Few people in public life ever stray from the three-by-five card of approved opinion. On those rare occasions when they do, a macabre ritual of clarifications, retractions, and apologies – a veritable liturgy of expiation – invariably follows.
Forgive me, for I have contradicted the holy mainstream. Never again shall I stray from the Biden-to-Romney spectrum.
How the Interventionists Stole the American Right by Ryan McMaken (“Thanks to Ron Paul, the Conservative movement is having an identity crisis.”)
Thanks to Ron Paul, the Conservative movement is having an identity crisis. The old guard of the Conservative movement, which also happens to be the Republican Party establishment, still clings to the old creation myth of the Conservative movement. Namely, that there was no opposition to the New Deal-Liberal consensus until William F. Buckley and National Review came along in 1955, saving America from the American left, social democracy, moral turpitude and international Communism.
The modern gatekeepers of the movement, and the Republican Party officials, who fancy themselves as the keepers of the last word on the acceptable range of debate within the movement, cannot understand why the Ron Paul movement is more concerned with actually shrinking the size of government than with waging endless wars for endless peace. They cannot fathom that people claiming to be part of the American Right might actually be interested in rolling back government power to tax, wiretap, spy, arrest, imprison and feel up American citizens. This runs contrary to everything they have ever imbibed about what it means to be Conservative in America.
And to a certain extent, they are correct. Since the Buckley-National Review wing of the movement in the 1950s gradually took control of the American Right, the movement became recognizable no longer by any particular concern with freedom or with free markets, but with a struggle against international Communism, with fighting culture wars and with other collectivist and big-government notions that came to dominate the movement by the 1960s. Thus, in response, the modern National Review columnists and the established Conservative punditry has repeatedly attempted to read the Ron Paul movement out of the American Right wing, although to very little effect.
While the modern disciples of Buckley and American interventionism act aghast and claim that the Conservatives and libertarians within the Paul movement have some how betrayed the ideals of the right, it is actually the laissez faire and anti-interventionists among the Paul wing of the movement that have the better claim to being true to the roots of the movement.
The Conservative movement, in its original form, was primarily concerned with laissez faire, with civil liberties and with a restrained and anti-interventionist foreign policy. This wasn’t just some quick flash-in-the-pan that occurred before people supposedly wised up about the so-called Communist menace. This was a diverse ideological movement that dominated the American Right for more than twenty years from the early days of the New Deal to the mid-1950s.
The names that come down to us today from what is now called the “Old Right” were powerful voices for laissez faire during the New Deal and post-war years: Albert Jay Nock, Frank Chodorov, Garet Garrett, Leonard Read, Henry Hazlitt and Felix Morley.
The subject that I am appointed to discuss is the theory of education in the United States. This discussion has its difficulties. It brings us face to face with a good many serious disappointments. It calls for the re-examination and criticism of a good many matters which seemed comfortably settled, and which we would rather leave undisturbed. The most discouraging difficulty about this discussion, however, is that apparently it cannot lead to any so-called practical conclusion; certainly not to any conclusion, as far as I can see, which will at all answer to the general faith in machinery as an effective substitute for thought, and the general reliance upon machinery alone to bring about any and all forms of social improvement.
If Socrates had come before the Athenians with some fine new piece of machinery like a protective tariff, workmen’s compensation, old-age pensions, collective ownership of the means of production, or whatnot – if he had told them that what they must do to be saved was simply to install his piece of machinery forthwith, and set it going – no doubt he would have interested a number of people, perhaps enough to put him in office as the standard-bearer of an enlightened and progressive liberalism. When he came before them, however, with nothing to say but “Know thyself,” they found his discourse unsatisfactory, and became impatient with him.
So if a discussion of our educational theory could be made to lead to something that we might call “constructive” – that is to say, something that is immediately and mechanically practicable, like honor schools or a new type of housing or a new style of entrance examinations – one might hope to make it rather easily acceptable. There seems no way to do this. The only large reforms indicated by a thorough discussion of the topic are such as must be put down at once as quite impracticable on general grounds, and the minor mechanical changes that are indicated seem also impracticable on special grounds, besides having the appearance of uncertain value and therefore being unlikely to command interest.