I do not consider myself a conservative, at least, not in the contemporary understanding of that term in 21st century America. Nor, for that matter, do I consider myself a liberal, progressive, or libertarian; again, not in the way these terms are generally understood today. This has done me no favors, as those unfamiliar with my writings tend to pigeonhole my politics as quickly as possible into one of these categories. In this age of microwave attention spans, I have to assume this is the norm and live with the consequences.
Nevertheless, when a piece of writing catches my attention in the manner the one below did, I like to pass it on, no matter the conclusions to which a reader may jump. And in the following essay, conclusion jumping will come easy, since the title of this work by August Heckscher II holds the word “conservative” in it. Those on the left will immediately write it off and never read it, and those on the right will be angered by its message, having been pulled into this essay on miscalculated assumptions.
But for those who labor to read the essay, it will be worth the time. The conservative mindset represented here, in post-World War II America, has almost vanished. It is inconceivable for me to consider any of the conservatives operating in the public forum today as standing behind Heckscher’s sentiments towards conservatism. That is why I felt it important to post this work, to keep alive, in a paltry manner, a conservatism that quickly became a relic of the past when Richard Nixon entered the White House and Ronald Reagan forever banished such thinking from the Republican Party, making room for the rise of neo-conservatism, an evolution of American conservatism that distorts-beyond-recognition the viewpoints presented here.
August Heckscher II (1913-1997) was an American intellectual, historian, and administrator. He served as President John F. Kennedy’s Special Consultant on the Arts from 1962 to 1963 (the White House’s first cultural adviser), as well New York City Mayor John Lindsay’s Parks Commissioner in 1967, amongst other highlights in a wide-ranging career and life. His obituary can be found here.
This essay originally appeared in Confluence in 1953, a journal that lasted for only seven volumes in the 1950s (Trivial Pursuit: Henry Kissinger edited Confluence while at Harvard).
Many thanks to Emilio, over at LinkedIn, for bringing this to my attention. I, working alone, admit to having added the emphases throughout the text. I hope you enjoy it.