Skip to comments.The 10 Best Conservative Columnists of 2013 -- Who are the most valuable pieces on the chessboard?
Posted on 12/26/2013 12:00:48 PM PST by jazusamo
This is Week 12 of Season 3 in my 13 Weeks of Wild Man Writing and Radical Reading Series . Every week day I try to blog about compelling writers, their ideas, and the news cycles most interesting headlines. This Top 10 list is the series climax for this year, a project Ive been planning since first asking the question December 5, 2012 .
What is the future of conservatism? Which voices should define the priorities of the movement in the coming decades? Who are its most skilled proponents today? How should the movement evolve to face the threats most endangering America?
This list is my effort to advocate for both my favorite writers contributing to answering these questions and the ideas they champion.
5 quick ground rules first:
- Im being strict with the columnist title no bloggers, journalists, or feature writers. A columnist is one who writes a 700-1400+ word polemical article on a regular basis for an established publication or syndication.
- Im likewise being strict with the conservative title other various right-of-center ideologies (neoconservatism, libertarianism, Christian theocrats, and paleo-con conspiracists) warrant their own lists. (Which perhaps they might get next year as I continue mapping out todays most important ideological advocates in the contests of politics, ideas, and culture )
- In selecting these individuals, I am including them and the ideas they champion in what Im calling Conservatism 3.0 . This isnt just a stand-alone list, its part of the bigger, ongoing project of my attempt to encourage ideological debate and dialogue. The columnists on this list each write books too and Im adding their titles to my reading lists at the Freedom Academy Book Club . In next years installment of my radical reading regimen Ill blog through their titles too.
- Im excluding writers that I edit. All of PJMs columnists and freelancers have been going on a separate list of my favorite writers, which Ive been accumulating over the last six months and you can read on the last page of this post. And as an extra mention I have to go out of my way to recommend Instapundit Glenn Reynoldss USA Today columns too. Blogging isnt the only medium that Glenns mastered.
- Im including excerpts from some of my favorite columns. Fair warning: this article today is over 13,000 words, highlighting some of the years best op/eds. (UPDATE: And apparently that means its too big for the view-as-single-page or print-this-post feature to work. Im sorry. I assure you that was not intentional.) Its really more of a free online e-book a late Christmas present to all the readers, writers, activists, and patriots who have inspired and encouraged me in my own journey across the political spectrum
10. Ross Douthat
9. Frank Gaffney
8. Daniel Pipes
7. Rich Lowry
6. Jonah Goldberg
5. Mark Steyn
4. Dennis Prager
3. Ben Shapiro
2. Thomas Sowell
1. Ann Coulter
What is the difference between the libertarian-conservatism of Buckley, National Review, and the Reagan mainstream and the libertarian-anarchism of the Ron/Rand Paul, Reason magazine, John Stossel, Gary Johnson, Libertarian Party crowd? Where does the breakdown occur? The latter do not make the connection between culture and economics.
Just promoting freedom and liberty in the political realm is not enough. In order for an individual to take advantage of it, they need to embrace cultural values which push them to take responsibility for themselves and create value for their fellow man. Not all cultures do this. And the American system was not designed for a people who did not have religion and morality to temper their self-destructive tendencies.
Looking back on all the books that contributed to my ideological shift from Left to Right, I think probably the most important one is Thomas Sowells Black Rednecks and White Liberals. As soon as I began to make the connection that strong cultural values drove economic prosperity then it was game over on so many ideological issues. All my life Id been raised to believe that poor people all over the country needed the help of federal government programs to improve the unlucky hand theyve been dealt through no fault of their own. But after reading Sowell and actually experiencing first-hand the culture he describes I lived amongst rednecks black and white after graduating college I now know a lesson that should have been obvious: a whole lot of people cause their own poverty by embracing destructive, irresponsible cultural ideas. Redneck, cracker culture that originated in the Scottish highlands migrated to the South and then emigrated up into the northern city ghettoes after the Civil War. The vulgar, rap, thug, ghetto culture so many academics and activists label authentic black culture is anything but. And in fact, calling it such is monstrously offensive and racist and only contributes further to the failures of minority youth today.
Sowells columns are like sampler platters for his books and reminders of how effective his best arguments can be at provoking realignments in values. Here are excerpts from three great Sowell columns this year and also two of his regular Random Thoughts columns collections of wise one liners hes been doing since long before the Age of Twitter:
March 6, Economic Mobility:
Most working Americans who were initially in the bottom 20 percent of income-earners, rise out of that bottom 20 percent. More of them end up in the top 20 percent than remain in the bottom 20 percent.
People who were initially in the bottom 20 percent in income have had the highest rate of increase in their incomes, while those who were initially in the top 20 percent have had the lowest. This is the direct opposite of the pattern found when following income brackets over time, rather than following individual people.
Most of the media publicize what is happening to the statistical brackets especially that top one percent rather than what is happening to individual people.
We should be concerned with the economic fate of flesh-and-blood human beings, not waxing indignant over the fate of abstract statistical brackets. Unless, of course, we are hustling for an expansion of the welfare state.
What we were told repeatedly last year by the President of the United States, the Secretary of State, and the American ambassador to the U.N., was that there was a protest demonstration in Benghazi against an anti-Islamic video produced by an American, and that this protest demonstration simply escalated out of control.
This spontaneous protest story did not originate in Libya but in Washington. Neither the Americans on duty in Libya during the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, nor officials of the Libyan government, said anything about a protest demonstration.
The highest American diplomat on the scene in Libya spoke directly with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by phone, and told her that it was a terrorist attack. The president of Libya announced that it was a terrorist attack. The C.I.A. told the Obama administration that it was a terrorist attack.
With lies, as with potato chips, it is hard to stop with just one.
Edmund Burke said, There is no safety for honest men, but by believing all possible evil of evil men. Evil men do not always snarl. Some smile charmingly. Those are the most dangerous.
I cannot see why even a single American, a single Israeli or a single Syrian civilian should be killed as a result of a token U.S. military action, undertaken simply to spare Barack Obama the embarrassment of doing nothing, after his ill-advised public ultimatum to the Syrian government to not use chemical weapons was ignored.
Some people say that some military response is necessary, not to spare Obama a personal humiliation, but to spare the American presidency from losing all credibility and therefore losing the ability to deter future threats to the United States without bloodshed.
There is no question that the credibility of the presidency regardless of who holds that office is a major asset of this country. Another way of saying the same thing is that Barack Obama has recklessly risked the credibility of future presidents, and the future safety of this country, by his glib words and weak actions.
November 26, Random Thoughts:
Many people take pride in defying the conventions of society. Those conventions of society are also known as civilization. Defying them wholesale means going back to barbarism. Barbarians with electronic devices are still barbarians.
Next year Im going to dive deeper into Sowells books. Heres my reading plan and recommendations to others.
In addition to Black Rednecks and White Liberals, Ive already read these seven Sowell books and suggest this order of importance with the first four especially as essential:
And here are the 21 Sowell books still on my reading list, in the approximate order that Id like to read them over the next few years:
4. Knowledge And Decisions (This book can be especially helpful in explaining to people why Obamacare is failing so dramatically. The primary problem with socialism isnt an ideological one but a practical one: nobody has the capability to acquire and process enough knowledge in order to make decisions for everyone else.)
Thanks for giving the list. I wasn’t going to click through a slideshow with popups.
I hear you. Took me awhile to figure out what to do.
I pick VICTOR DAVIS HANSON.
Sowell is the centerpiece of every argument ever made by or with a black liberal. His personal story and his fantastic literary style make for fascinating and thoughtful reads. I have immense and abounding respect for blacks in this country, for their stories and how far they’ve come in the 200+ years in this country. Recent cultural and social shifts in the black communities have turned back the clocks and made many whites leery of not only their safety but their personal understanding of “blackness” in America.
Thomas Sowell is the bright, shiny example of what it means to be a successful American, let alone a man of color. I am proud to call him a countryman, and I hope that legions of black men and women follow in his footsteps in the near future. We need men and women of all races to embrace what it means to be conservative in America.
That omission stuck out to me as well, as did Daniel Greenfield.
Thanks, jazusamo! This list is a great Christmas present.
Ann Coulter? Jonah Goldberg? Give me a break. Daniel Greenfield (Sultan Knish) runs circles around those two.
Appreciate the work you have done for us!
Bill Whittle? Guess he’s not a columnist (strict) but he’s phenomenally articulate.
VDH should be on this list, but Sowell is without equal.
His writing moves minds.
It’s my pleasure and a very HAPPY NEW YEAR to ALL!
I second the motion...VDH
Ann?...The Ann who called the defenders of Article 2, Section 1, “CRANKS!” and then used the KKK analogy to drive home her point?
Gee! That Ann?
That Ann is dead to me.
I would rank Sowell above Coulter. Actually, I’d rank about half that list above Coulter, but especially Sowell.
I think Sowell has had more influence on me than any other columnist.