Debating the Continued Relevance of Frank Meyer's Fusionism
A back and forth on whether fusionism retains its vitality in the 21st century, or whether it ever had any vitality at all.
As I noted a few weeks back, the Liberty Fund's Online Library of Liberty has been hosting a "Liberty Matters" discussion on "Liberty and Virtue: Frank Meyer's Fusionism." Reason's Stephanie Slade offered the lead essay, followed by commentary by William Dennis, Henry Olsen, and myself.
For those interested, here's an index of the contributions to the discussion (thus far):
- Stephanie Slade, "Freedom and Virtue: Masters of Their Own Domains" [Posted June 7, 2021]
- Jonathan Adler, "Is Fusionism a Zombie Ideology?" [Posted June 10, 2021]
- Henry Olsen, "Fusionism: Freedom's Handmaid" [Posted June 14, 2021]
- William Dennis, "Friendly AND Ferocious Fusionism" [Posted June 18, 2021]
- Stephanie Slade, "Righteous Meddling and Human Excellence" [Posted June 22, 2021]
- Jonathan Adler, "Conservatives' Burden" [Posted June 25, 2021]
- Henry Olsen, "Conservatism: A Better Guarantor of Liberty" [Posted June 29, 2021]
- William Dennis, "Virtuecrats versus Liberty for All" [Posted July 2, 2021]
One issue that arises in the discussion is how to think about Meyer's (in my view, unwarranted) hostility to Lincoln. As I discuss in this paper on Meyer and federalism, Meyer was unduly influenced by the constitutional analyses of James Kilpatrick, as were many conservatives of the time. While Meyer was not as tolerant of segregationists as some others within the National Review orbit, Kilpatrick's influence did lead Meyer to some wrong-headed conclusions. But, contra Olsen, I am not convinced this tells us much about the relevance or importance of Meyer's overall project. Meyer should not be dismissed for getting Lincoln wrong, any more than a contemporary theorist should be dismissed out of hand for, say, misjudging Trump.