Waugh, the Spokesman for Conservatism

William Voegeli, a visiting scholar at Claremont College, in an essay entitled “Liberalism and Civilization” published in The Blue Review takes Waugh as his spokesman for the conservative cause. The Blue Review is a peer-reviewed blog intended to promote the public interest and sponsored by Boise State University. Vogeli uses Waugh’s “philosophy” as a counter to that of John Stuart Mill whom he sets up as the source of liberalism’s principles. Waugh’s views are quoted from his “Conservative Manifesto” which was stated in his 1939 book Robbery Under Law and is excerpted and reprinted in Essays, Articles and Reviews. In addition, Voegeli quotes Waugh’s 1964 review (“The Light that Did Not Wholly Fail”) of two books about Rudyard Kipling, also reprinted in EAR, in which Waugh expressed his admiration for Kipling’s then unpopular political views:

The beliefs Waugh discerned in Kipling were ones he had expressed in his own voice 25 years previously. “I believe,” he wrote in his “Conservative Manifesto,” “that the anarchic elements in society are so strong that it is a whole-time task to keep the peace.” He was profoundly skeptical of the idea that the airport walkway that took us from barbarism to civilization will simply keep going forward forever, either because it cannot be stopped or reversed, or because no one would wish to. To the contrary, “Civilization has no force of its own beyond what is given it from within. It is under constant assault and it takes most of the energies of civilized man to keep going at all.” By the same token, “Barbarism is never finally defeated; given propitious circumstances, men and women who seem quite orderly will commit every conceivable atrocity.” Thus, without “unremitting effort,” [Waugh] wrote, we risk “the dissolution … of the spiritual and material achievements of our history.”

After trolling through more recent political writings on the subject, Voegeli concludes [Spoiler Alert!] that Waugh’s side wins the argument.

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