NPR (gleefully?) reports that:
Judge Richard Posner, a conservative on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, has long been one of the nation's most respected and admired legal thinkers on the right. But in an interview with NPR, he expressed exasperation at the modern Republican Party, and confessed that he has become "less conservative" as a result.
OTOH, who can deny that the current GOP leadership has more than its share of -- as Posner puts it -- "goofy" people, but what political party doesn't?
OTOH, how can Posner become "less conservative" when he was never a conservative to begin with?
Russell Kirk's classic canons of conservative thought include six elements: (1) belief in a transcendent order and natural law; (2) rejection of egalitarianism and utilitarianism; (3) support for class and order; (4) belief in the linkage between freedom and private property; (5) faith in prescription and custom; and (6) recognition that change is not necessarily salutary reform.
As I read his body of work, Posner clearly fails #s 1 and 2, and likely fails #s 3 and 5. The only one I'm sure he passes is #4. I'm not going to bother defending those claims in detail, largely because Posner himself long has rejected the conservative label, calling himself a pragmatic classical liberal. Richard A. Posner, Overcoming Law 23 (1995).
For those interested in pursuing the disconnect between Posner's jurisprudence and the strand of conservatism that comes down to us from Burke via Russell Kirk, however, I recommend James G. Wilson's article Justice Diffused: A Comparison of Edmund Burke's Conservatism with the Views of Five Conservative, Academic Judges, 40 U. Miami L. Rev. 913 (1986) (Westlaw sub. req'd) and Ernest Young's article Rediscovering Conservatism: Burkean Political Theory and Constitutional Interpretation, 72 N.C. L. Rev. 619 (1994) (same). (Of course, I do not mean to endorse everything in those articles, such as Young's arguments against judicial deference to democratic majorities.)