The Right Coast

December 28, 2003
Oakshott on Iraq
By Michael Rappaport

David Brooks has another interesting column – I like him better at the Times than I ever did at the Weekly Standard or the Wall Street Journal – on what Michael Oakshott’s attitude would have been towards the American reconstruction of Iraq.

The Oakshott of Rationalism in Politics is great, but I must admit that I have never digested much of the rest of his works. For Andrew Sullivan’s take, see here.

I still remember the first time I read Oakshott. It was in a course at the Yale Law School called The Conservative Tradition. It was taught by Anthony Kronman, and it covered a range of prudential conservative thinkers, including Burke, de Tocqueville, and Arendt. Kronman had a real talent for clear exposition. At the time I had already started to make the move from being a pure libertarian to a fusionist conservative-libertarian due to Hayek’s influence, but Kronman’s class helped to deepen and broaden my understanding of the conservative tradition. Interestingly, Kronman omitted Hayek from the reading list, which was probably a mistake in general, but was fine for me, since I was quite familiar with his views.

By the way, the students in the class were also first rate, including law professors Tom Smith, Akhil Amar, Dan Greenwood and Peter Swire. While the class was one of the best I ever had at Yale, it of course had nothing to do with “real law.”