Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thinking out loud


The more I study the problem of the managerial state and attempt to envision a workable libertarian populist strategy to combat it, the more apparent it becomes to me that the "paleo" approach's failure is one of relevance.

Much of the "paleo" critique of the managerial state (or the national security state, or the warfare-welfare state, or whatever you want to call it) is spot-on. Yes, New Dealism had much in common with the Soviet communism and European fascism which were emerging at the same time (they were all, as Burnham pointed out, managerial ideologies). Yes, Burnham and Buckley took the bulk of the "conservative" movement into the managerial fold under cover of "Cold War necessity."

History, however, does not run backward. "Paleo" invocation of the 1930s "Old Right" is about as useful versus the ideology that displaced it as "Free Silver" or "54-40 or Fight." The Old Right was soundly whipped in the thirties, and every post-war attempt at its revival, from Taft to Paul, has proven a spectacular failure.

"Conservatism" -- of the "paleo" variety or any other -- is not the antidote to managerialism.

"Mainstream" conservatism's central goal is preservation of the existing social order ... and that social order is now nearly fully under the managerial thumb, thanks in no small part to the ministrations of the Buckleyites themselves.

"Paleo" conservatism's central goal is return to a social order which the New Deal and subsequent societal convulsions (the civil rights movement, the counterculture demeanor of the Vietnam-era anti-war movement, etc.) demolished as thoroughly as the Enola Gay's little egg demolished Hiroshima. We're no more likely to return to that social order than the Romanovs or Hohenzollerns are to reclaim their thrones.

No movement can hope to win a race into the future with one foot staked firmly to the ground of seven decades past.

That's not to say there are no timeless principles. There are. But a successful freedom movement, its populist strategy included, will be forward, not backward, looking. Or, to put it a different way, it will be "Left," rather than "Right," in orientation.

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