Vulgar Fatheads

The nice thing about Will Wilkinson, a writer I truly enjoy (and a friend), is that he ain’t playing tiddlywinks.

I sometimes think that liberal individualism is something like the intellectual and moral equivalent of the best modernist design — spare, elegant, functional — but hard to grasp or truly appreciate without a cultivated sense of style, without a little discerning maturity. National Greatness Conservatism is like a grotesque wood-paneled den stuffed with animal heads, mounted swords, garish carpets, and a giant roaring fire. Only the most vulgar tuck in next to that fire, light a fat cigar, and think they’ve really got it all figured out. But I’m afraid that’s pretty much what you get at the Committee for Social Thought. If you declaim the importance of virtue loudly enough, you don’t have to actually think.

My own views are closer to those of Danny Kruger in On Fraternity, which he briefly described in Prospect, but there’s no denying that Will makes a strong case. Kruger, I’m guessing, is too much of a virtuecrat for Will, but he’s also a defender of markets, private initiative, decentralization, etc. That said, I’d love to read Will lay into Krueger. For me, this is roughly the equivalent of professional sports or, better still, American Gladiators.

I also think, and this is more speculative, that in a strange way I’m less statist than some of my libertarian friends. Though I have a passing intellectual interest in prescriptive anarchism, as you’d expect from someone who loves the song “Spanish Bombs,” I find paradigmatic anarchism (i.e., a framework in which we don’t think of governments exclusively on their terms) far more valuable. Paradigmatic anarchism opens a wide range of questions that aren’t primarily policy questions but rather questions about how we should live and how we should organize. This, of course, is coming from someone endlessly fascinated by policy questions. More on this to come.