Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Senator Mike Lee’s Speech on Conservatism for Our Time

October 29th, 2013 by G.

Rockwell TownhallOne of the mainstays of conservatism is that history has happened and men are flawed. This means that, unlike some destructive varieties of liberalism and progressivism, we cannot believe that people are naturally good and can achieve utopia if we just sweep a few kulaks and wreckers under the rug. It also means that, unlike reactionaries, we cannot believe that there was some time period when institutions and mores were naturally good and we just need to reestablish that time. The reason we are no longer in that time period is because it contained the seeds of its own destruction. And we can’t just wish ourselves back into that time period anyhow, because history has happened, the conditions that made that society possible no longer exist, and we must deal with the contemporary materials that are at hand.

Any middlebrow conservative knows the points I made above already. They are commonplaces. But it is less often understood that conservatism itself must be given a thorough shakedown every few decades. The conservatism of 30 years ago cannot be the conservatism of today. There are no final victories. Thomas Jefferson’s looniest and most despicable Jacobin statement was also paradoxically his most conservative: the tree of liberty must be watered from time to time with the blood of both patriots and tyrants.

Senator Mike Lee has given a speech that is pointing the way. It isn’t soaring rhetoric. It’s only power is truth. It deserves to be widely excerpted and circulated.

This new agenda must recognize that work for able-bodied adults is not a necessary evil, but an essential pathway to personal happiness and prosperity.

And it should also force Republicans and Democrats to acknowledge that there is another marriage debate in this country — one concerning fatherless children, economic inequality, and broken communities — that deserves as much public attention as the other.


Second, we need a new, comprehensive anti-cronyism agenda, to break up the corrupt nexus of big government, big business, and big special interests.

We need a new corporate tax code and regulatory system to eliminate lobbyists’ loopholes and giveaways, level the playing field between businesses, big and small, and foster a dynamic, globally competitive private sector.

We need to end subsidies that unfairly favor some businesses and industries over others. And the Republican party must make a fundamental commitment to end its support for corporate welfare in any form — including for the big banks.

The Left today no longer represents the “little guy,” but the crony clients of the ever-expanding special-interest state. Progressives have become the party of Wall Street, K Street, and Pennsylvania Avenue. We must become the party of Main Street, everywhere.


Today, working families’ take-home pay is flat.

But the staples of middle-class security and opportunity – health care, education, home ownership, work-life balance, and children — are becoming harder to afford all the time.

Progressives say we just need more programs to give working families more government money. But as we have seen once again over the last five years, big government creates opportunity for the middle men at the expense of the middle class.

I take issue with a few of Senator’s Lee’s suggestions. He is right to point out that government has neglected the basic public duty of building and maintaining roads adequate to the growth of the population and the economy. But his solution isn’t equal to the problem. That’s fine–he’s starting a discussion, not announcing a diktat.

America has more problems that government can solve. But just as the spirit and the flesh are intertwined, our moral problems and our political economic problems feed on each other. In the sphere in which life has placed him, Senator Lee is doing the right thing and I’m proud of him. I hope to see more of him and more like him in the future.

We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.

Comments (15)
Filed under: Deseret Review | Tags: , , , , , ,
October 29th, 2013 15:43:50

October 29, 2013

Based on my conversations with friends in Utah, I’m expecting Lee to fail of reelection.

I find it sad.

Adam G.
October 29, 2013

Why on earth?

October 29, 2013

Folks I thought were reliably conservative are furious with him over the government shutdown.

As I said, I find it sad.

I wish he could run against Udall.

Bruce Charlton
October 30, 2013

This sparked a post


To explain why I think (‘neoreactionary’) politicians coming up with a shopping list of sensible ideas is futile.

Not because the ideas are necessarily wrong, but because THE problem is precisely that sensible ideas are regarded as ‘evil’ (by the inverted morality of secular modernity).

Therefore, from where we are now, there is no alternative but to address the deep roots of the evil of modernity – the time for sensible fixes of the lunacies of Leftism is long past and gone – *now* we have no alternative but to try and root it out (however slim the chance of success may seem and be).

I mean we must emphasize that nothing really good can now happen without first religion.

(Note: I say ‘religion’ because from a social analysis standpoint, there is a choice of options – at least among the ‘Abrahamic’ religions – my own choice would of course be Christian, and indeed Mormon (although I am not a Mormon) because I believe Christianity is true. )

Adam G.
October 30, 2013

The good Senator is a devout Mormon and its pretty evident to me that his faith is inspiring many of his proposals. It is highly unlikely that he is a ‘neoreactionary’ in much of any sense.

I don’t know whether our modern times our irredeemable without the grace of a revival or not. If I had to guess, I’d guess that you’re right, but that may just be my congenital pessimism speaking. Certainly things are bad and have been getting worse for some time.

Suppose you’re right, however. That doesn’t excuse the Christian from growing in the row where he is planted even if, short of heaven, he knows its futile. Someone like Mike Lee has the *duty* of offering sensible proposals.
Scripture shows us that offering salvation to those who reject it serves the purposes of the Almighty. He wills not only the salvation of the righteous, but also the condemnation of the wicked. Sensible proposals aren’t salvation, but it is the same principle–when, if, a people is determined on a course of folly, they should be offered a way out until the end.

It is also true that the religious and the politico-economic are intertwined. Irreligion leads people to have less children, it is true. It is also true that having children leads people to be more religious, and that people have less children in straitened times.

We don’t know what form the action of grace to turn things around may occur. It may be that for some or even many, it will start with a set of ordinary, sensible proposals. You never know when a person or a people may wake up and say, “but this is just common sense. What are all these cant reasons we have had for opposing it?” And from there they discover that the Emperor has no clothes and at last discover the true Emperor beyond the seas. It could happen that way if God wills it. You yourself should know that its possible, since it happened to you.

Bruce Charlton
October 30, 2013

It’s an important question.

The difficulty is that common sense is ignored when it conflicts with Leftism – and then, just one step beyond the common sense proposals – there is a confrontation between ultimate belief systems: Leftism or Mormon.

But somehow, having initially put forward the ideas using secular-acceptable (common sense, sensible, maximize happiness – minimize suffering, utilitarian) justifications in the first place, it seems evasive then to say – ‘well, *really* I believe these things because I am a Christian’.

I think sooner or later Christians of all stripes will need to say upfront – I am a Christian *therefore* I can’t do this, must do that.

That is after all what other religions do, with considerable success, speaking as a group – they just say: “Because we are ‘X’ we must do/ cannot do A,B&C.” usually that is enough, and if X are nonetheless over-ridden by force, then everybody sees what is happening for what it is.

X may or may not follow this statement of fact with some common sense/ sensible arguments – but, the real reason is upfront and explicit.

The other problem is that by not mentioning religion, the Christian implicitly endorses secular criteria as the proper (and ultimate) basis for decisions and policies – it makes Christianity seem like an unneccessary bolt-on optional extra in a situation where secular reasoning – with its this-worldly, hedonic calculus – is doing all the real work.

October 30, 2013

@BC: Excuse me for sounding like a suck-up, but wow, you’re a modern-day CS Lewis.

The linkage that you illustrate between common sense politics and religion is amazingly clear.

For another example of a linkage between conservative politics and religion (Judaism), see David Mamet’s essay “Why I Am No Longer a Brain-dead Liberal” (Mar 2008, online at villagevoice. com, comes up first on major search engines) and compare to his socio-political-religious book “The Wicked Son” (copyright 2006).

Mamet admits that he “converted” to conservatism long before he came out publicly, so he had likely gone through most of that process by the time he wrote the book. It is an intense screed towards non-believing cultural Jews.

You ought to be published more, and more widely.

If you’ve had trouble getting book deals in the UK, please investigate publishing possibilities in the US.

October 30, 2013

Most forms of Christianity regard natural law as a facet of divine law. This is particularly true of the Mormon flavor of Christianity, where divine law and natural law are widely regarded as coeval or even identical. It then follows that you cannot make any divine law argument for a proposal that is not also a natural law argument for a proposal. So why not use the natural law argument when speaking in a secular forum?

One problem with this is that we know things by divine law that are not yet proven by natural science. We know by divine law, for example, that recognition of homosexual “marriage” will weaken the family, and weakening the family will destroy civilization. This could at least in principle be proven using the methods of natural science, but natural science hasn’t proven it yet and is now (in my opinion) too corrupt to be likely to even try to prove it, certainly not in time to save our civilization.

Another problem with this is that there are, in fact, aspects of divine law that are not obviously reflected in natural law. In other words, while I am willing to entertain the common Mormon belief that natural law is a facet of divine law and coeval with divine law, I have to reject the idea that the two are identical. There are things that cannot be proven by the methods of natural science, of which such trivia as the axiom of choice or the Godel sentences are only the tip of the iceberg. Natural law will never prove that life is valuable or human joy has ultimate purpose; indeed, the natural scientists are increasingly denying both these propositions in favor of a Dawkins flavor of nillihism.

Yes. There comes a point where the Christian must simply say, as von Thoma allegedly said at El Alamein, that “I can’t go along with this any longer.”

Incidentally, and I do not wish to pry or pressure in any way, but is formal conversion to Mormonism up for discussion with you?

Bruce Charlton
October 30, 2013

@Bookslinger – Thanks for the (OTT) compliment. Sadly I am neither as good a writer, scholar or Christian as the great CSL.

I am published about as widely as I want to be – not many people like the kind of stuff I do (six people liked my last book, I think it was – but they liked it a lot, and they were people whose opinions I respect – and not many more read or bought it!). And I have an arrangement (waiving royalties) which lets me put it on the internet, so anyone who finds it can read it.

I read the Mamet piece at the time it was published.

@Vader – I don’t much like to answer questions on this kind of thing; but I could say that I certainly don’t rule-out asking to be baptised into the CJCLDS, but I have no plans to do so, as of now.

I do believe in the truth of Mormonism, and I regard it as the best Christian denomination – but it is an elite religion. I, on the other hand, am a very unconscientious, unsociable, lazy and selfish kind of person – and I think I could only be an active Mormon if most people around me were – which is very far from the case. (In fact, I have only met one active Mormon face to face in my life – there are not many around here).

There seems no point in converting to be inactive – and indeed it would not be allowed. So – no plans. I continue as an irregular semi-detached conservative evangelical Anglican…

Geoff B
November 2, 2013

I love Mike Lee. I would predict that he will easily be reelected in Utah. He is proving prescient in his opposition to Obamacare. The Establishment attempted coup will fail.

November 3, 2013


I certainly hope you’re right. I hope my acquaintances there will come around.

Adam G.
November 4, 2013

This comment has been made into a post.

Bruce Charlton,
your comment reminds me of myself in the run up to my mission to Spain.
But first the necessary caveats (necessary because true!). First, nothing I say here is meant as criticism of you–from what I know of you, I like and respect you. A number of your notions have been eye openers for me. Second, although I’m using your comment as my jumping off point, I’m not offering a spiritual diagnosis of you specifically. The inwardness of the human soul, only God knows it.

Prior to my mission, ‘unconscientious, unsociable, lazy, and selfish’ would have described me well. (It still does–or at least I have reason to believe that’s my default state). Add to that that I am bookish and introverted and extremely family-oriented and you will see why going on a mission filled me with dread. Almost existential dread, in fact. I would get sick in my gut when I thought about it. I tried not to think about it.

Up till then Mormonism had made no particular demands on me. If you’re raised Mormon and used to its demands, there is no great sacrifice in attending church meetings and refraining from alcohol and tea. Paying tithing is no big deal either if you started doing it with your very first job, so you don’t have income expectations that you’re having to readjust. But going on a mission was different. It was a spiritual crisis that I couldn’t ignore. I would either have to visibly and dramatically break with my family’s expectations or else I would have to be absolutely miserable and out of my depth for two years.
How did I resolve the crisis? I did exactly what you’d expect someone with my kind of character to do. I temporized and drifted along. But somehow and without much real conviction I eventually came to a despairing resolution that the music had to be faced somehow. When I did, two thing happened. First, God brought strongly to my mind the story of Peter walking on the water. It was pointed out to me that me serving a mission was an absurdity but that in its way it was a glorious absurdity–and that when it inevitably turned into a disaster, the hand of God would clutch me up. This story was the text I preached in my missionary farewell service and in my missionary homecoming service and has become my personal theme. I see it, in fact, as a reprise of the whole plan of salvation.
The second thing was that I received a clear and unmistakable manifestation of the Holy Ghost when I prayed about the Book of Mormon. I had been praying about it off and on all my life but nothing undeniably supernatural had ever occurred in response. Now it had.
My mission was pretty bad. Spain was not a fruitful vineyard for even the best of missionaries and to the faults I already knew my mission experience added more. I can be self-righteous and prickly and arrogant, it seems. It also had moments that I will just blandly describe as the heavens being unveiled and leave it at that. I was mostly a failure as a missionary. I don’t mean that in the anodyne way that people talk about failing at tasks that are beyond their capability. I failed, I did less than I could have, I let opportunities go because I was a chump. The task was beyond the level of my abilities but I wasn’t even up to the level of my abilities. Yet–this is a big yet, because its the whole point of what I’m writing here–at the end of my time and when I ‘ve thought about it since I was given the spiritual knowledge that the Lord approved of my service and accepted my hard times as the sacrifices of a fellow servant. No, those aren’t the right words. If I could tell it right, you would read it knowing that its the kind of experience that would be worth a lifetime to have. I was at the same time made to comprehend the totality of all the misery and frustration I’d experienced for two years and all my nasty little sins that had contributed to it, and then I was made to see and *feel* that these were a cross that I had carried for two years. We are too used to treat the phrase ‘carrying the cross’ as a trite commonplace for you to get the full effect, but I got the full effect. I heard–I felt?–I comprehended? a voice telling me that Christ had studied my mission and had announced that I was someone who had walked his path. ‘This is a friend and a brother,’ he had said. “This is one of us.”

In time to come He will repeat it to my face.

Since then my experience as a church member, or as a father and a husband, has been much the same. Never an unmixed success. Never a performance that I could feel I hadn’t unnecessarily tainted with sins of commission and omission. I am a shabby Mormon. But these failures are better than successes elsewhere. I have found more joy making a hash of things in the gospel path than would be possible on any other path sued however flawlessly. I mean that.

“Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
C.S. Lewis, in Screwtape, showed us that the fear of coming death was worse than death.
“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s a heaven for.”

November 4, 2013


Your experience as a missionary strongly echoes my own, with the tweaks that I was not so much tied to family as to a girlfriend, and I had a touch of autism on top of my other pecularities.

“Glorious absurdity.” Love it.

“I can be self-righteous and prickly and arrogant, it seems.” Do tell. In my case, it would suffice to leave off the self-righteous and arrogant and the final syllable of what’s left.

And yet. While I was a terrible missionary, I am comforted by the Spirit that I really did do the best I was capable at that stage of my life, and I have no reason to feel regrets about my mission. This in spite of the fact that there are mission memories that just make me cringe, and tempt me to burn my mission journals before my daughter has a chance to find them and attempt to transcribe them. (It’s her latest thing. My mother-in-law passed not long ago, and my daughter is transcribing her lifetime of diaries and journals. She has gotten to the part where her grandmother has just acquired her first and only son-in-law. I wonder how that will affect her view of me, which is still stuck in the teenage Dad’s an idiot phase.)

And I can turn to Facebook now and then and read about the missions of the children of one of my converts. I had one solid convert, and she brought in the rest of her family, and that’s enough to justify it all.

I do not fault Bruce, or anyone else, who is hesitant to make the great leap. I think I even agree that sympathetic nonmember may be better than inactive member. And, as one converted from within a family that was already actively Mormon, my leap to conversion was relatively short. But it was still a leap.]

November 7, 2013

“and I think I could only be an active Mormon if most people around me were – which is very far from the case. (In fact, I have only met one active Mormon face to face in my life – there are not many around here). ”

If you are the Professer Bruce G Charlton at Buckingham Uni, and you live in Buckingham, then you’ll find a lot more Mormons at Danstead Way, Milton Keynes MK8 8LH at 10am on a Sunday Morning… jus’ saying! 😉

Adam G.
November 18, 2013

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