Craig Shirley puts the cart before the horse in “Rebranding Conservatism” (Commentary, Monday).
He emphasizes local control - localism - in preference to the mishmash of priorities that is modern conservatism. G. K. Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc in the early 20th century had a similar idea. They called it distributism, not to be confused with Marxist-socialist doctrine. Localism is a good idea, but only when it rests on an ethos of objective truth and a belief in the transcendence of man. Otherwise, local control can easily become local tyranny.
Chesterton and Belloc knew this and spent lifetimes writing and talking about the perils of both government and corporate tyranny. The great struggle of our time is not between liberalism and conservatism per se, but between philosophical and economic materialism, where man is just a finite instrument of “progress,” on the one hand, and a humanistic localism, where man is encouraged to be both free and responsible.
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By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
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