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The Next Right and the New Left: Dialectics For The Free Man

This came from my blog on the traditional-conservative website about two years ago. It represents the start of my 'epistemological break' with conservatism, which is by this point nearly complete.

The Next Right and the New Left: Dialectics For The Free Man

When the histories are written, I'll bet that the Old Right and the New Left are put down as having a lot in common and that the people in the middle will be the enemy.
- Barry Goldwater

Americans see the Establishment center as an empty, decaying void that commands neither their confidence nor their love. It was not the American worker who designed the war or our military machine. It was the Establishment wise men, the academicians of the center.
- George McGovern

It's always been a curiosity to me that conservatives ought to place a high value on the 'purity' of Western civilization (which in itself has always been far more eclectic than that of the Orient), but even stranger seems to be the end they desire to seek.

Certain conservatives, of course, recognize the basic nature of human society - that is, that societies change - and simply seek to make sure that change, when it comes, comes slowly and carefully, so as to not radically upset the established paradigm. This form of conservatism can be genuinely respected, even if its Burkean appeals to collective wisdom are asinine and irrational.

Other conservatives (most of them, I'd say), take a radically different view: for them, society must not only remain static, but it must begin going backwards: they by no means wish to conserve the social changes that have happened since the counterculture of the 1960s, and actively seek to roll back the progress made in individual liberty since then. In this they are not conservatives but reactionary-revolutionaries, motivationally similar to the 'revolutionary conservatism' of such 'luminaries' as Edgar Jung - chiefly, they are motivated out of hatred for the man himself and fear of his individual powers. They are, once more, socialists-of-the-spirit. Their ideal collective may be grounded on traditional idealism rather than dialectical materialism, but the essential focus of the philosophy lies in the community, of blud und boden. These are the enemies of free men everywhere.  To phrase it differently: there is a cleft here, between these two essentially different praxi, that a skillful political theorist ought to be able to hue, in order to emasculate the reactionary-revolutionary movement, but it would require the co-option of the language of the Right on the part of the Left (for the reactionary-revolutionaries are neither of the Right nor the Left). That is the task set before the Left today - to divorce liberty-minded men from the socialists they have hopped into bed with for the sake of political expediency. Likewise, it is not enough to mindlessly quote the fusionist mantra that "libertarianism is the heart of conservatism" as justification enough to cloud one's eyes to the basic fact that the old Reaganist alliance is finished, and has been for quite some time.

Similarly, a disturbing tendency to automatically dismiss the accomplishments of the Left in American history on the part of libertarians has long confounded me. We need not hearken back to the immediate post-colonial era to prove this point - Jefferson's opposition to the establishment of an oceanic navy, or Jackson's enfranchisement of a multitude of landless whites, though these are proof enough - to demonstrate the close bond between the lovers of freedom and the men of the Left. In almost direct parallel with the popular opposition against the Vietnam quagmire of the 1960s, our intellectual forebears were men who saw themselves in opposition to established interests, not conservators of the same. As Rothbard declaims in the opening paragraphs of his excellent Betrayal of the American Right:

Individualism, and its economic corollary laissez-faire liberalism, have not always taken on a conservative hue, has not always functioned, as it often does today, as an apologist for the status quo. On the contrary, the Revolution of modern times was originally, and continued for a long time to be, laissez-faire individualists. Its purpose was to free the individual person from the restrictions and the shackles, the encrusted caste privileges and exploitative wars, of the feudalist and mercantilist orders, of the Tory ancien régime.

Accordingly, Rothbard says, we see an interesting turn of events that would seem almosy unimaginable in today's political clime: free-marketeers and other individualist radicals actively opposing America's entry into the Great War, going so far to denounce it, in some cases, as a war of imperialism:

By the advent of World War I, however, the death of the older laissez-faire generation threw the leadership of the opposition to America's imperial wars into the hands of the Socialist Party. But other, more individualist-minded men joined in the opposition, many of whom would later form the core of the isolationist Old Right of the late 1930s. Thus, the hardcore anti-war leaders included the individualist Senator Robert LaFollette of Wisconsin and such laissez-faire liberals as Senators William E. Borah (Republican) of Idaho and James A. Reed (Democrat) of Missouri. It also included Charles A. Lindburgh, Sr., father of the Lone Eagle, who was a congressman from Minnesota.

These great individualists, and their intellectual progeny, were not limited in their radicalism to anti-interventionism. Henry Louis Mencken, one of Rothbard's idols and perhaps the most forceful of any American individualists to live, was himself fundamentally a modern, temperamentally related more to men such as Karl Hess than to Ronald Reagan.

Writing in response to the great religious backlash of his day, embodied in the then-novel Fundamentalist movement, wrote in November 1925 that

(u)nder Prohibition, Fundamentalism, and other complex ideals of the Klan there runs a common stream of bilge: it issues from the ghostly glands of the evangelical pastors of the land. The influence of these consecrated men upon the so-called thinking of the American people has been greatly underestimated by fanciers; in fact, most of the principal professors of such forms of metabolism overlook it altogether. Yet it must be obvious that their power is immense, and that they exert it with great gusto... The pastor got into public affairs by the route of Prohibition. The shrewd shysters who developed the Anti-Saloon League made a politician of him, and once he had got a taste of power he was eager for more. It came very quickly. As industry penetrated the rural regions the new-blown Babbits began to sense his capacity for safeguarding the established order, and so he was given the job; he became a local Billy Sunday.

Such honesty concerning our erstwhile 'allies' on the Right is sorely missing from present classical liberal/individualist dialogue, and much to our discredit: for these very men who we have regarded for so long merely as a means to power now desire to usurp that power for themselves. By inviting them into a grand coalition, we have in fact weakened our position, defiled our own purity, and suffer all the more for it.

What, then, is to be done? I myself do not dare to profess to have all the answers, but one consideration ought to be to establish some form of rapprochement with those surviving veterans of the New Left, who alone share with us our antipathy towards the Establishment, that is, towards Big Government, Big God, and Big Generals. Only united with them - only by dialectically absorbing their idées fixes and, ultimately, themselves into our fold, can we ever hope to establish anything remotely resembling a genuinely libertarian consensus.

Towards that end, it is necessary for us who believe in freedom and esteem it above all else to put our money where our mouths are, to uphold 'social issues', much scorned, as the exact equal of economic liberty. For free men and free minds are equally important as free money and free markets; without all of these things, the people perish.

I am among those who consider not all knowledge should be public, yet the need for more then 2 modes of liberty ("free" or "in jail") is to be rediscovered as a given, by everyone, probably after the eventual collapse of the existing current. It is to become an underlying principle of a community that won't perish by it's own hands before developing up to the pinnacle of it's potential. Maybe the author would care to denigrate such a viewpoint as oriented backwards, since it's hard to imagine the function of the castes when surrounded with Today. If one accepts the currents of Today, Yesterday and Way Before being manifestations of the unique law, even an atheist will admit Tomorrow in the set. Through recognizing the past communities' fulfilment of their potential through advancement in Life we're presented with a proof of this law's nature and not with a totem of worship filled with the same substance as the word liberty.