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Robert Nisbet: Conservative Sociologist
LewRockwell.com ^ | 8/15/02 | Gary North

Posted on 08/15/2002 9:07:27 AM PDT by H.R. Gross

Robert Nisbet: Conservative Sociologist

by Gary North

"Conservative sociologist" is as close to an oxymoron as you can get in academia, comparable to "civil government."

There have been four prominent post-1950 conservative American sociologists with books to their credit, as far as I can figure out: Nisbet, Ernest van den Haag, Peter Berger, and Will Herberg. The original conservative sociologist was anything but prominent: Albert Hobbs. He wrote The Vision and the Constant Star, The Claims of Sociology, Social Problems and Scientism, and Man Is Moral Choice. I mention him because almost no one remembers him today. He wrote mainly in the 1950's. His name is not found even in monographs on the history of American conservatism. He was laboring unappreciated in the vineyard years before the others appeared.

There was one other possible candidate back in 1959: Stanford University's Richard LaPierre. He wrote a book that had some influence in the conservative movement, The Freudian Ethic: An Analysis of the Subversion of American Character, which in 1959 was about the only book critical of Freud that the typical conservative, or even the untypical Russell Kirk, had ever heard of. What his politics were, I have no idea.

WHAT IS SOCIOLOGY

The first law of economics is this: "TANSTAAFL – There ain't no such thing as a free lunch." The first law of sociology is this: "Some do; some don't."

The typical economist is formally a methodological individualist. He begins his analysis with a resource-allocating individual in a world of scarcity. Robinson Crusoe is his literary starting point. The sociologist is a methodological corporatist. He begins his analysis with social groups. Swiss Family Robinson could be his starting point – or, these days, more likely the pirates. (" 'Love Me or Leave Me': Walking the Plank as a Homoerotic Symbol in South Caribbean Pirate Brotherhoods, 1767–1821.")

The irony of sociology, an academic discipline that has long been dominated by collectivist political liberals and radicals, is this: the foundations of the discipline were laid by Edmund Burke, in his book, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790). Burke was a classical liberal in his political views, a supporter of four revolutions: English, American, Indian, Irish. But he recognized before anyone else the destructive power of the French Revolution, which was founded on the twin doctrines of the rights of the individual and the role of the centralized state as the sole legitimate protector of these rights. He forecast accurately what would come in a society in which the state identified every person as "citizen." There was no other judicial definition of an individual, and when the state classified anyone as ex-citizen, he was as good as dead. The Soviet Union repeated the procedure with "comrade."

Nisbet observed that the conservative movement has twice gone to Burke as its source: 1790–1810 and 1953–1970. Burke's affirmation of the legitimacy of intermediate institutions, associations, and loyalties became the touchstone of nineteenth-century European Continental conservatism and twentieth-century American conservatism. But it was not through the conservatives, but through liberals (Tocqueville, Acton) and radicals (Saint-Simon, Compte, Marx) that nineteenth-century sociology developed, with Weber and Simmel in the early twentieth century.

He viewed the discipline of sociology as an extension of two theories of society, both as old as Classical Greece: monism and pluralism. In Plato's political monism and Aristotle's political pluralism, we find the war of the worldviews. For Nisbet, the bad guys were Plato, Hobbes, and Rousseau. The good guys were Aristotle and Burke.

Nisbet believed in a three-fold division, however: conservatism, liberalism, and socialism. He sided with conservatives and liberals against socialism. He appreciated the classical economists, Tocqueville, Acton, and Hayek. But he saw them – I think correctly – as anti-conservatives. They were individualists. They lodged final sovereignty in the individual conscience. For the liberal, institutions are important for maintaining the freedom of conscience and decision.

In reading Nisbet, we find that he affirmed intermediate associations from the beginning of his career – his 1943 essay on "Rousseau and the Political Community," which begins his 1968 collection, Tradition and Revolt – to the end. In this, he was a fellow traveller with philosophical conservatives. But was he a conservative? I don't think he ever was. I think he was a classical liberal, though with less commitment to the principle of contractual rights than, say, Murray Rothbard, though far more commitment than, say, the Chicago School economist Ronald Coase. I shall pursue this theme later in this essay.

NISBET'S CAREER AS AN AUTHOR

From 1953, with the publication of The Quest for Community (Oxford University Press), until his death in 1996, Nisbet was the best-known American conservative sociologist. But his academic career had a hiatus. For a dozen years, he was invisible to the academic community and the struggling conservative movement, of which he became a part in 1953 after reading Russell Kirk's book, The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot. Before 1953, he had been a classical liberal more in Tocqueville's tradition. He had written his Ph.D. dissertation on French conservative social thought in the early nineteenth century, so he was familiar with European conservatism. But in 1939, that tradition was intellectually dead, and what little remained as a cultural force in 1939 had been overwhelmed by the devastation of the war. Total war sweeps before it every intermediate loyalty.

Years later, he summarized the history of American political conservatism and political liberalism with this phrase: "From Burke to Kirk, from Condorcet to ADA." (ADA = Americans for Democratic Action.) Kirk was a major factor in his conversion. In 1953, National Review was two years away, The Freeman in its incarnation under Leonard Read's Foundation for Economic Education was three years away, Modern Age was four years away, and Eisenhower had just taken the oath of office. That was a very different intellectual world from ours. New Deal liberalism and its accomplices were in their ascendancy.

In 1953, he was made dean of the college at the brand-new Riverside campus of the University of California, which opened with 100 students in the fall of 1954. That college for a decade would remain an experimental campus: a university with no graduate school and no teaching assistants. Undergraduates were expected to write a thesis comparable to a master's thesis. Only with rising costs and the faculty's desire to become a Ph.D-granting institution did UCR add a graduate school in the fall of 1963. In that year, Nisbet left the administration. He took a year's sabbatical, 1963-64, and then returned to the classroom.

It was shortly thereafter that his national reputation began to take off like a rocket. There was a reason for this, which he confided to me in the late 1960's. "I became the favorite sociologist of the neoconservative movement sometime around 1965. They published my articles in Commentary and The Public Interest. Jews buy a lot of books. They bought mine."

And did he give them books to buy! Here are the main ones, though not a complete list: The Sociological Tradition (1966), regarded by some as the finest survey of the origins of sociology; Tradition and Revolt (1968); Social Change and History (1969); The Social Bond (1970 – a textbook, and the only dull book he ever wrote); The Degradation of the Academic Dogma: The University in America, 1945-1970 (1971); The Social Philosophers: Community and Conflict in Western Thought (1973); The Twilight of Authority (1975); History of the Idea of Progress (1980); Prejudices: A Philosophical Dictionary (1982); Conservatism: Dream and Reality (1986); The Present Age: Progress and Anarchy in Modern America (1988); and the oddest one of all, Roosevelt and Stalin (1988).

COMMUNITY AND POWER

In 1962, Oxford University Press re-titled his then out-of-print book, The Quest for Community. It was titled Community and Power and released as a paperback. Two years later, the counter-culture began to be felt in American life. It made its initial institutional appearance on campus, and it ended on campus. It visibly began at Berkeley with the free speech movement in the fall of 1964. It ended at Kent State University with the National Guard's killing of four students in May of 1970. In between, the issue of gaining and retaining power was to become a focal point in every public institution, especially the university. But the counter-culture cloaked its agenda in the language of the need for a new community. Nisbet's book was perfectly positioned. As he said in an interview three decades later, the book took on a cult status in the New Left. (A few years later, the original title was restored. The decision-makers at Oxford University Press understood marketing.)

The counter-culture proclaimed the need to overturn the Establishment. In the excitement of youth, its members did not yet see the opportunity of joining the Establishment, cashing in on it, and moving to the upscale suburbs. Jerry Rubin, later to become a stock broker, was about to launch his career of carrying plastic toy machine guns and calling on students to kill their parents. The high-income fusion of bourgeois and bohemian cultures, delightfully described by David Brooks in Bobos in Paradise, was two decades away.

The thesis of Community and Power was that modern society since the seventeenth century has eroded away ancient institutions that had for millennia shielded men from state power. In the name of individualism, liberty, equality, the free market, science, and progress, modern society and modern social philosophy have undermined families, kinship groups, churches, guilds, and all other local and regional associations to which men had been loyal.

The book also argued that individualism and statism are symbiotic. Men seek to escape the influence and demands of a multitude of local associations and political units, and in this quest for personal liberty, they appeal for deliverance to the nation-state, which alone has had the power to challenge and even suppress these local authorities. In exchange for their deliverance from local authorities, men transfer their allegiance to the state. In this exchange, they sever ties to those local institutions that for millennia had provided meaning and purpose in men's lives. Stripped of these moral guidelines and restraints, men seek the restoration of community. They seek community in mass politics, especially national politics. The quest for community becomes the quest for political power through large-scale collective association. The state invades and increasingly replaces all other authorities in a unitary, political chain of command.

The counter-culture steadily moved in the direction of an expansion of politics. This came as no surprise to Nisbet. But it did surprise a group of former Trotskyite Marxists and 'thirties radicals in New York City. These men and women were the core of what became by 1969 the neoconservative movement. In 1965, they began to attack the worst of the welfare state aspects of the can-do liberalism of the Camelot illusion. After 1965, pressured on one side by unwashed, shouting, marching, drug-taking sons and daughters of Old Left radicals, and from the other side by a cornpone Caesar from Texas, they began to re-think the causes of this loss of the nation's moorings. Nisbet helped them along the path of self-awareness, although the quest for self-awareness he saw as just one more excrescence of modern liberalism.

But there was one major aspect of Nisbet's social philosophy, not easily visible in his published works in the late 1960's, that separated him from both the Buckley-era National Review brand of conservatism and the post-1965 neoconservatives. Nisbet hated – no other word will suffice – the military-industrial complex. He saw war, from the Pelopponesian war to Vietnam, as the primary means of extending state power, which always involves the uprooting or even destruction of traditional loyalties and institutions. He made his position clear in The Present Age (1988). He had no use for the American empire, as he made equally clear in the chapter, "The New Absolutism." I appreciated Joe Sobran's comments on this book.

Many of my favorite books are books that shook me up, even angered me, when I first read them. One of these is The Present Age, by the late Robert Nisbet.

I knew Bob Nisbet slightly, and he was kind to me, especially considering what a young fool I was. He had the wisdom to know that a young fool can often be transformed by time alone. Or, as the poet William Blake put it, "If the fool would persist in his folly, he would become wise."

Nisbet, a distinguished sociologist and conservative philosopher, published The Present Age in 1988. Though he hated Communism, he harbored a profound skepticism about the Cold War. In 1988 I still didn't see how a man could hold both attitudes at the same time. Yet I respected Bob Nisbet enough to listen when he said things I didn't want to hear.

Chief among those things was this: If the Founders of the American Republic could come back today, they would be most astounded, among all the vast changes that time has wrought, by the militarization of the United States. Since World War I, this country has been totally transformed by war and constant preparation for war.

Nisbet defined totalitarianism in the same way that Hannah Arendt did in The Origins of Totalitarianism: a society in which there is no intervening authority between the state and the citizen. He believed that modern totalitarianism began with Woodrow Wilson, not Lenin. "I believe it is no exaggeration to say that the West's first real experience with totalitarianism – political absolutism extended into every possible area of culture and society, education, religion, industry, the arts, local community and family included, with a kind of terror always waiting in the wings – came with the American war state under Woodrow Wilson" (The Twilight of Authority, p. 183). There are few American scholars with national reputations who would have the courage to say that in print today. In 1975, it was unheard of. In The Present Age, he devoted eight pages on Wilson's war state (42-50).

Nisbet was born in 1913. He commented decades later that in the year of his birth, the only contact that most Americans had with the U.S. government was the Post Office. He attended the Berkeley campus of the University of California, beginning in 1932. As a graduate student, he received a plum for a depression era grad student: the right to be a teaching assistant. He taught six discussion sessions several times each week. He also because a research assistant for the amazing maverick scholar, Frederick J. Teggart, author of the astounding and long-forgotten book, Rome and China (1939). Teggart had a great deal of influence in Nisbet's thinking and career, as he admitted years later. He told me that being a gopher for Teggart in the Berkeley library gave him the skills he needed for basic research.

(Side note: my father-in-law, R. J. Rushdoony, was at Berkeley in this same period. His mentor was Ernst Kantorovitz, an equal to Teggart in both learning and sheer maverickness. Rushdoony wrote a 300-page graduate seminar paper for him, "Visible Sovereignty: An Analysis of the Problem in Church and State in England since 1500." He told me that he would sit in the library with a letter opener and slice uncut pages in books that had never been read in 300 years. The Berkeley library was a marvel in its day.)

Nisbet took his Ph.D. in 1939 in what was then called the Department of Social Institutions. He was made instructor in 1939, assistant professor in 1942. He was made assistant dean of the College of Letters and Science. Except for service in the Army in the South Pacific, 1943-46, he remained at Berkeley until 1953, when he became the dean of the new undergraduate campus of the University of California at Riverside.

It was there that he developed his conservatism.

MY ENCOUNTERS WITH NISBET

I was fortunate to meet him early in my career, in my freshman year, or perhaps early in my sophomore year: 1960. The Chancellor of the University, a not-too-well-read former biologist, was a conservative. Somehow, Russell Kirk had been invited to lecture on campus. I was a member of the campus conservative society – maybe half a dozen students. I heard about Kirk's visit, and I contacted the Chancellor's office for details. I actually got to speak with the Chancellor. The campus was still small then: about 1,000 students. He invited me and another student to have lunch with him and Kirk. Nisbet also attended. That was when I first heard of him. I began reading his essays and reviews in Modern Age and other conservative journals. At that stage, Quest for Community was out of print. I graduated in the spring of 1963.

I returned for graduate work in 1965. Nisbet by then had returned from his sabbatical year at Princeton. He was working on The Sociological Tradition. I took his upper division class, based on that book, in 1967. I wrote "The Cosmology of Chaos," the main chapter of my book, Marx's Religion of Revolution (1968), as a directed readings seminar under him in 1967 or early 1968. He was the perfect supervisor: he left me completely alone. I took a graduate seminar with him on Max Weber in 1969. My paper, with a few additions, became my chapter on Weber in Foundations of Christian Scholarship (1976), which has recently been reprinted after being out of print for two decades.

Nisbet was a master classroom teacher. I have had some very good teachers – but not as many as Pareto's 20-80 rule would predict – and Nisbet was by far the best. He was a spellbinding lecturer, at least in small groups: under 40. I never saw him in front of a large audience, but his style was suited for large audiences of literate people. He was a raconteur, which helped to overcome the normal deadly dullness of a graduate seminar. He was always "on" in class. In private discussion, he was affable and a wealth of suggestions on what was important in Western social thought. I did my best to reciprocate over the years. Whenever I found anything that I thought he might find useful, I would send a photocopy, which he sometimes used.

He served on my doctoral dissertation committee. I made one major error: I sent him chapter one. I received it back with a curt note saying that it was standard procedure to submit only finished the finished work. In short, no free proofreading here! He was quite correct. Later, the committee of three decided not to make me return from New York to California to defend my dissertation orally. It was on a topic so obscure that they must have figured that it was accurate, and even if it wasn't, who would ever find out? ("The Concept of Property in Puritan New England, 1630-1720." The idea came to me in response to a 1969 summer graduate-level seminar sponsored by F. A. "Baldy" Harper – who was not bald – which introduced a group of us to the hot new Chicago School topic of the economics of property rights. The dissertation sank without a trace. Maybe I should have written about pirates.)

It was not until I began writing this essay that I realized that my timing had been nip and tuck. I submitted my dissertation in the summer of 1972. Nisbet left UCR for the University of Arizona a few weeks later: the fall semester. There, he was on both the history and sociology faculties. In 1974, he accepted the prestigious Albert Schweitzer Chair of the Humanities at Columbia University, where he also served in both Departments.

He retired from teaching in 1978 at the age of 65. He had told me a decade earlier that he did not intend to remain in the classroom in his old age. He did not think it appropriate for any teacher to stay on the job into his dotage, which he defined as an inability to learn new things. The irony is that Nisbet at 70 would have better in the classroom than anyone I can think of in his prime. After his retirement, he went to the American Enterprise Institute for two years, after which he retired to devote his time to writing. He then produced six more books, including The Present Age.

I remember writing to him in 1977 to ask which sociology journals he read. He wrote back to say that he had not read any of them in years. It was about this time that I heard George Stigler ask this rhetorical question at a Philadelphia Society meeting: "Why is it that there is not one article worth reading in any academic economics journal in a year?" There has been no deliverance for academia since then. For all I know, it is worse. Fortunately, I escaped academia.

Nisbet never used academic jargon. He never used statistics. He did not fill his books with footnotes to professional journals and book-length secondary sources. In the case of History of the Idea of Progress, there are no notes at all. What he did was read the classics in social theory very carefully, and then think very carefully about what he had read. He thought so creatively about them that his secondary source, The Sociological Tradition has become a standard introduction to the history of the discipline. It may well become a primary source.

He always regarded himself as an historian of thought. He asked the same sorts of questions that were asked by the founders of the discipline during what he called the golden age of sociology, from Tocqueville to Weber. He, like they, avoided jargon, which came later with the arrival of the epigones. Nisbet wrote with verve. A student at an Intercollegiate Studies Institute summer seminar in 1972 asked me why I had majored in history. The answer just popped out. "Because I couldn't read fast enough to major in English, and I wrote too clearly to major in sociology." Nisbet was the model for that answer. He had gotten through the academic gauntlet before the jargon-masters took over.

CONSERVATIVE OR LIBERAL?

Was Nisbet a conservative or a liberal? I shall now make a statement that may get me into a lot trouble: there have been no prominent conservative philosophers in the Anglo-American conservative movement. They have all been classical liberals. Nisbet was no exception.

What is my definition of a conservative? It is a person who believes that the irreducible unit of civil law is not the individual citizen. For a conservative, there is no irreducible unit. There are multiple units, each possessing sovereignty within its sphere of legitimate authority. What do I mean by sovereignty? No higher court of earthly appeal. We are all taught to hate the phrase, "the divine right of kings." What does it mean? It means "no higher court of earthly appeal."

Consider Burke. A century after the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89, he defended it. The Parliament had thrown out the king, a suspected Roman Catholic, because his wife was pregnant. The Parliament did what Oliver Cromwell had done a generation before: it removed the king based on his theology. Yet Cromwell was regarded by one and all as a radical. A century after Burke, Frederick Engels wrote a defense of Cromwell. Marxist historians, most notably Christopher Hill, have viewed Cromwell as the first modern revolutionary. By supporting the principle of political revolution that Cromwell had incarnated, Burke defied Tory conservatism.

Burke was a Whig. He thought Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations was the greatest book of all time. Smith and Burke were correspondents and friends. To label Burke as a the founder of conservatism means that we don't have any conservatives in the family tree. Louis XIV was a conservative. James I was a conservative. Charles I was a conservative. James II was a conservative. Nobody today is running off to the printers with a monograph on any of these historical figures as founders of modern conservatism.

The British in 1689 substituted the divine right of Parliament for the divine right of English kings. In 1776, delegates to the Continental Congress declared the divine right of revolution, which in 1788 became – although they did not suspect this at the time – the divine right of five justices of the United States Supreme Court. (It took John Marshall to teach this principle to their successors.)

FINAL SOVEREIGNTY AND DELEGATED AUTHORITY

Nisbet understood the role of judicial sovereignty in social theory, although he did not emphasize it. Yet it is the bedrock foundation of his own social theory. In a recent book by Brad Lowell Stone, Robert Nisbet: Communitarian Traditionalist (2000), the author surveys statements by Nisbet on the idea of the irreducible judicial unit. These appear in The Quest for Community. The central conservative principle is this: the sovereignty of social units other than the individual. He writes:

For much of history, communities – not individuals – were irreducible units of society. In the Middle Ages, for example, honors, privileges, immunities, and freedoms attached to communities, not to individuals. One's identity and status depended upon one's communal membership: "Whether we are dealing with the family, the village, or the guild, we are in the presence of systems of authority and allegiance which were widely held to precede the individual in both origin and right." For example, "As many an institutional historian has discovered, medieval economy and law are simply unintelligible if we try to proceed from modern conceptions of individualism and contract. The group was primary" (QC, 81). The patriarchal and corporate family "was a fixed institutional system within which innumerable, indispensable functions were performed." Taxes were levied and honors bestowed on the family, not the individual. "In corporate solidarity lay the ground for almost all decisions affecting the individual – his occupation, welfare, marriage and the rearing of children." [Stone, pp. 19-20]

In modern political philosophy, there is always a final earthly court of judicial appeal: a source of final justice. This is said to be the state. Some political theorists – called internationalists – want to lodge sovereignty in the United Nations. Others – called secessionists – want to lodge it locally. But with the exception of anarchists, who deny the legitimacy of civil government, modern political philosophy lodges sovereignty in some unit of civil government which serves as the final court of appeal, short of armed revolution, which in turn seeks to invest a new entity with the same element of sovereignty.

For Christianity, final sovereignty applies only to God. Western political theory during the Middle Ages argued that God has delegated authority to individuals and groups, especially churches and families. There was no agreement, East vs. West, regarding the supreme authority of church and state. In 1054, the Western church formally condemned the Eastern church, a division which persists, especially in the Balkans. In the West, the Papal Revolution of 1076-77 established rival hierarchies, church and state, neither possessing final sovereignty over the other. (The indispensable book on the legal implications of the Papal Revolution is Harold Berman's Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition [Harvard University Press, 1983].)

Nisbet understood that in medieval political theory, pluralistic authority lodged in institutions other than civil government. He did not develop in detail what this meant: legal sovereignty. Authority is hierarchical, with final earthly authority lodging in some court of final appeal. There was no single final court of appeal in medieval political philosophy or theology.

The central political issue for medieval society was not contract. It was covenant. People made covenants with each other before God. The marriage covenant, the church covenant (baptism), the legal covenant (liege loyalty) were permanently binding and officially immune from lawful annulment or revision by another covenantal hierarchy, except by highly specific customs. These covenants could not be broken unilaterally at the will of the covenanting parties, for God was seen as a partner in the covenant.

For earthly sovereignty to apply, someone had to represent God as the voice of God. No one person or institution represented God in medieval political or social theory. In this highly specific sense, medieval culture was pluralistic: plural God-delegated sovereignties. There was an irreducible messiness about legal authority in the Middle Ages, a messiness rejected by modern political philosophy and social theory. Medieval messiness was the basis of local pockets of liberty. There was no earthly agent who possessed final sovereignty in theory, and therefore did not possess power limited only by technical or functional restrictions. There was also no possibility of empire. The medieval Holy Roman Empire, as the canard goes, was neither holy, Roman, nor an empire.

What made the system both tolerable and internally consistent was the medieval concept of God's temporal sovereignty. Appeal beyond history to eternity could always be made to God: prayer, and in some cases, lawful resistance in the name of God. God, as the final judge, is the final sanctions-bringer: heaven and hell. But medieval theologians did not restrict God's role as sanctions-bringer to the final judgment. God's judgment is temporal as well as eschatological. So, there is no divine right in history, no final court of earthly appeal. God intervenes in history to overcome evil.

Modern political philosophy since the days of Machiavelli has steadily abandoned the idea of God, especially God as a temporal sanctions-bringer. It has therefore sought to lodge final temporal sovereignty in a sanctions-bringing institution. Because the state has the power to kill people, it has been seen as the final sovereignty: the divine right of the state, beyond which there is no legitimate appeal.

Nisbet opposed such an operational view of the divine right of the state. So have classical economists and other Whigs. But he, as they, was unwilling to invoke the medieval West's justification of the judicial sovereignty of intermediate institutions, church and family. That justification was theological in its original, pre-modern formulation.

Nisbet adopted a functional pluralism. He believed that intermediate institutions are indispensable for the maintenance of civil liberty: church, state, family, kinship groups. Without these, the state becomes tyrannical. The unitary state must not be trusted. This is why he detested Rousseau's vision.

Nisbet was a self-conscious heir of Edmund Burke. He was skeptical of pieces of paper called constitutions whenever those pieces of paper are not matched by strong, local, voluntary institutions that are outside the jurisdiction of politics. Yet, also like Burke, his concern throughout his career was the maintenance of civil liberty. This is why I regard him as a liberal in the Whig sense. He trusted the free market's ideal of voluntary association and contract more than he trusted the state.

CONCLUSION

Nisbet's writings constitute a large body of material that challenges many of the reigning assumptions of our age. The Present Age presents his case against modernism by presenting the case against the warfare state. He had no use for the welfare state, either, but he believed that modern man's commitment to the messianic state begins with his commitment to war, not socialism.

If he was correct – and I believe he was – then making the case against the modern messianic state is a far greater task than merely marshalling graphs and data – let alone equations – to show that the free market is more efficient than the centrally planned economy. Hayek pointed out half a century ago that businessmen who were brought into the planning systems of World War II never lost their taste for the planned economy. The taste for power is fed more by war than by any other human event, and power is consented to in the name of war more readily by the masses than for any other reason. Nisbet recognized this more clearly than any other scholar in the conservative movement.

August 15, 2002

Gary North is the author of Mises on Money. Visit http://www.freebooks.com. For a free subscription to Gary North's twice-weekly economics newsletter, click here.

Copyright © 2002 LewRockwell.com


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Foreign Affairs
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1 posted on 08/15/2002 9:07:27 AM PDT by H.R. Gross
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To: H.R. Gross
I don't think the author ever read much by James Coleman. Coleman, at least, if not more well known than Nisbet, became very conservative over the last 30 years of his life. Indeed, he was once threatened with "disbarment" from the American Sociological Association for his stand against forced busing for deseg. purposes. In the early days of the Gulf War, I had an opportunity to have breakfast with Coleman. I raised the topic gingerly, not sure how he would react--he quickly replied, "I think we should bomb the hell out of 'em!"
2 posted on 08/15/2002 10:04:29 AM PDT by zook
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To: H.R. Gross
Well, this piece by Gary North deserves far more attention than it has received.

Those interested in Burke should read Burleigh T. Wilkins' monograph The Problem of Burke's Political Philosophy (Oxford 1967) for an interesting argument that Burke (and Locke, for that matter) are within the natural law tradition. Out-of-print, but important. Wilkins was trained as an intellectual historian before becoming a philosopher, and wrote a very thoughtful and thought-provoking book.

3 posted on 08/15/2002 12:25:12 PM PDT by CatoRenasci
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