Let us be frank—^those evocative adjectives liberal andnconservative have become semantic crutches. They no longerndenote judgment, principle, and discernment, but rather preference,nmood, penchant, sudden sympathy, immature choice,nprefebricated emotion, political directive, econometric estimate.nThey meant something different at the outset of thisncentury, as well as in the 1870’s. Henrik Ibsen wrote: “He hasnthe luck to be unhampered by either character, or conviction,nor social position; so that Liberalism is the easiest thing in thenworld for him.” It’s unlikely that that old muttonchoppednfeminist would ever have made it from Greenwich Village tonCongress with such a campaign slogan. And he was off mark tonboot: today’s liberal is a mammoth pile of convictions, andnsocial position is the source of his power. But the ease of beingnliberal is now as obvious as it was in Ibsen’s time.no> ‘h, how easy, how cozy and beautiful it is to be liberal!nHow inebriating to find the proper feith at the bottom of one’snheart! How lavish are the comforts of rectitude! How preciousnit is to feel always enlightened and decent! How safe it is nevernto leave the side of peace and equality! How rewarding—^innevery respect—^it is to hate exploitation and prejudice! Howngratifying it is to luxuriate nonstop in compassion! How reassuringnit is to be perennially armed with a correct conscience,nsuperior knowledge, an infellible sense of justice! How softnand snug to be constantly well informed about what’s best fornsociety, man, woman, chUd, animal, and plant! How secure it isnto be responsible always to motivation and never to reality, tondefend instinct against reflection, and never to peek under thenwarm blanket of liberal self-adulation!nThis perftinctory outburst should not be interpreted as anverdict on fecility. There’s a kind of sturdiness in the liberalnpost-Panglossian fervor, and there’s mental gumption in thenpursuit of ready-to-wear righteousness. The nobleness ofncauses that are loved at first sight is actually as honorable asnany. There’s a sort of wisdom in synthesizing idealism andnoptimism into a heady certitude, and in distilling fieryncommitment from such sour mash. AH progressives, fromnRousseau to Marx to the Institute for Policy Studies havenclaimed that heaven on earth is possible, and they have allnpromised to do something about it. After two centuries, thenconsequences of thefr ideas have produced, for countlessnsocieties, hell on earth. Somehow, this has never affected thenmarketability and demand for those messages—which provesneither generic human dim-wittedness or some actual acumennof those ideas which can’t be slighted. My own deep contemptnfor them notwithstanding, I must admit that their circulationnover the last two centuries has improved many social practicalities,nand that thefr influence is verifiable and measurablenThe Editor’s Comment is an enlarged version of a speech presented at thennational meeting of The Philadelphia Society on April 16, 1983.nChronicles of CttlturenCONSERVATIVE WISDOM & MODERN CULTUREnEDITOR’S COMMENTnnnand must not be simply demeaned. What’s unacceptable, evennrepulsive, is thefr latent absolutism, which turns thefr defendersninto rabid persecutors of anyone’s attempt to honestiynevaluate those ideas. What the liberal peremptorily rejects isnany objective inquiry into the misery, oppression, injustice,ntyraimy, madness, violence, and crippling misfortunes of thenhuman masses victimized by the implementation of progressivenorthodoxies. These precepts should be judged on thenmerit of conceptual purity, the liberal intones; his adversaries’nunforgivable sin is that they promise very little in terms of terrestrialnremuneration, offering instead only a problematic recompensenin heaven. In other words, the liberal sees antiliberalismnas a sort of apocalyptic dullness. He refuses tonadmit that an aversion to selling a dishonest, snake-oil pledgenof happiness for everybody is not conservative boredom butnsterling decency. He thus divests himseff of his chief argument—thatnhe is a decent guy—^and becomes the crookedncaterer of feke ideological fiin.nSo, where is owr wisdom?nIt’s mainly in our harrowing feeling that the world isncrumbling around us and that most liberal raptures havenresulted in a rotting civilization, a debased culture, a fragmentednman, and a nihilistic social ethos. We know why dienpromised garden of liberal superhimianity transmogrified intonthe liberal jungle where psychologically excused wickednessnroams free. Ours is the wisdom of torment; as such, it can be anbold, valid challenge to the vile illusoriness of social paradisesnand existential entitlements. Our wisdom tells us, tactfully,nthat if everything in sight is decomposing, it is not because ofnour narrow-mindedness, greed, hypocrisy, prudishness, andnmediocrity, but precisely because of/ibe/r goodness, justness.n