Reality-Based Conservatism–I

In an effort to promote amity between Left and Right Blogistan, we start a new feature here at the Reality-Based Community, designed to show our appreciation for those on the Right whose work, writings, and efforts deserve our support or respectful attention.

The first installment is The Liberty Fund, whose books you should take a look at, and even buy, if you are so inclined. The Fund publishes many classics of western thought that have gone out of print, and does so in beautifully-produced editions at extremely reasonable prices. Lawyers will be familiar with Philip Kurland and Ralph Lerner’s The Founders Constitution, which is a must for those interested in the Constitution. Where else can you get a virtually complete set of The Works of Adam Smith (8 volumes)? A steal for only $74!

So, in the words of every other post at The Corner, why is this conservative? Two reasons.

First, the Liberty Fund takes “liberty” to mean “economic liberty”, which in turn it takes to mean completely free market, libertarian economics (in addition to their important works of history, philosophy and political theory). You might want to skip over their editions of the Complete Works of Ludwig von Mises. (I certainly do.). But it’s all there if you want it.

Second–and more importantly–for much of the 1970’s and 80’s, many (although certainly not all) liberals in the academy developed a hatred for political history and philosophy, dismissing them as the products of so many dead white males. What began initially as a laudable and vital attempt to study the neglected history of African-Americans, indigenous peoples, women, gays, immigrants, and other subordinated peoples, later metastasized into a contempt for the western canon and the great tradition of liberal political thought. Part of this was about the bottom line: humanities departments had very limited funding, and so the attacks on traditional learning became more vitupretive as faculty slots became scarcer.

Most of this has since died down, but in the meantime, it was often left to conservatives to keep the flame alive. The Liberty Fund did so, and for that they deserve our thanks and appreciation.

—Jonathan Zasloff

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.