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Policy And Culture

A successful Alternative Right strategy might be to accept no compromise whatsoever on a constellation of key issues—mass immigration, monetary and fiscal policies, and foreign policy being key—and wait patiently for objective conditions to change in a way that these matters are thrust to the fore. What can’t go on forever won’t [bold mine-DL], and as we’ve seen with the monetary issue, an opportunity in the form of a major crisis will come. ~Richard Spencer

At the risk of repeating myself in response to Jim Antle’s interesting article, fiscal responsibility and a tight monetary supply, to say nothing of reintroducing a currency backed by specie, have few or no constituencies behind them. If people voted their individual or household interests, such policies would in all likelihood never be accepted by very many. The trouble with these policies is that they are, in fact, sound and serve the common good and the well-being of the country, but they probably would inflict temporary hardships and would require some serious understanding of citizenship and social solidarity* to keep their effects from provoking a harsh backlash. To the extent that people do not vote their interests, but vote because of emotional and visceral responses to rhetoric and symbolism, such policies seem abstruse and irrelevant. It is important to understand that no matter how long one waits, and no matter how disastrous the crisis and the effects of the supposed remedies being used now, these are going to continue to be realities we have to face. Changing foreign policy involves facing similar obstacles, chief among them the emotional and psychological attachment to American power that American nationalists have cultivated over the last half century and their acceptance of the triumphalist story of American “leadership” in which any critique of U.S. policy abroad is portrayed as disloyalty, weakness or crypto-leftism. Changing immigration policy is arguably the most immediately practicable, because the effects of mass immigration are more apparent in everyday life and affect the interests of Americans in a direct way, while the others remain almost entirely the province of elites of one kind or another and seem far removed from personal experience.

It is encouraging that auditing the Fed has many backers in the House, and it is a credit to Ron Paul that he has held fast to his critiques of inflationary policies throughout his entire career. I trust that I do not need to rehearse my agreement with Rep. Paul’s ideas. However, in a country of debtors ruled by a debtor government, we would be delusional if we thought that shoring up the dollar and radically reducing spending are going to have a moment for which we can wait, or that the public will come to recognize that our ideas were the ones they were waiting for. Objective economic conditions have been changing for decades: household savings are gone, personal debt has shot through the roof, and dependency on government and government-subsidized enterprises has increased, which means that the objective political conditions have hardly ever been worse when it comes to dismantling entitlements and the Federal Reserve. What is unsustainable will fail, but the experience of nations that have suffered such collapses tells us that the people who prevail politically in the wake of such failures are going to be left-populists.

* The allergy to Catholic and more broadly Christian social thought, including language of the culture of life, that some of our friends seem to have not only blocks off many potentially valuable sources of knowledge, but it also cuts us off from many of the people on the right who are most likely to be inclined to give our ideas a hearing. If Republican politicians treat the idea of the culture of life as nothing more than a cheap slogan, much as they inflict many other abuses on the proper meanings of words and ideas, that is hardly any reason for us to do the same.

Let us consider how valuable and even necessary some of the insights of such social thought can be in making our arguments. This is from John Paul II’s Evangelium vitae:

This reality is characterized by the emergence of a culture which denies solidarity and in many cases takes the form of a veritable “culture of death”. This culture is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic and political currents which encourage an idea of society excessively concerned with efficiency. Looking at the situation from this point of view, it is possible to speak in a certain sense of a war of the powerful against the weak: a life which would require greater acceptance, love and care is considered useless, or held to be an intolerable burden, and is therefore rejected in one way or another. A person who, because of illness, handicap or, more simply, just by existing, compromises the well-being or life-style of those who are more favoured tends to be looked upon as an enemy to be resisted or eliminated. In this way a kind of “conspiracy against life” is unleashed. This conspiracy involves not only individuals in their personal, family or group relationships, but goes far beyond, to the point of damaging and distorting, at the international level, relations between peoples and States [bold mine-DL].

The relevance of this understanding of cultivating a culture of life to combating policies of perpetual war is only too obvious.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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