Asia Times pseudonymous columnist "Spengler" has self-identified as David P. Goldman. And he is moving...to First Things?
I'm afraid I can't approve of this development at all. Spengler was sometimes interesting to read, but he was never the sort of balanced thinker whose analysis I would feel comfortable taking to the bank. His metaphysics was materialistic, his historical outlook whiggish, his sociology crass, his foreign policy dubious, and his commitment to Israel fanatical. This is hardly the sort of person to be heading up a periodical "whose purpose is to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society." (link)
Whether or not this move injures the reputation of that magazine is not my concern. I am more disturbed by the tacit assumption that a man like Goldman somehow "belongs" in this guise, as if his were the views that the conservative and/or religiously-minded intelligentsia wants reflected back to them. Something rigid and ruthlessly urbane, some House of Usher-like morbidity, has crept into the minds of these self-styled guardians of culture. What exactly do they think they're guarding? The deteriorating remnants of bourgeois respectability? The lie of a necessary existence for them in the present, wrapped up in the lie of a happy past? Goldman mentions the friendship of George Weigel in his autobiographical piece. If he and the interminably monotone Mr. Weigel are the new voices of intellectual conservatism in this country, I can only say, in the words of Samuel Goldwyn, "Gentlemen, include me out!"
I have further reasons for mistrusting Goldman's bona fides. No one who has truly absorbed the soul of Western instrumental music could possibly settle into a career as an economist, basta finito; however, musically inclined sidemen like Alan Greenspan have been known to become great economy-wreckers, and I suspect something similar has happened in Goldman's case. We look in vain for any evidence that a swinging sense of melody has animated his public life. He lacks the gaiety, the rhythmic pulse and pound of the cavalry charge, retaining only the frozen syllogisms of game theory. He has probably read Godel Escher Bach. He probably agrees.
While we're on the subject, I'm not sure that a similar charge doesn't lay against the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. I'm not very familiar with the voluminous writings of Fr. Neuhaus; having been a Catholic for only a little over a year, I'm still picking up the threads of what passes for Catholic intellectual culture in this country, but what I've gleaned from him in summation (thanks in no small part to John Reilly's recent review) hasn't endeared him to me. Like Goldman, he seems to value the church primarily as a means of cultural preservation. The real religion playing before the inner eye of such men is the autonomous machinery of Whig history, not the heavenly city of St. Augustine.
Something entirely new is needed in conservatism, something that avoids both the curatorial neocon mandarins like Goldman and the First Things crew, and the snarky pharisaism and hypocrisy of Thomas Fleming & Co. over at Chronicles. There must be a truly innocent conservatism: unselfconsciously faithful, forgetful of self, eschewing all worldly compromises. Wall Street mavens, furrow-browed grumps, and "literary men" will have no inheritance therein. The future belongs only to those who come into the faith as little children, not to the worldly wise men who give the polite congé to God.