Hugh Hefner, legendary founder and editor-in-chief of Playboy, died Monday at the age of 91. He was an icon in liberal Hollywood, and a self-declared conservative foe. Yet there is much for conservatives to celebrate in his life.
He was the kind of person American conservatism seeks to enable — the self-made man; the radical, pajama-clad individual; the author of his own destiny. And he idealized women as women, in a way the left no longer allows.
This is a species of liberalism. Professor John Kekes defines liberalism this way:
...the true core of liberalism, the inner citadel for whose protection all the liberal battles are waged [is] autonomy … Autonomy is what the basic political principles of liberalism are intended to foster and protect.
And what do liberals mean by autonomy? According to Professor Raz,
A person is autonomous if he can become the author of his own life...Autonomy is an ideal of self-creation, or self-authorship
In the right liberal tradition, emphasis is put on the idea of autonomous individuals becoming self-made in the market. So Breitbart is pushing a right-liberal ideal when it praises Hefner for being "the self-made man; the radical, pajama-clad individual; the author of his own destiny."
A genuine conservatism/traditionalism doesn't look at it this way. We believe in objective standards of the good by which a man can be measured. So being "self-made" is not the important thing, nor is being the author of our own destiny, nor is being radically individualistic (you can be all these things, as Hefner was, by peddling porn - what is this supposed to prove?)
It is more important to ask about the character of a man, a character tested by a man's efforts to lead and support a family, by his loyalty to his tradition, by his industry and resilience, his foresight and judgement, his hospitality and conviviality, his courage in the face of adversity, by his piety/spirituality, his magnanimity and by a host of other virtues.