Paul  Weyrich

The next conservatism, like conservatism today, should regard environmentalism warily. Environmentalism is on the verge of becoming an ideology, if it has not done so already. That means environmentalists twist facts to fit their preconceived notions. All ideologies do that, which is why conservatives don’t like ideologies.

But conservation is another matter. The words “conservative” and “conservation” come from the same root, conserve. As conservatives, we believe in conserving traditions, morals, and culture, but also clean air and water, farms and countryside, energy (much of which must be imported), and the soil itself, on which we all depend for our food.

Conservatives don’t like waste. Reckless, frivolous, unnecessary consumption is not a conservative virtue. Like many conservatives, I grew up in a household where nothing was wasted. We used everything until it was used up, or until we passed it on to other people poorer than ourselves. We seldom bought things we did not need. That is a good way to live, regardless of how much money we have. A society’s real strength comes from production, saving and investment, not consumption. Earlier generations of Americans understood this and lived accordingly.

In my opinion, conservation needs to be part of the next conservatism. This will be particularly important as energy becomes more expensive, and as some traditional sources of energy such as oil become relatively scarce.

But there is a larger aspect to conservation, one that ties into a central idea of the next conservatism, the importance of local life. Globalism, which is a dominant idea among the Washington Establishment, preaches bigness. We are supposed to welcome a “world economy” where virtually all our manufactured goods come from overseas, our energy comes from massive, often international networks, our food from huge agribusinesses. The Globalists seldom talk about how vulnerable this leaves us to events in other parts of the world. Nor do they talk about the consequences for the lives of ordinary Americans, who are left both dependent on and in competition with other people all over the world.

Paul Weyrich

Paul M. Weyrich is the late Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation.
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