Friday, March 10, 2006

Are You a "Crunchy Con"?

National Review Contributing Editor Rod Dreher has written a book called Crunchy Cons in which he attempts to describe what he believes to be a type of conservative that has not been identified elsewhere. I haven't read the book, but it is reviewed in the March 13th print issue of the magazine. If you have a digital subscription you can read the review here, otherwise you'll have to take my word for what's in the review.

However, over at National Review there is a Crunchy Con blog, with many of the editors weighing in. Check it out for more detail on what this is all about.

Every certain number of years traditional ideas of what it means to be a conservative and liberal undergo a change, or at least modification. Dreher believes that in the past several years a new type of conservative has emerged, one that he calls a "crunchy conservative", or "crunchy con" for short.

This is not to say that either group is ever monolithic. Greenpeace members and Teamsters both call themselves liberals, but while the former would fight to keep loggers from cutting down forests to save the Spotted Owl, the latter would solve the problem with a 12 guage and a pocketfull of birdshot.

Likewise with conservatives. Economic and social conservatives may vote for the same candidate, but will do so for different reasons.

Dreher believes that he has identified several attributes of this new type of conservative that he calls a Crunchy Con. Using the aforementioned book review, I am going to go through these attributes and find out whether I am a Crunchy Con or not.


Traditional conservatives, Dreher says, worship the market, and by extension, consumerism. The "endless acquisition of stuff" seems to be the goal of all too many middle and upper-middle class people.

Dreher has no problem with a free market economy. Nor with buying things. It is more the attitude of "buy buy buy more more more", I think, than anything else, that he distains.

Tom - In this respect I agree with Dreher. My TV is 15 years old, and I have no desire to buy a high-definition set. I know and hear about people who think nothing of spending 20k on a home entertainment center, complete with mini-theater seating, and then of course invite their friends over who are all supposed to "oh and ah" over it all. Not me.

What's perhaps interesting about this is that I make my living doing market research in the consumer electronics field. My view is that just because it interests me on an intellectual level doesn't mean I want to run out and buy it all.

Distain for Shopping Malls and Tract Housing

Since crunchy cons do not care for unbridled consumerism, it follows that they don't care much for shopping malls.

Likewise, they don't want to live in a house that is the same or similar to the ones up and down the block from it. In fact, they don't want to live on blocks in surburbia at all.

Dreher says that crunchy cons prefer a "bungalow" arrangement, something cozy on a piece of land somewhat separated from one's neighbors. Gardens and other simple structures around the house are desired.

Tom - Well...I'm half and half here. Ok, less than half. I confess that I like shopping malls. I like wandering around in them, especially at Christmastime (crazy, I know).

I live in a traditional surburban townhouse, and probably will for some time. But I would definately prefer the "bungalow" in a woody area that Dreher describes. Economics and driving distance to work prevent this from becoming a reality.

Organic, Natural, Food

Crunchy cons hate McDonalds and love fresh organic foods.

Tom - I'm about 3/4 in here. A certified health and fitness nut, I eat more than my share of fresh fruit and vegetables (to the occasional amusememt of my coworkers). I also "must" go to the gym at least twice a week. However, I couldn't care less whether my food is grown organically or not. Call me cheap if you want but the organic stuff just costs too much.

I'm not much for fast food places either. Not to worry, however, I'm not the type of person who turns his nose up at rich food when I'm at at someone elses house. I'll eat whatever is served.

More Environmentalism

Crunchy cons are definately more concerned with the environment that most traditional conservatives. However, theirs is not the "people are evil to mother earth" of the Greenpeace types. Theirs is rather more a stewardship, the idea that we have been given dominion of the earth, and thus have an obligation to take care if it.

Tom - I am in sympathy here with the Crunchy cons. I don't like to see a forest chopped down to make way for yet another subdivision, but I realize that the land where my house sits was a woods less than twenty years ago. I distain the type of conservative who couldn't care less about the woods, steams and animals who inhabit them, and who think everything should be paved over in an endless stream of "development". But as with Dreher's crunchy cons, my attitude is also quite different than leftie environmentalists. I'm a fisherman and support hunting and gun rights 100%. If asked I tell people I am a conservationist, not an environmentalist.

Family over Prosperity

Crunchy cons will live in a smaller house and drive used cars if that is what it takes to maintain a stay-at-home mom. Giving up luxuries is vital to good child rearing, they believe.

Tom - I am single so won't comment much here. Suffice it to say that this is how I was raised, and my sister and sister-in-law gave up excellent careers so they could stay at home with their children.

Home Schooling

"Toss out the TV and homeschool the children", he says. Again, Dreher says that crunchy cons are willing to make economic sacrifices to make this happen. Their concern with the public schools is not the academics but with their moral decay.

He also has little patience for the "socialization" argument, that anti-home schoolers make; "look at the values predominating in youth culture today; is that really working for us?" Dreher retorts.

Tom - Again, without any children I cannot speak about myself. However, I will note that last summer I went on a mission trip to Scotland with maybe 30 people from my church, over half of whom were high-schoolers. During the trip I discovered that many were homeschooled. I know that this is anecdotal evidence, but I will tell you that they were as socialized as anyone else. In other words, they were perfectly normal teenagers.

Orthodox Religious Beliefs

There's not much here in the review, just that although faith is not required, most crunchy cons are religious, and tend to be orthodox.

Tom - I go to an independent evangelical church. No leftie mainstream protestant stuff for me.

Everything Else

The review doesn't mention traditional issues like abortion, foreign policy, or taxes. I assume that since Dreher is in tune with the rest of the staff at National Review at these issues, crunchy cons are too. But that may not be so, and you'll have to buy the book to find out.

So What You, Tom?

I'm about half in the cruncy con camp, but definately not all of the way.

Now it's your turn, are you a "crunchy con" or not?