MINT-AND-CORN COUNTRY, INDIANA — I’ve done it. I’ve joined John, Conor, et al. on the Deranged Blogger List!
I’m truly disappointed by the lack of cleverness. “Nathan P. Mental Case”? Really? I still contend that “Nothing P. Orijerk” would have been better. I invite readers to suggest their own ideas. Maybe one of Mr. Levin’s lackeys will view the comment box and have it changed on the Website.
I almost wish I had thought of Patrick’s choice first, though I only cursorily read Hayek in my graduate seminar on economic history. Though I won’t go as far as our friend David Lindsay in trumpeting Old Labour, it is well worth reflecting on the fact that contra Austrian dogma, it is the welfare states of Europe that have dismantled empires, not the laissez-faire.
Nowhere was this more true than in Britain, where the sun finally set under Attlee and Bevin. It is monumentally depressing to contemplate what the proud bourgeois monarchist Clement Attlee – to say nothing of the anti-Unionist English patriot Ernest Bevin, the mineworkers leader whose knowledge of communist strategy in attempting to take over his union was indispensable to preventing the communist takeover of Western Europe and who courageously resisted Zionism as Britain’s greatest Foreign Secretary – would make of the neoliberal New Labour that sought to renconquer Iraq and whose most reliable defenders have been unrepentant Stalinists.
Indeed, it is little wonder that Hayek is a favorite among the usual suspects Patrick cites when we consider that this is a central operating principle of the neocons themselves. Irving Kristol himself has said as much, that what disillusioned him with Cold War liberalism was not the public policy pettiness of most tellings, but rather his observation of Britain during his time there in the 50s, that the welfare state was creating a society unfit to roll back communism and advance democratic revolution.
Arriving at this conversation admittedly late, I have decided to share my own opinion on which is the worst of the conservative classics. I particularly liked Mr. Hawley’s post on Frank Meyer’s In Defense of Freedom, while seconding–despite my own love for Russell Kirk–the dreadfully mediocre The American Cause. Mr. Ross’s pick was also a good one.
For my pick I can’t help but settle on the canonized F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. Its writer is a Nobel Prize winner, and despite Hayek’s own disdain for conservatism, his work has been inherited by even the most statist of right-wingers. When National Review published a list of “The 100 Best Non-fiction Books of the 20th Century” they placed Serfdom fourth and Human Events selected it as the #1 book in its “Top Ten Books Every Congressman Should Read.” It is a certified classic.
But it fails as cogent philosophy for several reasons. For one, its reputation as a defender of laissez-faire capitalism is absurd. Libertarian economist Walter Block has correctly pointed out that Hayek was no friend to pure capitalism, claiming that “probably nothing has done so much harm to the liberal cause as the wooden insistence of some liberals on certain rules of thumb, above all the principle of laissez-faire capitalism.” In Serfdom, Hayek saw statist solutions to certain economic inequalities and felt the government had a role in the monetary system. He also supported state control over the flow of information.
Hayek also seems to insist that if only the state had the ability to ascertain the needs and wants of its people, it could provide those things without moving towards dictatorship. This is a scary prospect for anyone who believes in self-control of one’s life as a moral principle and not simply as part of an equation for social welfare. Hayek avoids the more pressing philosophical question: Does the state have the right to take and redistribute wealth, even if it provides for a happier and more stable society?
And finally, Serfdom fails on the simple fact that it predicted future events that never came to pass. The Labour Party program that motivated Hayek to write Serfdom was eventually implemented and remained in place for a long period of time and–regardless of one’s opinion of modern day Great Britain–a dictatorship has yet to surface. The same could be said for socialist Sweden, as Gordon Tullock has correctly argued. Non-economic freedom is still safely intact for the Swedes, despite almost complete government control of the economy.
Hayek’s lifework was important in the spread of economic freedom around the world. Unfortunately, the work considered to be his classic is horribly flawed and suffers from poor aging. Free-marketers should look to other books, and avoid ones that Keynes regarded as “grand,” as he did Serfdom.
As an unimportant side-note, this is my first post on Post Right. I served as an intern at this fine publication last summer and in the past have blogged as The Northern Agrarian. I am honored to be able to post at TAC again.
MINT-AND-CORN COUNTRY, INDIANA — I concede that, just maybe, I have become a little too obsessed with Mark Levin and his antics, the wickedness
of that is Happy Meal conservatism, and the entire kerfuffle that led to the coining of the term “prefabricon”, to the point that I now occasionally peruse Levin’s Website, looking to see what sort of silliness I may find and reading summaries of each day’s show. (I have yet, I admit, to subject myself to the intellectual-aural persecution that is listening to the program.) Obviously, I want no truck with this jockstrap journalism, but it has become something like an automobile accident to me: No matter how much I wish, I simply cannot look away. Part of it, I reckon, has something to do with this, an Amazon reader review of Levin’s Liberty and Tyranny, to which Levin’s Website links, because “Readers Love Mark’s Book!”
[Five Stars out of Five] I just finished reading this great book. I’d like to thank Mark for spending a couple years of his life putting this together. He has footnotes all over this book, and you can see for yourself the EXTENSIVE amount of research he has done. This book is not about Democrats vs. Republicans. This book is about Conservatives vs. Statists. It accurately infroms the reader just what a Statist is (a believer in big government) and what a Conservative is (a believer in the individual to make up his/her own mind) All this said, the success of this book has now lead to a couple authors (back-benchers as Mark calls them) to throw together books in a month or two, piggy-backing on Mark’s success. Don’t be fooled by cheap imitators (or those with tourettes); this is the original and best book on the market about the current situation in our country and what to do about it. Use your own “common sense”, bypass the wanna-bes and get this book. It’s the only one you need. [My emphases. – NPO]
Perusing other reviews by the reader here, one Dennis Waldinger, one begins to sense that he may suffer from some degree of cognitive dissonance. What puzzles me most — and this, of course, is nothing new — is the conflation of individualism and conservatism here. I am not about to argue that conservatism is anti-individual, but, rightly understood, methinks, conservatism recognizes that the individual, rather than atomistic, is part of the organic community; he is not an island, to paraphrase Donne. With Mr. Waldinger and, seemingly, Mr. Levin, this middle-ground exists not. We have the State and we have the Individual; we have contemporary liberalism and points left and we have libertarianism and classical liberalism (which Larison has ably argued, in a post titled, appropriately enough, “Statism”, intrinsically descends into statism). This leads me to ponder which came first in this chicken-and-egg conundrum: Is this peculiar “conservatism” qua phenomenon the source of right-wing jockstrap journalism, or did the first purveyors of a false reality brainwash a sufficient number of the masses into believe it to be a) conservative and b) healthy?
I have become somewhat weary of employing the epithet “statist”; given the prevalence of the word in Levin’s rambling, I think that I’m glad of this. Given his support for militarism, and that war is the health of the state, I keep seeing this in my mind every time I envision Levin’s face. Statism, of course, is this.
1. A mighty int’restin’ war o’ the words is goin’ down amidst the vast world of the non-mainstream Right, wherein Professor Deneen and the Front Porch Republicans challenge Poulos, Lawler, and their Postmodern Conservative bunch. I’ve meant, at the least, to provide up-to-date linkage, if not to comment on the debate (which I may still do). Davey, at Theopolitical, a good man heading to my alma mater for graduate studies, has a catalogue of postings here. The debate is pretty heady, quite dense at times, but well worth the mental exertion.
For the record, I prefer a glass of Bourbon (or Scotch or beer) on the front porch to Starbucks any day, but I have much respect for Mr. Poulos and Dr. Lawler, and am not at all their antipode. They’re just not as right as Deneen & co. (in my estimation).
The prefab conservative, or prefab-con, brings the same attitude to political discourse: rather than using reason and critical thinking to craft arguments that fit the real world, he trots out prefabricated memes, arguments and conclusions that are passably functional at best.
There seems to be an iron law of these ginned up “crises” in recent years – the less there is that America can actually do about a situation, the more huffing and puffing about it in the media and its political enablers.
Darfur is a major case in point, the other excellent example was last year’s Georgia War. The usual suspects inside the Beltway got all high and mighty about how we were all Georgians precisely because there was nothing they could practically do to resist Russia, and now of course its completely forgotten now that Hillary has pushed the reset button.
While I’ve already posted my own initial reaction to Gov. Mark Sanford’s admission of infidelity, it might be of interest to TAC readers the reaction of South Carolinians at large.
The three primary reaction categories are:
1. Sanford is a lying scumbag who should resign.
2. Sanford is a good man who made a mistake, but should still resign to heal his marriage.
3. Sanford’s private life has nothing to do with his principles, he should remain in office and still run for president.
In our current WTMA text poll (1250 AM WTMA is the premiere talk radio station in Charleston, SC, where I’m employed) we’re asking “Should Sanford Resign?”
The results as of now: 70% “No.” 30% “Yes.” This is by no means scientific, but the phone calls we receive reflect similar results.
I mention this for two reasons. First, we’ve been interviewed by a few national outlets, and one particular interviewer, a Los Angeles morning talk host, kept bringing up red state “evangelicals” and their attitude toward Sanford’s indiscretions. Yet, amongst Christian conservatives, there’s been a lot more “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” than outright moral condemnation.
Also, this enduring support (quite surprising, actually) for Sanford is due in large part to the grassroots popularity in this state for his particular Republican brand – strict fiscal conservatism that is markedly different and more “extreme” than most other conventional, “conservative” Republicans.
Even with his admission of infidelity, there is still more rage amongst rank-and-file Republican voters against our big spending, GOP-dominated state legislature than our cheating governor.
It will be interesting to see what developments unfold this week. It will also be interesting to see what the future holds politically for Sanford, who though badly damaged, his career may not be as “over” as some might think.
And as I’ve noted a few times on the air, Sanford will only be 55 in 2014 – the next time the still, extremely unpopular Sen. Lindsey Graham is up for reelection.
I’ve noticed a curious silence from the “Save Darfur” crowd in recent months. When I lived in DC, it seemed that my neighbors attended Darfur rallies as frequently as their ancestors attended church. I once even attended one of those silly spectacles of feigned moral outrage. As I no longer live in that cesspool of sanctimony, I am not surprised that I no longer hear Darfur frequently discussed by those around me. The national media, however, also seem to be much quieter on this issue, which does require some explanation.
Being interested in these kinds of trends, I did a LexisNexis search for U.S. newspaper and wire stories that included both the words “Darfur” and “Genocide.” During the second term of the Bush Administration, major print media outlets published an average of 27.33 stories per month about genocide in Darfur. Since Obama’s inauguration, however, that number has dropped to 14.33 stories per month. My suspicion is that the change in coverage is not related to any meaningful change in conditions.
Bernie Goldberg used to note that Bill Clinton “solved” America’s homeless problem – at least as far as the media was concerned. After his inauguration, the mainstream press simply stopped covering homelessness as a major issue, even though the total number of homeless Americans was unchanged. Apparently homelessness is only an “epidemic” if a Republican is in the White House.
I suspect something similar is involved with the decline of Darfur as a major concern of the mainstream Left. Rallies about suffering in that particularly unpleasant part of the world made for a better narrative during the Bush years. The unspoken premise of those rallies and op/eds was that America callously stood by and allowed this “genocide” to happen because Bush was too racist to save black Africans. By pretending to care about Darfur, white liberals were able to demonstrate their moral superiority, particularly in comparison to their much-hated president.
Unfortunately for these particularly-trendy liberals, Obama’s presence in the White House makes it awkward for them to denounce their government’s disregard for Africa. It is therefore better for them to simply drop the issue. Maybe they can go back to pretending to care about Tibet, or whatever.
I am sure it does not matter one way or the other to the people actually living in Darfur. No American really wanted to “do something” about the Sudan, despite the incessant cries to the contrary – I refuse to believe that these liberals honestly wanted to ensnare the US in yet another war in a majority-Muslim country, and I assume that’s what “do something” means. The residents of Darfur have lost nothing but their role as a prop in American pageants of moral preening.
MINT-AND-CORN COUNTRY, INDIANA — To this Website’s own John Schwenkler, worthy proprietor of Upturned Earth. He is the latest soi-disant conservative to join the ranks of those whom our great high-priest Mark “My books are ‘Required Reading‘ but Kirk’s Aren’t”* Levin has called for their obvious derangement. John’s crime: A very nifty neologism that so aptly describes “Levinsane”, et al.: “Prefabricons”. I think John has a good one here, but he truly is no match for the incisive wit displayed by Levin (or one of his monkeys): It’s now John Schmuckler at The American Perversative.
Really, I get that Levin has some twisted interest in calling out us crypto-liberals masquerading as members of the Right, but you’d like to think someone as allegedly erudite as he could more cleverly insult the feeble-minded than with such childish monikers as “Conor Friedersdork”.
Then again, I reckon I shouldn’t expect too much from a guy who is so incredibly daft, if not legitimately mentally disabled, as to suggest that the best thing for the protesters in Iran is for our president not to “turn[ing] his back” on them. From someone as purportedly knowledgeable of history as Levin, this is simply sad. Or perverse. That’s the ticket. If, as Derbs called it so, this really is “Happy Meal Conservatism”, then Levin’s variety is, as they say, a few fries short thereof.
*It’s only fair that I note that, somehow, Buckley and Tocqueville make the list — on the last two pages. Also, despite Levin’s disdain for Rod, a book about a free-range chicken finds its way on the list, too! Go figure.
P.s.:A brief note of apology. I’ve been rather remiss in my contributions to Post Right and in the upkeep of NathanContraMundi, and for this I apologize. I have three or four ideas in the works, including a couple already drafted, and hope to get back to it soon.