Skip to comments.Neoconservatism, not libertarianism, is the true aberration on the American Right
Posted on 04/08/2010 9:27:19 AM PDT by rabscuttle385
During a question-and-answer session at the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., one man opined, "One thing I've learned here at CPAC is that the 'C' actually doesn't stand for 'libertarianism.' It's not 'L'PAC." When Congressman Ron Paul won the annual straw poll at CPAC, talk radio host Rush Limbaugh made a point to tell his listeners that CPAC wasn't conservative this year because a libertarian had won.
Both men are worse than just wrong. They're out of their minds.
Arguably the most popular history of American conservatism, George H. Nash's book The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America begins with libertarianism. In the first chapter titled "The Revolt of the Libertarians," Nash states: "For those who believed in the creed of old-fashioned, classical, 19th-century liberal individualism, 1945 was especially lonely, unpromising, and bleak. Free markets, private property, limited government, self reliance, laissez-faire it had been a long time since principles like these guided government and persuaded peoples."
Chronicling the intellectuals who tried to rectify this bleakness, Nash begins his history with two men: economists F.A. Hayek and Ludwig von Mises. Then he explains how these libertarian heroes kick-started the American conservative movement. Few actually used the word "conservatism" in 1945, a term that began to gain popularity when Russell Kirk's book The Conservative Mind was published in 1953 and with the founding of William F. Buckley's National Review in 1955. Nash notes that even Kirk was inspired by both Hayek and Mises, writing to a friend that these men represented a "great school of economists of a much sounder and different mind."
After Hayek and Mises, Nash then cites Albert Jay Nock, publisher of the unabashedly libertarian magazine The Freeman in the 1920s. Writes Nash: "Nock came to exert a significant amount of influence on the postwar Right," yet was so libertarian that "Nock verged on anarchism in his denunciations of the inherently aggrandizing State." Noting the impression Nock made on a young Buckley, Nash explained that "it was Nockian libertarianism, in fact, which exercised the first conservative influence on the future editor of National Review."
Edwin J. Feulner, Jr., president of the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, says, "Nash's work is one of the very few books that must be read for a full understanding of the conservative movement in America." However, Feulner's Heritage Foundation advertises on Limbaugh's show, where the host is seemingly oblivious to the fact that the American conservative movement could not have existed without libertarianism. Furthermore, pundits like Rush often claim to be "Reagan conservatives." However, they seem to forget that in 1976 said Reagan, "I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism." As you can see, advocating for "limited government" without employing some degree of libertarianism would be logistically impossible.
Which is exactly why so many of today's so-called conservatives are so quick to dismiss it. If there is an interloping ideology on the Right today, it is not libertarianism but neoconservatism, an ideology born not of limited government philosophy but of ex-socialists who migrated Right in reaction to the counterculture of the 1960s. Today, neoncons are devoted to promoting the maintenance and expansion of America's global empire.
Whereas traditional conservatives considered war and the massive bureaucracy necessary to wage it an occasional, necessary evil, neoconservatives consider perpetual war a good precisely because they believe it is America's mission to export democracy to the rest of the world.
Questioning the cost or wisdom of waging perpetual war is considered unconscionable or even "unpatriotic" to neoconservatives, which is why they are so dismissive of libertarians and others who question foreign policy. Most neoconservatives instinctively realize that their ideology is incompatible with the libertarian's pesky obsession with limited government, giving neocons reason to marginalize, or expel, any libertarian influence that threatens to expose the statist nature of today's mainstream conservative movement.
Considering their new, radical definition, it's easy to see why Rush and other mainstream conservatives don't consider libertarians part of their movement because they're not. And while it remains to be seen how the irreconcilable differences will play out between limited government libertarians (whose numbers are growing) and big government neoconservatives (whose ideology still dominates), let there be no more ignorance about which philosophy is truly more alien to the historical American conservative movement. And let there be no further delusions about which philosophy was most responsible for creating it.
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Of possible interest.
Someone define “neoconservative” for me.
Libertarians arguments all resolve to “I want to smoke dope”
Give me a break!
They won’t do that...the RonPaul nuts can’t incriminate themselves.
2. Anybody who believes in a strong defense, peace through strength etc.
It’s all a cabal to them.
A] Did you forget a sarcasm tag?
B] Are you trying to start a fight?
C] Are you just that ignorant of facts and truth?
“Neoconservative” is such an over-used term that it has no meaning ...
- Conservatives usually use the term to refer to tax-cut-and-spend Republicans ... in this case I am not a NeoCon.
- Liberals use it to refer to foriegn-policy-hawks and war-on-terror-proponents ... in this case, I am a NeoCon.
- Libertarians and Ron-Paul-cult-members would have you believe the two groups (spenders and hawks) are one-and-the-same ... they’re just wrong.
So who is this schmuck talking about?
Pro-war statists/liberals. See John McCain and Joe Lieberman and the Weekly Standard.
A neoconservative is, by definition, someone who was a liberal, but is now conservative.
Liberal and conservative are just labels. Libertarian is a name that has some actual meaning. A libertarian values the same things regardless of the country they are in. “Conservative” and “liberal” derive their meaning from the context of the country and government in which they exist. A conservative in the current Russia has much different values than a conservative in the US.
Huh??? What the heck is "tax-cut-and spend-Republican?" Are you refering to supply siders? If so, you don't have a case. The neocons were primarily attracted to the GOP in the 1970s and 1980s because of foreign policy (and to a lesser extent because of social and welfare policy) not because of "tax cuts."
First, there is a difference between Libertarianism and being libertarian.
Do you paint the entire republican party the same way because of the beliefs and actions of a few?
Are all cops bad because some are? Are all soldiers and Marines bad because some are.
Your argument would work better with a smaller brush. I am a conservative with libertarian leanings. I want child molesters executed. I want warring and supporting factions of islamist wiped from the face of the earth. But I really do not give a damn what someone puts into their body. That’s not my business and their problem is not mine either — in a free society. I should not be forced to pick up for them but neither should my liberty be infringed upon by some worthless, ineffective (but very expensive) phony war on drugs.
Those who would drag the US into an endless series of Middle-Eastern wars, against its long-term strategic interests (and continue to try and do so).
“Not seldom has it seemed as if some eminent Neoconservatives mistook Tel Aviv for the capital of the United States.”
- Russell Kirk
Your beef is with the late Norman Podhoritz, among others, who coined and proudly embraced the term throughout his life. Podhoritz was quite clear by what he meant by the term. It included a warmed over Wilsonianism on foreign policy and a sense that the left had "gone too far" by expanding welfare programs.
I apologize for my lack of clarity ... I was referring to individuals like George W. Bush who tax-cut like conservatives and spend like liberals. RINOS.
“against its long-term strategic interests”
Which wars? And what are the long-term strategic interests?
“Libertarians arguments all resolve to I want to smoke dope”
the usual slander of so-called conservatives to discredit real conservatives, ie libertarians.
If you are not for smaller, Constitutional, government, you have no right to call yourself a conservative. The war on drugs is only one of a multitude of activities that the government needs to cease and desist to be Constitutional.
Thanks for posting that.
“Big Government Republicans.”
Wow... It didn’t take long for that idiotic canard to be tossed out there.
Exactly. If you believe in freedom as a moral concept then then extending that liberty and freedom to others means that sometimes you’re going to have to allow folks to do things you don’t agree with. Allowing them to do it doesn’t mean you support it, it just means you oppose controlling others. At the same time, society owes you the same respect and should not control you. Government intervention and control isn’t okay simply because its intentions are something we agree with... government intervention and control is wrong whenever it extends beyond the purpose of keeping the peace.
2/3 wrong answers. Epic fail on your part.
Fight a war with everything you've got, for unconditional victory, or don't fight it at all.
Option two is the choice of both Democrats and Republicans (with slightly differing emphasis) and it remains wildly popular, because everyone of all political views thinks things could be better if only government would just force "those people" to change their behavior. However, history has shown option two inevitably leads to tyranny, even in the hands of well-intentioned leaders.
It takes a lot of courage to stand up for option one, because you will be attacked by everybody. Freedom is scary. That's why there are so few real libertarians these days.
“NeoCons?” .... LOL!!! Here we go again.
These “NeoCons” have names, Jack Hunter? If so, then NAME ‘em and back it up. Name a single “ex-socialists who migrated Right” that is “devoted to promoting the maintenance and expansion of America’s global empire”.
Help us out here, Jack(ass). I’m drawing a blank.
Q: What do you think of the Libertarian movement? [FHF: The Moratorium on Brains, 1971]
AR: All kinds of people today call themselves libertarians, especially something calling itself the New Right, which consists of hippies, except that theyre anarchists instead of collectivists. But of course, anarchists are collectivists. Capitalism is the one system that requires absolute objective law, yet they want to combine capitalism and anarchism. That is worse than anything the New Left has proposed. Its a mockery of philosophy and ideology. They sling slogans and try to ride on two bandwagons. They want to be hippies, but dont want to preach collectivism, because those jobs are already taken. But anarchism is a logical outgrowth of the anti-intellectual side of collectivism. I could deal with a Marxist with a greater chance of reaching some kind of understanding, and with much greater respect. The anarchist is the scum of the intellectual world of the left, which has given them up. So the right picks up another leftist discard. Thats the Libertarian movement.
Q: What do you think of the Libertarian Party? [FHF: A Nations Unity, 1972]
AR: Id rather vote for Bob Hope, the Marx Brothers, or Jerry Lewis. I dont think theyre as funny as Professor Hospers and the Libertarian Party. If, at a time like this, John Hospers takes ten votes away from Nixon (which I doubt hell do), it would be a moral crime. I dont care about Nixon, and I care even less about Hospers. But this is no time to engage in publicity seeking, which all these crank political parties are doing. If you want to spread your ideas, do it through education. But dont run for Presidentor even dogcatcherif youre going to help McGovern.
I wonder if those attacking “libertarianism” oppose the health care bill because it’s unconstitutional? If we take that same question and apply it to the war on drugs, I wonder if “conservatives” could please point out where the federal government is empowered with the authority to regulate drugs??? I suppose some of the answers will sound very similar to a liberal trying to answer the same question about health care.
I HATE drugs... I just don’t believe in controlling others and telling them what to do. If anything, it should be left up to the states to decide because there is no constitutional authority to regulate drugs... not withstanding activist judges. And somehow that position isn’t conservative?
>> I would use the term “neo con” to refer to someone who supports undeclared wars, with undefined enemies, and rules of engagement which guarantee our troops will be pinned down for decades.
I assume you’re referring to the WOT ... because I’ve heard these complaints before (though typically on shows like DemocracyNow and Maddow, not on FR).
The war was declared (via Congressional resolutions/authorizations against both Afghanistan and Iraq). The enemy, though elusive and adept at blending in, is defined. The rules of engagement are unique due to the guerilla nature of the conflict ... but they do exist. All wars are engaged for an indefinite length until they’re over ... if, as you say, you want to “fight a war [...] for unconditional victory”, you certainly should understand that.
>> Fight a war with everything you’ve got, for unconditional victory, or don’t fight it at all.
Agreed. I think some tactical portions of this engagement have been mismanaged ... but fighting with everything for unconditional victory will not always result in a short conflict.
For starters. There are more...
That’s a straw man argument. Libertarianism isn’t necessarily anarchism. Most libertarians in the United States are free-market miniarchists (like our founding fathers) who believe in a strictly limited government that exists to keep the peace and promote individual liberty. The views assosciated with libertarianism today were called “liberal” when our nation was founded and “conservative” in the early and middle 20th century. My views are in synch more or less with Barry Goldwater’s. Was he not a conservative?
Wrong. A neo-Conservative is simply a person who was previously a liberal or a leftist prior to seeing the light. Period. End of discussion
Unfortunately, all too often, the term neo-conservative has become a code word for anti-Semitism.
Now post something relevant.
“Someone define neoconservative for me.”
Most people will tell you it is a Jewish conservative, and leave it at that.
I tend to think of them as progressive Republicans who like a little Keynesian welfarism to placate the masses and a strong military to establish US hegemony and spread Democracy.
I’ve gotten 10 posts in reponse to my post, and they all conflict, in various ways.
Seems to me it’s a pretty meaningless term.
“Neo-conservative” is mostly used today to describe a conservative who believes in “liberal internationalism” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_internationalism] foreign policy.
Actually, that is why I do not use the term.
Wrong. A neo-Conservative is simply a person who was previously a liberal or a leftist prior to seeing the light. Period. End of discussion
I'd disagree that they've seen the light. Just because they were repulsed by some excess of the New Left or pacifism.
The definition I gave you is probably the most concise you will get.
If you think that only the likes of Rachel Maddow are entitled to make this point, I strongly beg to differ.
We knew that World War II would be "of indefinite length until over" but we also knew that the war had to end with Hitler at the end of a rope, and the Nazi ideology ground out of existence. I have no faith that any equivalent event will bring the "war on terror" to a close.
Failing that, I'll know the war is being won when I can carry my Leatherman on an airliner again, when the metal detectors come down at the Smithsonian, and the concrete barriers disappear from Pennsylvania avenue. Care to speculate on the time frame for those events??
A Reagan democrat or a Jewish conservative is mostly what I’ve understood it to mean.
And Reagan was the one who confronted the soviets on multiple fronts with multiple proxy wars and broke their back.
Its better, if you want to have a discussion, to just lay out what it is you believe rather than throwing epithets around. If you think we should withdraw from Afghanistan, say so and explain how we can make such a withdrawal work.
We are in the process of drawing down our forces in Iraq as the Iraqis are assuming control. If you want to accelerate that process, and bring the forces out quicker, say so and explain how it works. Right now we are assuming we'll leave a force in Kuwait as a reserve that could intervene if the Iranians try to crush the government in Baghdad or any of the other gulf states. If thats a mistake, say so and defend it.
If you are a pragmatist who thinks our friendship with Israel is the cause of all our troubles in the world, again, say so. Then we can have an actual discussion or debate about the specifics of your or our views.
Just calling someone a neocon doesn't mean much. Most of us here aren't jewish intellectuals, and if we were, the word still muddies more than it clarifies.
Jack has redeemed himself somewhat.
>> We are going after the foot soldiers of the enemy while their ideological and financial support structures in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia remain inviolate.
I agree in part ... though the individual nature of attacks on the American homeland (including a huge attack carried out by 19 people) necessitates that we take out the “foot soldiers”.
>> If you think that only the likes of Rachel Maddow are entitled to make this point, I strongly beg to differ.
You have the right to make whatever point you’d like ... though if, in a discussion of foriegn policy, I found myself surrounded by Rachel Maddow and Amy Goodman, I’d likely re-think my position.
>> I’ll know the war is being won when I can carry my Leatherman on an airliner again, when the metal detectors come down at the Smithsonian, and the concrete barriers disappear from Pennsylvania avenue. Care to speculate on the time frame for those events??
Your definition of “victory” includes metal detector placement at the Smithsonian?
Terrorist attacks have revealed vulnerabilities — is it your belief that those vulnerabilities should be restored as a sign of victory? Is it ever a good idea for us to forget the lessons of the last war? If Islamic terrorists can attack and destabilize via hijacked airliners or individual suicide bombers, so can other enemies (China, Iran, Russia, whomever).
Yes. But those individual freedoms extend beyond our borders because they are natural rights. Enlightenment era liberalism was non-interventionist in foreign policy for the most part. Our founders urged us not to make alliances (including Washington’s farewell address where he warned of “entangling alliances”).
I want nothing to do with your hideous Libertarians. Anti-Semitism, pro child molestation, drug/dope usage, sympathy for Islamic terrorism (when that Libertarian party member was shot and seriously wounded by John Allen Mohammed, Reason magazine and other Libertarian organs scarcely reported on it), support for homosexual rights; etc., are just too much for me to bear.