Dr. John Grant. Allison Schuster | Col­legian

To describe United States foreign policy, Assistant Pro­fessor of Pol­itics John Grant turned to the words of Charles Dickens: we’re in the best of times and the worst of times. 

The American Enter­prise Institute Club hosted Grant for a lecture titled “Con­serving Lib­er­alism? The Con­ser­v­ative Debate on Lib­er­alism and Foreign Policy,” on Nov. 7 in Lane Hall.

Grant dis­cussed the modern state of lib­er­alism and how it has affected con­ser­vatism. 

“Every­thing today in the U.S. from public property to intel­lectual life is con­serving the ideas in public policy that elites have had for the last 45 to 50 years,” he said. “It’s dif­ficult to step outside that view.”

Grant said people are living in “an incredibly brain-dead time in which the world is near col­lapse or death.” The intel­lectual con­fusion and decline is owing to the addition of social media into the current political dis­course, for it is now easier to add to the political con­ver­sation. 

Grant described today’s climate as the best of times because people now have the chance to think and recon­sider ideas and the reper­cus­sions of those ideas. This, he said, is why “Con­serving Lib­er­alism” was a good title for the lecture — it’s important to under­stand what’s being con­served. 

Grant main­tained that the United States is con­serving lib­er­alism if we’re using lib­er­alism as defined today. If lib­er­alism is defined how John Locke and Thomas Hobbes defined it, however, then people are rejecting it rather than con­serving it. This pro­gressive view attacks  Locke and Hobbes as the basis of modern day degra­dation and evils. 

“That’s a common attitude,” Grant said. 

Both lib­erals and con­ser­v­a­tives dislike these two philoso­phers for their degra­dation of society. Grant argued that neither con­ser­v­a­tives nor lib­erals support the enlight­enment or the social compact theory of the founding.

It is not so important that people honor John Locke and his teachings, Grant stated, but rejecting Locke as the embod­iment of the enlight­enment period as a whole has con­se­quences. 

As a result of such friv­olous dis­cussion, pol­i­cy­makers in Wash­ington, D.C., are left com­placent. As the heated debate sub­sides, the idea that human nature remains the same remains true.

“There’s a lot of LARP [live action role playing] going on here,” he said. “‘I’m going to adopt a radical position on some­thing nobody is dis­cussing doing.’ Because this person took the position, they gen­erate a lot of dis­cussion on it, what does it come to? Well, nothing.”

Grant said that many aca­d­emics and intel­lec­tuals engage in “obscu­rantism,” which involves a refusal to entertain con­flicting view­points.

Another problem for con­ser­v­a­tives lies in an attempt to control the nar­rative. It’s important, according to Grant, to ask who is ben­e­fitting from policies, because often­times it can be a source of cor­ruption. 

Fol­lowing the lecture, sophomore Francis Luc­chetti asked a question regarding the con­fused state of the con­ser­v­ative movement. 

“If people can’t decide what to do, when is the proper time to take action?” Luchetti asked.

“All these people can’t come to a con­sensus on what action to take. Other people claim to be on our side. People like Charlie Kirk and [Turning Point USA], etc. are dragging us down,” Luc­chetti said. “At what point, espe­cially if you don’t think the identity option is viable, is it time to be — to put it vaguely — less verbose war­riors?”

Grant responded by saying that he hoped this time will never come, but the respon­si­bility will fall on the next gen­er­ation. 

Junior Michael HagEstad attended the lecture and said he liked Grant’s dis­cussion of what makes a true con­ser­v­ative. 

“Dr. Grant was able to parse our subtle dif­fer­ences between various forces at play on the right at this moment,” he said.

Grant encouraged stu­dents of the next gen­er­ation to think about con­ser­vatism and how to prevent the movement from failing. 

“You’re striking a blow by thinking — actually thinking — and by improving yourself,” he said.