Apr 6, 2021
“There's a well-worn tale about modern American conservatism,” writes Stephanie Slade in her piece for Reason entitle Is There a Future for Fusionism? “It says that the movement as we know it came into being during the mid–20th century as a ‘fusionist’ coalition of economic libertarians and religious traditionalists. These groups, whose goals and priorities differed from the start, were held together mainly by two things: the sheer charisma of National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr., and the shared enemy of global communism. As long as the Cold War endured, the story goes, each wing was willing to cede some ground to the other…But the fall of the USSR meant the collapse of the common foe that had sustained the fusionist partnership. It was able to trundle on for a while, powered by a reservoir of goodwill, but it has long been running on fumes. In the last few years, the alliance's inherent tensions have come to a head.”
The problem with this “well-worn tale”, Stephanie contends, is that it isn’t true. Fusionism, as developed by conservative thinkers from William F. Buckley Jr. to Frank Meyer, was a philosophical orientation that sought to advance both virtue and liberty as societal ends whereas the coalition on the Right that formed to combat global Communism was born out of political expediency. As such, fusionism is just as relevant in a world where Communism is no longer the global menace it was in the prior century, in spite of competing voices on the Right calling for a realignment of market-skeptical Common-Good Conservatism, nationalism, and populism.
Stephanie joins Saving Elephants host Josh Lewis to discuss the true history of fusionism, what it became the dominant consensus on the Right, and why it still remains relevant today. Also discussed are some common objections to fusionism, how fusionism can fit within the broader worldviews of libertarians, conservatives, and classical liberals, what is meant by “liberty” and “virtue”, and the seductive dangers of the post-liberal movement.
Stephanie Slade is managing editor at Reason, the libertarian magazine of "free minds and free markets." Prior to joining Reason, Stephanie worked as a speechwriter, a pollster, and a regular contributor to U.S. News and World Report. In 2013, she was named a finalist for the Bastiat Prize for Journalism. In 2016–2017, she was selected as a Robert Novak Journalism Fellow. She's a proud graduate of the University of Florida, where she earned a B.A. in economics. She also has an M.A. from American University. You can find her on Twitter @sladesr