Monday, July 01, 2013

George W. Carey

I don't think I'd ever heard of George W. Carey, late professor of political theory at Georgetown, until I read Bruce Bartlett's appreciation on his FB page this morning.  Here's a remarkable set of remembrances from friends and former students--the kind of thing that makes you wish he'd been alive to hear them.  Bartlett himself says:
[A]s the term “conservative” has become more and more debased by its co-option by anarchists and nihilists masquerading as “Tea Party patriots,” he was a living remnant of an older, gentler, more scholarly conservatism that was once represented by Russell Kirk, Michael Oakeshott, Peter Viereck, Robert Nisbet, and others whose names are unknown to the vast bulk of those who call themselves conservatives today.

These scholars understood that there was far more to being a conservative than hating government; today, that is the sum total of what conservatism stands for. The conservatism of people like George Carey was the appreciation for the “permanent things,” as Russell Kirk always called them. These are the institutions of society that are like the sinews that hold together the various parts of the human body. They include community, church, family, and, importantly, government as well.
 A former colleague says:
George consistently held that the Constitution had been written and promulgated in the expectation of a certain kind of morality—what he called “constitutional morality.” That morality entrusted a high degree of political self-rule to the citizenry and in turn demanded self-limitation, responsibility, and morality. While affording extensive powers to legislative authority, “constitutional morality” stressed not only what should be legislated but also demanded respect for extensive areas of life in which the legislature should entrust self-rule to families and communities. “Constitutional morality,” in effect, rested on a deeper wellspring of moral and communal authority that the Constitution assumed, lying most fundamentally in the Judeo-Christian tradition of the West.
 Yet for (apparently) so distinguished an academic, Carey seems frustratingly difficult to track on the web.  Part of the trouble is numbers--you'd be surprised how many distinguished George Careys there seem to be out there.  He doesn't seem to have a Wiki page. Georgetown appears to have scrubbed the interesting stuff.  If anyone wants to point me to a useful bibliography, I'd be  indebted.

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