Today marks the first anniversary of the Front Porch Republic.  Such a milestone provides an opportunity to cast a quick glance back on the year and indicate a bit of what we hope to accomplish in the future.

On March 2, 2009 a group of twelve writers launched this electronic magazine committed to advancing ideas of place, limits, and liberty. We came together united by a sense that something was deeply wrong with the cultural, political, and economic path Americans were treading. Additionally, we shared  a belief that in many respects the right/left distinction that frames our contemporary debate is outdated.  We were animated by the hope  that perhaps new coalitions could be formed or at least new lines of dialogue opened.  And while we come from different walks of life, pursue different vocations, and live in a wide variety of places, most of us have a deep appreciation for the way Wendell Berry’s writing has consistently attempted to bridge disciplines, to grapple with fundamental questions, and to emphasize the centrality of local communities. (The irony of a web-zine inspired by Berry’s work is, of course, not lost on us).

Since then FPR has managed to produce a steady stream of essays dealing with topics as varied as front porches, meritocracy, porchy music, beer, killing hogssex and the pope, gratitude, the immoral life of children, secession, television, rural churches, an ownership societywar, and, of course, Krustianity. We have been mentioned widely in various blogs, The Washington Post, The New Republic, etc. We have noticed that our adoption of the word “porch” has provoked the creation of several related words. Individuals associated with FPR or who generally agree with what is expressed on the site are at times identified by the noun “porcher” (e.g. “you’re talking like a porcher”).  Views ostensibly attributed to FPR have come to be referred to by the adjective “porchy” (e.g. “that’s a porchy thing to say”).  A verb has even been coined to describe being shot down by a member of FPR: “you’ve been porched!”  Additionally, we have been stalked by a guy named Jake, hacked by terrorists, and closely monitored by the White House (this latter claim is only conjecture–well, more like a fond hope).

In our first year, FPR has received nearly half a million visits and 1.2 million page views and we currently average nearly twenty thousand unique visitors per month.  FPR has been organized into a non-profit corporation (Front Porch Republic, Inc.), which means that, among other things, FPR is a legal person. We await our final 501c3 approval from the IRS. As we look forward, we plan to continue publishing essays that explore various ideas and themes related to place, limits, and liberty. Additionally, in the next few months we intend to focus part of our energies on the task of articulating specific policy proposals as we strive to imagine what kinds of political changes could help promote a healthier society.  In coming years, we plan to expand our activities, but doing so will be a gradual process and will, of course, require funding. We hope in the near future that readers will not only see value in what we are producing, but will show a willingness to provide some material support to that end, however large or small the sum.  We have relied on the good graces (and free labor) of everyone involved, from webmasters to interns to our stable of authors, but we hope in the future not only to remunerate them in even a small way, but perhaps even to begin holding some meetings in the real world that will allow us to discuss these ideas with a wider audience.  Perhaps in the not-distant future, FPR-PAC will eclipse the likes of CPAC

One of the most notable things about FPR is the level of discussion on the discussion boards. FPR readers tend to be thoughtful, articulate, and interested in exploring important ideas. We are grateful to our readers for helping to make FPR what it is. Thanks to all involved for making this first year successful beyond expectation. We look forward with anticipation to the coming year and hope that you, our readers, will continue to pull up chairs and sit a spell. There’s plenty of room on this porch, and the conversation is fine.

28 COMMENTS

  1. We have relied on the good graces (and free labor) of everyone involved, from webmasters to interns to our stable of authors, but we hope in the future not only to remunerate them in even a small way, but perhaps even to begin holding some meetings in the real world that will allow us to discuss these ideas with a wider audience. Perhaps in the not-distant future, FPR-PAC will eclipse the likes of CPAC

    An annual return to the Center for Ethics and Culture’s annual conference sounds like a good start!

  2. Happy birthday to FPR! From my own position on the left side of the porch, it’s been a fine–both edifying and educational–place to be. My thanks and my congratulations to all those who make it work.

    • Thomas,
      You are not alone in hoping that Bill returns to the porch. Rumor has it that March may be the month. Of course, if his fans make a big enough clamor, how could he refuse?

  3. Keep it up FPR. I ain’t no ‘merican, but this hoser thinks this website is the best thing going online in the American political landscape.

    I look forward to watching it grow in strength and influence.

  4. Happy birthday, FPR! Here’s to hoping for your steadfast perseverance over the long haul; it is needed.

  5. Congratulations FPR! Your are the blog-oasis. As much as I hate labels, it is safe to say that I’m a Porcher, and proud of it. Do you have the bumper sticker? All kidding aside, you should start a little cafepress online store. Something like Fr Z: http://www.cafepress.com/SayBlackDoRed

    I would be among the first to buy an FPR coffee mug with the rocking chair and “Place. Limits. Liberty.” logo.

    I personally look forward to FPR-PAC. Too many long years ahead.

    Peace and Grace,
    -jp

  6. I’d be more excited about this is I thought FPR remained relevant. But there have been a number of national news stories which bear directly on subjects important to the FPR ouevre which have passed without comment.

    A plane is flown into a federal building by someone pissed at the IRS, arguing that centralization and taxation have led to a destruction of liberty and community? No comment.

    The arguably most liberal state in the Union rebels against their entrenched national party and elects a senator who promises to resist federal encroachment and defend his state, which threatens to derail a significant congressional legislative effort? No comment.

    Instead, we’ve gotten more than our fair share of Professor Peters’ beating a dead horse (Yes, we know you hate the kids these days. So do we. But unless there’s an actual suggestion lurking around in there somewhere, spare us the bitching.) and various other articles–fewer it seems than last year–which seem to epitomize what could be described as the primary characteristic of the acoltyes of Sts. Berry and MacIntyre: navel gazing.

    Come on, people, this site had the potential to be something more than contented with taking the odd potshot at someone writing for a more prestigious publication. A year of criticism without constructive suggestions is more than plenty. I don’t check in here as much as I did in the fall, generally just often enough to confirm that, yep, the Porchers are still more interested in bashing the status quo than actually doing something different.

  7. I’d be more excited for Ryan Davidson’s contributions to the comment boxes were he still relevant.

    A plane is flown into a federal building by someone pissed at the IRS, arguing that centralization and taxation have led to a destruction of liberty and community? No comment.

    This story may have deserved some mention, but Joseph Stack was hardly the communitarian martyr your pithy remark would suggest.

    Passages such as

    Instead I got busy working 100-hour workweeks. Then came the L.A. depression of the early 1990s. Our leaders decided that they didn’t need the all of those extra Air Force bases they had in Southern California, so they were closed; just like that. The result was economic devastation in the region that rivaled the widely publicized Texas S&L fiasco. However, because the government caused it, no one gave a shit about all of the young families who lost their homes or street after street of boarded up houses abandoned to the wealthy loan companies who received government funds to “shore up” their windfall. Again, I lost my retirement.”

    and

    damn little real engineering work is done. I’ve never experienced such a hard time finding work. The rates are 1/3 of what I was earning before the crash, because pay rates here are fixed by the three or four large companies in the area who are in collusion to drive down prices and wages… and this happens because the justice department is all on the take and doesn’t give a fuck about serving anyone or anything but themselves and their rich buddies.

    are worth considering, but most of his “manifesto” is little more than an endless exercise in self-pity. It’s unfortunate that he felt that he was driven to this — that he endured what he did —, and sad that he went through with the act, but Stark was hardly some relevant crusader, the story barely worth mention in the end. Yes, the IRS is evil, and yes this was an extreme way of expressing such a sentiment, but IRS-bashing is old hat.

    The arguably most liberal state in the Union rebels against their entrenched national party and elects a senator who promises to resist federal encroachment and defend his state, which threatens to derail a significant congressional legislative effort? No comment.

    Perhaps if Mr. Brown’s election were actually remarkable for any reason other than that he’s a Republican (in the Rockefeller, rather than party-line or, more suitably, Front-porch, variety) in a Kennedy seat, then perhaps his election would have been worthy of comment. To suggest that his “promises to resist federal encroachment and defend his state” is anything but smart, but ultimately insincere, politicking — knowing the climate and regurgitating appropriate campaign claptrap — is risible. Yes, he opposes, to his credit, the Democrats’ healthcare plan, but he’s already crossed party lines on the “jobs” bill — hardly not a federal encroachment. (Yes, it’s nice to see a bill that involves any sort of tax reduction, but given our dire fiscal straits, thirteen billion more in stimulus money and exempting for taxes that fill the coffers of entitlement programs that we won’t scrap and that are drying up is just bad policy.)

    Ryan, it’s obvious to me that you’re a keen fellow. (I mean, presuming that you’re the same R.D., you do belong to the best-named Facebook group known to man: “Every Time A Cute Girl Tries to Immanentize the Eschaton, I Die Inside”!) But there’s an edge to your claymore in need of a good sharpening if your few returns to FPR convince you that it’s all “bashing the status quo” without any “constructive suggestions”.

    Implicit in John Médaille’s “A Tale of Two Banks” is the suggestion that we need to re-organize our banking system to “[unite] capital with labor to make the person and the family productive and self-reliant”, ultimately, to re-regulate the industry as it was before the Reagan Ascendancy. Does John get into specifics, no? But why should he? This is an online magazine dedicated to analyzing and considering; by the admission of numerous contributors, it’s not a policy-wonkish Website, and few, if any, who reside on the porch are wonks.

    Randall Smith’s “But I By Backward Steps Would Move” presents a less obvious, but nonetheless important suggestion, one for reforming how we educate students. It’s certainly unorthodox, but it helps to form minds and souls in a way that doesn’t present all of man’s history as some sort of Whiggish progressivism.

    In “A Modest Proposal”, Professor Deneen suggested the formation of “FPR-ish salons”, which may be the best constructive suggestion one can make. It may strike one as being little more than a real-world alternative to online bloviation, but think about it: Whereas by its nature there is something quasi-universalist about FPR — for rightful fear, perhaps, of becoming overly casuistic — local, in-person salons give us the opportunity to discuss the particular problems in our own communities, counties, regions, and states — whereafter developing any sort of particular, place-based grassroots strategies becomes much more feasible than it is in such broad fora.

    ***

    One needn’t spell out specific goals and objectives to offer implicit suggestions. Do some of the posts about here “[beat] a dead horse”? Perhaps so. Does navel-gazing occur? Sure. But these are not inherently bad, and even these catastrophic offenses against bloggerly decency are not devoid of substantive suggestions for dealing with, and responses to, the problems of the modern world. Sometimes, one must actually engage the text, rather than skimming over it when already in an antipathetic mindset.

  8. I defer to Mr. Origer on the intelligence of Ryan Davidson. But, if I may make a couple suggestions that would make it more likely that others will share in that opinion:

    1. The moment one couches an argument that requires the use of the word “relevant” (e.g. “Is the Republican party still relevant?” “These books aren’t relevant in our world today — I mean, we have Facebook!”), one may be pretty sure that either a) one has not thought sufficiently long about the argument in order to see what is really at stake in it or b) the argument is itself foolish.

    2. When a presumably normal person begins gesturing after the clumsy fashion of second rate academics along these lines: “You talk about x, but the real question you should be addressing is y. . . ” and so on and so forth, one deserves merely to be ignored. One of the curious things about arguments is that one makes the ones one can based upon what one chooses to address. There is no natural necessity in which arguments one must make, and to act as if there were is typically a sign not of penetrating intellect but cramped self-possession.

    3. Finally, it is a low blow attacking Jason Peters. None of Mother Nature’s furry and frisky woodland creatures more requires the protection of sprightly, glittering enviro-fairies than he. Unfortunately, none of said fairies will go near him for fear of his drunken molestations. As such, he is best left alone in the corner with Tiny Tim to think further contemptuous thoughts about the Feast of the Birth of Our Lord before the reaper comes to collect flasks and crutches respectively.

  9. If Mr. Origer would peruse through the archives from 2009, say in September or October, he would see that I have engaged with FPR in no insignificant way. But the ad hominems masquerading as witty repartee, of which his post is a prime example and which type of thing unfortunately constitutes a significant portion of the commentary around here does not exactly promote the engagement of which he speaks. When well-intended criticism is met with snarky comments about the critic’s intelligence, said critics are likely to find something better to do with their time.

    As to his reference of Mr. Deneen’s “Modest Proposal,” I initially read that with some encouragement, only to see the thread quickly derailed into irrelevancy. Unless the conversation shifted to private channels, I see little evidence that any of this is actually going to happen, and the idea does not seem to have much momentum, which seems to confirm my suspicion that the people who are really interested in living out the sorts of things which get written about on FPR are those people least likely to spend time engaged in FPR’s particular style of beanplating. And make no mistake, disclaiming any need to make policy suggestions, even on a site not specifically devoted to policy, is just that.

    I can interpret Professor Peter’s comment one of two ways, either charitably or uncharitably. The charitable interpretation is that critique of this kind is evidence that there is indeed something valuable here, as the critique wouldn’t be offered otherwise. The uncharitable interpretation is that any critique coming from me is evidence that one must be doing something right.

    I’d like to believe the former, as it would be taking my comments in the spirit they were offered, but my gut tells me the latter, which would only serve to underline the validity of what I’m trying to say, i.e. the Porchers seem more interested in 1) self-congratulatory, solipsistic sniping and 2) ridicule of those not in on the joke than anything more constructive. Given his persona, our previous interaction, and the rather cryptic nature of his post, I really can’t tell which is meant.

    There are people out there who are interested in the ideals of FPR who have no use for juvenile banter. The cause would be well-served by keeping that in mind.

  10. Ryan:

    If Mr. Origer would peruse through the archives from 2009, say in September or October, he would see that I have engaged with FPR in no insignificant way. But the ad hominems masquerading as witty repartee, of which his post is a prime example […] snarky comments about the critic’s intelligence

    First, I’m quite aware that, in the past, you did, indeed, engage significantly; it was not my intent to suggest otherwise. However, your own admission, ” I don’t check in here as much as I did in the fall, generally just often enough to confirm that, yep, the Porchers are still more interested in bashing the status quo”, seems to suggest that, anymore, engaging deeply what’s said on the Porch is no longer worth your time.

    Now, I see nothing in my riposte that should be construed as an ad hominem or witty repartee. The comment about your dubious relevance was admittedly snarky, but ’twas a mere rejoinder to your initial remark. At no point did I make “snarky comment about [your] intelligence”, though. In fact, I believe that called you, quite earnestly, “a keen fellow”. (My parenthetical reasoning may have been quite silly, but I meant that in good humor.) I did, indeed, call into question the sharpness of one edge of your claymore (a joke based on the presumption of your Scottish heritage), but I then performed my due diligence, backing up the claim with three reasonable examples. You may disagree if you so desire, but it’s hardly fair to accuse me to bad sportsmanship.

    Getting beyond all of that, then:

    So what if the the thread in response to “A Modest Proposal” “quickly derailed into irrelevancy”? The language of the post itself is hardly irrelevant, as you yourself imply, and it certainly planted a seed in a least a few minds. R.A.F. and Anamaria, it seems, are working something out, and though I’ve not yet pursued it privately, I was quite sincere in proposing to Deneen that we arrange something in two weeks in Washington, after Phillip Blond addresses the Deneen-headed Tocqueville Forum.

    the people who are really interested in living out the sorts of things which get written about on FPR are those people least likely to spend time engaged in FPR’s particular style of beanplating.

    How unfair, indeed, sir, making such presumptions about some “disconnect” between Porchers’ online ways and their real lives. I can speak on behalf of no-one but myself, but if you’d like for me to bore you with details of how I live these things out, I’ll happily tell.

    And make no mistake, disclaiming any need to make policy suggestions, even on a site not specifically devoted to policy, is just that.

    Who disclaimed the need to make policy suggestions? I disclaimed the need for getting too deep into specifics — and a) perhaps I was wrong to do so, and b) I hardly speak for any of the contributors or editors —, but I certainly did not claim that authors here shouldn’t have to worry about making suggestions. And if I recall correctly, of late, Deneen and/or others have expressed their desire to do just this.

  11. Ryan, dude, Dr. Deneen may be a lot of things; he certainly is NOT irrelevant. Indeed, he’s a fun guy to argue with.
    Ryan, dude, learn to relax, maybe a change of diet, some exercise and my bet is you’d really like it here…you’d learn so much, at least a little snark and wit, and maybe get some friends. Heck, I’ve always kind of liked you and DW likes everybody!

  12. Thanks, Bob. Unfortunately, I think I’ve got the snark and wit thing adequately covered. Actually been trying to grow out of that for the better part of a decade. Also arguing for its own sake. Bad for the soul. Mine anyhow.

    In general though, I find I have a much better time over at MetaFilter. Pagans they may be, and left-liberal ones at that, but somehow conversation which doesn’t degenerate into pissing contests seems a lot more frequent.

  13. Thank you, Patrick Deneen, for linking me to the FPR. As a newbie, I thought you guys had been around longer. It has been a delight to read and ponder your prose.

    Just remember that Mr. Berry uses a gas operated chain saw rather than an axe, as I recall.

    So congratulations and Happy Birthday. Keep up the good work.

  14. I’ve really enjoyed reading FPR over the past year. I’m not sure if I fit into your camp or the PoMoCons (I’m working to fully grasp each argument!) but it has been eye-opening and intellectually stimulating. I sincerely thank you for that.

  15. Happy Birthday Front Porch Republic
    Granted, I am related through marriage to one of your relevant contributors so it was sort of natural that I would read it again and again. In fact, the original “front porch” portrait on the first contribution, I have sat on during various vacations. I would like to see some articulation of the principles and practices of the Front Porch Republic so we senior citizens can see what we can agree with and those which we will pass by. So appreciate the intended talk of that.
    David Myers

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