Conservatives and equality.

They don’t have to be its fervent opponents, you know, despite common left-wing caricatures to the contrary. Noah Kristula-Green reflects on his time working with Frum:

David is fond of quoting these opening lines of The Great Gatsby to remind himself of how lucky he has been in life:

“Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

It’s no secret that David comes from an elite background and that his family will be fortunate enough to survive many of the worst effects of the great recession. Yet this was never something he felt content with. He once remarked “The future will be fine for me, its everyone else I’m worried about.”

Conservatives doesn’t like to talk about privilege or inequality. There is a worry that starting that discussion is seen as granting ground to leftist arguments. After all, if you concede that some groups may be unlucky in America, you risk endorsing wealth redistribution.

Yet David has a way of approaching this problem which I think is healthy: “people’s grievances are often legitimate. The challenge is over the solutions.”

There are, of course, some on the right who are radical apologists for vast inequality who strive for a libertarian paradise where in principle no wealth is ever redistributed, either because the rich are simply entitled to their position or because the free market somehow fairly distributes according to desert. There’s good reason to think that, deep down, Romney is such a fanatic. But opponents to top-down attempts to soothe the effects of inequality need not necessarily be driven by such a thought. The genuine conservatives are simply wary of what grandiose social programs will do, if anything, to solve the problem. Frum appears to be in the latter camp. It’s worth remembering the nature of the disagreement.


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