Great Antidote Extras: Stephanie Slade on Fusionism

libertarianism american conservatism fusionism reason magazine

Alex Byrne for AdamSmithWorks

Bryne gives an ear and her thoughts to Stephanie Slade on the Great Antidote. What is fusionism and is it part of the solution to today's many challenges?  
What is fusionism? You can find this out and more in Juliette Sellgren’s Great Antidote  with Stephanie Slade. Slade is a senior editor at Reason, the libertarian magazine of "free minds and free markets." Before joining Reason,  she worked as a pollster, a speechwriter, and a contributor to the U.S. News and World Report
Listen to the podcast here: Stephanie Slade on Fusionism 

Fusionism is a philosophy in which both liberty and virtue are the pillars upon which Western civilization relies. The fusionism discussed by Slade emerged to the fore in the writings and musings of Frank Meyer and William F. Buckley Jr at the National Review, who aimed to unite the advocacy for limited government, free markets, and individual liberties with the preservation of traditional moral values and social institutions.

Slade asserts that freedom and virtue are mutually reinforcing, and one cannot function within society without the other. In the fusionist ideal, liberty is a political matter, and virtue is an individual matter. The government must only extend its power to maintain peoples’ liberty, and living a virtuous life is the guiding principle of those individuals that make up society.

Slade defines virtue within the “American Judeo-Christian tradition” and rejects a “woke leftist conception of virtue.” So, who is fusionism for? How do those Americans who do not adhere to Slade’s traditional vision of virtue fit with Slade’s fusionist future?

Remember the inherent duality of fusionism, liberty has equal importance to virtue. For Slade, “virtue is a muscle; you have to work it, you have to be able to make bad choices to learn how to make good ones.” Virtue can thus only develop as a pillar of society if people have the freedom to exercise it within their own lives, protected from government interference. Hence, fusionism strongly critiques ‘will to power’ conservatives, who seek to wield political power and coercively create a virtuous society as undermining the pillar of liberty.

Now we’d like to hear what you have to say. Join us in the comments, or use the prompts below to start your own conversation offline.

  1. Slade discusses moral backsliding within America. What are the markers of this? Is America worse off for everyone? Or has the increased voice of some sects in society undermined the worldview of others? Are competing visions of morality detrimental to American Society? Or not? 
  2. In what ways was the American founding religiously grounded? How does the first amendment, in which “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” fit within the fusionist philosophy?  
  3. Systems of community-level outreach can often provide more effective aid for struggling members of society than government-coordinated support. Slade argues that if governments provided less public support, local care networks could better support their communities. Would these fusionist aid networks function in communities with ‘less virtue’ as defined by Judeo-Christian teachings? Many grassroots care networks do not ascribe to a Judeo-Christian vision of virtue, yet they also strive to increase their communities’ well-being. Is this aligned with a fusionist philosophy of community care? 
  4. How would someone who wants to spread fusionist ideology go about “changing hearts and minds” to foster virtuous mores within society? 
  5. Should a religious or moral order, which all members of society do not share, define what individual virtue looks like in that society? Why or why not? 

If you liked this podcast, Stephanie Slade also recently spoke on Capital Record, a podcast by the National Review, in an episode called “Fusion Makes Society Better.” She is also the author of  ”Is There a Future for Fusionism?” in Reason Magazine and the lead essay in ”Liberty and Virtue: Frank Meyer’s Fusionism” at the Online Library of Liberty. 

Further Reading

Additional Great Antidote episodes