Conservatism’s Path Not Taken: In the age of Trump, the right should revisit the neglected Humanist Conservative tradition (JEFFERY TYLER SYCK, JAN 10, 2024, Persuasion)

This brief sketch highlights the five main strands of Humanist Conservatism.

First, it is committed to compassionate capitalism. Humanist Conservatives believe that free market competition is vital to a healthy economy, but that the sometimes-brutal tendencies of capitalism must be offset with generous welfare and jobs programs. Instead of slashing welfare (as Fusionists want) or drastically expanding the regulatory state (as National Conservatives want), Humanist Conservatives long for a more efficient entitlement system that gives money to those who deserve it without unnecessary bureaucratic bloat. Through a generous, semi-public healthcare system, solvent retirement plans, jobs programs for the unemployed, and other reforms, the United States can work to revitalize all geographic areas and not just its urban centers.

Second, Humanist Conservatism seeks to preserve communities. It directs much of its energy towards ending the gradual collapse of American civil society. It adopts this stance partly out of the conviction that human life is best lived in a community with others, but also out of a belief that genuine self-government can only exist in those institutions we inhabit in our daily lives. In practice, this means using government to support and shield what Edmund Burke called the “little platoons”—those intermediary institutions that stand between the individual and the state such as school, church, trade union, town hall, and so on.

Third, Humanist Conservatism stands for pragmatic internationalism. It understands that no nation can simply ignore the universal struggle for freedom across the globe. But Humanist Conservatives also appreciate that promoting international harmony and human rights is no easy task—that to advance such goals requires a painful awareness of our own limitations. In our current moment this would mean providing critical support to allies like Ukraine and Israel. However, it would also mean avoiding the hawkish war mongering that is common on the right. There is no reason to level all of Palestine, provoke a coup in Iran, or goad Vladimir Putin into attacking NATO. Humanist Conservatives understand better than most that as bad as things are now, they can always get worse. The goal of foreign policy is not just to improve the international situation but to prevent it from deteriorating.

Fourth, Humanist Conservatism promotes a pluralist society. It seeks to build a state whose main purpose is to protect the rights of individuals and ensure a multitude of cultural communities can live in harmony. Rather than arrange a battle royale between secular progressivism and our distinct cultural traditions, as National Conservatives do, pluralism permits both to exist harmoniously.

Finally, Humanist Conservatism embraces moderate politics. Polling data shows that most voters are relatively moderate on issues like abortion, transgender rights, and guns. Humanist Conservativism reflects the views of this largely neglected demographic.

These five principles offer a viable alternative to Fusionism and National Conservatism alike. Humanist Conservatism is moderate, broadly appealing, and committed to human flourishing.

The future of all American policies is the past of W.