http://www.the12points.com


About

The Twelve Points are a statement of conservative principles, objectives, philosophy, and additional guiding considerations, composed by Karl Born, a young Indianapolis writer and attorney, beginning in early 2008, completed on July 2, 2009. The idea for the Twelve Points, along with several of the points, came from the "Seven Points," an older statement of conservative principles, created by a group of young conservatives at Indiana University, in 2003: Grand Old Cause. 

The purpose of the Twelve Points is to serve as a delivery mechanism for distilled, concentrated conservative thinking, offered in order to return completeness and clarity to popular conservatism, to spread knowledge of the true principles of conservatism throughout the conservative community, and to focus and promote agreement among conservatives. 

Over the past two decades, the conservative movement has lost its uniting sense of direction, which has rendered it confused, frustrated, and impotent. Certain crucial conservative principles and concepts have faded from our common memory and lost their rightful influence and, consequently, our fellow conservatives (including conservative leaders) too often can no longer be relied upon to understand them, to be committed to them, or to apply and advance them in a coherent way. No conservative should be satisfied with the results that this has produced in American public policy. 

The Twelve Points will help to solve this problem, this statement of conservative principles being an instrument by which we may frequently recur to these fundamental principles and keep points of conservative thought freshly in our minds, teach conservative thought to the newer and younger conservatives, and provide all conservatives with a means of together affirming that, yes, we still care about these conservative principles, and conservative principles still define this movement.

Send your questions or ideas to 
the12points@gmail.com!




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THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2010

Another Discussion of the Division of Conservatives

At In The Agora, a post by Josh Claybourn quotes and links to a recent post by Jonah Goldberg (at NRO's "The Corner," of course) concerning whether division in the conservative movement is a strength or a weakness. The many fissures of the conservative movement are a problem that, as you know, I think jeopardize the potential of the conservative movement to actually achieve its goals. As a result, it doubtlessly would not surprise you to learn that I posted a few comments on the post.

I have thought about this issue a little since I posted my initial comments at In The Agora, and my thoughts on this are a little more well-developed, now: I do agree with Goldberg's theory, to some extent. He believes that the division in the conservative movement is a sign of its intellectual health, or possibly a cause of its intellectual health:

"For more than a half century now, modern conservatives have been debating and redebating the question of where to the draw the lines between freedom and order, liberty and virtue. And because that line continually needs to be redrawn given the evolution of attitudes, changes in technology, etc, conservative intellectuals (though not necessarily conservative activists, politicians and the like) are constantly revisiting first principles and philosophical assumptions or are at least capable of acknowledging the good faith of their philosophical opponents)."

For the best, most complete and accurate statement of his point, just read his post.

For an indication of how I would elaborate on his point and attempt to turn it into an argument for the Twelve Points as a definitive statement of conservative principles, just read this:

If we, as conservatives, were to somehow settle every issue with a set of cold, unyielding, ideological decrees, the result would be that we would, unnaturally, no longer have anything to discuss.  As an alternative to that, I certainly am glad that there are people among us who are able to independently consider and then debate the precise meaning of the most fundamental ideas of conservatism, and then how to apply those principles. It is also a credit to our movement that we generally encourage this, and also that so many of us care enough about these ideas that we would doubtlessly continue to think and speak for ourselves, even if others were to attempt to discourage it.

In addition to being a sign of intellectual health, the variety of conservative types making up this movement is a cause of intellectual health. Though we are (or I am, anyway) well-aquainted with the idea of groups of people as being highly prone to join in crazes and panics, it may just be easier to overlook their far less aggravating tendencies. Groups of people can certainly achieve great things by organizing and intentionally acting in concert, but conservatives often have also recognized (and marveled) that large groups of free individuals, acting independently, can collectively behave so intelligently. Adam Smith's "invisible hand," which is popular with conservatives, is an example of this, as is Edmund Burke's observation (as paraphrased by Russell Kirk) that the "individual is foolish, but the species is wise" (meaning that humans are not so clever that we can effectively invent or reinvent society altogether at once, but that little changes, tested through time, can produce and have produced something magnificent). Similarly, when a group of independent individuals think about the same issues and discuss them openly, the resulting variety of opinion can help each person in the group to recognize his own errors and to correct them.  For that reason, the fact that the conservative movement is divided into what we might call "specialists" in particular principles is potentially an asset to the movement. It may not be possible for every one of us to master and properly integrate every thread of every principle as we think about the issues, but whenever we fail to give a particular idea or principle its due consideration, the presence of these "specialists" means that the error will be noticed and can (theoretically) be corrected.

I described this as a "potential" asset for a reason, however. We will not have these benefits if each group of specialists isolates itself and refuses to trust or talk with the rest. No explanation is needed to show why that kind of behavior would prevent us from helping each other to find our flaws and work to perfect our understanding of these ideas and the world.  "Specialization" may have benefits, but not if the specialists have put too little thought into their shared principles to be able to consider the possibility that the arguments of the other specialties even have merit!

Additionally, in addition to being only a merely "potential" asset, this division is an actual threat. The portion of the conservative community that thinks and cares about principle the most is divided into pieces that have too little in common with each other to work together in any coherent way.  Under these circumstances, how is it even possible that the conservative movement could have a coherent, reasonably long-term plan for government reform -- a plan that active conservatives generally understand and support, and that conservative leaders are prepared to develop and implement? How could conservatives possibly coordinate as to the specifics when there is such confusion as to the meaning of our most fundamental principles and to our ultimate goals?

Well, that isn't possible, and that is bad for the movement. We need a plan.

I hate to be trite and end with little more than a sales pitch and a link, but the Twelve Points can help us to solve this problem. They will resolve the confusion, demonstrate and (ideally) reinforce our common principles, and produce a conservative movement composed of more conservatives with a greater familiarity with the conservative philosophy than ever before.

This outcome is not impossible, is it?  If not, then what else other than effective communication can possibly forge this conservative consensus and spread this information throughout the conservative movement?

It's a rhetorical question, and the answer is obvious.  Let's use the Twelve Points to deliver these ideas to every person who is prepared to receive them.