As editor, it’s important to spend time outside The Echo chamber. Validating your own opinions, while a human trait, must be resisted at all costs. So this week I asked myself, who are the top conservative intellectuals that have influenced the West? Unsurprisingly, Australia hasn’t produced any real heavyweights; much of our cues come from the US and the UK.
It’s fair to say that the pronouncements of Australian pundits such as Bolt, Laws, Jones and Akerman are like car accidents that the police and ambulance are attending. You slow down, look in pity, then drive on.
No, an intellectual – by definition – must excel in topics such as philosophy, not just politics and economics. Art too... and music... and comedy... wait a minute! Are there any renaissance Liberals? Is Malcom Turnbull our only hope?
One popular conservative ‘thinker’ that comes to mind is the late author Ayn Rand.
Despite being atheist and very much anti-fascist, she spurred the iGeneration in the 60s – way before Steve Jobs – with books such as the The Virtue of Selfishness. Her best known work is of course Atlas Shrugged – the neo-con bible for selfish individual rights activists.
What is most impressive about her brain was her theories
on objectivism and critical thought on philosophical matters. She didn’t toe any political party line either and challenged the more conservative conservatives.
William F Buckley is another, and is famous for his verbal sparring. Spats with Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal and Carl Sagan are legendary. As a journalist he founded the political magazine National Review and went on to host political TV talk shows and write spy novels.
Interesting fact? This Catholic son of a New York City lawyer and oil baron famously made the distinction between the lowercase c and the capital C for conservatives. The latter
‘C’ being what he believed to be ‘true’ conservatives: fiscally conservative and socially conservative/libertarian or libertarian- leaning.
Like Ayn Rand, he was also a free thinker and didn’t fit political moulds.
Finally, Christopher Hitchens is on this list, and is again a political outsider. He plays nicely into this Winston Churchill quote: ‘If you’re not a liberal [ie socialist] at twenty you have no heart; if you’re not a conservative at forty you have no brain.’
Despite a life devoted to ridiculing God botherers for sadistic sport, Hitch eventually warmed to the idea that the West is best.
The Hitch switched from Socialism and later in life believed that invading and colonising other countries is a just cause. His interview on death’s door with UK journalist Jeremy Paxman explains it all.
So where is the lesson in this, I wonder...