In August 1948, Whittaker Chambers testified before Congress concerning Communist infiltration of the U.S. government.
Chambers, an ex-Communist turned Quaker conservative, said this about his conversion: “I know that I am leaving the winning side for the losing side, but it is better to die on the losing side than to live under Communism.” He thought America would lose, and his gloom seemed justified.
In 1948, an emboldened Soviet Union had begun to jam Radio Free America transmissions in Europe; with the help of spies in the United States, it was rushing toward a nuclear debut in 1950. A state of emergency had been declared in Malaya (now Malaysia) to combat a Red insurgency. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had been born, with Kim Il-Sung as Supreme Leader.
Even the West had taken a collectivist turn. 1948 was the year of nationalized British railroads and the NHS. At home, President Truman had instituted a peacetime draft for fear of Soviet attack.
When Chambers spoke before Congress, the West was in a feeble state.
So too his adopted philosophy, conservatism. It was bunkered up, in the words of Wilmoore Kendall, in so many “isolated outposts over a wide front.”
Today, Chambers has been proved wrong. Communism has been expunged from most of the globe. Conservatism, by contrast, is an institutional force: it has think tanks, journals, magazines and media outlets.
What it does not have — sixty years after William F. Buckley, Jr. wrote God and Man at Yale — twenty years after Allan Bloom wrote The Closing of the American Mind — is a place on campus.
We aim to change that at the University of Georgia.
This is the inaugural editorial of THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE, a quarterly journal of opinion founded in response to the situation on campus: to the fact, everywhere apparent, that the unexamined consensus is liberalism; to the fact, equally apparent, that conservatives have neglected their own intellectual heritage, intuiting what it is they believe without bothering to find out why they believe it.
For now, the ‘what’ will suffice. The ‘why’ is a job for future articles.
THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE is committed to a set of beliefs that defy easy description. Insofar as our ultimate allegiance is truth, we are committed to the integrity of our journalism and scholarship.
But the search for truth leads to conclusions, and The Editors of THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE offer a few for consideration:
That there exists an enduring moral order. That a healthy respect for traditional beliefs is prudent, as they represent the accumulated wisdom of history.
That free markets enable human flourishing, contribute to the general welfare and safeguard liberty.
That individual rights are imperative and, unacceptably, not available to millions around the world. That free nations are obligated to oppose, by force of arms when justified, the designs of tyrants.
That ultimately the great experiences in life are outside the realm of politics, and cannot be manufactured by government.
As matters of policy and demarche, contributors to THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE will interpret these conclusions differently; they may reject one or more of them entirely. We will gladly play host to a wide variety of opinions from right and left, because the resulting debate will benefit campus.
According to popular accounts, professor Harvey Mansfield once counseled a conservative colleague to sit on his beliefs until he was tenured, and only then to “hoist the Jolly Roger.” It is a sad statement on higher education that his advice was necessary.
However, as Whittaker Chambers’s example shows, the current state of affairs is not inevitable. That is why we’re hoisting the Jolly Roger — and raising the standard.
M. Blake Seitz, Editor-In-Chief
Elizabeth Ridgeway, Publisher
John Henry Thompson, Manager