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A Third Way

Andrew Sullivan's "The Dish" is a part of my daily routine. There is always a post (or two or three) that interest or amuse. He is a conservative in the classical sense and a proponent of a balanced approach to politics and policy that we are sorely missing.

Recently he has been posting about the French Philosopher Michel de Montaigne and Sarah Bakewell's new biography written about him: How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer. Sullivan outlines Montaigne's emphasis on a balanced approach to governance that aims "merely to keep the ship afloat – not to reach the perfect desert island or to conquer distant lands."

Here is a brief excerpt from one of Sullivan's posts:

"...what motivated both Montaigne and Oakeshott was a preference for “present laughter” over “utopian bliss”. Yes, reforms may well be necessary; yes, there are times for collective action; but a political regime that leaves people alone in their consciences and allows us the task of ordinary living is the best regime. In that sense, Montaigne was stranded in the wrong country. While France was convulsed with the blood of religious conflict, England was benefiting from that very politique Queen, Elizabeth I.

As for our time, an attachment to a fixed ideology called conservatism (which is currently suffused with the zeal and passion Montaigne so deeply suspected) or to an ideology called progressivism (which increasingly regards most of its opponents as mere bigots) does not exhaust the possibilities. A disposition for moderation and pragmatism, for the long view over the short-term victory, for maintaining the balance in American life in a polarized time: this remains a live option. You can see how, influenced by this mindset, I have had little difficulty supporting a Democratic president as the most conservative figure, properly speaking, now on the national stage. You can see why I have become so hostile to neoconservatism whose unofficial motto is “Toujours l’audace!” And you can see why, after an important reform like marriage equality, I am deeply suspicious of those on the left seeking to remake society in its wake and to obliterate bigotry in our time."

Read the whole post here.