The Spirit of Conservatism

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8 Responses

  1. Y. Ben-David says:

    While I sympathize with the goals outlined by Cohen and the others in this series of articles, in reality it is too late for this in the United States. The ongoing spread of “progressive” thinking is too powerful to be stopped. While as recently as ten or fifteen years ago it was unthinkable to support the idea of homosexual “marriage” or dropping gender as a defining characteristic of someone’s identity (leading to unisex bathrooms, men serving as women in the army and vice versa, etc, etc) which all will inevitably lead to legalizing polygamy and polyandry, plus demands to curb freedom of speech in the name of “inclusiveness” and multiculturalsm, but today, these things are now apparently accepted by society. This is in spite of the fact that the supposedly “conservative” Republican party is in control of most of the statehouses and governerships of the US in addition to both Houses Of Congress.

    There is no turning back in the US. Almost 50% of all children are born to single mothers which will mean the inevitable spread of the “nanny state” and everyone’s sense of entitlement resulting in an endlessly increasing burden on the national budget, leading to the loss of individual initiative and enforcing state-enforced mediocrity (“no one should feel excluded” even if they are not learning anything in school) . This will mean the loss of the very characteristics that gave America its social and, more importantly, economic vitality for so long.

    These negative factors effect EVERYONE in the US, even highly ideological groups like the Fundamentalist Christians who were growing in the 1980’s but who are now losing a lot of their children to the pervasive outside “progressive” culture, plus the spread of a “Reform Judaism”-type -form of Evangelical Christianity which also adopts the Leftist platform that says you can’t judge anyone for whatever lifestyle they adopt and which is also very anti-Israel.
    Of course, even insular groups of Orthodox Jews will be affected as well . I once pointed out to a young Orthodox Jew attending an Orthodox institution of post-high-school education that the Torah does not recognize any such concept as homosexual “marriage” and what I got in return was his statement that I was a “fascist” for saying that. I have encountered numerous Orthodox Jews who are big fans of Obama and the Democrats and their social agenda, and these are NOT “Open Orthodox” types which is more explicit in accepting the “liberal” agenda.

    Thus, Hazony and Rav Meir Soloveitchik are on the right track…without a DEEP commitment to Torah, a Jewish “conservatism” can not succeeded, but they left out one point….true Jewish values can ONLY be implanted in society in ISRAEL. There is no longer any long-term hope for the United States, no matter who is elected President in 2016.

  2. Bob Miller says:

    Lately, I’ve seen many examples of the Republican leadership’s love-hate relationship with conservatives. They love the support but hate to keep promises. The Democrats, of course, are beyond making such promises.

    It remains to be seen hoe far gone the US now is. It would be unfortunate to sit back and watch if positive results are still possible.

  3. Jacob Suslovich says:

    “To succeed within the Jewish community, neo-cons will have to overcome the suspicion that they are insensitive to justice-based arguments – not just righteousness-based ones – for attempting to eradicate poverty. ”

    What exactly is the difference, theoretical and practical, between a Justice and a Righteousness basis for combating poverty?

    [YA – I’ll start you off, and you can do the heavy lifting yourself. Think of a frum person and the mitzvah of tzedakah. If he sees it as righteousness based, he/she will give, but some days he may not be feeling so righteousness-oriented. OTOH, when pressured to give because of social commitments, he figures, “I have to get rid of my maaser anyway, so what difference does it make?” When that same person develops a justice-based outlook (i.e. the money wasn’t mine to begin with; HKBH gave it to me only to distribute it to the aniyim who are its proper owners), he finds it easier to give consistently. At the same time, he becomes more vigilant about whom he gives to, knowing that he has, so to speak, a fiduciary responsibility to disburse the funds wisely on behalf of the true owners. Now extrapolate to communities and societies.]

  4. Raymond says:

    Since reading the above article several hours ago, I have been thinking about and thinking about whether there can be an enduring, viable, civilized society run completely according to secular law. And I just do not see that happening. In the spirit of being a citizen of the world embracing all peoples, I tried to imagine a society perhaps built on the more secular aspects of the Seven Laws of Noah. Could a society exist having rules against stealing, adultery, theft, and unnecessary cruelty to animals, but not necessarily with G-d as the source of those ethics? I think that the history of the human race would indicate that cannot be the case. For once one removes G-d from the equation, humans are then left to define things for themselves, and humans have a way of redefining things in a way that suits themselves, inevitably leading to the abandonment of the moral aspect of the Seven Noachide laws. In our own society, for example, tens of millions of people no longer think anything of the slaughtering of millions of helpless, unborn babies. Homosexuality has become an alternative lifestyle that we are no longer allowed to oppose out loud, and are even expected to approve of them marrying one another. The horrific videos I have seen of the terrible cruelty done to animals both in this country and in places like China and India, is enough to give nightmares to any person with a beating heart. The point is, that society cannot last without a G-d based moral system, which basically means following the Seven Laws of Noach.

    Now, what is noteworthy about the Seven Noachide laws in this discussion, is that really, all but one of its laws are negative ones. The only positive law, is enforcing the six negative rules. In other words, we Jews do not really demand that gentiles do anything for us or for the world, but only that they refrain from certain negative behaviors. To me, that sounds a whole lot like the comment made by the 19th century American thinker Henry David Thoreau, who famously said, “That government which governs least, governs the best.” And indeed, that was part of the genius of this nation’s Founding Fathers. They created a government designed to basically protect its citizens from physically harming one another, or stealing from one another, but really in all other aspects, the government is to leave us alone. Within the framework of such freedom, let Jews be Jews, Christians be Christians, and so on. And that to me is what political conservatism is all about. This contrasts very sharply with the Leftist view of things, which seeks to take away virtually all of our individual freedoms in the name of complete equality. Their goal is to make everybody be exactly the same, even if that means the government taking over every aspect of our lives. As Jews, I would think that that is the last thing we would want.

  5. Jacob Suslovich says:

    To R Adlerstein. I feel that you are using categories that are not those of the Torah and halacha. A categorization that would be more consistent with traditional Jewish thought would be between Din and Lifnim Meshuros Hadin with the latter indeed allowing more flexibility than obligations that are based on pure din.(see the famous essay By R. Aharon Lichtenstein “Does Jewish Tradition Recognize an Ethic Independent of Halakhah” and the lengthier treatment in what in my opinion should be the famous book “The Halacha and Beyond” by R Zecharia Fendel). I am not opposed to studying secular political and ethical philosophy but I think one most be careful not to end up forcing a square peg into a round hole.

  6. Jonathan says:

    I think he plays with fire. In the US, I would favor a liberal tolerance and non-judgementalism that allows me to practice my faith as I see fit, and not impose another’s morality upon me. Let’s advance a Jewish political ethic that’s eschews the liberal/conservative labels entirely.

  7. tzippi says:

    I have an easier time reading in print than on the screen which is why I only got around to reading this now. I had to bite the bullet as it won’t appear in Yated anytime soon 😉
    There is a line between respecting respectable people’s values, and becoming blindingly enamored of a value system and I wish the Tikvah attendees clarity.

    Rav Hirsch has a marvelous piece on Ethics of the Fathers, 5:13, about the four ways of reacting to others’ and one’s own property. (Especially marvelous in light of the socio-political backdrop of the time of his writing.) A salient snip:
    [T]o abolish all private ownership and institute the common holding of property, is likewise based on deplorable ignorance. For its practical implementation would not only cancel the sanctity of the individual’s right to own property and thus his one possibility for true independence, but it would also deprive man of the opportunity to practice mercy of his own free will…Justice is the foundation of society, and mercy is its finishing touch.”

    This week’s Torah portion mentioning the agricultural laws of leaving some of the fields for the poor, it’s no wonder that there is an innate appreciation of a government that has some safeguards for our most vulnerable, rather than leaving it to the communities, who may not always step up to the plate. I’m glad I’m not the one making these policies.

    (For anyone who wants to read a chronicle of extreme detachment from capitalism, you can read The Man Who Quit Money. Have some Tums ready.)

  8. tzippi says:

    Since we can’t edit posts, I want to amend something. Having just got around to reading R. Adlertein’s post on the Tikvah summer program, it looks like the attendees will have a lot of help and direction as far as clarity goes, so that’s one reservation I can probably shelf.

    I mentioned a comment from Governor Jindal on hyphenated Americans. This is a meme I’m hearing more and more on RW radio (yes, et tu, Dr. Bennett) and it’s a bit disconcerting. True, those saying it are referring to a cultural, national identity that should be subsumed by being purely American, i.e. they feel it’s not productive to identify as Indian-American, Latin-American, etc. What about other hyphens, such as Jewish-American? This is not a part of my identity I feel I should be sublimating.

    Now if I would bother to call any of these shows they’d probably say that that’s not what they’re talking about. That they would defend my right to identify by my religion, just not my right to identify more fully as a Lithuanian/Polish-American than an American. But if this rhetoric heats up, I don’t know if I could count on that. And to be fair, I would also tell the new immigrants not to feel they need to throw out their cultural heritage either, especially if it contributes to the best parts of their core identity.

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