And finally, we looked at how these principles might be applied in our current social context to put the American Dream back in the reach of working-class families. Throughout, our goal has been to show, in the words of Yuval Levin, that any framework for national renewal must be based “not just in fiscal concerns but in a political, moral, and social vision” rooted in America herself, while also reaching far beyond it (Room to Grow 16; see below for our complete Works Cited).
But as we have pointed out, these reforms are really just the beginning; other fundamental changes will have to come sooner rather than later. As Dreher and Schumacher would remind us: small is still beautiful. We should, therefore:
- Reform the agricultural, health, and commercial regulations to permit and encourage the flourishing of small farms and producers of local foodstuffs, and in turn repopulate rural America.
- Shape zoning restrictions to favor the preservation of old buildings of historic value, require new development to conform to high aesthetic standards, and provide more public spaces for human interaction [starting with the front porch].
- Adopt an attitude toward business laws that favors small businesses over large corporations. (Dreher, ch. 8)
Ultimately, this is not a technical debate but a philosophical one. Work is essential to any notion of the good life. The policies of the Left often undermine the good life by denying people access to the preconditions for thriving. The Right needs to offer an alternative that is neither liberalism-lite nor a cold shoulder to neighbors in need. Instead, conservatives should encourage the good life by encouraging the virtue and dignity that only work can provide. (Strain, RTG 73)
As Belloc warned, the day may indeed come when the “internal strains which have threatened society during its capitalist phase will be relaxed and eliminated, and the community will settle down upon that servile basis upon which was its foundation before the advent of the Christian faith, from which that faith slowly weaned it, and to which in the decay of that faith it naturally returns” (Belloc 197-198). But whether that happens, or we see a generation rise up to reclaim the mantle of reform, or a third way presents itself (beautiful or terrible), or the Master himself comes to claim his own—only time will tell.
In any case, the best way forward is, “to combat the cynicism and emptiness of formal politics by living virtuously and generously in one’s own community” (Dreher, Afterword). To redeem the times by living out the created, humane, and moral principles of the divine economy as best as we can in the time and place in which Providence has placed us: to consecrate our work to God, to love our neighbors, to be kind to strangers, to live frugally, to give of ourselves freely, to care for the natural world, and ultimately, “to live by the holy love of God, waiting in hope for the return of our Lord, the resurrection of the just and the unjust, and the everlasting life of the world to come” (What We Believe).
Of course, Alan sums all this up much better than I do . . .
- Aristotle. The Nicomachean Ethics. Trans. J.A.K. Thompson. Rev. Hugh Tredennick. London: Penguin, 2004. Print.
- Belloc, Hilaire. The Servile State. 1913. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1977. Print.
- Collins, C. John. Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary. Phillipsburg, PA: P&R, 2006. Kindle.
- Douthat, Ross & Reihan Salam. Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream. New York: Doubleday, 2006. iBooks.
- Dreher, Rob. Crunchy Cons: The New Conservative Counterculture and Its Return to Roots. New York: Three Rivers, 2006. iBooks.
- Ericson, Edward E. “Christian, Therefore Conservative.” First Principles Journal. Web. 10 Nov. 2013.
- The ESV Study Bible. Ed. Lane T. Dennis & Wayne Grudem. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008. Bible Study with Accordance.
- Hayek, F.A. The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents. 1944. Ed. Bruce Caldwell. University of Chicago, 2007. iBooks.
- Kirk, Russell. The Conservative Mind, From Burke to Eliot. 7th ed. Washington, DC: Regnery, 2001. Print.
- ---. “The Moral Imagination.” The Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal. Web. 22 May 2010.
- Lewis, C.S. The Abolition of Man. 1971. New York: HarperCollins, 2001. Print.
- Marx, Karl & Frederick Engels. The Marx-Engels Reader. 2nd ed. Ed. Robert C. Tucker. New York: Norton, 1978. Print.
- Oden, Thomas C. Classic Christianity. HarperCollins, 2009. iBooks.
- Room to Grow: Conservative Reforms For a Limited Government and a Thriving Middle Class. Ed. Yuval Levin & Ramesh Ponnuru. The Young Guns (YG) Network, 2014. PDF.
- Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. A Discourse on Inequality. Trans. and ed. by Maurice Cranston. London: Penguin, 1984. Print.
- Shaffer, Matthew. “Economic Prosperity and Cultural Peril: The Promise of Globalization.” First Principles Journal. 29 Apr. 2010. Web. 29 Apr. 2010.
- Smith, Adam. The Wealth of Nations. 1776. Ed. Edwin Cannan. New York: Bantam, 2003. Print.
- Tolkien, J.R.R. “On Fairy-stories.” Tales from the Perilous Realm. Ed. Christopher Tolkien. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2008. 315-400. Print.
- Welch, Patrick J. & Gerry F. Welch. Economics: Theory and Practice. 8th ed. Hoboken, New Jersey: 2007. Print.
- Wiker, Benjamin. 10 Books That Screwed Up the World (And 5 Others That Didn’t Help). Washington, DC: Regnery, 2008. Print.