Despite all the histrionics coming from the Republican Party, Paul Ryan doesn’t bridge the gaps between Neo-conservatives, Tea Partiers & Libertarians. I even suspect the big story, “Kevin McCarthy’s Benghazi gaffe roils House speaker race,” was deliberately rolled out by the Establishment to position Paul Ryan as a reluctant hero who can make extraordinary demands (more…)
This is a two-part post. For part one, click here.
Irving Kristol is probably the most well known of the founders of the neo-conservative movement. What is less well known, however, is what that movement really stands for. While the name includes the word conservative, the movement transforms conservatism into a form of prudish socialism that would please no one but its leaders, which is why, in my opinion, they don’t advertize their true goals.
In this two-part blogpost, I cite and comment on a small selection of quotes from Kristol’s definitive book, Neo-Conservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea. In part one, I quote Kristol’s strategic call for a “conservative welfare state;” here in part two, I offer some of his more specific ideas.
SOCIAL REFORM: GAINS AND LOSSES (1973)
Although this shocking essay, Social Reform: Gains and Losses, was written decades ago, Kristol chose to include it in this definitive anthology without revision or apology.
One wonders what would happen if all the money spent on Great Society programs had been used to institute, in however modest a way, just two universal reforms: (1) children’s allowance, as already described, and (2) some form of national health insurance? My own surmise is that the country would be in much better shape today. We would all –including the poor among us—feel that we were making progress, and making progress together, rather than at the expense of one another.
Yes such reforms are expensive and technically “wasteful,” in that they distribute benefits to all, needy or not. But to stress this aspect of the matter is to miss the point: Social reform is an inherently political activity, and is to be judged by political, not economic or sociological, criteria. When I say social reform is “political,“ I mean that its purpose is to sustain the polity, to encourage a sense of political community, even of fraternity. To the degree that it succeeds in achieving these ends, a successful social reform—however liberal or radical its original impulse –is conservative in its ultimate effects. Indeed, to take the liberal or radical impulse, which is always with us, and slowly to translate that impulse into enduring institutions which engender larger loyalties is precisely what the art of government, properly understood, is all about.
Is that what you understand government to be about? Is government an institution whose primary purpose is to be an institution? Are radical socialist policies inherently conservative because they engender loyalty to the government? Kristol is not just redefining conservatism here, he is abolishing it! Maybe if we did understand Kristol’s version of “properly understood” government, we would abolish it!
Whenever I ask myself, “What were the Republicans thinking?” I find the answer in the immortal collection of essays by Irving Kristol, Neo-Conservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea. In that book, Kristol lays out his grand plan for how the Republicans can truly achieve immense power in the United States, but that to do so will mean abandoning principles of fiscal conservatism and balanced budgets and embracing the “conservative welfare state.” Kristol further instructs that in matters of economics and foreign policy, the people aren’t to be listened to (as democratically elected politicians sometimes mistakenly believe), rather they are to be led because they are ignorant of these matters and they know it. In addition, Kristol and his associates guided the New Right to create a budget crisis by implementing socialist policies to compete with those of the left and to use this crisis to force the public to choose between traditional socialism and market-based social engineering. Well, the people have chosen: If you’re going to have a welfare state, let the left run it–after all, you can’t beat a guy at his own game.
The pundits on all sides will talk about this election as being a choice between right and left, speculating, “Was Romney too far to the right?” Or, “Was Romney not ‘right’ enough?” But “the right” as it is now defined comes with all sorts of baggage that is both inconsistent with the founders’ principles (to which the right pays much lip service) and irrelevant to national politics (or at least should be). The right has become the right side of the left: a quasi-market-based philosophy promising more efficiently to achieve the-all-things-to-all-people government at the core of liberal philosophy. But what makes the Republican Party “too right” to the pundits is that it couples this “conservative welfare state” with federal attempts to control people’s behavior at home and the shape of the world outside its borders. Regardless of the labels, from top to bottom, the right now merely offers a different flavor of statism from the left’s, not an alternative to statism itself. What’s worse is that while not providing an alternative to statism, the New Right purposely displaces those who would.
This post is the third in a three post series. Click for part one and part two.
Though the press has made much of the notion that Paul Ryan is a “conservative of the libertarian kind,” I actually believe just the opposite. Within the Republican Party there are two competing ideologies: traditional conservatism emphasizing fiscal temperance and constrained government on the one side, and neo-conservatism with an emphasis on social legislation and foreign influence on the other. I believe not only that Paul Ryan is firmly in the camp of the neo-conservatives, but also that he is the pivotal figure in the neo-conservative metapmorphosis of the Republican Party. In my view, the selection of Paul Ryan as Romney’s running mate is an indication that the neo-conservatives believe that their transformation of the Republican Party is assured and they are ready to challenge the Democrats on their own turf: Establishing, Embracing and Controlling Big Government.
The real tell that this is the moment the neo-conservatives have been building toward can be seen by comparing
The Republican establishment, and to some extent the Democrats as well, are labeling Paul Ryan “a conservative of the libertarian kind.” I reject this characterization in its entirety. Libertarianism has three basic positions: strict adherence to free markets; strict protection of civil liberties; and strict defense of property rights (which strongly correlates with non-intervention in foreign affairs). Paul Ryan has affirmed in word and deed his desire to limit civil liberties, legislate morality and spread around the world his version of Americanism by use of force. Ryan, therefore, has denied two of the three tenets of libertarianism right out of the gate, but he does not renounce the third: he claims to support free markets and tries to continue to lay claim to the label of fiscal conservative. The question is, what kind of conservative is Paul Ryan really?
Everyone is abuzz with Romney’s “bold choice” of running mate, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan. Every bobble head with a press badge is telling us that the Tea Party and Ron Paul supporters should be psyched because, to borrow a phrase from Harry Reid: “The word is out!” Ryan’s a libertarian!
What else could he be? Ryan quotes Austrian economists and loves Ayn Rand – he must be a libertarian! And anyway, everyone says he is: Forbes calls Ryan “Ron Paul-esque,” the Financial Times calls him “a conservative of the libertarian kind,” and New York Magazine calls him “Your Annoying Libertarian Ex-Boyfriend.” He even has a libertarian-sounding name for crying out loud: Ron Paul, Ayn Rand, Paul Ryan…it just flows! As a matter of fact, someone said to me yesterday that Ron Paul was Romney’s running mate—true story! I mean those two are practically interchangeable!
What was that? You’re not so sure? Oh come now, don’t be such a purist, and don’t you dare let those nagging doubts about Ryan’s voting record bubble up to the top of your brain. And of all things, please don’t fall for it when Democratic operatives say things like, “while he may be a devotee of Ayn Rand, he has voted more like a Republican hack than a revolutionary,” or “Paul Ryan Record Shows He Could Be Running Mate of Obama.” Libertarians really do need to be more pragmatic.
Sure, Ryan denies being a libertarian
Last week was scary! The Eurozone seemed to be in free fall from fears of Grexit to Spaindemonium! And the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed lower on Friday, June 1 than it did on December 31–all gains for the year erased. But the worst news was that unemployment ticked up from 8.1% to 8.2%–or so they say. The actual unemployment number is more like 22% according to Shadow Government Statistics. Obama says the 8% is still an improvement over the 10% we saw in 2010, but scratch the surface and you might find that the reason that “headline” number fell is that it doesn’t include long term discouraged workers, while the ShadowStats number does. The more comprehensive number has risen from 20% in 2010 to 22% today–things are getting worse not better!
Obama wants us to stay the course but I want no part of that! Unlike most in the mainstream, however, I think voting Republican is also staying the course! It’s no coincidence that spending and government grow year after year, decade after decade, regardless of which party is in control of Congress or the White House. Self-proclaimed former neo-Trotskyist