Many people choose their political views not rationally, but largely for tribalist reasons. Rather than identifying first principles and adopting coherent policy views that flow from them, they instead think "Of what political tribe would I like to be a member?"
I am somewhat unusual in that, while most people pretend they are arriving at their views rationally, I acknowledge my irrationality and tribalist tendencies. Which brings me to the point that I often think that I want to be in the Straussians' tribe. First, I don't want to be part of a tribe full of people who are too distastefully stupid or embracing of stupidity. That requirement excludes most of the populist strains of conservatism. Second, I do not want to belong a tribe that is too large. There's a line in Ibsen somewhere about how it's always safer and in better taste to be a minority (I think in Enemy of the People, but I am a failure at the Internet). So, given where I live and my educational background, that excludes most moderate liberal tribes.
True, that still leaves a few far left tribes -- the people whom I called Montagnards --but I realized early on in university that I can't get along with Montagnards. True, their detachment from and frustration with everyday life often expresses itself as a kind of charming naivete. But it also can be insuffferable. Sometimes it really is the better part of valor to stop fretting about patriarchy and just blend in by wearing lipstick.
So that leaves me essentially with a tiny handful of intellectual right of center tribes to choose from. Despite my title, the Randians no longer work for me. And I confess I have always felt a certain attraction to the Straussians. I have always perceived them as oh so smart, condescending, distant, and aloof. I suffer from all these flaws, of course, yet the Straussians view these qualities as positives, which is fantastic. I have decidedly mixed feelings about modernity*, also, and generally support any intellectual movements which valorize ancient cultures.
Still, the biggest stumbling block to becoming an actual Straussian is that I find everything he has written impenetrable. This may be because life circumstances compel me to do much of my reading on the Metro, and Natural Right and History is just poorly suited for the Metro. I understood individual words, of course, and even how to put them together into sentences. But try to figure out what argument the sentences added up to, and I would be lost. So I read with interest reports about a new book on Strauss's life. Maybe, with the help of secondary sources, I can actually figure out Strauss. Of course, I suspect I'll still opt to stay in my tribe of plain vanilla Hayekians with some Tocquevillian impulses. We are a nice tribe in some ways: we are friendlier and more welcoming, and I feel less stupid within my current tribe than I would if I tried to surround myself with Straussians.
*My ideal society would have modern medical and computer technology, but 1930s fashion sensibilities and also intense education in the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome. Phones would exist but be largely unnecessary, having been superseded by e-mail and other text-formed forms of communication. Indeed, text-based communication would largely have eclipsed the need for actual speech of any kind. N.b. that that would mean that there would be no need for small talk, ever, but people would have very real and warm friendships cemented by sending each other long, witty, literate multi-paragraph letters.
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