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12:40 PM, Mar 10, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The seductions and failures of progressivism may have been particularly on my mind last week. I'd spent the weekend at a conference at Pepperdine University on the legacy of the great political scientist, James Q. Wilson. (You can watch a panel I moderated with Boston College's Shep Melnick and Penn's John DiIulio here, and remarks by Harvey Mansfield here.) It was a fine conference, and much of the debate centered on Jim's critique, both explicit and implied, of a kind of progressive rationalism. The more I see liberals trying to make public policy, and liberal academics trying to justify social planning, the more strongly I'm taken with Jim Wilson's critique of this kind of social science rationalism. Indeed, the more I believe that what Hayek called "the fatal conceit," and Oakeshott described as "rationalism in politics," is a curse of our time. Of course that doesn't mean we skeptical conservatives are against reason. Quite the contrary. But that's the beginning of another long story...
Actually, Yuval Levin and I addressed that story (a bit) in a conversation at the New York Historical Society, which last Tuesday night centered on Yuval's terrific book on Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine. We'll have audio of that available pretty soon, and I encourage you to listen to Yuval explain clearly and eloquently the relevance and importance of Burke for modern conservatism and contemporary America.
Moving from elevated discussion to street-level confrontation, I might add that while I was out in L.A. for the Pepperdine conference, I took a break to appear on Bill Maher's HBO show. I'm not sure I make any of my arguments particularly well in that forum, but at least I tried not to let his attacks on the Tea Party, the military and religion, go unchallenged. Watch (part of) it here if you wish. But you'd probably be better off taking the time to read Levin, or Burke.
Until next week—onward!
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