What conservatives must learn from socialists

The conservative philosopher Roger Scruton offers an elegant rebuttal to the falsifying simplifications of our politics

Boehner
(Image credit: (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images))

Remember when President Obama said, "If you've got a business — you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." And then a few weeks later the speakers at the 2012 Republican convention rebutted this line in a parade of jokes and applause lines so long, rote, and benumbing it gave the freakish impression Belgians must have felt after days of watching identical German columns march through their towns at the start of World War I? Well, I do.

As always in American politics, the leader of one party expressed a commonplace truth badly. In this case, the truth was that men are not self-made. The other party then exaggerated this statement into an abhorrent, arrogant worldview and responded by expressing another commonplace truth — that individuals deserve the rewards and honor produced by their own efforts — in a repellent, self-regarding way.

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Michael Brendan Dougherty

Michael Brendan Dougherty is senior correspondent at TheWeek.com. He is the founder and editor of The Slurve, a newsletter about baseball. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, ESPN Magazine, Slate and The American Conservative.