I've been continuing to think on this conservative future, and a couple more things have jumped out at me.
One thing is the nature of technological change and its relation to family and tradition. I was out raking my lawn on Saturday, and I was thinking about how we have this general feeling in our culture that technology is going to make everything OK. I think that the lie that technology would bring happiness was assisted by the blinding pace at which technology was developing. You could believe that universal happiness was right around the corner when every year brought leapfrog developments in consumer technology.
As I was raking I was thinking, "Life won't be that different for my kids than it was for me." Sure, the game systems are a bit better and the internet is a more (less?) effective time-waster than good ol' television. But the pace has slowed such that no one is imagining going to work in a flying saucer anymore. We can barely get thirty-five miles per gallon.
And you know what, people are as miserable now (I think perhaps more so) than they ever have been. I think there is a palpable sense in our culture that the answers may not be so evident.
So what does this have to do with the future of conservatism? Well, just this, that when people stop thinking that the human race has suddenly matured and entered the next phase of development then that is when they start looking to family and relationships and community as the answers to life's ills. They might even give religion a glance.
Another aspect of modern life that may give the inclination towards introspection a boost is the immanent decline of U.S. power. According to the CIA, America's status as the capital of the world will be under threat in the coming generation. A desire to strengthen the internal fabric of your community is a logical next step when you are no longer the international tough guy.
And related to all this is the idea that we need to work - that personal responsiblity counts. Both technology and the assurance of material prosperity have combined to give individuals the perception that hard work is not really necessary for happiness. In fact, many in our culture have the impression that hard work is actually detrimental to happiness. Even in the best of times, making a living and putting up with people is hard work. It is work that is easily sloughed off and ignored. This is bad for people, it's bad for families, and it's bad for communities.
Hard times aren't a good thing, but they can remind us of an essential truth. Namely, that we live in the Vale of Tears and if you're not working hard you're probably not doing it right.