More Young Conservatives: Front Porch Republic
Gregory Wolfe March 13, 2009 - 2:30am
On the heels of the announcement of Ross Douthat becoming an op-ed columnist for the NYT, I thought this might be an opportune moment to point out another faint sign of life sprouting from the ash-heap of American conservatism.It's a new online magazine or blog or whatever these websites are called -- Front Porch Republic. It's motto is "Place. Limits. Liberty."I have a natural interest in FPR. As I mentioned in my inaugural post, I literally grew up within the conservative intellectual movement. Bill Buckley was my first boss.But even as an undergraduate at Hillsdale College -- academic Mecca for young conservatives -- I became deeply uncomfortable with the way mainstream conservatism was moving in the late 1970s -- with its unthinking support of corporate capitalism, its penchant for militarism and willingness to play world policeman, and its unbridled appetite for the self-righteous posturing of the culture wars.I was always more attracted by the "traditionalist" wing of conservatism, with its emphasis on the delicate nature of the social fabric, mediated by place and region and "intermediate institutions," its minimalist -- if not isolationist -- tendencies in foreign policy, and its stress on the more or less equal dangers of big business and big government.The folks over at Front Porch Republic represent the best of this strain of conservatism -- which owes a great deal to Catholic social thought, including the idea of subsidiarity. And of course to Southern Agrarianism and Chestertonian Distributism. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that many of the contributors are Catholic. (Of course the vaguely Protestant Wendell Berry is perhaps the single most important exemplar of FPR's vision.)They're also a pretty young group. I suspect there's some sort of generational thing going on with them -- I suspect that most of them would not be ardent disciples of the conservatives refined in the fires of the 1960s -- Michael Novak, say, or the late Fr. Neuhaus.Though it's a new website, there's already a great deal of energy, wit, and trenchant analysis to be found at Front Porch Republic. Sure, casting your eyes casually over their site you might a few things that are a bit off-putting or strange -- their blogroll includes "The Tory Anarchist" and "Conservative Heritage Times." And yes, it is highly unlikely that the FPR will be adopted by Republican Party operatives and become a viable political force any time soon -- so you might be tempted to write them off as descendents of Don Quixote -- but these guys are, well, smart, and maybe even a little prophetic.I may be wrong, but I happen to think that Catholics of whatever political stripe would find dialogue with the FPR crowd invigorating. I mean, if subsidiarity means anything, then Catholics ought to be wary of the path we're heading down -- wedding the Leviathan state to multinational capitalism. We should all care about the preservation of three endangered species: "Place. Limits. Liberty."