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Ed Driscoll

DEAD MEN TELL MANY TALES

March 30th, 2004 - 10:46 am

In two long posts on “The Corner”, Jonah Goldberg looks at:

the generalized ignorance or silence of mainstream liberals about their own intellectual history. Obviously this is a sweeping — and therefore unfair — generalization. But I read a lot of liberal stuff and have attended more than a few college confabs with liberal speakers speaking on the subject of liberalism itself. And it seems to me that liberals are intellectually deracinated. Read conservative publications or attend conservative conferences and there will almost always be at least some mention of our intellectual forefathers and often a spirited debate about them. The same goes for Libertarians, at least that branch which can be called a part or partner of the conservative movement.

Just look at the conservative blogosphere. There’s all sorts of stuff about Burke, Hayek, von Mises, Oakeshott, Kirk, Buckley, Strauss, Meyer, the Southern Agrarians, et al. I can’t think of a single editor or contributing editor of National Review who can’t speak intelligently about the intellectual titans of conservatism going back generations. I’m not saying everybody’s an expert, but I think everybody’s made at least the minimal effort to understand their intellectual lineage and I think that’s reflected in conservative writing, for good and for ill. I would guess that the same hold true about the gang over at Reason.

I just don’t get the sense that’s true of most liberal journalists. When was the last time you saw more than a passing reference to Herbert Croly? When was the last time you read an article or blog posting where a liberal asked “What would Charles Beard think of this?”

Late Update: Needless to say, this topic became one of the central theses for Jonah’s Liberal Fascism book.