Saturday, December 23, 2006

How a Genuine Conservative Differed From Pseudo-Conservatives

I continue here about Peter Viereck whom I've previously posted about here, here, and here. In Conservatism Revisited (Revised and Enlarged Edition, 1962, Collier Books, pp. 149-51) Viereck commented on how he thought true conservatism differed from the William F. Buckleys of the 1950s. Speaking of Russell Kirk, Buckley and the rest of their 'new conservative' group he wrote in 1962 about
that whole inconsistent spectrum of Goldwater intellectuals and right-radical magazines. Most of them are so muddled they don't even know when they are being 19th-century liberal individualists (in economics) and when they are being 20th-century semi-fascist thought-controllers (in politics). Logically, these two qualities are contradictory. Psychologically, they unite to make America's typical pseudo-conservative rightist.... [Kirk] and perhaps half of the new conservatives are bankrupt.... How can one attribute bankruptcy to a growing concern? Indeed, this new American right seems a very successful concern. On every TV station, on every mass-circulation editorial page, the word 'conservatism' in the 1960's has acquired a fame, or at least notoriety, that it never possessed before.... Which is it, triumph or bankruptcy, when the empty shell of a name gets acclaim while serving as a chrysalis for its opposite? The historic content of conservatism stands, above all, for two things: organic unity and rooted liberty. Today the shell of the 'conservative' label has become a chrysalis for the opposite of these two things: at best for atomistic Manchester liberalism, opposite of organic unity; at worst for thought-controlling nationalism, uprooting the traditional liberties (including the 5th Amendment) planted by America's founders.
These are points I have made myself: what I've called the 'witch's brew' of pseudo-conservative beliefs are in fact anti-conservative and mutually self-contradictory; the Buckleyites were simply successful in packaging this mess of contradictions and branding it as "conservatism."

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