Ponder this: Why are conservatives such as William Bennett, George Will, Bill Kristol, et al so graciously accepted by the prevailing liberal establishment? Why is there almost a camaraderie between today’s prominent conservatives and liberals? It is because today’s conservatives do not challenge the moral premise of statism. Most of today’s conservative leaders are brilliant intellects, but they accept statism’s violation of individual rights and its conveyance of special privileges to a myriad of factions.
Thus, they pose no moral threat to liberalism and are not feared by those who are tyrannizing our lives with omnipresent government. Today’s conservatives are merely a different brand of statist, with their ultimate goal the same as the liberal brand – maintenance of an all-pervasive mega-state in Washington.
There is no difference between lemmings that creep and cattle that charge toward the cliff, other than their time of death. And there is no substantive difference between the creeping statism of William Bennett, George Will and Bill Kristol and the charging statism of Robert Reich, Paul Krugman, and Jesse Jackson.
Sadly over the last few decades, there has solidified in the minds of many prominent thinkers on the right a disastrous premise. They have come to believe that by accepting the ideology of the welfare state and merely arguing for a more prudent implementation of its goals, that we can stem the tide of collectivism. But this manner of thinking is deplorably myopic. In order to counteract a disease process, one must go to the root cause of the disease. This means one must challenge the welfare state’s fundamental premises, i.e., the belief that government has the right to redistribute individual wealth and convey special legislative privileges to select factions of voters.
Most conservatives today are not concerned with such a challenge. They are more concerned with scholarly acceptance in their own time than adherence to principle for all of time. They fear that since welfarism is the fashion of the age, to challenge the moral foundation of the welfare state would place them outside the circle of socially approved intellectuality and thus render them ineffective.
But what they fail to see is that it is always contrarian and socially rejected intellectuals who most dramatically shape history. From Socrates to Erasmus to Galileo to Adam Smith to Pasteur to Ludwig von Mises to Richard Weaver, truth and freedom have never been defended by joining with the establishment that exists in one’s time.
Establishments are invariably a bland conglomeration of conformists and courtiers, glib instead of wise, irrelevant in the long run because they are not concerned with the big fundamental principles of life, i.e., its “natural laws” – being either unable to grasp them or unwilling to accept them. Today’s media darling conservatives might be brilliant articulators of thought about specific policy details and what is necessary to score points with the prevailing power structure of the literati, but by tolerating only “fashionable conservatism” and blending with the sirens of the media, they are not helping the cause of America.
Too many today have convinced themselves that by fighting statism’s degree rather
than its essence, they can somehow stop its ever-increasing suffocation of the individual. The lure of “celebrity” and “social approval” has consumed their integrity of thought. They want too much to be revered by the political thugs and grafters who wield power, as if recognition conveyed by usurpers is somehow honor. They are fighting an ersatz fight; their place in history will be one of obscurity and ineffectually.
In the end, there is no hope for freedom if men of the mind are not willing to truly stand for freedom, to make of themselves Gibraltar-like representatives of its attributes no matter what level of rejection, calumny and injustice is heaped upon them. This is the true role of the intellectual in history, his only role – to stand intransigently for truth and its concomitant of freedom, even in face of a vast social herd of academic pedants, poseurs, and media clowns stampeding the other way.
The short-range, relativistic, liberal mentalities of today, who worship at the mobocrat’s altar of “unlimited democracy,” have brought Western civilization to the morass of expedient bureaucratism and socio-economic decadence we now endure.
It is not to be expected that such morally relativist minds will be able to face up to their overweening irrationality, for it is the nature of myopic men in power to draw blinders around what little vision they possess so as to avoid facing the decadent turmoil wrought from their ignorance.
What is to be expected, however, is that the strong, open-minded intellects of America, who no longer wish to be party to the collectivization of her soul, will be willing to face up to the requisites of a truly free society based upon objective law. Freedom is not for the craven seeking the institutionalization of dependency and privilege. It is for the stalwart possessed of heroic hearts and fiery souls – the spiritual sons of those who strode into history two hundred years ago to set down on parchment its first great idealization known to man.
Antidote to Liberalism
The disease of collectivist-liberalism has only one antidote – restoration of a strictly limited government. This can be brought about only if we as a country abandon the three fundamental policies of collectivist liberalism:
- Progressive taxation.
- Federal monopolization of banking and fiat money.
- Political conveyance of privileges, such as welfare handouts, corporate subsidies, affirmative action quotas, price controls, special tax breaks and exemptions, etc.
If conservatism is to be a movement of freedom and justice, its leaders must cease defaulting on their responsibility to challenge these three fundamental policies that have been the lifeblood of incessant government expansion for the past 100 years.
If conservatives wish only to rule rather than reform, then they are not just the Stupid Party, they are cowards. Their historical legacy will be pusillanimous abdication, and America’s future as a shining ideal for all the world will be dead.
To merely be rulers and wield power is such a petty intellectual goal. It is certainly not why the Founding Fathers fought the revolution. They fought valiantly to establish “truth” and a “just ideal” of political-economic liberty.
If we abandon the Founders’ legacy in principle, then we will have destroyed it in fact. Our efforts today are far too short on principle and much too concerned with power. Is this the statement that we wish to inscribe in history as our life’s contribution to the great drama of existence – that we scrambled for and squabbled over only power? A free America cannot be saved with such a selfish unprincipled approach, and what goal is there more worthy than the salvation of a free America?
Nelson Hultberg is a freelance writer in Dallas, Texas and the Director of Americans for a Free Republic www.afr.org. A graduate of Beloit College in Wisconsin, his articles have appeared in such publications as The American Conservative, Insight, Liberty, The Freeman, The Social Critic, The Dallas Morning News, and the San Antonio Express-News, as well as on numerous Internet sites.
He is the author of The Golden Mean: Libertarian Politics, Conservative Values
Email: NelsonHultberg (at) afr.org