There is no substitute for a genuine—i.e., anti-liberal—conservatism

Conservatism has thus far failed and may continue to fail to turn back liberalism, but, as I argue in this October 2009 entry, libertarianism as a cheap replacement for conservatism is worse. Consider Glenn Beck. As Paul Gottfried writes in the 2009 discussion, “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.’ ” Problem is, if you’re just against “big government” and for “freedom,” and if you have no concrete particular vision of society to oppose against liberal universalism, you inevitably end up joining the liberals and damning all conservatives as bitter clingers. Thus Ron Paul goes on The Tonight Show and calls Michele Bachmann a Muslim-hater. Thus Glenn Beck, who declared in January 2009, ”Every day that goes by, I’m more and more libertarian,” ends up saying in December 2011, when Newt Gingrich was riding high in the polls, that the only reason the tea partiers could have for supporting Gingrich against Obama is that they hate blacks.

(The same idea is explained more fully in this recent entry.)

- end of initial entry -

January 16

BLS writes:

I think you are being a bit too condemning of Beck. There is a long history of indoctrination that has supplanted traditional conservative views with modern neo-conservative views. The change back to traditional conservatism will not happen overnight. There are centuries of political, social, and theological thought that must be reviewed and understood again. Beck is a good stepping stone for those modern conservatives. He demands his listeners read the words of the Founders. They, and Beck, will become more conservative and less libertarian as they read the words of classical liberal thinkers. It is a process. I know it is a process because I went through the same struggle. I listen to Beck because he reminds me of myself a decade ago and he appears to be evolving in his thoughts over the same time period.

During my period of change, I considered myself a libertarian. I now realize that was not the intent of the Founders, nor the intent of God or any Christian society. That process demands time and thought. It would be reckless to diminish and turn off those conservatives and libertarians who may one day understand what traditional conservatism means and requires. They are not enemies, but reluctant, and eventual, allies.

LA replies:

It’s true that libertarianism has been a transitional phase for some former liberals on their way to traditionalism. It’s also true that libertarianism has been an intellectual end point for a much larger number of people, who indeed are permanent enemies of traditionalism and not its allies.

Some readers have told me that VFR helped lead them from libertarianism to traditionalism. But how could it have done so, unless it criticized and showed the limits of libertarianism? So I doubt that VFR is somehow going to discourage the positive evolution of libertarians who, in the absence of my tough statements about libertarianism, would evolve into traditionalists.

BLS replies:

I have written you ten different responses, and deleted each and every one.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 14, 2012 12:44 PM | Send

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