Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Ethics, Government, History, Politics, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 12:50 pm

What conservatives have yet to do is confront the large but inescapable truth that movement conservatism is exhausted and quite possibly dead. And yet they should, because the death of movement politics can only be a boon to the right, since it has been clear for some time the movement is profoundly and defiantly un-conservative–in its ideas, arguments, strategies, and above all its vision.
(Stan Tanenhaus writing in The New Republic)

First in a series.

I hope I am forgiven by my regular readers for leaving behind arguments over stimulants, diuretics, laxatives, and other government remedies for what ails us while I return once again to the theme of making this site a “Blog of Self-Discovery” or, the “Writings of the Self-Absorbed Man” if you prefer. In truth, after more than 4 years of struggle, I am in many ways, more of a stranger in my minds eye than I was when I began this journey of self criticism; challenging everything I believe, forcing me to justify the underlying assumptions of my philosophy to my own satisfaction.

Although it should be the goal of any examined life to make such a quest a lifelong pursuit, it is a journey that is best begun when one is young, I think. At age 55, one has lived too much, experienced too much, seen too much, lived and loved and lost too much to retain the suppleness of mind that can process and absorb the terabytes of information we mainline every day. Can we recognize what all of this data is doing to us, how it is changing us, why it challenges our long and comfortably held assumptions as new insights are gleaned and new directions in thought are explored?

For those handful of you who have taken seriously my earnest but woefully inadequate attempts to put into words the “velocity of my thoughts” on the nature of man, of conservatism, and the threads of history and the evolution of man’s relationship to the state that seeks to find a complementary connection between them, please bear with me over the next few days as I attempt to explain the insights that have been granted to me recently. I hope by sharing them, some small part of the joy and satisfaction I received from the opening of new vistas, new horizons on this journey will help assuage your craving for acquiring knowledge for knowledge’s sake - learning for the simple happiness that comes from knowing.

I was pleased to discover that even at this point in my life, I could read something and have it reach out and slap me in the face with the power of the ideas contained therein. This essay by Sam Tanenhaus in The New Republic has, in one fell swoop, crystalized much of my thinking that has been taking shape over the life of this blog while connecting many of the unordered, incoherent threads of criticism through which I have vainly sought to explore my personal philosophy.

Also assisting in this process was Andrew Sullivan who has cataloged what appears to me to be a similar journey to my own on his site and in the pages of leading journals of opinion and news. I am well aware of the distaste most of the right has for Sullivan (Tanenhaus, who edits the New York Times Book Reivew, is no catch either for righties) and yet, when the filter of politics and ideology are removed, what you are left with are ideas and concepts - take them or leave them. There is much with which to disagree from both men, but rejecting their thoughts out of hand and in their totality smacks of a deliberate effort to remain ignorant - a tale too often told on the right in recent years. Not being open to new ideas and new ways of looking at the world has been our downfall both philosophically and electorally.

Tanenhaus has written what he calls “an intellectual autopsy of the movement” which dovetails with the title of his essay, “Conservatism is Dead.” What has died, Tanenhaus believes, is the post World War II strain of conservatism that grew into a “movement” in the 1950’s and ’60’s, reaching its apex, he believes, in the late 1970’s. He carefully separates this “Movement Conservatism” from the classical conservatism of Burke, Disraeli, and Matthew Arnold, seeing the movement as something of an antithesis to Burkean logic which eschewed ideology altogether in favor of a society that favored both “conservation and correction.”

The author takes us on a guided tour of the history (his version) of “movement conservatism” and where it’s failures to adhere to classical conservative thinking led to a gigantic contradiction - one I have explored in depth elsewhere - between the natural center of gravity of classical conservatism’s mandate to eschew the “totalizing nostrums” and ideological purity of revolutionary politics, and the rebellious revanchism of the Goldwater-Reagan “counterrevolutions” which sought, at bottom, to undo the New Deal and Great Society.

The story of postwar American conservatism is best understood as a continual replay of a single long-standing debate. On one side are those who have upheld the Burkean ideal of replenishing civil society by adjusting to changing conditions. On the other are those committed to a revanchist counterrevolution, the restoration of America’s pre-welfare state ancien regime. And, time and again, the counterrevolutionaries have won. The result is that modern American conservatism has dedicated itself not to fortifying and replenishing civil society but rather to weakening it through a politics of civil warfare.

One might legitimately ask what conditions led to this contradiction. It takes two sides to make a war and Tanenhaus doesn’t excuse the radical left of the 1960’s from contributing to the growth of this backlash:

As liberals unwittingly squeezed themselves into the stereotypes conservatives had invented, conservative intellectuals began to look like prophets for identifying a self-appointed “managerial elite” (Burnham’s term from 1941) that was leading a “liberal revolution” (Kendall’s, from 1963). The poor–believers in the American dream, content to struggle upward on their own–had become “a project” for technocrats intoxicated with nostalgie de la boue. In his book Maximum Feasible Misunderstanding, Moynihan–disillusioned with the programs he helped instate–ridiculed the pretensions of social scientists, “who love poor people [and] … get along fine with rich people” but “do not have much time for the people in between.” “In particular,” he wrote, “they would appear to have but little sympathy with the desire for order, and anxiety about change, that are commonly encountered among working-class and lower middle-class persons. The privileged children of the upper middle classes more and more devoted themselves, in the name of helping the oppressed, to outraging the people in between.” The absurdities of “social engineering” became sport for observers like Tom Wolfe, who satirized their excesses in Mau-mauing the Flak Catchers: “So the poverty professionals were always on the lookout for the bad-acting dudes who were the ‘real leaders,’ the ‘natural leaders,’ the ‘charismatic figures,’ in the ghetto jungle.”

This liberal overreach combined with the right’s new sophistication promised a new period in U.S. politics, one in which conservatives, fortified by Burkean principles, might emerge as the most articulate voices of “civil society,” separating out the strands of true reform, which drew on inherited values, from “liberal-left” attempts to make those values extinct. Perhaps the Great Society could be retooled, tamed into a legitimate extension of the New Deal. But, to accomplish this, the right would have to deal honestly with capitalism and its many ambiguities.

Dealing honestly with capitalism wasn’t in the cards for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was a fervent belief by the movement that entrepreneurs are gods and the “American system” was a self correcting mechanism where a level playing field for all economic actors was a a virtual given. “Bigger is better” was not necessarily a battle cry of the Movement but the dangers inherent to gigantic, international corporations to the very free markets that were enthusiastically espoused were largely ignored.

There have been harsh critiques of capitalism that have, of course, turned the tables in an equally exaggerated way and painted the businessman as a combination Beelzebub and Babbitt. How much of the Movement’s unquestioning support of capitalism was in response to the latter view espoused by many on the left to this day? Tanenhaus seems to acknowledge that the Movement’s failings were not born in a vacuum; that the whole idea of a “counterrevolution” is that there is something to counter in the first place.

So what happened? What sidetracked the movement from adopting Tanenhaus’s “Burkean principles” and becoming a partner with government in building not only a “just moral order” but a “civil society” as well?

One reason is that the most intellectually sophisticated founders of postwar conservatism were in many instances ex-Marxists, who moved from left to right but remained persuaded that they were living in revolutionary times and so retained their absolutist fervor. In place of the Marxist dialectic they formulated a Manichaean politics of good and evil, still with us today, and their strategy was to build a movement based on organizing cultural antagonisms. Many have observed that movement politics most clearly defines itself not by what it yearns to conserve but by what it longs to destroy–”statist” social programs; “socialized medicine”; “big labor”; “activist” Supreme Court justices, the “media elite”; “tenured radicals” on university faculties; “experts” in and out of government.

“A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation,” was a warning by Burke that accepting the reality of government was paramount to stability. Tanenhaus avers that the Movement ” placed an idea of the perfect society over and above the need to improve society as it really existed” which describes perfectly the Utopian moral universe of many on the right who believe only through God can America prosper and achieve the pinnacle of a perfect moral order - a world where gays would still be in the closet, abortions performed in back alleys or not at all, everyone would pull their own weight, and school children would be taught the Bible in public schools. Removing God from the equation was unthinkable because only through the Creator was true harmony possible.

It is a determinedly myopic view of modern industrialized society that has caused many, less ideological conservatives to revolt. This has led to the spectacle of the Movement imposing “litmus tests” and enforcing a stifling ideological purity, something Tanenhaus argues convincingly is very unconservative.

And it highlights perhaps the greatest problem with modern Movement conservatism: It’s lack of a coherent, positive agenda setting out what it supports that would improve a modern society. “Tax cuts, less regulation, and a strong national defense” are catch phrases and bear little on the realities of living in a 21st century industrialized democracy of 300 million people. Tanenhaus recognizes this dilemma for conservatives - that being against everything means that you can’t be for anything - and how this principle has led to the slow strangulation of the Movement over time. He tells the story of one of the lions of the old guard, Whittaker Chambers whose own intellectual journey from Communist to conservative was so consequential to 20th century thought:

But, if it’s clear what the right is against, what exactly has it been for? This question has haunted the movement from its inception in the 1950s, when its principal objective was to undo the New Deal and reinstate the laissez-faire Republicanism of the 1920s. This backward-looking program mystified one leading conservative. Whittaker Chambers, a repentant ex-communist, had passed through a brief counterrevolutionary phase but then, in his last years, had gravitated toward a genuinely classic conservatism. He distilled his thinking in a remarkable sequence of letters written from the self-imposed exile of his Maryland farm, and sent to a young admirer, William F. Buckley Jr. When their relationship began, Buckley–a self-described “radical conservative”–was assembling the group of thinkers and writers who would form the core of National Review, a journal conceived to contest the “liberal monopolists of ‘public opinion.’” Buckley was especially keen to recruit Chambers. But Chambers turned him down. He sympathized with the magazine’s opposition to increasingly centralized government, but, in practical terms, he believed challenging it was futile. It was evident that New Deal economics had become the basis for governing in postwar America, and the right had no plausible choice but to accept this fact–not because liberals were all-powerful (as some on the right believed) but rather because what the right called “statism” looked very much like a Burkean “correction.”

Chambers witnessed the popular demand for the New Deal firsthand. He raised milch cattle, and his neighbors were farmers. Most were archconservative, even reactionary. They had sent the segregationist Democrat Millard Tydings to the Senate, and then, when Tydings had opposed McCarthy’s Red-hunting investigations, they had voted him out of office. They were also sworn enemies of programs like FDR’s Agricultural Adjustment Act, which tried to offset the volatility of markets by controlling crop yields and fixing prices. Some had even been indicted for refusing to allow farm officials to inspect their crops. Nonetheless, Chambers observed, his typical neighbor happily accepted federal subsidies. In other words, the farmers wanted it both ways. They wanted the freedom to grow as much as they could, even though it was against their best interests. But they also expected the government to bail them out in difficult times. In sum, “the farmers are signing for a socialist agriculture with their feet.”

It is this schizophrenia that has marked the skein of conservatism from Taft to Bush; people actually want government to do for them, just not everyone else. And to make matters worse, they don’t want to pay for it - a singularly unhappy outgrowth of conservatives telling them on the one hand that government is the problem and on the other, showering them with tax cuts while the beneficiaries of this largess want social welfare programs to make their lives easier. No matter what legerdemain is performed, the numbers will never, ever add up to anything even approaching a zero balance. You can spout supply side nostrums from here to Christmas and not make what we spend match what we take in.

Deep down, I really think even Movement conservatives know this but are reluctant to abandon the contradiction because if they do, a chasm opens beneath their feet and the stark reality of being wrong about a fundamental tenet of Movement conservatism stares them in the face. Infallibility is another by-product of the Movement, as Tanenhaus points out, and the dreadful consequences of opening a crack in the dam might mean catastrophe if further self-examination revealed other weak points in their thinking.

Tomorrow: Small government, big government, or the right government?


  1. OK, so the Berlin Wall drops, the USSR collapses, and all this means that Socialism wins out and the small government conservatives become a shrinking, self-deluded cult of unrealistic nostalgia?

    Today’s excellent American Thinker article by Randall Hoven quotes Adam Smith: “Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice: all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things.” The notion of limited government may be out of fashion, but reports of its demise are greatly exaggerated.

    Keep up the self-absorption. You’ve got 47.5 more months of bolshevik enlightenment to sponge up. It’s probably too soon to settle in on a philosophical re-alignment. Clinton’s adage “It’s the economy stupid” will be making a stunning comeback.

    Adam Smith lived 300 years ago. And if you think I’m advocating socialism, GFYS.


    Comment by Mark30339 — 2/6/2009 @ 1:41 pm

  2. Rick,

    I applaud you for being self reflective and going out on a limb like you have.

    You seem to be saying that life is a complicated and changing affair, therefore, it is a good idea to occasionally challenge your own underlying assumptions about human nature, government, society and political economy. This can be done by approaching ideas and beliefs with which we disagree with fresh eyes and an open mind.

    If I understand you, then I agree completely.

    The last paragraph of your post points to why you are likely to have a comment section full of angry and spiteful rants. Always be suspicious of people bringing up Adam Smith in their posts. They usually have not read EITHER of his major works or ever worked in a pin factory. (The same goes for people who bring up Adolf Hitler.)

    Keep posting. I can’t wait to hear what comes next.

    Comment by bsjones — 2/6/2009 @ 2:20 pm

  3. Rick. The piece is well written, and is certainly worthwhile contemplation, but how can I resist your admission to being self-absorbed? I don’t think your blog advocates socialism but it suggests that conservatives “got no game” in comparison to the pandering nanny state being offered to the electorate. I say give it some more time, we haven’t finished the bait half of the left’s bait and switch. Now, I confess that on occasion I may have my head up my backside, but I can’t do the other thing you suggest.

    Comment by Mark30339 — 2/6/2009 @ 2:44 pm

  4. RM wrote: How much of the Movement’s unquestioning support of capitalism was in response to the latter view espoused by many on the left to this day?

    Ok, Mr. Examined Life, here’s question to ponder. I myself have posed it before and have witnessed another half dozen people do the same.

    WHY is it always the other guy (i.e., TEH LEFT) who is always to blame for whatever issue you are considering? For example, the recent GOGGLE BOMB episode. Your response was: I only jumped to a false conclusion because in the past GOGGLE-blah-blah.

    That was not the first time you have responded to being called out on an error by saying essentially “Somebody may have been a jerk in the past so that’s why I’m a jerk now.” That’s really lame and makes you look like a moron but evidently it’s your go-to response

    What I quoted from you above is just another attempt to rationalize how conservatism ran off the rails: THE LEFT made us do it…it’s THEIR fault because they said nasty things about capitalism!

    At some level you realize the bad place the Repubs are. But you seemingly cannot face the fact that Repubs made this bed and now you ALL will have to sleep in it. Interestingly the Repub base is down to folks that don’t really cotton to your type of conservative. So I’m thinking that your future holds lots of navel-gazing and teeth-gnashing.

    So…insert comments to the effect that I am a blithering idiot, etc. It’s SO charming when you do that!

    Um…Why not read Tanenhaus’s essay? I was responding to what he wrote. And he wrote that conservatives were reacting to what the left was doing in the 60’s and 70’s.

    Geez, what a dunce.


    Comment by HyperIon — 2/6/2009 @ 3:34 pm

  5. Not being open to new ideas and new ways of looking at the world has been our downfall both philosophically and electorally.

    This is in perfect alignment with what behavioral scientists say is one of the primary and fundamental differences with liberals and conservatives.

    Realizing that it is mostly a product of genetics is the first step to truly being able to communicate and accomplish things with those who have ideological differences.

    Comment by Chuck Tucson — 2/6/2009 @ 3:36 pm

  6. Anyone interested in what Adam Smith had to say in 1776 about the 18 steps in pin manufacture under a mercantile economy can do so here:


    Click on slides
    wait for the download to complete

    Comment by bsjones — 2/6/2009 @ 4:17 pm

  7. The problem always arises when dogmatic believers see reality but then make it go away because ‘it can’t be’. Perfect example of that was the Soviet Union. Communism has(d) a set of ‘unshakable’ beliefs that even reality couldn’t challenge. Unfortunately, as you point out in your piece that can be applied to some conservatives as well and then you are Rick the Bolshevik (Funny though, you must admit). However, I do have hope as in this blog.

    Comment by funny man — 2/6/2009 @ 4:23 pm

  8. OMG. This is beautiful and frightening and makes my mind bleed.

    The answer is no, conservatism is not dead.

    In the Age of Obama, conservatism can, and hopefully will, flourish. Bush, who supposedly represented the movement (at least early on), confused the people. We had the power of the Presidency, but a rudderless President. Obama will prove to be a powerful lightening rod, a unifying force.

    There was a clip on TV today about the new fashion trend of dressing up at the office. Friday casual days are gone, supposedly. The power suit is in. Trends come and go. Could it be that today’s youth will be repelled by liberalism simply because it represents the majority? I don’t know, but can keep my fingers crossed.

    I don’t mind being branded as someone whose political philosophy is defined by what I am against. But if I had to define myself by what I was “for” (my “positive agenda”) it would be that I am “for” building an efficient society where hard work and effort are not penalized, and which looks first to the private sector for solution. When big government flourishes, it means the people have failed.

    Of the nearly 50 million people who voted for McCain, I would guess that only a small percentage expect to see, or hope for, a “Utopian moral universe”. They fight from the far right to hold the center, a tug of war to keep society from going off the deep end. The liberals are the ones who seem to believe in actually being able to create Heaven on Earth. The majority of “conservatives” are not that foolish. They know Heaven doesn’t belong here at all.

    There is too much to say, and I can’t express it. That’s why I should just shut up and read.

    Comment by sara in va — 2/6/2009 @ 4:35 pm

  9. A thought provoking piece indeed. I have been doing a similar thing myself, but on a different basis. I have been examining my definitions and metrics for my underlying assumptions. For example, “big government.”

    How does one define and measure that? Is it total expenditures, percent of GDP, or what?

    I look forward to the next piece.


    Not so much how you define big government as much as a recognition that it simply exists. What has been troubling me for a few years and could never put into words was the idea that the reality of living in such a complex society did not match the idealism of conservatism’s dictums about “small” government.” How do you shrink the behemoth when even most conservatives demand the services it provides? This is the contradiction Tanenhaus points out and it has killed “movement” conservatism which could never answer that question. For instance, do you really want to live in a country where businesses can pollute the air and water to their heart’s content? If not, you need an EPA to ride herd. Do you want a country where drugs are unsafe, products can kill you or your children, go back to the days of stock jobbers who cheated people on a regular basis, etc, etc, etc?

    Of course not. Even most conservatives recognize the need for these agencies and departments. Now here’s the nuance - is there a way for conservatism to thrive, to be relevant in the context of what we now call “big government?” I think so and will explore that tomorrow.


    Comment by Allen — 2/6/2009 @ 4:47 pm

  10. Rick, I printed out and read the New Republic article while awaiting a minor medical proceedure - reading the article was more painful. I join my fellow conservatives in a period of mourning and self-examination about our conservative beliefs and how we can best rally ourselves to win another day.


    I am not content to allow my opponents shape the field of battle. It is clear that Mr. Tanenhaus is obsessed with Chambers and Buckley as subject matter for both his past and upcoming books. Once that point is made clear, the article loses much of its weight and momentum.

    I welcome reading what you have to say on the subject. Type away.

    Comment by turfmann — 2/6/2009 @ 7:14 pm

  11. Many people do not like primary sources; they would prefer someone else cut and chew the food. If this sounds like you, there are plenty of people around who are willing to cut and chew for you, i.e., tell you what it all means.

    With regard to the “father of Capitalism”, there are many such groups. One of their web sites can be found here:


    If this still seems like too much work, read David Brooks in the liberal New York Times.

    Comment by bs jones — 2/6/2009 @ 7:16 pm

  12. Thought provoking, indeed. A good read on general systems theory is useful for all those sincerely interested in politics and behavior. A tough but useful read is von Bertalanffy, L. 1968. General System Theory: Foundations, Developments, Applications. New York: Braziller.

    Complex systems, including social systems, operate from some fundamental rules. In the most simple terms, all systems depend on a dynamic relationship between stability and change. For any entity to remain recognizable, it must have stability, or limits on change. For the same said entity to survive over time, it also must have the ability to adapt to changes happening around it. These are positive and negative feedback loops, respectively.

    A government also requires stability or it flys apart into a dysfunctional mess and eventually anarchy. Conversely, a government must change or it becomes fossilized and unable to perform the most basic function. In the most stereotyped of descriptions, conservative has played the role of stabilizer and the liberals the agents of change. This is embodied in conservative dedication to tradition, strict interpretation of the Constitution, and a strong, proactive military, all tools and symbols of keeping things as they are. Liberals tend to see the Constitution as malleable, the military as an agent of rigid enforcement of the status quo, and open to any and all new ideas, regardless of whose toes get stepped on. These are simplifications for the purpose of illustration.

    It is hoped that one can be open to the idea that change and stability are necessary for the American Experiment to succeed. A review of American political history illustrates an ongoing pendulum swing between times when stability is more useful and times when change is more useful. Our enduring success requires both. And as you are pondering your positions, Rick, remember what we need to change changes over time and what we must preserve changes sometimes as well.

    Comment by still liberal — 2/6/2009 @ 9:29 pm

  13. Good work so far. But if memory serves me correctly, this past summer you had started to write a series of essays about what ails the conservative movement. You never got past the first part, but what I read was interesting and thought provoking. (A shame the election got in the way of you finishing that up.) Will these new series will be in a similar vein, or with an expanded view on the totality of conservatism?

    Comment by Surabaya Stew — 2/6/2009 @ 11:51 pm

  14. We once had an understanding of government that differed widely from what we have today:

    “It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes. Distinctions in society will always exist under every just government. Equality of talents, of education, or of wealth can not be produced by human institutions. In the full enjoyment of the gifts of Heaven and the fruits of superior industry, economy, and virtue, every man is equally entitled to protection by law; but when the laws undertake to add to these natural and just advantages artificial distinctions, to grant titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges, to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society-the farmers, mechanics, and laborers-who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of their Government. There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses. If it would confine itself to equal protection, and, as Heaven does its rains, shower its favors alike on the high and the low, the rich and the poor, it would be an unqualified blessing. In the act before me there seems to be a wide and unnecessary departure from these just principles.”

    I explore that idea and one put forward by another President that a large number of conservatives have come to adore. Unfortunately when I find the President who looked to dismantle government and actually took steps to do so, I find a D by his name. And when I find one that sought to put unenumerated powers into the federal government I find an R by his name. I am no ‘conservative’, nor do I see any way that the few, vital concerns of protecting the Nation can be made into a ’social good’ without having society dictated *to* by government.

    That turns a necessary evil into an absolute one, where public morals and ethics are decided by government and bureaucrats, not citizens at large, and the role of government goes from curbing abuses to forcing people to do good. You get that with ‘big government’ no matter who is in charge, and the trend has been to put more power into government to dictate what is good to society, not to uphold society so that the positive liberty of the citizens can be protected by the negative liberties we invest into equal governance. Because no matter who gets into ‘big government’ their beliefs as to what is ‘good’ for the population will vary… and expand… until the regulations that burden the population are uncountable and everyone in society can be held at fault for something due to laws and regulations they can’t know about due to their being legion in number.

    We have a word for what citizens become when that happens: subjects.

    And yet we are born free.

    Comment by ajacksonian — 2/7/2009 @ 6:33 am

  15. It is this schizophrenia that has marked the skein of conservatism from Taft to Bush; people actually want government to do for them, just not everyone else.

    It’s my view that the current administration will cure everyone involved of that desire. Particularly if they manage to pass this “stimulus” bill.

    As I said recently elsewhere, Ronald Reagan, good as he was, only managed to make it into the White House because of the walking disaster the Jimmy Carter turned out to be. Put another way, conservatism of itself doesn’t sell very well, until you see the results of liberalism.

    Comment by Eric Florack — 2/7/2009 @ 9:48 am

  16. “For instance, do you really want to live in a country where businesses can pollute the air and water to their heart’s content? If not, you need an EPA to ride herd. Do you want a country where drugs are unsafe, products can kill you or your children, go back to the days of stock jobbers who cheated people on a regular basis, etc, etc, etc?”

    Rick, If I didnt know that you are a self acknowledged conservative, I would have thought that this was an angry rant from some one on DailyKos.

    The much hated Nixon was President when EPA was established. http://www.epa.gov/history/topics/epa/15c.htm
    Any one who knows anything about Nixon also know that he liked business, dare I say BIG BUSINESS to be at the forefront of the American economy. I still cannot comprehend how Nixon allowed for the establishment of the EPA as his business buddies would have and did express opposition.

    I think that we are well past the day when there were arguments about whether the EPA was necessary. You acknowledge that conservatives have come around to this fact as well.

    “Of course not. Even most conservatives recognize the need for these agencies and departments. Now here’s the nuance – is there a way for conservatism to thrive, to be relevant in the context of what we now call “big government?” I think so and will explore that tomorrow.”

    I dont think you get it - no one seriously has taken on the concept of a massive government - no one has the balls to do so. And no there is “no thriving” of conservative principles/thought when you start creating layers and layers of bureaucracy.

    The argument against more Government was and is the same - it will be inefficient at best and down right useless at worst. The money for these extra departments does not grow on trees ( although Paulson/Geithner and the entire Democratic party seem to think otherwise). And no department that opearates out of Washington D.C. will have sufficient knowledge to deal with matters that are best left to local/State governments.

    If any one remembers how Ray Nagin and the Lousiana State Government handled the hurricane season this time around in New Orleans, they can contrast it to how Nagin and the State Government worked in 2005. They actually took charge. They had FEMA in a supportive role - not in the MAIN role. They took the warnings seriously. Of course the fact that levees were rebuilt helped a lot too. But ask yourself this question - why is it that NO State Govt/City Govt cared about re-building the levees until disaster struck in the form of Katrina ?

    Tanenhaus is clearly the kind of person who has a shallow knowledge of conservative thought let alone the condervative movement of the 50’s and 60’s - If you truly want to be exposed to conservative thought, you are better off reading Goldwater - http://www.heritage.org/research/features/presidentsessay/presessay2004.pdf

    Liberals have been always ready to distort movement conservatism as having been AGAINST policies instead of being FOR policies. Well, they never had the honesty to acknowledge that conservatives are for things that liberals just cannot stand - for e.g. take the idea of “tax cuts” - the basic principle behind conservative opposition to higher taxes is that it is an erosion of private property rights.

    We can all reasonably agree/disagree on how much tax a government needs to collect from a person. But it is not our “patriotic duty” to pay taxes like Joe Biden and the liberals want you to believe.

    Where does this “patriotism” lead us to ?? Every citizen has responsibilities to shoulder the cost of running a government that functions. But who shares how much of the burden ?

    In 2004, when the Bush tax cuts were prevalent, the top 1% of income earners in this country shouldered 37% of the total income tax burden. http://www.cafehayek.com/hayek/2007/03/who_shoulders_t.html

    You would’nt know this from the constant whining about how Bush favored the rich.

    What we have currently is a system where in Government bureaucrats enrich themselves at the expense of ordinary tax payers. Any one who has been observing states like California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois will know this.

    Your income is your private property - liberals want you to believe that Government is doing you a huge favor by letting you keep more of your own money. That is a laughable notion in itself. When you have 36% of the country not paying income taxes to the Federal Govt and the top 1% shouldering 36% of the total income tax burden.

    So, you exist primarily to help the functioning of the Government according to liberals. which is exactly why you should feel patriotic for contributing your “fair share”. As always liberals will decide what is “fair”.

    But if you ask them questions about this gross injustice, you are hater who is AGAINST things and NOT FOR things. Well, duh. I am for private property rights and keeping as much of my personal income as possible. The problem is liberals dont agree with that notion.

    I would recommend to any one to read Goldwater again - you can clearly see what he is for and why he vehemently opposed liberalism.

    By the way, when the baby boomers retire starting in the next 8 years and the biggest two Ponzi schemes known to man ( also known as Social Security and Medicare) finally come to their day of reckoning, I would LOVE to see what that GREAT PHILOSOPHY liberalism is going to do to deal with it.

    No one would have the time to argue on whether conservatism is dead - we will ask ourselves - what did we do to get to these MASSIVELY underfunded entitlement programs ?

    It is already starting with the states pensions programs in TATTERS. Folks at TNR are advised to look into this before writing post mortems about conservatism.

    Comment by Nagarajan Sivakumar — 2/7/2009 @ 1:35 pm

  17. I followed your link to cafehayek. This is what I came away with:

    1. The average effective tax rate for a taxable federal return was 13.3% in 2004.

    2. The top 1% of the population claimed 19% of the taxable income in 2004.(It says NOTHING about the gross income of this group.) That was an increase in taxable income of 2.2% from the previous year.

    3. The average adjusted gross income or AGI of the top 1% in 2004 was $328,000.

    4. the IRS said Nothing about the actual gross income of that 1%,but, I have a belief that someone who’s AGI was $328,000 in 2004 grossed considerably more. (You get to deduct the driver, the nanny, contributions to retirement accounts, jet fuel etc…) Martha Stewart knows how it’s done. So, I suspect, do Oprah and Bernie Madoff.

    5. The piece said nothing about wealthy people who are tax cheats (e.g., t. dascle) or businesses that can never manage to turn a profit and therefore don’t pay income tax.

    As a result we know nothing about this groups actual gross income. As a result, we know nothing about what percentage of their total income is taxed. (we of course can easily discover the deductions of anyone who uses the 1040 ez form, but they usually do not deduct business trips, face lifts, and the like.)

    Of note, the g.a.o. issued a report in 2008 stating that about 2/3 of all corporations paid no taxes between 1998 and 2005. Many more had a quote “low tax liability”. Just like poor people, they weren’t makin’ any money, so they weren’t payin’ any taxes.

    Yeah, the American wealthy have a tough row to hoe. I guess they will be moving to Canada, Britain, or Scandinavia to lower that awesome tax burden.

    Comment by bsjones — 2/7/2009 @ 7:08 pm

  18. Hey Rick,

    It’s posts like these that have made me an avid reader for years now. As one who really enjoyed William Buckley’s intellectualism in my youth, it’s nice to see that it’s coming back and there are people like you who will hopefully show the reactionary populist elements the light. I do believe that what the GoP and conservatives need right now more than anything else is a good long period of introspection - something that’s been missing, IMO, from conservative thought for a long time. Keep up the good work.


    Comment by Andy — 2/7/2009 @ 7:39 pm

  19. Nagarajan Sivakumar,
    I also read the ten page Goldwater speech. Although,I skipped the 16 page forward by Feulner. (I prefer to chew my own food.)

    From what I could tell everything Goldwater said applies to BOTH the Democrats and Republicans. Unless I misread it, Goldwater admits this himself in the speech.

    One thing is evident. Goldwater has an excellent grasp of the reasons the Founders constructed the Constitution the way they did. According to Goldwater, “…freedom depends on effective restraints against the accumulation of power in a single authority.” That, of course, is the purpose of the Constitution.

    Goldwater then says the Founders were just as concerned about “the masses” as they were about an “individual tyrant”. Again, Goldwater is spot on. A reading of the Federalist Papers shows they were more worried about the “tyranny of the majority” than anything else. So, it seems the Founders were concerned about power corrupting no matter where that power resides.

    There was one thing that the Founders did not anticipate, but that Goldwater was well aware of. Large, powerful, multinational corporations. How would the Founders feel about this new center of concentrated power? Would they welcome it as the outcome of a free society? Would they want to restrict the power of corporations, the way they wanted to restrict the power of “the masses” and “absolutist tyrants”? A case could be made.

    We know what Goldwater believed. He does not talk about corporations. He speaks only of individual businessmen.(I make cakes. You clean laundry. The neighbor owns a pin factory.) And we… “are hampered by a maze of government regulation… and direct government competition.”

    For Goldwater government has no roll to play in limiting corporate power. Any time government acts as a countervailing power to these interests, it is a usurpation.

    Strangely, although Goldwater says, “Our tendency to concentrate power in the hands of a few deeply concerns me.” He says nothing about the accumulation of corporate power.

    Comment by bsjones — 2/7/2009 @ 10:26 pm

  20. Yawn.

    I’ll go to the Daily Dish to get this worthless horseshit fresh.

    Last comment period, Rick. When you put your finger to the wind, does it get cold or become a divining rod? I aways wanted to understand the process.

    Chiao forever, bore.

    Forever? Forever and ever? Oh darling, please come back. I couldn’t bear the thought of you being out of my life forever. To never hold you again? To never kiss your sweet lips? To never feel your tender caresses?

    I’l tell you the truth; 13 year old drama queens bore me. As do shockingly shallow dolts who obviously find most of the writing and comments on this site so far over his head he resorts to childish ploys to get attention. If you don’t know what people are talking about, I have one piece of advice; don’t open your mouth and let the whole world know how ignorant you are.


    Comment by obamathered — 2/8/2009 @ 2:03 am

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