elections or cobbling legislative bills. It requires a vision ofnwhat American society should be like and of the way itnought to work. It requires, in other words, a politicalnphilosophy, standards by which we can judge all thencandidates, issues, and programs that are paraded before us,nlike so many bathing beauties, on the evening news.nIs there anything like a conservative political philosophynat work in America today? I think not. At least, there is notnone philosophy. There are, however, several philosophiesnor visions which can be described as,conservative withoutndoing too much violence to conventional opinion. Threensuch visions immediately come to mind: democratic capitalism,nreactionary Catholicism, and middle Americannpopulism. These are not the only visions, and almostnnobody is purely one or the other, but these threen—especially on the extreme—are different enough to servenas models.nDEMOCRATIC CAPITALISTS have reason to benproud. It is their efforts which have put the U.S. on thenroad to economic recovery and have inspired a mood ofnnational ebullience which would have been unthinkable inn1980. In a way, they are the Arminians of the conservativenreformation: free will is everything and the marketplace isnthe mechanism for solving most problems of the humannflesh. They exhibit an almost boundless faith in the humanncapacity for transcending material limitations and speak ofnunleashing human energies and resources with the samenoptimism older conservatives used when they spoke ofnunleashing Chiang Kai-shek against the Communists. Withnconsiderable justification they point to the great triumphs ofndemocracy and the free market in Europe and the U.S.:nunprecedented standards of living, political stability, andn—above all—the freedom of choice we enjoy, freedom tonworship, to read, write and publish, to vote as we please.nTheir vision of America is of hundreds of millions ofnindividuals, each pursuing his own goals and helping tondetermine by his vote the sort of society we live in. Bynmajority rule we even determine our social priorities andnthe kinds of institutional restraints we are willing to imposenon ourselves (here they usually part company with thenlibertarians). Still, nothing is completely exempt from thenlaws of the marketplace, not even questions of morality andnreligion—Michael Novak speaks of the empty shrine at thenheart of our civil religion. Communism and socialism arenthe enemy, not because they are varieties of “atheistnmaterialism,” but because they impose coercive restraintsnon the free market of ideas as well as goods. To those whonwould restrict our freedoms in the name of social justicen—Catholics as well as Marxists—their reply is simple.nThey ask us to judge by results. “Social justice,” in SovietnRussia or Catholic Latin America, means, in the end,nnothing but poverty, class divisions, and oppression.nREACTIONARY CATHOLICS are suspicious of anynideology that leans too heavily on the idea of economicnman. Pius IX and Leo XIII were almost equally hostile toncapitahsm and socialism, because they undermined thensocial order and diminished the quality of Christian charity.nFreedom they regard as a good thing but not as annabsolute. More important is our vision of human life, itsnpurpose and nature. We cannot fall back on freedom as anfirst principle, because it only begs the question: free to donwhat, to pursue virtue or just make money? Although manynconservative Catholics have made their peace with capitalism,nothers prefer to remain aloof.nAn eminent Catholic philosopher once tried to explain tonme why he did not consider himself a conservative. “Younsee,” he said, “you would like to preserve the rich in theirnpower and privileges, while I want to tear them down,” If bynthe rich, he meant not hardworking businessmen but thensort of degenerate rabble that attempts to pass itself off as annAmerican aristocracy, it is hard not to sympathize. ThenCatholics share with “traditionalists” and Southern agrariansna concern for family, community, and the commonngood, which they regard as higher priorities than the right tonamass wealth. The cult of individuality is the corrosive acidnthat eats away at the social fabric, divides families andncommunities, and encourages the profit-seeking dislocationsnthat characterize so much of life in modern America.nBut their concern for virtue does not lead them to embracenclerical fascism or any form of the totalitarian state, becausenthey recognize (with Aquinas) that law and the state existnonly to make the virtuous life possible: virtue cannot bencompelled.nPOPULISTS are the black sheep of conservatism, andnthere are those who deny them even the slightest connectionnwith “the movement.” Still, without the support ofnhardhats, farmers, and antiabortionists, hardly anyone professingnconservative sentiments could be elected .to nationalnoffice. Since populism is by definition a mass movement, itnhas produced no philosophers, but there are a few politicalnanalysts who are not completely unsympathetic: KevinnPhillips, Robert Whittaker, and Samuel Francis. Whittaker,nin particular, sees populism as a series of uprisingsnagainst entrenched elites.nWhat most populists seem to want most is control overntheir own lives. They want the government off theirnbacks and out of their businesses, homes, and schools. Theynwould like to reestablish community consensus as a basicnprinciple and do not understand how a bunch of deracinatednintellectuals and bureaucrats can force them to toleratendrugs, pornography, and abortion clinics in their ownnhometowns, and gay bars in their neighborhoods. Some ofnthem are socially libertarian and even vaguely countercultural:nthey sing along with Charlie Daniels, when he warns,n”leave this longhaired countryboy alone.” Others have annethical vision that is, however simple, closer to Aquinasnthan to the democratic capitalist creed of freedom at anyncost, and while they would like much lower taxes andncomplain about welfare fraud, they do not necessarily thinkna nation can turn its back on the poor. Some of them havenspent enough time out of work to appreciate UnemploymentnCompensation and do not quite trust all this talk ofnhigh tech and an opportunity society. Opportunity fornwhom?nWhat holds these groups together. New Right and OldnRight, hardhats, and traditionalists, is our hostility to thencommon enemy: the left. But it is a shaky coalition. Thenpopulists have a very old alliance with the DemocraticnParty, one that could be revived if a benevolent plaguenthinned out the party leadership. Apart from the Presidentn(continued on page 43)nnnJUNE 1385/5n