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SPOTLIGHT
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Taking a closer look at Caleb Stegall

Published on -10/7/2013, 9:39 AM

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Rare is the judicial nominee who reviews a book about food. It is rarer still when the review's author mentions his visit with a group advocating Kansas' secession from the United States.

Meet Caleb Stegall, Gov. Sam Brownback's nominee for Court of Appeals. An author and editor of many online essays, Stegall's political ideology is complex and fascinating. Below is a quick glossary and shortened website links, to help readers get a handle on his voluminous writings:

Abortion: Stegall doesn't like it one bit. In 2004, he and his co-editor wrote:

"Abortion ... is the 'single issue' in which all other issues are subsumed. It remains the worst manifestation and keystone of our gospel of self-service. ... The libido seeking freedom and pleasure 'chooses,' pays for, and feeds itself at a trough filled with waste and ruin."

He isn't crazy about easy access to birth control, either. tinyurl.com/nvnr6py

Foods**t: A term Stegall coined in the above-mentioned review of "The Omnivore's Dilemma," referring to the modern American diet of unhealthy, heavily processed foods. Stegall admires the secessionists' interest in going "off the grid" and growing their own food: a traditional, community-based approach to eating. tinyurl.com/oplssax

Liberalism: Not just the politics of Obama or Pelosi, this word is used differently in political philosophy than in everyday politics. "Classical" liberalism means an idea from European enlightenment thinking: Each individual is free to define his or her own values and course of life. Stegall believes that society today is defined by this liberalism, leaving people alone to choose among too many competing values and choices with no respect for tradition or religion, little sense of community, and no belief in objective, moral right and wrong as a guide. tinyurl.com/ougmqqo

Libertarianism: A political ideology often confused with conservatism. Stegall claims to be a true conservative. Libertarians are classical liberals seeking sharp limits on government, so individuals can choose their own values and priorities without government interference.

On the other hand, traditional conservatives are not classical liberals at all. They believe that pre-liberal values such as community and religion in public life should be restored, while libertarians have little use for them.

Stegall does not approve of libertarian Ayn Rand, author of "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged," which opens with the famous line, "Who is John Galt?" Passionately pro-capitalism, Rand celebrated selfishness and hated religion. However, Stegall also has worked as an attorney for Americans for Prosperity, a strongly libertarian organization that appears to have little interest in preserving communities.

Pantagruel: A main character in a series of absurd and satirical 16th century books by Francois Rabelais. It is also a type of Renaissance music ensemble. Stegall co-founded and co-edited the online New Pantagruel from 2004 to 2005 as a journal of conservative-intellectual opinion.

He and his co-editor chose the title to satirize the absurdities of modern-day culture, values and politics now that liberalism (as he sees it) has triumphed over community, tradition and religion. tinyurl.com/q6dnv6v

Michael A. Smith is associate professor of political science at Emporia State University.

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