About 4 percent of my retina and a corresponding percentage of my brain have been reading the debate in these columns about Alan Wolfe's evisceration of conservative theorist Russell Kirk. I confess that I am not smart enough to pick up on the nuances of the debate, so here is my (small) contribution in the form of some questions to which I do not know the answers: which conservative politicians today claim to be linear descendants from Kirk? What policy ideas can be traced to the tracks in his mind? Did he contribute meaningfully to resolving (or exacerbating) the uneasy truce between political conservatism and Christian moralism? Aside from the conservative intellectual elite, who counts Kirk as an intellectual influence? Would conservatism today be the same if Kirk had never lived? Is Kirk the conservative equivalent of Lionel Trilling? John Rawls? (How many liberals have even read John Rawls?) Actually, the Rawls question is unfair. Liberals might not know much about him, but his writing and thinking underpin the modern Democratic Party theory of redistributive rights and expansive government.
As an actual practitioner of politics, what should I know about Kirk?
Or should I go back to wondering why Rudy Giuliani's team of bodyguards always looks at me with growling eyes?