“Where have all the conservatives gone?”

asks Kidist Paulos Asrat at her blog. She goes down a list of conservatives, and finds, one after another, a libertarian rather than a conservative. Libertarianism, she suggests, is a way of fighting liberalism on the cheap. If you’re a libertarian, you don’t have to present an alternative, non-liberal vision of society with its own set of non-liberal goods, you just have to say that you believe in freedom. But this is like fighting fire with fire, or rather, it’s like fighting freedom with freedom, since liberals also believe in freedom, the freedom of people to do whatever they like, to behave sexually however they like, to express themselves however the like, to emigrate into whatever country they want and behave however they want and make whatever claims for special treatment they want once they get there. Now it’s true that alongside its advocacy of radical personal and minority-group freedoms, liberalism (as we are seeing now in America as never before) seeks to destroy political and economic freedoms that are fundamental to our form of government. But even as liberalism attacks political and economic freedoms, it also, through its advocacy of unlimited life-style freedoms and minority-group freedoms, attacks the historic substance and identity of our civilization. Therefore people who are unwilling to do the work of articulating and defending our concrete civilization can never defeat liberalism. The undefined freedom these libertarians champion is the same freedom that has, e.g., allowed millions of sharia followers into our midst.

- end of initial entry -

Paul Gottfried writes:

I fully agree with your incisive critique of libertarianism, which has always struck me as an adolescent response to authority structures that the autonomous individual does not choose for him/herself. That said, libertarianism may offer the only available political means for dealing with the Left and with the public administration that the Left is using to destroy the social and cultural traditions that stand in the way of creating a multicultural, socialist America. What makes libertarianism a useful stop-gap ideology is that it represents enough of the leftist mindset to make it appear less threatening than anything we would propose as a “conservative” alternative. Libertarians are good at pointing out the Left’s inherent contradiction: pushing collectivism and mind-control in the name of liberating individuals from traditional authority.

LA replies:

You said:

“… libertarianism may offer the only available political means for dealing with the Left and with the public administration…”

Well, what do you mean by “the only available political means”? The only means that exists? Are you saying that a conservative (non-libertarian) critique of liberalism-leftism doesn’t exist? Or are you saying that it exists, but that people are not drawn to it? If the latter, then why aren’t they drawn to it? They’re not drawn to it for the very reason I gave: they don’t want to oppose the liberal ideology of equal freedom for all humans, because they themselves believe in it. And it’s the liberal ideology of equal freedom for all humans that has destroyed us. So when you say that libertarianism is the only available means of opposing the left, you’re really agreeing with what I’m saying all the time, that everyone today is really a liberal, and that there is no real conservatism, and (I continue) that the only chance of turning back liberalism is if a real conservatism comes into existence. I don’t see libertarianism as part of the solution, but as part of the problem. It’s a make-believe opposition to liberalism.

Ferg writes:

Where have all the conservatives gone? Gone for Libertarians every one. When will they ever learn, when will they e…ver learn? I think the major problem conservatism faces is the simple fact that as a movement it has to draw its members from the all encompassing liberal society.

I believe you have to be a pre-baby boomer, and to have experienced life before LBJ, JFK, and Earl Warren, to have a clear idea in your mind what it is that you are trying to conserve.

True there are individual exceptions to this, but the large majority of people who identify themselves as conservative do not really WANT to give up their rent-a-spouse easy divorces, their we can not have a baby NOW abortions, their government bailouts, their abdicate parenting leave it to the professionals mind set, their religion is not literal faith, their easy credit and two income families, their sexually liberated women, their dump the old people on the nursing homes and let the professionals deal with their infirmities attitude, their self fulfillment dreams, etc. etc. etc. Expecting conservatives to be better than liberals on these things is like expecting one group of fifteenth century Venetian noblemen to be better, more honest and more moral than any other group of fifteenth century Venetian noblemen. Not going to happen. Hence, the dodge into libertarianism. Timothy Leary is alive and well, and harder to kill than Ozzie and Harriet. Indeed, Ozzie and Harriet have become objects of derision today, while Leary is just someone who went a bit too far. People today, even conservatives, do not believe in original sin. But we are all fallen, and that is why society is supposed to be structured to contain our fallen natures, not glory in them Beware of what you celebrate, for what you celebrate you encourage.

Kevin Michael Grace writes:

Dear Mr. Auster:

Here is the email I sent to Kidist Paulos Asrat:

Dear Ms. Asrat:

I don’t know where you got the idea I am a libertarian, paleo or otherwise. See this. I may be a pessimist, but I am not a nihilist; the biggest influence on my political and social thinking is Hilaire Belloc. As for immigration to my country (Canada), my position is: end it. I see no need for Canada to take in more than, say, 5,000 immigrants a year for the foreseeable future. As for Muslim immigration, my position is: none, ever.


Kevin Michael Grace

I hope this explains my position.

Marco Jawsario writes:

Boy, you hit the nail on the head. Even I, Marco Jawsario, am tinged with strains of libertarianism. The pronunciation of the word “libertarian” sounds so much more appealing than “conservative.” Perhaps as a Step One we should advocate a libertarianism with strings attached. Come, to our shores, do as you will, but don’t expect us to pay for it. Your right to engage in a self-serving lifestyle ends with my wallet. That way, we could close to door to most Third World immigration and welfare.

LA replies:

I’m sorry to be difficult, but the Step One you offer is the standard evasive tactic of all conservative liberals (that is, mainstream conservatives and libertarians) who want to pretend that their liberalism doesn’t have the consequences that it must have. For example, these conservative liberals will say, “I’m in favor of immigration, but only if the immigrants assimilate.”

Ok, the immigrants are here, and many of them are not assimilating but are instead changing us into a different country. And what is the conservative liberal doing about that? Nothing.

See my point? When the conservative liberal says, “I’m in favor of immigration, but only if the immigrants assimilate,” it’s a rhetorical gesture to make it appear that he believes in some position (immigration, but with assimilation), when in reality the position he supports leads to the opposite of what he says he believes in, that is, it leads to immigration without assimilation.

It’s the same with your “Come, to our shores, do as you will, but don’t expect us to pay for it.” Given the nature of our current politics, if they come to our shores, we ARE going to pay for them. The only way for us NOT to pay for them is for them not to come in the first place.

So your position, in my view, is worse than straightforward liberal support for immigration plus subsidization of immigrants, because your position leads many conservatives to think that there is some political force out there that is opposing subsidization of immigrants, and so the conservatives relax, thinking the issue is being taken care of, when in reality it is not. All that’s happening is that people are playing with words to make it appear that the inevitable liberal consequences of the liberal policy they support are not happening.

Marco Jawsario replies:

Your response was spot on. What was I thinking.

Paul Gottfried replies to LA:

I fully agree with your assessment of where most people, if not everyone, stands on the ideological spectrum.The question for me is how to deal with the noxious effects of the prevailing ideology without making a futile effort to oppose it frontally. I also agree that hyperindividualism poses more of a social threat than traditional, pre-managerial forms of collectivism.

Paul Gottfried continues:

Another comment: I make exactly the same point in two of my books that you do, about libertarianism being part of the political cultural problem. I do not therefore look to it as a long-term solution to what ails our society. I see it as a stopgap position, to prevent the government from doing even more harm to traditional authorities and belief systems in the short run. Although I find Glenn Beck to be an inexpressibly vulgar clown with a defective understanding of history and philosophy, I’m delighted that he’s around and rallying the populace to stand up against “big government.” I occasionally watch Beck as lowbrow entertainment and I’m struck by how well his anti-government rhetoric resonates among millions of Americans. He may be the best we can hope for at this time as a counterrevolutionary.

Hannon writes:

The obvious follow-up question is, “Where will all the conservatives come from?”

My impression is that there are quite a few now, perhaps not intellectual conservatives, but people who don’t like or trust the liberal tenor of modern society. These people are not averse to reproducing and their views are not disguised. They are a bulwark even within the liberal bastions of the Atlantic Seaboard and the Pacific coast. Though hazily defined, they will never be liberal in attitude or outlook but they may be forced to appear so by their voting choices.

One problem is that no one is holding together a secure middle ground of traditionalism—a nucleus from which something can grow and renew. Not the churches, not any band of conservative political or intellectual figures who are substantial enough, nor any popular figures to speak of (maybe Glenn Beck is a an exception). It is liberal, liberal, liberal, in every direction.

Conservatism must look forward as much as it looks back and take into account the everyday concerns of Western peoples. It must somehow compete with the managerial welfare state and a dreamily misguided, amoral public. It cannot stand there like Michelangelo’s “David” and expect adoration and loyalty. As you say, it will likely take a very destructive period to shake the accretions off the foundations.

Even foundations need care and looking after.

LA replies:

“It cannot stand there like Michelangelo’s “David” and expect adoration and loyalty.”

Great image. However, let us remember that our usual idea of the David, as poised, at peace, resting in his perfection, is not correct, but is based on the unfortunate placement of the statue which prevents the public from looking directly into his face, as discussed in a remarkable article which I link here. David’s facial expression is that of a man ruthlessly determined to kill his enemy, and absolutely assured that he will succeed.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 21, 2009 12:58 AM | Send

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