From Hudson Institute, via Lenore Ealy's TPE list serv, the transcript of the February 16 symposium “Vision and Philanthropy.” Symposium panelists addressed two questions in their prepared essays: What is “conservative vision,” and what can philanthropy do to support it? Panelists included: Stuart Butler, Linda Chavez, Michael Cromartie, Pete du Pont, Barbara Elliott, Steven Hayward, Roger Hertog, Heather Higgins, Peb Jackson, Robert Kagan, Leon Kass, David Keene, William Kristol, Leonard A. Leo, Heather Mac Donald, Scott McConnell, Stephen Moore, Grover Norquist, James Piereson, and Robert Woodson, Sr. .The discussion was moderated by Amy Kass. The keynote speaker was Peter Wehner, Director of Strategic Initiatives, White House, who spoke on the subject of President Bush's governing philosophy. To access the transcript directly (in PDF, 55 pages, 552 KB).
I read the transcript with interest, and admired Amy Kass for her quiet leadership - wish she would run for Congress in my district on whatever ticket, or least come here to give lecture on literature. Common ground with progressives, I think, in the panlists concern for the ugliness, crassness, and raunchiness of brand culture, and also more common ground than the conservatives might realize, in the belief that grassroots solutions are often better than bureaucratic. What struck me about the essays was how strong they were on individual freedom, and on the personal responsibility of the poor, but how weak they were on soul-making in the market, or the role of the corporation as a solvent of morality. Weakest of all, and saddest of all, there was no emphasis - and this quite familiar to me from prior conversations - on the obligations of the wealthy to those who are less fortunate. Amy Kass and her husband Leon, it struck me, were making an honest and tactful effort to hint at this point, as were others, but the theme never became focal, and no conclusions or action items were reached.
Morality is what the poor lack because they got corrupted by big gummit giving them handouts. But what has corrupted our global corporations that they pollute not only the environment but the souls of our children? And what personal responsibility will the wealthy, freed of tax requirements, take in helping the least fortunate? Easy to criticize the last generation's efforts, through government programs, but how will conservatives lead through their own efforts, with their own hands and their own money? (And what will be done with those remain thoroughly selfish, wealthy free-riders?) I wish every panelist had addressed that issue, because that is one good thing that could come from a conservative philanthropic revival. Even the poor could best be reformed by better, even a more Christian, example from from above. When we come to cases, on promoting philanthropy for the least among us from wealthy conservatives, or from progressives, I hope we will all make common cause. Maybe the next Bradley event might be a multipartisan effort to honor people who do make a difference at the grassroots, rich or poor, liberal or conservative, religious or secular. Instead of policy differences, or fighting for advantage, or crowing over vanguished enemies, maybe we can find practical projects to which many can lend a hand, forgetting our differences and finding ourselves among new friends, and feeling ourselves fellow citizens, both laterally and up and down the wealth chain. Of course that won't win elections per se, or garner tax breaks, but it would make for a better world. I have feeling that Amy Kass would make a wonderful moderator for such a real discussion of philanthropy, whether or not Grover Norquist shows up.