American conservatism has three-part roots. Morally, it is rooted in the biblical metaphysic. Conservatives have an appreciation for the sinful nature of men and women and hence a healthy respect for Murphy’s Law. If something can go wrong, and there are people involved, you should be ready for the possibility that it will.
Philosophically, conservatism goes back to the epistemological modesty of Edmund Burke. The world is a complex place. The power of reason is bounded. Be skeptical of those who think they can grasp the complexities of reality and reorganize it through rational planning.
Economically, American conservatism differs from European conservatism because it goes back to the governing philosophy of Alexander Hamilton, to the belief in social mobility, immigrant possibility, and the idea that, in limited but energetic ways, government can help give people the tools to compete in a capitalist economy.
Today’s conservatism is estranged from these roots. Today’s conservatism is more properly called Freedomism. It is the elevation of freedom as the ultimate political good.
Run this through the filter of the three-axes model. “an appreciation for the sinful nature of men and women” sounds to me like the civilization-barbarism axis. The complaint about “the elevation of freedom as the ultimate political good” sounds to me like a concern with focusing on the freedom-coercion axis.
David Brooks is probably my favorite columnist, in part because he tends to be more charitable than others to those with whom he disagrees. However, I often do not share his prescriptions, and this is one such instance.