The Conservatarian Manifesto: Libertarians, Conservatives, And The Fight For The Right’s Future, by Charles C.W. Cooke
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Blogging For Books/Crown Forum in exchange for an honest review.]
I read this book knowing that I would find a great deal to disagree with in the author’s political approach. I knew that any approach that sought to combine conservatism with libertarianism was going to emphasize certain elements of conservatism that I feel less strongly about than others, and was going to downplay the morally consistent biblical worldview that informs my political positions on various matters, even if personally I tend to be fairly disinclined to boss others around about their personal lives. In many ways, this book did not disappoint, for if its differences were less pronounced than I thought they would be (and for this I am glad), and the book far more thoughtful and moderate than I had expected, it still provided a useful contrast for an intramural argument between different parts of the American center-right coalition.
At its heart, this book seeks to use a poll-based and logic-based position between the traditional conservative and the libertarian position that offers a position of political strength sufficient to win elections. The book begins by discussing what is wrong with conservatives, always a useful point to begin when one wants to create a compelling alternative, and then seeks to define conservatarianism, a straightforward enough portmanteau to discuss a third way between two perceived extremes on the right. The author is clearly writing to people who are deeply interested in politics, with some biographical information (such as the fact that the author is a native-born Brit and not yet an American citizen) and an application of his political worldview in such areas as federalism, alternatives to government, constitutional law, guns, drugs, social issues like gay marriage and abortion, foreign policy, and demographics. Of particular importance is his correct insight that the divided nature of the American constitution was not a bug, not an aberration, but was the settlement, and that no consensus exists for a more centralized American Republic.
As I expected, I found the author to be witty and intelligent, and in many ways I found much to appreciate in his attempt to develop a consistent political worldview that could appeal to a broad base without apology. Even if his ideas do not take root in a large way, this is clearly a book from someone with a considerable amount of savvy who could and should be able to advice someone on how to win as a Republican in a state like Colorado or Florida or Ohio (or New England) in 2016 and beyond. That said, one fundamental element in my own worldview makes any concessions to libertarianism unacceptable. The author has a sort of moral isolationism that does not see any importance in how others behave, while as a believer in the biblical view of collective blessings and judgment for societal obedience or disobedience, there are always larger repercussions for the sins of a society, beyond merely being the result of freedom. Given this expectation of judgment upon a society that in some key ways has departed from God’s ways with no sign of repentance, I cannot look with benevolent neutrality on the polling that the author points to as reasons for certain issues to be downplayed. Nevertheless, a book like this one is clear evidence of the need for people to justify their worldview with writing, a tendency I can hardly criticize, given my own efforts, and when it is done well, one has little reason to complain with friendly disagreement on some issues.