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Social conservatism and the left

August 29th, 2002

Don Arthur is always worth reading, but his posts are so lengthy, erudite and tightly argued that I seem never to find the time to write up an adequate response.
In this piece he develops a theme on which I’ve written quite a bit, coining the term “Dooguite left” for those on the left who are concerned about the social consequences of theory-driven free-market reform, and can therefore be correctly described as “socially conservative” (The usual recipients of this tag, are better referred to as “sexually conservative”, since they focus almost exclusively on issues of sex and reproduction).
I wrote about this last year in the Fin. A short take:
“Despite the frequency with which the name of Edmund Burke has been invoked recently, the intellectual tradition of conservatism finds no place in the Liberal party. The central Burkean idea, that social change should be gradual and organic, rather than rapid, top-down and rationalistic, is anathema to radical free-market reformers.”
As the subsequent Tampa episode showed, it’s a mistake to be too dewy-eyed about community and so on. The same values that promote solidarity within the community can be used to generate unreasoning hostility to outsiders.

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