Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 71(1) February 2021

Book Review

The Vanishing Tradition, Perspectives on American Conservatism.

Edited by Paul Gottfried. Northern Illinois University Press

Reviewed by Dr Pravin Thevasathan

Book CoverFor better or worse, what goes on in the United States effects the rest of the world. The "vanishing tradition" described in this highly readable work is traditional conservatism, the conservatism of Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk. This version of conservatism is in favour of limited government, limited state interference and respect for the traditional institutions, especially the traditional family. But where is it to be found? It largely disappeared during the presidencies of the Bush family: that brand of neoconservatism appeared much more intent on imposing "American Values" on the rest of the world. As such, is this any different to the agenda of George Soros and Bill Gates: the imposition of "reproductive rights" on nations that are not requesting them?

When we turn to our recent crop of conservative leaders in the United Kingdom, Cameron, May and Johnson, one wonders what Edmund Burke would have made of them? They have shown remarkably little interest in the traditional institutions, especially the family. Indeed their primary claim to fame appears to be in their dismantling of such institutions.

For the neoconservatives, as this book beautifully argues, propositions are always evolving in unexpected ways. The neo-conservative who previously campaigned in favour of marriage as a union of man and woman is perfectly at ease to now campaign for it as a union of man and man. The neo-conservative is much more willing to support a social liberal rather than a social conservative like Patrick Buchanan. I do not know whether Donald Trump is a social conservative. What I do know is that the 2020 Democratic campaign has an even more socially liberal platform than that of President Obama. And yet, many neoconservatives prefer the Democrats to Trump.

In a very interesting chapter on Catholic neoconservatism, it is argued that the typical Catholic neoconservative is as unhappy with the pontificate of Pope Francis as the traditional conservative, but sometimes for different reasons.

All in all, an important read, and not just for Americans.