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Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Daniel Patrick Moynihan

The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.

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We address a wide variety of major issues including: What is the essence of conservatism? What was the role of faith in the American Founding? Is liberal learning still possible in the modern academy? Should conservatives and libertarians be allies? What is the proper role for the American Republic in spreading ordered liberty to other cultures/nations?


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8 replies to this post
  1. In the 80s, the most dangerous place in Washington was the door of the Senate Press Gallery, risking being trampled to death by fleeing hacks as Moynihan cut loose after a liquid lunch. The second half of this quote is the bibulous Senator trying to be Oscar Wilde. Mr Jawats (above) is correct.

  2. Let’s see if we can’t dress this quote up to make the second sentence true. Here’s my take:

    “The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that we should attempt to employ politics to change culture to save it from itself notwithstanding the fact that many, if not most, of our prior efforts have made culture, especially in the inner city, worse.

  3. Well, in a sense culture is everything in a society, so if what we mean by culture is that it is everything then it is effectively nothing. It's just a synonym for anything in a society, including politics. Some people go in the opposite direction and when they use the term mean the arts or popular entertainment.

    I think separating the term culture from politics is helpful. I like to define culture as those things that influence the worldview, attitudes and behaviors of a people. Politics indeed does this, but I would argue that other professions of cultural influence are far more powerful.

    That would include education, k-12 and higher ed. On a daily basis well north of 50 million young people are having their views shaped by a largely secular and largely liberal education bureaucracy. It would also include media and journalism. Most apolitical Americans get spoon fed a secularist/liberal slant on things from the mainstream media. The third would be popular entertainment and the arts, which again is dominated by leftish thinking individuals.

    I call these cultural influence professions, and is it any wonder why average Americans have become addicted to the welfare state. Conservatives have played politics for over five decades and what exactly has that gotten us? Not that politics isn't important. It is critically so, but politics is moved by what people are influenced to think and believe and see and focus on, on a daily basis.

    I guess I would say, twisting a bit the words of the Rajun Cajun: It's the culture, stupid.

  4. Editing is always fun. Perhaps we could take Moynihan's last sentence and make it: "Politics is often how a culture attempts to save itself." In my experience in state politics, this is certainly true.

  5. This conversation reveals why students who embrace the "calling of a liberal education" study history or English rather than Politics (political theory as the Jaffites teach it). Culture, according to Kirk, does have that anti-rational religious base to it which Neo-Cons find so frustrating.

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