Conservatism for Seculars

Razib Khan


Politics is a dirty affair. Of course the men and women aspiring to become politicians don’t dress like ditchdiggers. On the contrary, aspiring politicos invariably wrap themselves in the finest formal business attire of our culture. This is plainly to impart to us the seriousness of their intentions but also perhaps to cloak the squalid and debasing aspects of their enterprise. Even those ancient exemplars of the political class, Pericles and Caesar, ended their lives in ignominious squalor, one dead by plague (a likely consequence of the militaristic hubris of Golden-Age Athens) and the other murdered at the hands of men of his own caste.

This juxtaposition of sartorial seriousness and grotesque moral degradation is manifest in our own age. One can see it in the way money buys influence in a democratic republic or in the way candidates lie brazenly, even to their constituents, forever using figurative Etch A Sketches to satisfy special interests. Organized politics is an inevitable human affair, but as such it is not the way of heaven, to say the least. Ultimately power is at stake, and when power is at issue one can’t expect decorous behavior.

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