial claims (except in the former Yugoslavia, in which none of the combatants of the 1990s were yet NATO members).
10. At Comment Magazine, Sarah Dahl makes a case for children in the pews and not in the cry room. From the essay:
There is a deep ambivalence toward children in twenty-first-century American life. In The Children and the Theologians, Jerome Berryman uses “ambivalence” to describe “the church’s delight and aversion, attraction and repulsion, and emotional closeness to and distance from children.” Those conflicting attitudes are well at play outside of church walls: our San Francisco city buses are plastered with fertility center ads announcing “We Deliver Joy!”—and the parenting shelves at my favourite bookstore are stocked with the bestsellers All Joy and No Fun . . . Children delight us, drive us up the wall, invite kindness, and trigger our deepest anxieties, often within minutes. We will spend enormous amounts of money to conceive them—the fertility industry is worth billions of dollars, and growing—but once born, we shunt them out of adult spaces into age-segregated day cares, classrooms, and camps until they’re eighteen. Ambivalence, indeed.
Our church—like many, I suspect—shares this conflicting stew of responses to children. We prize them, we pray for the adults who want so desperately to have them, we hold them up as longed-for blessings, and collectively beam indulgently at the altar when they sing “Mary Had a Baby” in the Lessons and Carols service. We also send them away to their own worship spaces every week, fail to invite them back for the Lord’s Supper, shift uncomfortably when one of them makes what feels like an inappropriate amount of noise, and largely delegate their discipleship to “brave” volunteers and children’s ministry professionals. While they are in the sanctuary, the children are in our adult space, and there is almost a palpable sigh some weeks when all one hundred-plus of them troop out and off to children’s worship.
11. At City Journal, Henry Mack defends Florida’s general-education standards. From the piece:
Naturally, the reform drew criticism from across the political spectrum. Journalists and academics argued that it would drive talent away from Florida and compromise the state’s competitiveness. Faculty claimed that the legislation infringes on academic freedom, viewpoint diversity, and shared governance. The American Association of University Professors has been particularly vocal about its displeasure with the direction of Florida’s higher-education aims. Still others speculated that the change would result in the loss of accreditation status for the Sunshine State’s universities, or in hostile environments for minority and low-income students.
None of this is true. Since the bill’s passage, Florida education leaders have in fact been flooded with inquiries from teachers wanting to move to the state. These interested instructors also believe that public colleges and universities should ground their general education coursework in the history of Western Civilization and the Great Books tradition—aims that SB 266 now makes explicit. This approach is not new, nor should it be controversial.
Public higher education in the United States was defined by its emphasis on helping students graduate with a common intellectual culture, equipped with the knowledge and skills to live successfully in a democratic society. The educational curriculum provided formal exposure to the Western Canon. To the extent that SB 266 will help expose students to a common set of principles that may equip them to be informed citizens, the law is on the right track.
12. From The Daily News in Newburyport (MA) comes the inspiring report of a bike-a-thon with a goal of beating cancer. From the report:
On Aug. 5 and 6, more than 6,000 riders from around the globe, including 81 residents from around the Greater Newburyport area, will pedal in the 44th Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC). These cyclists will come together with the common goal of raising a record-breaking $70 million for cancer research and patient care at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (Dana-Farber).
If achieved, this would be the single-largest gift Dana-Farber has ever received, bringing the PMC’s total contribution in the fight against cancer to $970 million since 1980.
As the nation’s single most successful athletic fundraiser, the fully supported bike-a-thon includes one and two-day routes, from 25 to 211 miles, designed to cater to all levels of cycling and fundraising ability. For the 17th consecutive year, 100 percent of every rider-raised dollar will be donated directly to Dana-Farber to support lifesaving cancer research and treatment. The PMC accounts for more than 60 percent of the Jimmy Fund’s annual revenue as Dana-Farber’s largest single contributor.
Lucky 13. At The Spectator, Jenna Stocker frets that America’s regional culinary traditions face extinction. From the piece:
Betty Sue’s Fried Okra, Mock Cooter Stew and Mama Leila’s Hand-Me-Down Oven-Baked Possum are a sampling of dishes unique to the Southern culinary tradition. I asked a young millennial acquaintance from Mississippi if she was familiar with any of these delicacies. “I’ve never seen a possum, and I’m afraid to ask what a cooter is,” was her response. (Her expression and furrowed brow indicated an even mix of relief and puzzlement when I told her it was a medium-sized freshwater turtle.)
Learning at grandma’s hip how much cream (never low-fat milk!) to add for a perfect New England Clam Chowder or the precise time to flip a Swedish pancake to get that extra crunch on the outside is an entirely different experience from following a TikTok culinary influencer who looks like she’s barely old enough to sample the sherry called for in your great-aunt’s closely guarded wild rice soup recipe.
The foreword to my well-worn Lutheran Church Ladies’ cookbook illustrates what we lose when these traditions and foods are forgotten: the very history of our nation and the disparate communities that made it culturally bountiful and endearing. “These recipes are intended to reflect our history, so they include rich and delicious dishes from our parents and grandparents. It is our sincere hope that you will find this book an accurate source of kitchen inspiration for good food and good fun. Much pride and many good memories of family and friends are attached to each recipe.”
Bonus. At Tablet Magazine, Jamie Betesh Carter revels in the “Borscht Belt” revival effort in New York’s Catskill Mountains. From the beginning of the piece:
This summer in the Catskills, everything that’s old is new again—and some things are just plain new. It’s not quite a revival of the old Borscht Belt, where hundreds of thousands of Jews used to spend their summers decades ago. But it’s a step toward a new Jewish culture in the mountains of New York State, which builds on and commemorates what came before.
The area’s iconic hotels from bygone days—Grossinger’s, The Pines—may be gone, but new historical markers are being placed throughout Sullivan and Ulster Counties to mark where they stood; these days, visitors can stay at newer boutique hotels like Kenoza Hall and Scribner’s Catskills Lodge that pay homage to what once was. Comic legends like Jerry Seinfeld and Mel Brooks may not be performing at the Nevele anymore, but this month’s Borscht Belt Fest will bring new comedians, musical performers, and food purveyors to Ellenville, New York, during a weekend festival that pays tribute to the old days while focusing on a new generation of entertainment. And while the physical institutions that once housed all of these memories and memorabilia have been dismantled, The Borscht Belt Museum will host exhibits that bring us right back in time to the golden age of the Catskills.
It’s been more than 30 years since even the last of the Catskills’ resorts was a popular destination. They’ve been talked about and represented in movies and stories for years, but why are people only now putting a stake in the ground to remember and reflect on what once was? “Many of the people who lived in this golden age of the Catskills are growing old,” said Andrew Jacobs, president of the Borscht Belt Museum’s board of trustees. “And at this moment, there’s a zeitgeist thing I feel happening with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and younger people really fascinated by mid-century modern nostalgia.”
For the Good of the Cause
Uno. We restate our concern about America’s skyrocketing irreligiosity: It’s obvious it has much to do with the problems affecting this nation. Do consider attending the forthcoming Center for Civil Society conference—“Rise of the Nones: How Declining Religious Affiliation Is Changing Civil Society.” It takes place on November 7–8 in glorious Scottsdale, AZ. Get complete information, right here.
Due. What is amazing about nonprofit fundraising is that all the effort that goes into acquiring a donor is often—for many an organization—tossed away when the donor isn’t retained. This is a relational milieu, after all. If you or yours are flabby when it comes to the follow-up, or even the getting, well then you need to attend the forthcoming (Thursday, August 17, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., Eastern) AmPhil Major Gifts via-Zoom webinar on “Acquiring, Retaining, and Upgrading Your Most Valuable Donors.” You really ought to check this out. Get complete information, here.
Point of Personal Privilege
Your Humble Pensman, at Philanthropy Daily, reflected on the Soros dynasty, and at National Review, pondered the political fight over school choice.
Department of Bad Jokes
Q. Why did the chicken cross the road?
A. To prove to the possum that it could be done.
Russia’s war against Ukraine has passed the 500-day count, which may be a mere contrivance as a marker, but may also bring focus and give people pause, and, especially to those who believe in the power of prayer, prompt engagement in such, beseeching the Creator who endowed unalienable rights to also bring an end to the bloodshed.
May We Seek Peace and May We Receive It,
Jack Fowler, who can be reached at email@example.com.No Room in the Conservative Inn