Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Witch's Brew of "Fusionist" Pseudo-Conservatism

In "Conservatism in America Since 1930: A Reader" edited by Gregory L. Schneider (2003), Mr. Schneider provides a nice example of a pseudo-conservative witch's brew by describing "a conservative (sic) intellectual tradition--emphasizing, not exclusively, limited government and veneration for the Constitution, moral traditionalism rooted in a Christian religious heritage, a muscular anti-communism, and the embrace of free market economics...."

Rather than try to be philosophically and intellectually consistent "fusionists" like William F. Buckley and Frank Meyer tried to tie together disparate strands of right wing opinion by attempting to make the incompatible compatible. Their goal was to cram together policies that would attract the largest political force and, regardless of their self-serving rhetoric of being "principled", they were not.

Certainly at least an argument could be made that the limited government of the Constitution involved, as an essential part, the separation of church and state and thus trying to marry veneration for the Constitution with "moral traditionalism rooted in a Christian religious heritage" could well create some problems. These problems are all too apparent among today's "Christian conservatives" who argue the founders intended no separation of church and state.

But certainly "a muscular anti-communism" is thoroughly inconsistent with "limited government and veneration for the Constitution" as the father of the Constitution, James Madison, never tired of pointing out: "The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home." "It is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad." "Of all the enemies of public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other." "No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare." These quotes and their source can be found in my Dawn of the Pseudo-Conservatives, Part 2. It is noteworthy that Frierich Hayek when articulating his political philosophy (Schneider, p. 190) wrote: "It is the doctrine on which the American system of government is based. In its pure form it is represented in the United States... by the ideas of James Madison, the 'father of the Constitution.'"

And, although I am frequently critical of Milton Friedman, one must respect his intellectual honesty in agreeing with Madison in an interview: "Progress in [Friedman's] goal of rolling back the role of government, he said, is 'being greatly threatened, unfortunately, by this notion that the U.S. has a mission to promote democracy around the world,' a big Bush objective. 'War is a friend of the state,' Friedman said. It is always expensive, requiring higher taxes, and, 'In time of war, government will take powers and do things that it would not ordinarily do'."

And Friedman added in another interview: Wall Street Journal July 22, 2006: "What's really killed the Republican Party isn't spending, it's Iraq. As it happens, I was opposed to going into Iraq from the beginning. I think it was a mistake, for the simple reason that I do not believe the United States of America ought to be involved in aggression."

Frankly, I see it as impossible to maintain that you are for limited government and for a huge "defense" and "national security" establishment. This is a fundamental contradiction in the heart of pseudo-conservatism. Intellectual honesty would require a choice to be made; you cannot support "limited government" as a general principle and a muscular militaristic foreign policy. Either say you only wish to limit government in certain specified ways and want a big "defense" establishment, or support limited government in general and oppose large military buildup.

I salute the Libertarian Party for their consistency on this issue: "American foreign policy should seek an America at peace with the world and the defense -- against attack from abroad -- of the lives, liberty, and property of the American people on American soil. Provision of such defense must respect the individual rights of people everywhere. The principle of non-intervention should guide relationships between governments. The United States government should return to the historic libertarian tradition of avoiding entangling alliances, abstaining totally from foreign quarrels and imperialist adventures, and recognizing the right to unrestricted trade, travel, and immigration."

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