I'll admit from the start that I tend to be more libertarian than conservative, but to be perfectly honest I see the libertarian wing as one of the more intellectually consistent and honest components of the conservative movements. That being said, I also think the foundation of the conservative movement that began in the 60s borrowed heavily from libertarian ideology, specifically when it comes to the power of the private sector, lower taxes, less government spending, and free trade.
The conservative movement today is a far cry from the conservative movement of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan that made its national debut in Reagan’s speech at the Republican National Convention in 1964. That movement united socially conservative, small government types who steadfastly opposed the intrusion of government into all aspects of people's lives, or wallets I should say. They were ideologically consistent between their claims and their policies (again, I'm speaking of the economic policies). But rather than glorify the conservatives of yore, many of whose social policies I personally disagree with, I'll comment more on the GOP of today. They claim to adhere to free-market and federalist principles, but they have also been responsible for a massive expansion of the federal government in the past decade. I personally disagree with this. So do many true and proper conservatives. This phenomenon is what makes the GOP so difficult to defend these days.
However, If you can separate Republicans from conservatives, it becomes abundantly clear that it is unfair to claim that there remain no intellectual stalwarts among conservatives. (I'm not attacking all Republicans, but I am suggesting that many of them would prefer to pander to the extremists than partake in the intellectual debate. I wouldn't necessarily include Joe Wilson in this camp, either. To be fair to him, his concerns over illegal immigrants seemed vindicated when you examine the change and scope of language on illegal immigrants in the Baucus bill versus its predecessors. Clearly, there was something missing in those previous versions.) I hear the claim that, as it was mentioned a few posts ago, the intellectual conservative simply does not exist. This is, of course, a false, arrogant, and not at all shocking piece of “misinformation,” so I thought I would offer a suggestion for the proponents of this claim and perhaps any skeptics who may be having a hard time identifying a counter-example.
I see George Will as one of the most thoughtful and thought-provoking leaders in any intellectual arena. Whether or not you agree with his assertions, I challenge any serious thinker to read some of his more intriguing articles and not admit that he is, indeed, an extremely intelligent, ideologically consistent political commentator. Unlike some of his counterparts on the Left, like Paul Krugman – who in 2004 (note the party affiliation of the commander-in-chief that year) proclaimed that the federal deficit should be one of our biggest concerns and could eventually lead to an economic collapse, while in 2009 (likewise) assuaged his readers that the deficit really is not that big of a deal – Will is willing to either challenge or simply rise above and ignore many of the mainstream reactionaries on the Right who can turn any modest event into a nationwide cause for outrage (I have in mind those who claimed that Obama speaking to children, urging them to stay in school and avoid drugs, would somehow lead to a form of Socialist indoctrination).
Set aside social issues, and I think the right and center – a group that is largely composed of fiscally conservative, socially liberal, partisan independents – would have a much easier time identifying conservatives whose arguments could be defended on an intellectual rather than rhetorical level. The reason, in my opinion, that George Will has remained a respected political commentator for so many years is precisely because he chooses not to focus on social issues, knowing not only that they are more difficult to defend logically but also that they should, ideally, not have a place in politics in the first place. As a constitutionalist (or at least I would imagine he would describe himself as such), he understands that a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages would move well beyond the powers granted to the federal government. As a result, he instead focuses on economic policy, foreign affairs, clear instances of encroachment on civil liberties, Supreme Court decisions, and the like.
Perhaps my perspective of Mr. Will is distorted by my relatively limited time following him – I am, after all, barely 22 years old – but I have followed him for a number of years, read hundreds of articles and op-eds that he has authored, seen him countless times on Sunday morning shows, and every time reaffirm my faith that intelligent conservatives are in fact out there.