Clark Stooksbury went on a political dumpster-diving expedition, and returned with a fulsome Limbaugh rant, in which the
world-historical shill truth-detector comedian delivered himself of the opinion that economic growth being of such paramount importance, and growth depending upon the use of energy, the government should undertake everything in its power to reduce the costs of using more and more of it, perhaps even to the point of subsidizing gasoline:
Folks, I don't know what the price of gasoline is in China and I don't know to what extent, if any, it is subsidized -- okay, it is subsidized. See, the ChiComs need their economy growing. They need people driving around, moving around. They need people to be able to afford fuel, so they're subsidizing fuel. They're not bailing people out of stupid home mortgage messes. They're buying their gasoline for them, because they need an economy. Know what energy means to this, the whole subject of economic growth. So meanwhile, the ChiComs, a country certainly growing, certainly on the rise, but it ain't the United States of America. How does it make you feel that Zhang Linsen has a big Hummer with nine speakers blaring as he pulls out into a four-lane road with so much smog he basically can't see the car in front of him, and you are trading in all of your cars and trying to go out and find basically a lawn mower.
Daniel Larison and Rod Dreher have contributed to the most condign rhetorical flagellation of Limbaugh. Conservatism, on such an implicit conception, no longer - if ever it did, which increasingly seems arguable - entails, well, the relationship between the right ordering of the soul and the right ordering of the polity, but entails the liberation of appetites from the bridles that a just man will place upon them, and the reconstitution of the polity as the mirror of limitless desire. In fact, reality itself is to be reduced under servitude to this fathomless abyss of passions, as government has an apparently solemn obligation to facilitate such consumption - and consumption is the appropriate metaphor for the sociology of the passions, which, being intrinsically ephemeral, disappear - are consumed - as they attain their transitory objects. This, Limbaugh considers the most desirable societal state, because it facilitates growth, which, in turn, facilitates more crapulence, ad nauseum: a closed circle of negational nothingness, a social imaging of hell, everyone turned in upon his own inner void.
Am I piling on? Possibly. But there is a lesson here, beyond the precis of the liberal ontology of the passions, and that is that, well, contemporary pop-conservatism is manifestly nothing more than a modulation of liberalism itself. Classical liberalism valorized a certain set of freedoms because they enabled men to fulfill a certain set of desires. As the democratic revolution proceeded apace, and the franchise was expanded, political economy was modified to enable a greater percentage of the population to fulfill these same desires - desires for material abundance. This is the transition from classical to modern liberalism, and Limbaugh is fully within this tradition; the only distinction to be drawn is between the sets of desires Limbaugh wishes to liberate, and the sets his ostensible adversaries wish to liberate. But if one accepts the ontology, the debate is utterly pointless: desire is, and is protean.
Popular conservatism just announced its bankruptcy.