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Obama's No Burkean

9:13 AM, Sep 3, 2009 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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So sayeth Yuval Levin, in a definitive post:

For the Progressives, the world is too complex to be understood in human terms - in terms of sentiment, experience, honor, habit, and piety. For the Burkeans, the world is complex precisely in those human terms, and is too complex to be understood in abstract rational terms - in objective, theoretical, scientific, detached, specialized terms. In this sense the Burkeans have an organic idea of politics, while the progressives have more of a scientific view of politics.

Measured in these terms, I cannot imagine how anyone observing the Obama administration could think the president a Burkean. Community organizing - which aims not to strengthen a community's rooted institutions but to recruit it into action in a larger setting so it can demand the outside expert assistance it deserves - is the epitome of the progressive project, and, I would think, anathema to a Burkean approach to politics. And the ambition, flavor, and character of the Obama administration's agenda thus far reek of the hunger for rational control, not of an appreciation for the organic and gradual nature of lasting change. Burke's warnings against ignoring the difference between change and reform read like an indictment of the Obama health-care plan, and his views about the limits of the government's appropriate role in the economy are certainly out of line with the administration's doings.

For another, sillier view, try this interview with Sam "Conservatism is Dead" Tanenhaus, in which the noted author claims Burke would support Obamacare because "a true conservative like an Edmund Burke or Benjamin D'Israeli, the great 19th century statesman, believed in exactly those values, using government to protect the rights of ordinary citizens."