Wednesday, August 5, 2009

'National Greatness' Conservatives and their Golden Calf

Patrick Deneen has noticed that many conservatives of late have been talking about reigniting our space program and sending someone to Mars. He sees all of this talk about grand projects as mistaken because it diverts attention away from our inability to live together here.

Besides the current Mars talk, another example that people have become enamored with 'grand' projects is David Brooks' notion of national greatness conservatism. Fellow Neo-Cons followed suit and after 9/11 put forward the project of democratizing the Middle East.

I wonder if the desire to undertake grand projects is the result of Michael Novak’s “empty shrine.” Proponents of Liberal Democracy argue that the shrine (society’s governing ideal) must be empty because we live in a pluralistic society. But if the desire to worship or at least submit oneself to an ideal is natural, then we shouldn’t be surprised to see the shrine filled with all sort of extravagant projects. If Moses does not deliver God’s commandments in time, then the people will have their Golden Calf in his stead.

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