The Next Conservatism
Free Congress Foundation
This is the first of a series of columns I intend to write on “the next conservatism.” In them, I will lay out where I think conservatism needs to go after the end of President George W. Bush’s second term.
Some people may wonder about the theme, “the next conservatism.” Isn’t conservatism always the same? Don’t we call ourselves conservatives because we believe in what Russell Kirk called “the permanent things,” truths that hold for all time?
Of course we do. We believe that truth comes from God, who does not change. We hold certain beliefs, such as the impossibility of perfecting man or human society, that define conservatism in any period. In fundamentals, what was true for Russell Kirk was also true for Edmund Burke. We are not relativists. We do not hold that there is or can be a different “truth” for each time, place or person, depending on what is “true for them.”
Yet it is also true that conservatism changes over time. Sometimes, that is because ideologies that are not really conservative try to disguise themselves with the conservative label (real conservatism is not an ideology at all). But more often, it is because new events face conservatives with new challenges. While our basic beliefs do not change, the circumstances to which we must apply those beliefs do. Burke and Churchill were both conservatives, but in the face of the French Revolution Burke stressed the importance of hierarchy and order, while under the threat of Nazism Churchill spoke of defending liberty. Their views were not contradictory, but the situations they faced were different.
If we look at the American conservative movement since World War II, we see that it has undergone a number of changes. In the early 1950s, conservatism was defined by Senator Robert A. Taft. It meant a non-interventionist foreign policy ((which has been mislabeled “isolationism”), a small federal government of limited powers, states’ rights and scrupulous observance of the law (Taft opposed the Nuremburg Trials on the grounds that American law did not accept ex post facto justice). I continue to believe that much of what Senator Taft stood for was correct.
However, with the coming of the Cold War American conservatism headed in a somewhat different direction. Led by William F. Buckley and other thinkers associated with National Review, conservatives accepted the need for a large proactive military and extensive foreign alliances in order to counter the threat of Soviet Communism. At the same time, conservatism adopted the economics previously known as liberalism: the belief that free markets and free trade are the best paths to national prosperity. Traditionally, conservatives had been for high tariffs. To some extent, in the late 1950s and the 1960s American conservatives also moved away from states’ rights and strict construction and toward accepting a more active role for the federal government, especially in enforcing civil rights.
With the end of the Cold War around 1990, American conservatism changed again. Traditional conservatism was eclipsed by so-called neo-conservatism, which envisioned some form of American world empire in which America would bring “democratic capitalism” to every country on earth, whether they wanted it or not. This was really Wilsonianism, which traditionally was considered the opposite of conservatism.
That is where conservatism has been. Where does it need to go? I think new developments and new challenges will bring forth a “next conservatism” after President Bush leaves the White House. What that next conservatism might look like will be the subject of my upcoming columns.
Paul M. Weyrich is the Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
At the heart of the challenge facing the conservative agenda lies one simple fact: while we focused our efforts on politics, our opponents on the left focused instead on culture.
Each of us won. Compared to where the conservative movement was the year I came to Washington, 1967, we are today immensely stronger politically. Republicans, most of whom are at least nominally conservative, control both Houses of Congress and the White House. That is success on a grand scale.
Unfortunately, our opponents have won an equally large victory over our culture. Today, what was called the “counter-culture” in the 1960s now controls almost every cultural venue: the entertainment industry (which is now the most powerful force in our culture), the government schools, the media, even many churches. The ideology usually know as “Political Correctness,” which is really the cultural Marxism of the infamous Frankfurt School, is using every type of cultural institution in our country to achieve its purpose, which is the destruction of traditional Western culture and the Christian religion. All we have to do is look around us and compare what we see with the America of the 1950s to understand how vast their victory is. The old sins have become virtues and the old virtues have become sins.
The nub of the problem is this: culture is stronger than politics. Despite everything conservatives have achieved in politics, the left’s cultural victory trumps ours. That is why even when we win election after election, our country continues to deteriorate.
The next conservatism will have to have solving this problem as its central theme. Conservatives have already taken some important steps in doing so. Starting in the mid-1980s when the Free Congress Foundation introduced “cultural conservatism,” parts of the conservative movement have come to realize that if we lose the culture war, we also lose everything else. Culture is no longer at the periphery of conservatives’ concerns, although it may not yet be at the center where I think it needs to be. And, I have to add, some neo-conservatives have been quite helpful to other conservatives in the fight to save our traditional culture, while others have had foreign policy as their focus. They ignore the cultural issues.
The question is, how can we win this fight? In 1999, I wrote an open letter to conservatives with a somewhat radical answer to that question. Instead of trying to retake existing institutions from the cultural Marxists, a battle I do not think we can win, I proposed we separate our lives and the lives of our families from those institutions and build our own institutions instead. In that letter, I wrote,
What I mean by separation is, for example, what the homeschoolers have done. Faced with public school systems that no longer educate but instead “condition” students with the attitudes demanded by Political Correctness, they have seceded. They have separated themselves from public schools and created new institutions, new schools, in their homes.
I suggested conservatives should consider doing the same thing in many other areas of our lives (entertainment might be the most important with health care a close second).
At the time, some people misinterpreted what I wrote as saying that conservatives should abandon politics. I said no such thing. Conservatives must remain strongly involved in politics, to prevent the cultural Marxists from mobilizing all the power of the state to crush us. What I am saying is that we cannot reasonably expect to reverse America’s cultural decay through politics alone, because culture is stronger than politics. We must continue our political work, but we must also do something more, something that works directly on the culture. I thought then and I think now that building our own institutions, institutions that reflect and reinforce traditional, Western, Judeo-Christian culture, may be the most effective strategy in that regard.
The next conservatism may end up taking this approach or another approach. But unless it offers some strategy with a realistic hope of reversing conservatism’s cultural defeat and restoring our country to its rightful mind where morals and culture are concerned, it will not be worth calling “the next conservatism.” The decline, decay and seemingly endless degradation of America’s culture must be recognized as conservatism’s most important and most difficult challenge in any new conservative agenda.
Paul M. Weyrich is the Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
I intend to devote the next three columns in this series on “the next conservatism” to the state. The state and the potential threat it poses to things conservatives value, including both our liberties and our traditional culture, have long lain at the heart of conservative thinking. But I think the next conservatism will have to look at the state more broadly than it has in the past, and that is what I intend to do.
Nonetheless, I think the next conservatism will have to start by considering the danger of the state, not because that (justified) fear is new to us, but because we need to shape our thinking to some new realities. The most important of those new realities is the fact that, because of the War on Terrorism, America may be on the verge of becoming a national security state, which in the past used to be called a “garrison state.” That means citizens will allow the state to do almost anything it wants so long as it justifies its actions in terms of “national security.” In effect, the Constitution and the rule of law itself go out the window, along with our liberties.
Of course, all conservatives accept the fact that the state must defend us from terrorism and other acts of war. That has always been one of the state’s duties. But as a conservative, I do not want “permanent war for permanent peace,” as George Orwell put it in 1984. I am not convinced that the best way to defend America from terrorism is to invade and occupy other countries, countries with religions and cultures very different from our own. At the very least, the next conservatism should ask whether such a policy generates more terrorists than it eliminates, and whether we would be better served by isolating ourselves from disordered places than by intervening in them. My colleague Bill Lind laid out the case for a grand strategy of isolation from disorder last fall in The American Conservative, in a piece I suspect Senator Robert A. Taft might have agreed with. (Lind, by the way worked for the Senator’s son, Sen. Robert Taft, Jr. (R-Ohio) during Taft’s tenure in the U.S. Senate.)
Regardless of what strategy America adopts overseas in the War on Terrorism, the next conservatism should not allow the creation of a national security state here at home. It we trade our liberties for security, we will have made a very bad bargain; we will end up with neither. While the next conservatism should be firmly for measures that really improve our security, like taking control of our borders and ending illegal immigration, it should be equally firm in rejecting departures from our Constitution. Our country has survived many wars without discarding the Constitution, and I have no doubt we can do the same in the War on Terrorism if conservatives insist on it.
What would rejecting the national security state mean in specific terms? A few examples include:
* We should never again pass wide-ranging legislation that endangers our liberties in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack, as we did with the so-called “Patriot Act” after 9/11. It is almost certain that, so long as we are intervening in other countries, we will be attacked by terrorists here at home. Some of those attacks may be much worse than 9/11. When they happen, cool heads should prevail over immediate fears. If we allow ourselves to be carried away by our fears, and by voices that will play on those fears to increase the power of the state, we will lose our freedoms.
* We must be very careful about allowing government to use advanced new technologies, which permit unprecedented powers of surveillance and intrusion, to maintain our liberties in law while undermining them in fact. Can there be any doubt that we will someday become the targets of the surveillance that we enable?
* Perhaps most important, we must understand that in national security as in other areas, government too often wins by failing. As conservatives have long recognized, government always wants more power and more resources. Big government always wants to become bigger government. The next conservatism must not allow big government to become bigger by waving the “national security” flag.
Far from lessening the need for conservatives to be wary of the power of the state, the threat of terrorism should make the next conservatism more wary. If we end up with a national security state, where anything is permitted in the name of national security, we will become an administered people rather than a free people. As in Russia in times past, the government will be able to say to any and all of us, “we have no laws, we only have instructions.” At that point, the terrorists will have won the greatest possible victory, because they will have destroyed what “America” means.
Paul M. Weyrich is the Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
Conservatives have long understood the danger of the state, the danger that an overly powerful government will destroy liberty. But the next conservatism must also face a different problem: the danger to the state. If the 21st century develops the way some thoughtful people believe it will, it will see the decline and, in some cases, the disappearance of the state itself.
Some conservatives, or more precisely some libertarians, might respond, “Hurray.” I have to disagree. So long as the state is limited in its power (more limited than our federal government is now, but not more than the Founding Fathers intended it to be), it is a good thing. Before the state arose in the 15th century, life was, as Hobbes put it, nasty, brutish and short. The state arose to bring basic order and safety of persons and property. As a conservative, I think those are good things.
Perhaps the most perceptive writer about the state is the Israeli historian Martin van Creveld. In his book The Rise and Decline of the State, he argues that the state has gone through three historical stages. It arose to bring order, which it did. But beginning with the French Revolution and the development of abstract nationalism, the state tried to become a god, to which citizens owed and should sacrifice everything. That false god died in World War I, in the mud of Flanders. Then, the state became the alma mater, the welfare state that would take good care of all its citizens’ needs. That also failed, in the failure of socialism and of social welfare programs in non-socialist states including the United States. The state found that it could redistribute wealth but it could not create wealth.
So where is the state now? In my own view, the state is facing a growing crisis of legitimacy. The bureaucratic state begot the “New Class,” made of the kind of people who run Washington regardless of which party is in power. The New Class has three basic characteristics: it can’t make things work (look at America’s public schools), it uses its own power and wealth to exempt itself from the consequences of things not working (its kids go to private schools), and it really cares about only one thing: remaining the New Class.
As more and more people around the world, including Americans, came to realize that the state had become a big racket run for the benefit for the New Class, they have responded by transferring their primary loyalty away from the state. They have transferred it not only to many different things, but to many different kinds of things: to religions, to ideologies, to causes like environmentalism or animal rights, to races and ethnic groups, to gangs and business enterprises, to anything you can think of. Often, people who will not fight for the state will fight for their new loyalty; the environmentalist who buries a saw blade in a tree, hoping to kill a logger, is committing an act of war, not just a crime.
As a conservative, I do not like where this is going. I do not want America, or any other country, to break up in a vast, many-sided, “multi-cultural” civil war, like we saw in Yugoslavia only worse. Can it happen here? Yes, I am afraid it can.
Just as the next conservatism must address the danger of the state, it must also offer some answers to the danger to the state. Let me quickly add that the answer is not to give the state more power, to create the national security state all conservatives should fear. On the contrary, that will only make the state weaker in the long run. The crisis is not one of state power, but of the legitimacy of the state. Giving the American state more powers, powers that override our Constitutional liberties, will further undermine its legitimacy.
Restoring the state’s legitimacy, in contrast, means taking away the federal government’s usual powers and giving them back to the individual states and the American people. It also means political reforms that break the monopoly the New Class has on political power. In a future column, I will share some ideas about reforms to the political process the next conservatism might propose.
Conservatives may find it paradoxical that the next conservatism needs to defend the state at the same time that it defends against the state. But it is new challenges like this that lead me to think that we need a “next conservatism.”
Paul M. Weyrich is the Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
If there is one clear lesson from the 20th century, it is that all ideologies are dangerous. As Russell Kirk wrote, conservatism is not an ideology, it is the negation of ideology. Conservatism values what has grown up over time, over many generations, in the form of traditions, customs and habits. Ideology, in contrast, says that on the basis of such-and-such a philosophy, certain things must be true. When reality contradicts that deduction, reality must be suppressed. And when an ideology takes over a state, the power of the state is used to accomplish that suppression. The state’s citizens are forced to mouth lies.
One of the new facts the next conservatism must address is the fact that America, for the first time in its history, has become an ideological state. The ideology commonly known as “political correctness” or “multiculturalism” now shapes the actions of government in thousands of ways. Under the rubric of “hate crimes,” it sentences American citizens to additional time in jail for political thoughts. As “affirmative action,” it “privileges” women, blacks and homosexuals over heterosexual white males. In some cases, it requires private businesses to give their employees “sensitivity training,” psychological conditioning in obedience to the state ideology, including its demand that everyone express approval of homosexuality. Employees who demur lose their jobs.
It is ironic that after the catastrophic failure of ideologies in the 20th century in Russia, Germany, Italy and many other countries, America should now head down the same road. How did it happen? While conservatives slept, ideology crept in on little cat feet, taking over all our cultural institutions, just as Gramsci demanded in his “long march.” As I have said before, culture is more powerful than politics.
What should the next conservatism do about it? First, it needs to reveal this ideology for what it is. In terms of its historical origins and basic nature, it is Marxism translated from economic into cultural terms. The translation was undertaken largely by the unorthodox Marxists of the Frankfurt School – Horkheimer, Adorno, Fromm, Reich and Marcuse, to name the most important players. Contrary to Marx, they said that the culture is not just part of society’s “superstructure,” but an independent and very important variable. They concluded that for Communism to be possible in the West, traditional Western culture and the Christian religion first had to be destroyed – a destruction to be accomplished by “critical theory” and “studies in prejudice,” to use their terms. Most important, they realized they could not destroy our historic culture through philosophical arguments. They turned instead to a much more powerful weapon, psychological conditioning, in effect crossing Marx with Freud. Marcuse then injected the whole poisonous brew into the baby boom generation in the 1960s. The result? A brilliant success for them: America now has a Marxist ideology, not the Marxism of the Soviet Union but cultural Marxism, imbedded in and supported by the power of the state.
The next conservatism needs to shout from the housetops, “People, here’s what this stuff really is. It’s not about ‘being nice’ or ‘toleration.’ It’s about destroying our culture and our religion, and it is succeeding.”
Then, when we have the American people behind us, which we will once they learn the real nature of “PC,” we need to comb through every law, every government regulation, every federal office and department and weed the cultural Marxism out. The goal should not be to replace it with any ideology of our own – again, if we are real conservatives, we don’t have one – but to restore a non-ideological American state, which is what we had up until the wretched 1960s.
Cultural Marxism is a particularly nasty ideology, as we see all around us in its products (just turn on the television; the cultural Marxists took over Hollywood decades ago). But all ideology is wrong, because the concept of ideology is wrong in itself. Society cannot be made to fit some abstract scheme dreamed up by this or that thinker, and attempts to make it do so always result in disaster. To see the truth, all we need to do is compare most aspects of life in America in the 1950s, our last non-ideological decade, with life now. The next conservatism should work to get our old country back.
Paul M. Weyrich is the Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation
In 1951, one of America’s true conservatives, Senator Robert A. Taft, published a book titled A Foreign Policy for Americans. I think what Senator Taft wrote then applies to our own time as well. In discussing the purposes of American foreign policy, he said:
There are a good many Americans who talk about an American century in which America will dominate the world. They rightly point out that the United States is so powerful today that we should assume a moral leadership in the world . . . The trouble with those who advocate this policy is that they really do not confine themselves to moral leadership. . . In their hearts they want to force on these foreign peoples through the use of American money and even, perhaps, American arms, the policies which moral leadership is able to advance only through the sound strength of its principles and the force of its persuasion. I do not think this moral leadership ideal justifies our engaging in any preventive war . . . I do not believe any policy which has behind it the threat of military force is justified as part of the basic foreign policy of the United States except to defend the liberty of our own people.
Like the Founding Fathers, Senator Taft valued liberty here at home above “superpower” status abroad. The Founding Fathers understood that these two are in tension. To preserve liberty here at home, we need a weak federal government, because a strong federal government is the greatest potential threat to our liberties. The division of powers between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government is intended to make decisions and actions by the federal government difficult. But playing the great power game abroad demands the opposite. It demands a strong federal government that can make decisions, including of peace or war, quickly and easily. To a large degree, that is the kind of federal government we now have.
But should we? In my view, the next conservatism needs to take a hard look at our foreign policy from exactly this perspective. Do we now have a foreign policy that requires a federal government, and particularly an executive branch, so strong that it is a danger to our liberties? If we do, then we have a fundamental contradiction at the heart of our foreign policy. Why? Because the most basic purpose of our foreign policy should be to preserve our liberties.
As Senator Taft understood, this touches on the most sensitive foreign policy question: to what degree should America be active in the world? Since his time, the whole Washington Establishment, the New Class, has come to condemn his position, which I think is the real conservative position, as “isolationism.” But the word is a lie. America was never isolated from the rest of the world. Rather, through most of our history, America related to the rest of the world primarily through private means, through trade and by serving as a moral example to the world, the “shining city on a hill.” That policy served us well, both in maintaining liberty here at home and in developing our economy. As Senator Taft wrote, “we were respected as the most disinterested and charitable nation in the world.”
Then, after World War II, we instead began to play the great power game, which the Founding Fathers had opposed. Because of the threat of Communism, that was necessary for a time. But when Communism fell in the early 1990s, we did not return to our historic policy. Rather, we declared ourselves the dominant power in the world, “the only superpower,” the New Rome as some would have it. We set off on the course of American Empire, despite the fact that empire abroad almost certainly means eventual extinction of liberty here at home.
The next conservatism needs a different foreign policy, a foreign policy designed for a republic, not an empire. It needs to recognize that the Establishment wants to play the great power game because it lives richly off that game. But the next conservatism is about throwing the Establishment out, not enriching it further. The next conservatism’s foreign policy should proceed from these wise words of Senator Robert A. Taft:
I do not believe it is a selfish goal for us to insist that the overriding purpose of all American foreign policy should be the maintenance of the liberty and peace of our people of the United States, so that they may achieve that intellectual and material improvement which is their genius and in which they can set an example for all peoples. By that example we can do an even greater service to mankind than we can do by billions of material assistance – and more than we can ever do by war.
Paul M. Weyrich is the Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
In my view, restoring the American republic needs to be a central part of the next conservatism. As the Founding Fathers understood, we cannot both seek empire and preserve liberty. Our liberties are only safe in the hands of a republic, a limited government with limited objectives, responsive to the American people, not just to the Washington Establishment and special interests with lots of money.
As someone who has specialized in the political process for forty years, I have to tell you that Washington today is not responsive to the American people. As Jerry Brown said, “Unless you have recently given a politician at least $1000, you don’t count.” I disagree with Jerry Brown on almost everything, but on that he is correct. Party makes no difference; regardless of which party is in power, it is the same story.
The next conservatism cannot content itself with calls for reform. It has to propose, and implement, specific reforms. Some of the reforms I think could open the political system back up to the people include:
o Term limits. The push for term limits on public officeholders has faded, and I think that is unfortunate. A republic needs ordinary citizens in positions of public trust, people whose real lives are back home with the places they represent, not professional politicians who just become Washington lobbyists after they leave office. Along with term limits, we should prevent legislators (and their wives) from working as lobbyist, where too often they “cash in” for interests they helped while in Congress. And, we should limit the length of Congressional sessions, so Members of Congress spend most of the year back home, not in Washington.
* We should put a new line on every ballot, “none of the above,” and if it wins there should be a new election with new candidates. Voters in Russia have the power to reject all candidates, and they sometimes do so. Why should American voters all too often have to hold their nose and pick the lesser of two evils? NOTA would put pressure on all political parties to offer better candidates.
* At present, incumbents have a tremendous advantage over challengers, an imbalance made worse by McCain-Feingold, which was really an incumbents’ protection act. We need to establish a more level playing field. One way to do that might be allow challengers to spend several times as much money on their campaigns as incumbents. It is much easier for incumbents to get free media attention, and the government subsidizes incumbents to the tune of $2 million for each Congressman with regional offices, staffs, mailings and so on. Allowing the challenger to spend more would reduce the incumbent’s unfair advantage.
* We also need to create a level playing field for third parties. Third parties have historically played important roles in advancing new ideas, something the next conservatism should keep in mind. The Republican and Democratic parties collude in keeping third party challengers out of the system. The next conservatism should insist on more options for the voters and fair play for all parties.
* In my view, restoring the republic requires much more use of ballot initiatives and referenda. They should be legal in all states and I tend to think at the federal level as well. That is how Swiss voters have kept their federal government in check, and it could work here. We also need to find a way to prevent one member of the New Class, a judge, from overturning the people’s will in the form of a referendum outcome just because he disagrees with it.
* Finally, we need some effective checks on money politics. What we call “campaign contributions” the rest of the world rightly calls bribes. Yes, they sell their votes; I’ve seen it. I am not sure the best way to go about this, but we will never get our republic back so long as Jerry Brown remains correct. Republics do not have a “pay to play” political process.
I am sure that as the next conservatism develops, other conservatives will come up with more ideas, possibly better than these. But the next conservatism must make restoring the republic a priority. I don’t want to pass a tawdry, corrupt, oppressive empire on to my grandchildren as their heritage.
Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
Along with conservatives’ positions on other subjects, conservative economics has changed over time. The most important change during my four decades in Washington was probably the acceptance of supply-side economics, the idea that if we cut marginal tax rates, the economy will grow so much that government revenue will actually increase. While some enthusiasts overstate the case, I think that may broadly be true, so long as it is coupled with conservatives’ traditional insistence on balanced budgets and firm controls on government spending. Certainly, all conservatives should favor lower taxes and specifically lower marginal income tax rates.
So where does conservative economics go from here? I think the next conservatism needs to start by putting economics itself in its proper place. Today, most people seem to accept the primacy of the economy: anything is good if it helps the economy, bad if it hurts it (or special interests say it will hurt it). That is not the traditional conservative view. Even less have conservatives made economic efficiency their highest virtue. If economic efficiency means, for example, that America should send all its manufacturing jobs overseas in the name of free trade, I think the next conservatism should oppose that. To conservatives, people should be more important than things. Life is not just about getting more stuff.
It seems to me that the next conservatism needs to start with what conservatism has gotten right about economics, then build on that base to address some problems we have largely ignored. Among the things we have gotten right are the need for lower tax rates, the desirability of a flat tax (something more and more foreign countries are adopting) , replacing the income tax with some form of consumption tax so we stop penalizing savings and demanding balanced, and smaller, federal budgets. Restoring the republic and adopting a foreign policy for Americans should help the next conservatism reduce the size of the federal budget by hundreds of billions of dollars.
Here are some of the new economic issues the next conservatism needs to address:
* The need to restore American manufacturing and labor. Unless we want to become a Third World country, we need to make things. We have to stop the movement of all our manufacturing to China and other foreign countries. If that requires tariffs, starting with tariffs to protect industries of strategic importance, so be it. More, we need the well-paying jobs manufacturing offers to ordinary people. Many conservatives see labor as an enemy. I think that view is outdated although union’s leadership continues to be a part of the leftist coalition which opposes everything we believe in. Instead of thinking of labor as the unions, we need to see it as people: as average Americans who want to be able to give their families a middle-class standard of living on one income, so mom can stay home and take care of the kids. You cannot do that with retail or most other “service” jobs. It requires manufacturing jobs. The next conservatism must find ways to preserve and re-create such jobs.
* We need to restore thrift as a virtue instead of consumption. Part of the reason we are selling America to foreigners is that Americans save so little. Two-thirds of the American economy is now based on consumer spending. That is not sustainable, and it points toward a crash. The next conservative economics needs to reward thrift, again possibly by adopting a consumption tax in place of the income tax. Thrift also allows citizens to provide for their own futures instead of depending on the “nanny state” to bail them out. The return of thrift and smaller government go hand-in-hand.
* The next conservatism of course will favor free enterprise. But is enterprise truly free if there are no limits on its scale? Now, big business outsources jobs overseas as fast as it can. Would small businesses that are anchored in their communities do that? I think maybe not. Are local entrepreneurs free if they have to compete against huge chains of big box stores? I am not sure they are. The next conservative economics needs to define free enterprise more broadly, looking not just at the danger from government but also at the threat from vast corporations, many of them multi-nationals that could care less about America’s future. Traditionally, conservatives have favored things that are local and small in scale. Those are roots to which the next conservatism should return.
This leads back to where this column began, with the requirement to put economics itself in its proper place. Life is not just about getting and spending.
Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
In my next two columns, I intend to write about two places the next conservatism needs to consider: the countryside and cities. Perhaps because most conservatives, including myself, live in suburbs, we don’t think about rural life or cities very often. But there are good reasons why the next conservatism should think about both.
Earlier generations of conservatives were agrarians. They thought that life on a family farm was a good life for many people. It built strong families and communities, communities where faith and morals could flourish. I believe that is still true, and I therefore think that bringing back the family farm as a viable way of life should be an important part of the next conservatism.
Some people may object that such a program is simply not possible. The family farm cannot be made economically viable in today’s world. I am not certain on that point. I do know that most of the billions we spend each year for agricultural subsidies go to support big agribusiness, not family farms. What if we changed that? What if instead of subsidizing factory farming, we provided financial support for people who were trying to start new family farms? Such support should not go on forever, but if it were in the form of a revolving fund, it could help them get started.
This is also a situation where we, as conservatives, need to learn from others. One place to start is with the Amish. The Amish are cultural conservatives. They live according to the beliefs most conservatives espouse: Christian faith, strong families, close-knit communities where people depend on each other, communities based on the church.
The Amish are also successful, often prosperous, family farmers. One of my colleagues has a friend who is an Amish farmer. He has a herd of 40 to 50 dairy cows. He recently
told my colleague that he will get about $75,000 worth of product from his cows in a good year and buy only about $5000 worth of feed for them. $70,000 is a decent income from 50 cows. Mostly, his cows graze. He is also organic, which means he isn’t spending lots of money on pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
The next conservatism can also learn from the organic farming movement. Many people, including some conservatives, want organic products and are willing to pay a premium for them. That helps the farmer receive a fair price for his products, one that makes his farm viable. As conservatives, we should not see cheapness as the highest virtue. Russell Kirk wrote, “So America’s contribution to the universal ‘democratic capitalism’ of the future . . . will be just this: cheapness, the cheapest music and the cheapest comic-books and the cheapest morality that can be provided.” He might have added the cheapest agricultural products, regardless of what that does to agrarian life. That is not the direction in which the next conservatism should go.
Agrarian life is a whole culture, not just a way to make a living, and we should seek to protect that culture and make it available to more and more families.
A recent article in Farming magazine, “Conversations with the Land” by Jim Van Der Pol, gave insight into that culture:
Recently I sat in a church mourning the passage of another farmer from a world that can ill afford to spare even one. I thought of Leonard’s love of farmer talk . . . the telling again of stories connected with people and places in a long and well lived human life . . .
“See,” he would tell me after naming all the farmers who have exchanged work together in his circle, “nobody every kept track of who spent how much time doing things for which others. Everyone just figured it would work out. It always did.”
Leonard was in his farming and his life a maker of art, a husband to his wife and to his farm, a human creating in the context of Creation itself. . .
Beyond the family farm itself, the next conservatism should seek to make the countryside available to as many Americans as possible. The Mennonites have a wonderful program where they bring inner-city children to their farms for part of their summer school vacations. What a tremendous and health-giving change for kids who have never known anything but asphalt and crime! Many cities and towns now have farmers’ markets, where people in the city and the suburbs can buy fresh farm product directly from the farmers. Both the farmers and the city-dwellers benefit.
The next conservatism should look toward a world where, as Tolkien put it, there is less noise and more green. Our goal should be to make agrarian life, in all its dimensions,
available to as many Americans as possible, both those who work family farms for their living and those who earn their incomes in other ways but want a tie to the countryside. In this respect, the next conservatism should be like an older conservatism we seem to have forgotten. Conservatives should become agrarians again.
Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
In my last column, I argued that the next conservatism needs to revive the family farm. Here, I want to make the case that is also needs to revive our cities.
Many conservatives dislike cities, for reasons I understand and sympathize with. Sin and the city is an old, old story; you can find it in the Confessions of Blessed Augustine. But cities are also the birthplace and necessary home for high culture. Without living cities, we will not have symphony orchestras and great music, classic theater, art museums, serious public libraries or any of the other venues high culture requires. Nor will we have the good used bookstores, artistic and literary cafes, salons or other informal but important places where ideas can be exchanged and culture can grow. No, the Internet is not a substitute; there can be no full replacement for people talking face-to-face.
Just as the next conservatism needs to make the culture its centerpiece, it needs to include high culture. Conservatism ought not be indifferent to whether future generations get to see Shakespeare’s plays, hear Mozart’s music or see Dürer’s engravings. And if conservatives want that to happen, we need cities. God knows we dare not entrust culture to the universities.
That brings us to the problem we face: America’s cities are in bad shape, most of them anyway. First the upper class, then the middle class, then anyone who could afford to moved out (busing, which wrecked the public schools, played a central role in the exodus). Cities cannot live if no one but the underclass lives in them. Nor can they survive if we continue to export our industries, to the point where cities offer no manufacturing or business jobs.
Over the past several decades, a movement has arisen to restore our cities and even to build new urban communities, towns, as an alternative to suburbs. It is called “new urbanism.” As a conservative, I think new urbanism needs to be part of the next conservatism. But I also think we need a conservative new urbanism, which differs from much of what now goes under the new urbanist label.
The difference is this. Much of present-day new urbanism is statist. It envisions using the power of government to force people to adopt new urbanist ideas. An example is Portland, Oregon’s “urban growth boundary,” a line drawn on a map by government bureaucrats that tries to stop sprawl by decree. Guest what? It doesn’t work. Not only does it violate property rights, if you actually go to Portland and look what has been built inside the boundary, most of it is still sprawl.
Let me say that I am not necessarily against sprawl. Suburbs are great places for families to raise kids. What we need is suburbs and living, thriving cities, not one or the other.
Here is where conservative new urbanism comes in. Conservative new urbanism should be built on property rights. Its basis would be dual codes. At present, virtually every building code in the country mandates sprawl. One developer told me that in order to build a traditional town (something most conservatives like), he had to get 150 variances at immense expense and delay.
The next conservatism should call for dual codes, nationwide. Under one code, a developer would be perfectly free to build a sprawling suburb. But he could also choose to build under a new urbanist code, which would be consistent with the way towns and cities were traditionally designed and built. Obviously, developers would make their choice based on demand in a free market. They would build suburbs where the market wanted suburbs, and towns or even small cities (or redevelopment in existing cities) where the market wanted that.
Good new urbanism should welcome a dual-code approach. Why? Because good new urbanism sells. Sometime when you are in Washington, go look at the architect Andres Duany’s Kentlands development in Montgomery County, Maryland. It is a beautiful traditional town. And houses there are selling for tens of thousands of dollars more than houses with the same floor space in surrounding suburbs.
Here as so often elsewhere, the problem is government interference in the marketplace. The next conservatism should end the monopoly government building codes give to suburban sprawl and allow the free market to restore our cities. That is conservative new urbanism, and I think it needs to be part of the next conservative agenda.
Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
For many years, one of the left’s slogans has been, “Think Globally, Act Locally.” I think the next conservatism needs to answer this with a new slogan of our own: Think Locally, Act Locally.
Think Globally, Act Locally reflects the left’s centuries-old belief in “one world.” Just as the Jacobins of the French Revolution wanted, everyone in the world should be forced to abandon their old traditions and fit one “globalist” model, based on some ideology. Today, we even see some people who call themselves conservatives (neo or otherwise) promoting globalism. Sorry, but that is not what the word “conservative” has meant.
On the contrary, conservatives have always supported local variation. We value local cultures, traditions and ways of life, based on what has grown up in a specific place over time. We want Maine to be Maine and the Deep South to remain the Deep South, rather than every place becoming California. To conservatives, a homogenized world is a danger, not a promise.
Here again we see the power of culture. Many of the forces promoting globalism are not political but cultural. Television is one of the most powerful. How can old, local ways survive when children grow up in front of the television, which reduces everything to a single, uniform (and low) common denominator?
The “world economy” works to the same end. Local producers reflect local traditions, but when they are driven out of business by cheap imports, everything local is lost.
The next conservatism needs to help Americans see the value of what is local and traditional. Much of that is not political, but real conservatism has never just been about politics. Conservatism is not an ideology, it is a way of life. That way of life needs to be grounded in local traditions and in preserving and, where necessary, restoring those traditions.
At the same time, politics plays an important role here. The next conservatism needs to revive an important conservative truth that has to some extent been lost, even among conservatives: subsidiarity. Subsidiarity says that decisions should be made at the lowest possible level. As much as possible should be decided at the local level. Only when the local level clearly cannot cope should state governments get involved. And federal involvement should be rare, because it is dangerous. Decisions made in Washington often run roughshod over local needs, traditions and realities. The public schools offer a sad example. Have America’s schools gotten better since state governments and the federal government have given them more and more directives? No, they have gotten worse.
The next conservatism could take one powerful action that would do much to restore subsidiarity. It should put an end to all unfunded mandates, on both the state and federal levels. Today, state governments and the federal government lay more and more requirements on local schools, local governments, local transit systems and so on, but they do not provide any funds to meet those requirements. The things local people know are more important go without funding because the local level has no choice but to give these mandates money. They are required by law to do so.
Of course, it is easy for state and federal lawmakers to please this or that interest group by creating a new mandate in law. It would not be so easy if they had to pay for those mandates themselves. A rule of “No unfunded mandates” would move many decisions away from state and federal governments and back to the local level, where they belong. It would also reduce the power of government generally, which conservatives have always seen as a good thing.
“ Think Locally, Act Locally” goes well beyond putting an end to unfunded government mandates (on industry as well as on local government, I would add). Again, as conservatives, we should never think that we can stop with politics: we must always look at the culture, too. But I do believe the next conservatism could do our country a great deal of good by laying down a new commandment: Thou shalt decree no unfunded mandates. I suspect the Founding Fathers would agree with us heartily on that point.
Paul M. Weyrich is the Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
Herbert Marcuse, who did more than anyone else to inflict the ideology of cultural Marxism on America, set up an interesting dichotomy in his vastly influential book, Eros and Civilization (in the 1960s, it was virtually the Bible of the New Left). The basic challenge facing the cultural Marxists, as he saw it, was nothing less than replacing the Reality Principle with the Pleasure Principle. The result would be endless pleasure, endless love (in reality, endless sex) in a society where work would be unknown and “liberated eros” would unleash the delights of “polymorphous perversity.” Dionysius would triumph over Apollo and decree a New Eden.
That indeed became America’s road, and we’ve come a long way down it, baby. The result, of course, was not a Dionysian paradise but endless decline, decay and degradation. America of the 1950s, the last decade when our country had its rightful mind, is now more of a foreign country than Tibet or Upper Volta.
Where that road is rapidly leading us is all too clear. It is leading us to Brave New World. When I was in high school, some years ago, every pupil had to read two books which offered two alternative totalitarian futures. One was George Orwell’s 1984, which represented totalitarianism of the Nazi or Communist variety. The other was a slim novel, written in the 1930s by the British author Aldous Huxley: Brave New World. If the fall of the Soviet Union removed most of the threat of 1984, America is today steering straight for Brave New World. Indeed, it is leading the rest of the planet in that direction, or, when necessary, forcing it, sometimes with bayonets.
The first law in Brave New World was that you must be happy. Happiness was guaranteed by a combination of sensual pleasure (as with Marcuse, anything goes, except marriage), endless consumerism and materialism, virtual realities (the “feelies” did television and computer games one better), psychological conditioning and, Hell’s final triumph, genetic conditioning, which was virtually inescapable. Summed up, Brave New World represents what C.S. Lewis called the abolition of man.
The next conservatism needs to recognize that Brave New World describes America’s probable future, unless conservatives and perhaps some others can bring about a massive change of direction. All the key elements are already present and working as a leaven throughout American society, excepting only genetic conditioning, and genetic engineering will soon give us that. It is not irrelevant that Marcuse and the other cultural Marxists of the Frankfurt School realized they could not destroy traditional Western culture with philosophical arguments; the task required that people be psychologically conditioned so that they could not believe anything else. Between the public schools and television, many of our young people are already at that point.
The question facing the next conservatism is what can be done about it. Obviously, concrete steps include home or other private schooling and throwing the television off the roof, as Russell Kirk once actually did. More broadly, we need to “deconstruct” Brave New world along the following lines:
* Once again, make sure every school child, and every adult who has not done so, reads Brave New World. It offers a powerful warning.
* Replace the cultural Marxists’ rule of “if it feels good, do it” with traditional Western, Judeo-Christian morals. Once again, we see that cultural issues are primary.
* Be wary of technologies that offer virtual realities. I use a computer and love it, but I am careful what I use it for. Too many people are not. In my view, the next conservatism needs some way of evaluating new technologies rather than just accepting whatever the market brings us.
* Remember that conservatism is not about stuff. Consumerism and materialism are not traditional conservative virtues. Yes, conservatives want to live comfortably, and that is fine. But as one minister put it, we are commanded to use things and love people, not the other way around.
* Beware of psychological conditioning in any form, and reject genetic conditioning utterly. Genetic engineering is one of those technologies conservatives should be looking at skeptically. Do we really want men to play God?
* Recognize that cultural Marxism, while not the same thing as Brave New World, has made a Devil’s pact with it, where each uses and benefits the other. We should be fighting both.
At root, the next conservatism’s task is to reverse Marcuse and restore the reality principle in place of the pleasure principle. If we do not, I fear events will, and those events may not be pleasant.
Paul M. Weyrich is the Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
In this column and the next, I would like to discuss some of the responses I have received from readers of this series on the next conservatism. Let me start by saying how grateful I am to the many readers who have told me they have found my columns stimulating. My main purpose in writing is to get conservatives thinking, whether they agree with me on everything or not. I don’t have all the answers, or even all the questions. We all need to think creatively about what the next conservative agenda should be.
That said, let’s look at some specific observations readers have sent me in response to what I have written. Joe wrote,
I just read the one about returning to the agrarian nature of yesteryear. Amen. . .
I have only one question/thought regarding your premise: It seems to me one of the problems the conservative movement had in a major way in the past, and to some extent now, is the fact that by our nature, conservatives are busy doing their work (pursuing their vocations).
Because we are consumed, rightly so, with our families, farms/shop, etc., it left the city works/government/etc. open to the manipulation of the left/liberals . . .
How do we protect against this old problem and maintain the necessary eternal vigilance?
Joe is correct. As conservatives, we don’t want to live politicized lives (radicals do). This faces us with something of a dilemma. If we make everything political, the radicals have won. But if we try to keep politics out of something like family life, the left takes it over. The best answer, I think, is that conservatives need to be involved in politics to keep government out of as much of life as possible. Here is where the next conservatism and the old conservatism are in agreement.
Your article brought back some nice memories. I grew up on a farm. . .
It was a great life, but it’s gone now. The farm has been subdivided and sold off, the victim of taxes that gradually drained it and finally forced its sale to pay inheritance taxes . . .
If we want to bring back the family farm, we’ll have to stop taxing capital, eliminate inheritance taxes and change the tax code to accommodate people who don’t get a weekly paycheck.
Amen, Dan. The left portrays measures such as eliminating inheritance taxes as just benefitting the rich, but that isn’t true. Tax cuts and tax reform also benefit people who have a lot of capital but not much income, like many farmers.
Paul has this to say:
While nodding in agreement with your article, I got to thinking whether or not culture and politics were that dissimilar. I don’t think they are. Both involve the ways men relate to men and how to govern their behavior. Culture is governed by the law of unwritten customs; politics prefers judicial fiat, statute and regulation. . . We retook the government believing that doing so would better preserve our liberties and the defense of our nation. Were we naïve to believe that government was the problem as far as the culture was concerned? Did we conservatives miss the boat by thinking that a strong culture could be ensured by government in our image?
Well, Paul, you’ve hit on another difference between conservatives and the left. They want a culture that is controlled by government. We don’t. We believe that culture should be shaped by customs, habits and traditions, not state power. Legitimate laws reflect customs rather than replace them. Customs are not threats to liberty, because people don’t get sent to jail for departing from them. A culture controlled by the state becomes totalitarian.
My colleague Bill Lind makes the observation that in Tolkien’s trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, the ring of power (“one ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them”) is power itself. As conservatives, we distrust power. That probably puts us at a disadvantage politically compared to the left. But we cannot accept their view of power without becoming them, which is Tolkien’s point.
Marc wrote that
I am sorry to inform Mr. Weyrich that the Patriot Act is not the worst of our worries here in America. The type of “wide-ranging legislation that endangers our liberties” discussed by Mr. Weyrich is already in place and has been for many years. It is the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) . . .
Congress is at present in the process of considering renewal of the VAWA, and the behavior of our elected officials (both Republican and Democrat) has been nothing short of shameful. The Senate Judiciary Committee, despite receiving an outpouring of opposition to VAWA from the public, decided that it would refuse to allow opposition witnesses to testify at its July 19th hearing on the renewal legislation. . .
What you are seeing here, Marc, is something that too few conservatives outside Washington perceive. With relatively few exceptions, Senators and Congressmen from both parties are afraid to confront political correctness. In this case, they fear that if they even allow opponents to be heard, the radical Feminists and the culturally Marxist press will say they “favor violence against women,” which is of course nonsense.
To be blunt about it, too many Washington Republicans lack moral courage. They would rather hide under a rock than be called a “racist” or a sexist” by the cultural Marxists. One thing the next conservatism needs to do, in my opinion, is make people like that pay a political price for their moral cowardice. Until we do, they will continue to sell us out.
Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
One reader, Dan, sent me a response that is a column in itself. I want to run it here, not only because he introduces an important new issue, but because it is the kind of issue the next conservatism needs to identify. In part, it is a situation where new technology has created a new problem. But in part, it is also an old problem, the left’s attempt to cut us off from our past. Our past tells us who we are, and if they can cut us off from it, they can make us into whatever they want.
Here’s Dan Arico’s column:
As we define the New Conservatism, there are some issues that the Founders dealt with that have been given less than thorough attention even by those who call themselves “conservative.” The framers included a provision in the Constitution for copyrights and patents. They realized that a powerful incentive to create art, music and inventions was the possibility of profit so they desired to grant the creators of intellectual property a period of time in which to maximize that profit.
However, they realized that there was a down side to such a monopoly. The British experience demonstrated where such rights could go awry. British copyright law of the time allowed for perpetual copyrights. As publishing houses bought up those copyrights, the price of books, sheet music and all printed material climbed until only the wealthy could afford libraries.
In addition, they recognized that innovation was usually derivative from earlier work. Overly restrictive patents and copyrights could strangle the very creativity they were trying to foster. Therefore the Congress settled on a compromise in which a monopoly would be granted for a limited time. The arts and invention flourished and the United States became the creative engine of the world.
Then came the mouse. Not, not the computer mouse – Mickey. As we came into the modern era, entertainment companies grew powerful and did not relish the thought that the money making cartoons, records and movies that they produced would only make money for a limited time. They lobbied Congress to extend that period over and over. Now the time period is so long, we are approaching the problem the Founders had feared when they limited copyrights. Our culture has a price tag on it and that price is high because the supply is restricted.
Moreover, much of our culture is being lost as the media it is stored on decays on forgotten warehouse shelves. The masterpieces will survive. Snow White and Fantasia still have market value and the Disney Corporation will take pains to protect them, but what of lesser works?
Even worse, what about Politically Incorrect works that have come into possession of those who do not want them seen or heard? They would have come into the public domain where preservationists and historians would have copied them onto new media and made them available at low or no cost to anyone interested. Instead, they disappear bit by bit and our knowledge of our past is controlled by the corporate copyright holders.
That is bad enough, but with the digital age, it can become downright sinister. Now we have Digital Rights Management. Digital works can be encrypted to prevent copying and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, passed by Congress at the behest of the media companies, makes it illegal to crack the encryption.
Now you buy a DVD of your favorite movie and it gradually goes bad because of wear and oxidation of the plastic. When it no longer plays, you have to depend upon being able to buy another copy from the copyright holder if you want to keep it in your collection. If he doesn’t deem it profitable to sell it, you’re out of luck.
You can’t make a backup copy because it’s encrypted and it’s illegal for you to crack the encryption. When it’s gone, it’s as if it never existed.
But wait, it can get worse. Some colleges are saving on printing costs by making textbooks available as digital files with DRM. They cost less because there are no printing costs – only an electronic device similar to a laptop. The publishing houses love this because their costs are lower; they don’t have unsold inventory on their hands; and best of all, the digital text erases itself at the end of the semester so there’s no competition from used books to depress the price.
The bad news is there’s also no historical record. DRM can even be used to introduce a change in the source text that will ripple through the entire chain of electronic devices. Like the character Winston Smith in 1984, a faceless bureaucrat can change a history text and all history texts in the electronic chain will change to reflect the new “truth.”
Conservatism has always had a reverence for the experience of centuries of human experience. If we expect to keep that experience, we need to limit copyrights, transfer content to the public domain and enable independent, distributed ownership of our culture. Otherwise, we will see our history fade into the fog of Political Correctness as those who remember what really happened die off.
Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
In his columns on the next conservatism, Paul Weyrich has several times referred to “cultural Marxism.” He asked me, as Free Congress Foundation’s resident historian, to write this column explaining what cultural Marxism is and where it came from. In order to understand what something is, you have to know its history.
Cultural Marxism is a branch of western Marxism, different from the Marxism-Leninism of the old Soviet Union. It is commonly known as “multiculturalism” or, less formally, Political Correctness. From its beginning, the promoters of cultural Marxism have known they could be more effective if they concealed the Marxist nature of their work, hence the use of terms such as “multiculturalism.”
Cultural Marxism began not in the 1960s but in 1919, immediately after World War I. Marxist theory had predicted that in the event of a big European war, the working class all over Europe would rise up to overthrow capitalism and create communism. But when war came in 1914, that did not happen. When it finally did happen in Russia in 1917, workers in other European countries did not support it. What had gone wrong?
Independently, two Marxist theorists, Antonio Gramsci in Italy and Georg Lukacs in Hungary, came to the same answer: Western culture and the Christian religion had so blinded the working class to its true, Marxist class interest that Communism was impossible in the West until both could be destroyed. In 1919, Lukacs asked, “Who will save us from Western civilization?” That same year, when he became Deputy Commissar for Culture in the short-lived Bolshevik Bela Kun government in Hungary, one of Lukacs’s first acts was to introduce sex education into Hungary’s public schools. He knew that if he could destroy the West’s traditional sexual morals, he would have taken a giant step toward destroying Western culture itself.
In 1923, inspired in part by Lukacs, a group of German Marxists established a think tank at Frankfurt University in Germany called the Institute for Social Research. This institute, soon known simply as the Frankfurt School, would become the creator of cultural Marxism.
To translate Marxism from economic into cultural terms, the members of the Frankfurt School - - Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Wilhelm Reich, Eric Fromm and Herbert Marcuse, to name the most important - - had to contradict Marx on several points. They argued that culture was not just part of what Marx had called society’s “superstructure,” but an independent and very important variable. They also said that the working class would not lead a Marxist revolution, because it was becoming part of the middle class, the hated bourgeoisie.
Who would? In the 1950s, Marcuse answered the question: a coalition of blacks, students, feminist women and homosexuals.
Fatefully for America, when Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, the Frankfurt School fled - - and reestablished itself in New York City. There, it shifted its focus from destroying traditional Western culture in Germany to destroying it in the United States. To do so, it invented “Critical Theory.” What is the theory? To criticize every traditional institution, starting with the family, brutally and unremittingly, in order to bring them down. It wrote a series of “studies in prejudice,” which said that anyone who believes in traditional Western culture is prejudiced, a “racist” or “sexist” of “fascist” - - and is also mentally ill.
Most importantly, the Frankfurt School crossed Marx with Freud, taking from psychology the technique of psychological conditioning. Today, when the cultural Marxists want to do something like “normalize” homosexuality, they do not argue the point philosophically. They just beam television show after television show into every American home where the only normal-seeming white male is a homosexual (the Frankfurt School’s key people spent the war years in Hollywood).
After World War II ended, most members of the Frankfurt School went back to Germany. But Herbert Marcuse stayed in America. He took the highly abstract works of other Frankfurt School members and repackaged them in ways college students could read and understand. In his book “Eros and Civilization,” he argued that by freeing sex from any restraints, we could elevate the pleasure principle over the reality principle and create a society with no work, only play (Marcuse coined the phrase, “Make love, not war”). Marcuse also argued for what he called “liberating tolerance,” which he defined as tolerance for all ideas coming from the Left and intolerance for any ideas coming from the Right. In the 1960s, Marcuse became the chief “guru” of the New Left, and he injected the cultural Marxism of the Frankfurt School into the baby boom generation, to the point where it is now America’s state ideology.
The next conservatism should unmask multiculturalism and Political Correctness and tell the American people what they really are: cultural Marxism. Its goal remains what Lukacs and Gramsci set in 1919: destroying Western culture and the Christian religion.
It has already made vast strides toward that goal. But if the average American found out that Political Correctness is a form of Marxism, different from the Marxism of the Soviet Union but Marxism nonetheless, it would be in trouble. The next conservatism needs to reveal the man behind the curtain - - old Karl Marx himself.
William S. Lind is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism of the Free Congress Foundation.
Conservatives have always been for a strong national defense. America’s victory in the Cold War showed we were right on that point. Unfortunately, the world has not become a safer place since the Cold War ended. That means the next conservatism will also need to make a strong national defense part of its program.
However, conservatives need to recognize that the nature of the threats we face is changing. In the past, threats came from other states that were hostile to us - - Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan or the Soviet Union. But the worst attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor, the events of 9/11, was not launched by any other state. It came from a non-state organization, al Qaeda. The next conservatism’s defense policy must take account of this fact. America must be prepared to defend itself against very serious threats that come from non-state organizations.
Let me add that what happened on 9/11 was only a beginning. Some people in Washington seem to think that we are now safe, because we have created a Department of Homeland Security and passed the so-called “Patriot Act.” Nothing could be further from the truth. We are going to get hit again, only harder. It may be with a nuclear weapon, smuggled inside a shipping container. It may be with something that could be even worse, a genetically-engineered plague. Creating new bureaucracies in Washington won’t stop terrorism, at least so long as we insist on poking our nose into every quarrel in the world.
The fact that our country faces a new kind of threat has two important implications. First, it may be possible to re-create a national consensus on defense, like that we had early in the Cold War. I am not certain that will be possible, but the next conservatism should at least try. It would be better for our country if conservatives and liberals could agree on maintaining a strong national defense. Personally, I don’t know any liberals who want suitcase nukes going off in American cities. The next conservatism should make clear that our door is open to liberals who want to put national defense above politics. We should prefer consensus, so long as it is the right consensus, over seeking partisan advantage on this issue. It is just too important to play politics with.
Second, I think conservatives need to reconsider how we approach building a strong national defense. In the past, during the Cold War, we accepted the idea that so long as we spent enough money for defense, our defenses would be strong. From what I see in Washington, I don’t think that is true anymore - - if it ever was.
History warns us that you can spend heaps of money on defense and still be weak, if you buy the wrong kinds of things. France spent billions on the Maginot Line between the World Wars, but the Germans just went around it.
Today, America spends more for defense than all the rest of the countries in the world put together. But that does not seem to make us more secure. Most of the $500 billion we spend for defense every year seems to go for weapons and strategies that may be outdated. We still keep hundreds of thousands of troops stationed in places like Europe and South Korea, long after the Cold War ended. We keep buying the kinds of tanks, planes and ships that may have made sense for fighting the Soviet armed forces but have little if any use in places like Iraq or Afghanistan. At the same time, our troops in those places go without basic gear they need to stay alive.
The next conservatism needs to recognize that the Pentagon is a government bureaucracy like any other government bureaucracy. Bureaucrats who wear uniforms behave the same way as other bureaucrats. They do what benefits their bureaucracy, not necessarily what works in the outside world. Conservatives need to be both supporters of a strong national defense and skeptics about the Pentagon, if the money America spends for defense is really to buy security against the new threats we face.
In the 1970s and 1980s, a bi-partisan group of Senators and Congressmen put together something called the Military Reform Movement. I supported that effort, and I think it may be time to start it up again. The next conservatism should recognize that military reform is necessary for a strong defense, not opposed to it.
My colleague Bill Lind is an internationally-recognized expert on military theory and doctrine. I have asked him to write the next column in this series, to explain in more detail the changes in war the next conservatism must address.
Paul Weyrich asked me to write this column to lay out a framework conservatives can use to understand the threats America faces. It is a framework I developed in the 1980s, when I was working closely with the United States Marine Corps on questions of military theory and doctrine. I call it “the Four Generations of Modern War.”
Modern War began with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which ended the Thirty Years’ War. Why? Because in that treaty, the state established a monopoly on war. We now automatically think of war as something fought between states, using armies, navies and air forces with uniforms, ranks, and specialized equipment, designed to fight other state armed forces like themselves.
But before 1648, many different kinds of entities fought wars, using many different means, not just formal militaries. Family, clans and tribes fought wars. Cities and business enterprises fought wars. Religions, ethnic groups and races fought wars. They did so using many different means, including hiring mercenaries, employing assassins, offering bribes and making dynastic marriages. For the most part, there were no standing armies; when war came, you just hired people who would fight. In times of (relative) peace, those fighters roamed through the countryside, taking whatever they wanted from anyone too weak to resist them. In most places, ordinary people’s lives and property were at their mercy.
First Generation war ran from 1648 to about the time of the American Civil War. In general, battlefields during these two centuries were orderly, with line-and-column tactics. The battlefield of order produced a military culture of order.
But around the middle of the 19th century, the battlefield of order began to break down. That created the central problem facing state militaries ever since: the military culture of order came increasingly to contradict the growing disorder of the battlefield.
Second and Third Generation war were attempts to resolve this contradiction. The Second Generation, which was developed by the French Army during and after World War I, attempted to reimpose order on the battlefield through centrally-controlled application of massive firepower (it is sometimes called firepower/attrition warfare). The U.S. military learned Second Generation war from the French, and it remains the American way of war today, with the partial exception of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Third Generation war, also called maneuver warfare, was developed by the German Army during World War I, not World War II, although most people know it as Blitzkrieg. The Germans broke with the First Generation culture or order and created a highly decentralized military that focused outward on results, not inward on rules and processes; prized initiative over obedience; and relied on self-discipline, not imposed discipline. One of the purposes of the Military Reform Movement was to move the American armed forces from the Second to the Third Generation, an effort which, sadly, for the most part failed.
Fourth Generation war is often called “terrorism,” but that is more misleading than helpful. Terrorism is merely a technique, and Fourth Generation war is very much more. It marks an end of the state’s monopoly on war and a return to war as it was before the Peace of Westphalia. Once again, many different kinds of entities, not just states, are waging war (gangs and invasion by immigration are two obvious examples). They use many different means, not just formal armies or navies. Fourth Generation fighters wear no uniforms, have no ranks, and are indistinguishable from civilians. Rather than engaging an enemy state’s armed forces, they try to bypass them and strike directly against his civilian society, even his culture.
The framework of the Four Generations of Modern War offers the next conservatism a way to evaluate whether America’s defense policies make sense. To the degree they move our armed forces from the Second to the Third Generation, and help them face the Fourth, they are helpful. But if they just provide fancier weapons for Second Generation war, they probably are not. If the next conservatism is to help the American state survive in the Fourth Generation 21st century, it needs to make adapting to Fourth Generation war our top defense priority.
William S. Lind is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism of the Free Congress Foundation.
The thoughts I have offered in these columns on where the conservative movement needs to go have generally looked long-term, toward the time after the end of President Bush’s second term. But there is one issue that will not wait, and that issue is immigration. We need to do something about immigration now.
Let me put this bluntly. On no issue have a Republican administration and a Republican House and Senate more blatantly or more cynically sold out the conservative movement and our country than on immigration. Their inaction on this issue - - or worse, actions that would make the problem even worse, like the administration’s proposed amnesty for illegals - - are a scandal and a disgrace. Conservatives should be hopping mad about it, mad enough to tell Republicans that they will not have our votes unless they change. I would rather stay home on Election Day than vote for someone who believes in open borders.
There are many reasons why we need to halt illegal immigration and also restrict legal immigration. I want to focus here on just two, two issues that are central to the next conservatism. One is national security, and the other is preserving our traditional American culture.
The national security issue is simple. Our country is being invaded. It is being invaded by millions of people from all over, some of whom are not our friends. Bill Lind wrote in the last column that invasion by immigration is part of Fourth Generation war. That is exactly correct. What we are doing today by leaving our borders open is importing Fourth Generation war, war that will be fought out on our own soil, with attacks like 9/11 only worse.
Frankly, it doesn’t make any sense at all to be fighting terrorism in places like Iraq and Afghanistan while laying down a red carpet for terrorists of every variety who want to come and attack us here. That is what we are now doing with our current immigration policy.
Of course the Left wants open borders, because one way to destroy our traditional culture is to swamp us with tens of millions of immigrants from other cultures. The cultural Marxists preach “multiculturalism,” which says that these immigrants should not adopt our culture but keep their own cultures. That is a prescription, once again, for Fourth Generation war on American soil.
My father was an immigrant. He came to America as a young man in the 1920s, from Germany. Like other immigrants in his time and before, he worked hard to become an American. We spoke English in the home I grew up in, not German. We lived just like other Americans who had been here for generations. My father would have regarded multiculturalism as both stupid and dangerous. He would have been right on both counts.
The next conservatism needs to recognize that when it comes to immigration policy, neither the Republicans nor the Democrats are our friends (this may not be the only issue where this proves to be the case). The Democrats want open borders because most of them are cultural Marxists. The Republicans agree because Wall Street wants cheap labor. The next conservatism should not be in Wall Street’s pocket. Our country is more important than their profits.
Unfortunately, we cannot wait until President Bush leaves office to address this issue. The damage done by open borders is too great to wait any longer. This may be the first issue the next conservatism needs to take on, because we need to do something now.
As conservatives, we need to make it clear that we will not vote for any candidate who refuses to close our borders to illegal immigration and cut back on legal immigration, at least until we can acculturate the immigrants we already have. More, we will actively support candidates, including in primaries, who promise to take the actions necessary to control our borders. The Minutemen in Arizona showed it can be done.
We may have to go further on this issue. We may have to say that we will not support sending American troops to any other country until we have enough troops on our own borders to control them. Nor will we support $500 billion defense budgets so long as our country is left open to invasion by immigration.
Conservatives have the political muscle to change national policy on immigration. We need to use that muscle, and we need to use it now.
Paul M. Weyrich is the Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
If the next conservatism is to be the guide the conservative movement needs, it ought to talk about some new issues as well as the old standards. Sometimes, some of these new issues may strike people as unimportant. But it is hard to know what will prove important in the future we are trying to address. In this column, I want to talk about an issue that is not yet on many voters’ radar screens but I think may come to be: the public space.
What is the public space? It is the space outside our homes, schools or offices where people intermingle. It is streets with sidewalks, where people not only walk but stop, talk and listen. It is malls and town commons. It is restaurants and stores, churches and movie theaters, trains and buses and even airports. Essentially, it is anyplace where we do not control who we might meet.
Why is it important? Because if we are to be citizens of a republic and not mere consumers in an administered state, we need to both have and want contact with our fellow-citizens. When life is privatized, lived largely or almost wholly behind walls, doors and security control points, society withers. We come only to care about ourselves and those who share our private space. What happens to the rest of the society is not our concern, so long as we are OK.
There is no question that American life is being privatized this way. If you go to Europe, you will see that people there spend much more of their time in the public space. The same used to be true in this country. Even the front porches of old houses, where families often spent their evenings before air conditioning and television, were part of the public space.
I do not think that the loss of the public space in America is part of any kind of deliberate effort. There are many reasons for it. I already mentioned air conditioning and television. Other causes include the increasing coarseness of dress, manners and behavior; when the public space is filled with people who look bad and often behave badly, people avoid it. Noise is another factor. Blaring boom-boxes were bad enough, but just as that curse seems to have faded somewhat, cell phones have come along. Too often, if you are in the public space, you find yourself having to listen to one-half of a private phone conversation. Many people now dread the prospect of cell phones on airplanes.
Whatever the reasons for it, the destruction of the public space should be recognized by the next conservatism as not a good thing. It happened in Rome, too, towards the end of the Empire. People stopped going to the forum and other public spaces, while private life became much more opulent. When that happens in any society, it makes it easier for those who want power to grab it, because people only care about their private lives.
I have talked in several previous columns about some things that could help revitalize the public space and draw Americans back into it. The New Urbanism can help, because it makes cities into places where people want to go. High quality public transportation can help (in most cases that means rail transit, not buses), because it both takes people to public spaces and is itself a public space.
Probably nothing would help as much as the return of good manners and decent dress. Should both perhaps be part of the next conservatism’s agenda? They have nothing to do with politics. But as I have pointed out over and over, culture is more powerful than politics, and the next conservatism must be at least as much a cultural as a political movement.
Developing the next conservatism is not just a matter of offering new answers to old questions (re reminding people of the old, right answers which have been forgotten). It also requires asking some new questions. One of those questions needs to be, is restoring the public space important to the future of our republic? If we are in fact to be a republic, I think the answer is yes.
Paul M. Weyrich is the Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
A thoughtful reader of these columns suggested to me that we need to address one simple question: where are we as a nation? Are we, as some people suggest, at the beginning of a “New American Century” that will be marked by endless triumphs at home and abroad? Or is the picture perhaps not quite so bright?
Personally, when I look at our country today, whether at our morals and culture, our “lifestyles,” our economy or our politics, one word unavoidably comes to mind: decadence.
I recently ran across a prophecy that struck me for its timeliness. It reads, “They will sink into a swamp of decadence: men will sleep with men, and boys will be pimped in brothels; civil tumults will engulf them, and everything will fall into confusion and disorder.” Scholars have dated this prophecy to around 140BC, and it referred to Rome, not America. Importantly, it was talking not about the later Roman Empire, but about the Roman Republic - - just on the verge of its fall and Romans’ loss of their liberties. I think it is timely because it reminds us of one of history’s basic facts: those who abuse their liberties lose them.
Decadence is an abuse of liberty. Our country’s Founding Fathers understood this. They said over and over again that our republic can endure only so long as its citizens are virtuous. Virtue means that people use their liberty to do good, not evil. Sadly, that is not what we see when we look around America today.
Of course, there are many good people, people of faith, who still use their liberty to do good. But they are not setting our country’s direction. Our direction is being set by elites that despise everything we have always defined as good. They have in effect said, “Evil, be thou my good.”
I could give endless examples, examples all too familiar to most of us. Turn on the television and you really have to hunt to find any show that does not reflect decadence - - or any ad, for that matter. Things like music videos and video games are usually even worse. The main use of the internet is for pornography.
It is not surprising that the prophecy I quoted earlier (I don’t take it seriously as a prophecy, because the source was not Christian or Jewish, but it was a signpost) pointed to homosexuality as the number one sign of decadence. I think that has always been true. Now, we find pro-homosexual psychological conditioning in the public schools, “gay marriage” being ruled legal by courts and a supposedly Christian church with an openly homosexual bishop. Other denominations are considering or adopting rites for “same-sex marriage,” as if there could be any such thing.
What does all this mean for the next conservatism? It means that we have to start with a realistic understanding of where our country is. Yes, it sells better politically to say, “It’s morning in America.” Unfortunately, that just isn’t true. It is not a new American century that lies before us, but a long descent into what Russell Kirk called “old Night.” The immense task facing the next conservatism is turning that around.
In my next column, I will take a look at where I think we as conservatives are today in Washington, in politics. That picture, too, is perhaps not quite as rosy as some people tell us it is.
Paul M. Weyrich is the Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
In one of the early columns in this series, I pointed out that, if we look back over the last thirty or forty years, we see that the Left won the culture war while we conservatives won politically. It is true that we won politically, in the sense of winning elections. Republicans now control the White House and both Houses of Congress, something we could not have even dreamed about forty years ago. But to assess where conservatives are in politics today, we have to look beyond just winning elections.
The question is do we have power? Not power for ourselves but power for the common good. I would venture that while we have influence, we often lack power. And as my old colleague Howard Phillips used to teach there is a profound difference.
I have been here while the Democrats controlled the White House and both Houses of Congress (Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton). I have also seen Republicans in the White House but Democrats controlling the Congress. (Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43. In his case the Democrats controlled the Senate for a year and a half.) and I have seen a Democrat in the White House with Republicans controlling the Congress (Clinton) and now for the past several years Republicans controlled not only the White House but the Congress.
We should be in political heaven with this development. The first time this has happened in more than 50 years. If we really had power, then, our ideas and programs would be front and center. We should be well into a period of having adopted them and now we should be concerned with their implementation. The fact is most of our programs and ideas are dead on arrival. In some cases the President has proposed good ideas only to see them sink in the Congressional cesspool. In other cases, the President won’t buy into our ideas. We plead them in the Congress but we often don’t get very far.
Yes, we have influence. In some cases the White House worries about offending their base. The same with Congress. So often we are able to stop bad ideas.
Why is this the case? The fact is we have no horse. To the extent our ideas advanced in the past it was because we first had Senator Barry Goldwater. Granted, Goldwater later turned out to be something other than a conservative on a lot of issues. But his initial “Conscience of a Conservative” advanced our ideas and made our views legitimate. The Goldwater campaign involved then actor Ronald Reagan. His speech on national television again advanced our views. Then he ran and was elected Governor of California. After he served two terms, during which he continued to advance our views, he ran for President. Although he failed to defeat President Gerald Ford in 1976, that run set him up to be the heir apparent in 1980.
Reagan’s election, and with him a Republican Senate and enough Republicans to form a conservative coalition in the House, advanced our ideas. Tax cuts worked. So did the President’s objective of bringing down the Soviet Union. Most conservatives never believed that was possible. While the Reagan Administration did not see all of our ideas enacted into law, still he made issues such as vouchers popular and these issues have lived far beyond his Administration. He also made legitimate our view that federal courts have to be reigned in.
While George Herbert Walker Bush continued some ideas advanced by President Reagan, his advocacy of the largest tax increase in US history, after he had pledged “Read my lips. No new taxes.” ruined his Presidency. Now Bush ‘41 has been more open to some of our ideas, but his unwillingness to veto spending bills, the immigration issue which he has not tackled and for some the war in Iraq has meant that he is not the standard bearer of the conservative movement.
We have a number of able Senators, at least a couple of whom could become the standard bearer of the conservative movement. Right now, however they have not stood out among their colleagues. For the most part they have not exercised leadership. We do have a couple of promising Governors. Again, while they have done well in their states, they have not exercised national leadership.
I used to believe that the movement could advance on the basis of ideas alone. We were the first to come up with cultural conservatism. We pushed the idea that political correctness was ruining the nation. Yes, these ideas did catch on in the conservative movement. But we failed to go beyond the movement because we have no standard bearer who openly advances our ideas.
Our movement in some ways is much stronger now than it was even in 1980. At least the social issues part of our movement is much larger than it was when Ronald Reagan became President. The economic part of our movement, however, is not as strong. And the defense/foreign policy part of our movement all but disappeared after the end of the Cold War. It is being reinvigorated now as conservatives realize the threat from the radical Muslims. While ideas are powerful and sometimes they generate action, there is no chance of actually advancing our agenda absent a national figure who will get a following and who can eventually be nominated for President and elected to that office.
For the first time in 2008 we do not have a logical heir to our movement. There are plenty of candidates who plan to run but so far none has caught fire. We run the danger of splitting our support between candidates and thus permitting a liberal to win. If we expect to have power to advance our ideas then we need to get behind a single candidate provided that candidate promises in blood that our people will be appointed by him. Otherwise we will just continue to have influence, but most likely not enough influence to actually see our ideas become law. Can we find a suitable standard bearer for 2008? It will prove difficult but if we don’t this movement may find itself completely on the outside looking in.
Paul M. Weyrich is the Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
Paul Weyrich asked me to turn my historian’s eye on the question of “Where are we?”, which he has considered from several aspects in his last two columns. I am afraid my answer to that question cannot be an encouraging one. From an historical perspective we are living in a house of cards.
Internationally, we have committed the classic error of dominant powers: overextension. By adopting an offensive grand strategy that demands everyone else in the world accept the values of “democratic capitalism” - - the neo cons’ little present to the rest of us - - we have overreached. We are now bogged down in two wars, in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Every indication I see, as a military historian, tells me we are not winning and will not win either one.
While most Americans, not just conservatives, would be happy to take care of ourselves and let the rest of the world take care of itself, the Washington Establishment lives off the “Great Power” game. Will the loss of two wars force that Establishment to face reality? Probably not, at least until, in classic Great Power fashion, it bankrupts the country. The U.S. defense budget already equals what all the rest of the countries in the world spend for defense. No nation can sustain that burden without financial collapse.
In fact, we are already in over our heads financially, as the national debt and the trade deficit show. When those bills come due, the only way we will be able to pay them is by inflating the currency. Inflation, in turn, if it is severe enough, undermines and eventually destroys the middle class, another classic event in a Great Power’s fall.
Already, America’s middle class is being eroded by the export of manufacturing jobs under the rubric of “free trade,” to which both political parties seem to have sworn blood oaths. People cannot sustain middle class standards of living with “service industry” jobs, as is evident in any Third World country. In fact, America’s economy already shows a classic Third World pattern, exporting commodities and importing manufactured goods.
Added to imperial overreach, financial imprudence and voluntary de-industrialization is the fact that we are being invaded. Both parties see no evil as millions of immigrants from very different cultures pour into our country through what are effectively open borders. Not only does this further undermine the American middle class by lowering wages, it sets us up for Fourth Generation war on our own soil. Internal wars are yet another classic element in the fall of a Great Power.
Of course, to all of this we have to add the collapse of our culture, a phenomenon which was no accident. It is the product of a small group of cultural Marxists, the Frankfurt School, whose purpose was to destroy Western culture and who have made remarkable strides to that end. Once a country’s culture goes, everything else goes too, sooner or later.
People often ask me if we are seeing a reenactment of the fall of Rome, and there are certainly some parallels. One could argue that Rome’s situation was actually better, in that Christianity was a rising force instead of a declining one (Western culture survived the Dark Ages by hiding out in the monasteries).
But there is a parallel I like better, and that is Spain in the 17th century. Spain was the first true world power, with a globe-circling empire. She was enormously rich (when the Spanish Armada was destroyed, King Philip II just built another one). By the first half of the 17th century, when Spain’s power was beginning to totter (thanks once again to imperial overextension and financial imprudence), many leading Spaniards saw that reform and retrenchment were needed. They put forward well-considered plans for such reform, some of which would probably have worked. But none of the reform programs could cut through the power of the interests at court that lived off Spain’s decay - - just as powerful interests in Washington live off our decay. I think that if Spain’s equivalent of a prime minister at that time, the Count-Duke of Olivares, were to find himself in today’s Washington, it would all feel very familiar (if you want to read a good book on Spain’s decline and fall, I recommend J.H. Elliott’s biography of Olivares).
America may be luckier than Spain, and perhaps we will be able to deal with our foreign policy, military, financial, trade and cultural crises separately, over time. But I think the greater probability is that they will come in close enough succession that they will feed on and magnify each other, until they become a single vast, systemic crisis - - the fall of the house of cards. That creates a vacuum which, in the old days, usually resulted in a change of dynasties (from the Hapsburgs to the Bourbons, in Spain’s case). What does that mean for the next conservatism? It means conservatives should get ready now in order to fill that vacuum when it comes.
William S. Lind is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism of the Free Congress Foundation.
In the last three columns, we have tried to look at where we are as a country. The picture is not very bright. The question facing the next conservatism is, how can we turn the situation around? I want to try to address that question in this column and the next.
The answer has to start not with politics but with culture. As I have said over and over, culture is more powerful than politics. We cannot keep winning politically while the Left wins culturally. Somehow, we have to win the culture war ourselves.
That in turn requires a new movement. I hate to have to say so, but I think the old conservative movement has somewhat played itself out. There are still some courageous and effective fighters in it, people like Phyllis Schlafly and Senator James M. Inhofe, but much of it has been co-opted by the Republican Party, and much that has not been co-opted seems to be out of new ideas.
To create a new movement, we have to have a new idea to build it around. That idea has to speak directly to our national decadence and offer a chance of changing the culture. It has to offer a real potential of reviving the America many of us remember, up through the 1950s. If it cannot do that, it cannot serve as the basis of a new movement, because anything less will not reverse the country’s decadence. We will just be papering over the cracks.
Is there such a new idea somewhere out there? I think there may be. Bill Lind calls it Retroculture. What it means is that, in our own lives and the lives of our families, and eventually our communities, we would deliberately revive old ways of doing things. Of course, we could not exactly re-create the past, but we would use the past as a guide and a benchmark.
I know America has always been a future-focused country. But that may be changing. As early as 1990, the Free Congress Foundation did a national survey about Americans’ attitude toward the past, present and future. The results were a big surprise.
Even fifteen years ago, most people said the past was better than the present and the future would be worse than the present. I think millions of Americans might rally to a call to return to the ways we used to live, in many (obviously not all) aspects of our lives.
A good example is public education. Everyone knows today’s public schools are much worse than those we had in the late 1950s. That is true in rich areas and in poor. The education lobby says the answer is even more “new math” and other modernist rubbish, plus of course oceans of Political Correctness and money.
What if instead our new movement called for “Schools 1950?” We still know how those schools worked. We would go back to teaching the facts, reasoning, and skills like adding and multiplying without a calculator, instead of worrying about pupils’ “self-esteem.” Of course we would teach some newer things as well, such as computer skills. But the basic rule would be, “What worked then can work again.”
In fact, that might not be a bad slogan for our new movement. It is true in so many areas of our lives. It is true about families, marriage and sexual morals; finance, both family and national (everybody used to know that debt was dangerous); entertainment (it used to be both good and decent); even in areas like public transportation, where streetcars were better than buses. The old America, America before the cultural revolution of the 1960s, was a pretty good place. Even a lot of young people know that is true.
This movement would seek to re-build our old culture from the bottom up, one individual or family at a time. That is slow, I know. But I don’t think there is any other way to win the culture war. We have lost so much that we almost have to start over again. It is too late, when it comes to our culture, to conserve. We have to restore.
The restoration movement in architecture points to where Retroculture might go. In the 1960s, it was fashionable among architects and urban planners to rip down Victorian and even federal and colonial buildings and put up new ones. The new ones were usually awful. Now, most people agree that older buildings can and should be restored rather than replaced.
I really think that a next conservatism that included a movement to recover our old ways of thinking and living could win the culture war, which so far we have lost. Still, politics remains important. In my next column, I intend to talk about what we need to do in politics.
Paul M. Weyrich is the Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
While culture is more important than politics, and the next conservatism must include a new movement to restore our traditional culture, politics remains important, too. The political question is, what vehicle should the next conservatism choose in politics? Even a powerful new culturally conservative movement will need a relationship with a political party.
Some conservatives will argue that we should create a new political party. I understand that sentiment. In many ways, the Republican Party has been a disappointment.
But the fact remains that our whole political system is tilted powerfully against third parties. Third parties can and do play useful roles, especially in raising issues the two main parties would rather avoid (like immigration and the damage done by free trade). But in the end, it is virtually certain that national elections will be won by either the Republican or Democratic Party.
In my opinion, as someone who has spent most of his life in politics, that means the next conservatism must attempt to re-take the Republican Party. We have to do again what we did starting in the 1960s and ending in the nomination of Ronald Reagan in 1980.
Of course, many Republicans will tell us, “You don’t need to re-take the Republican Party for conservatism. It is conservative now.” Well, that isn’t exactly accurate. On some issues it is true. The Bush administration has nominated good judges, and most Republicans in the Senate have tried to get them confirmed. We have cut taxes again. There are other examples of real conservatism in today’s Republican Party.
But there are too many issues where the Republican Party, openly or covertly, has sold us out. Its policy of promoting democracy around the world through wars is Wilsonianism, which is the opposite of conservatism. On immigration and trade issues, it could hardly be worse. On the culture, it tells cultural conservatives it agrees with us, but what it actually does behind closed doors is often another story. Frankly, many Washington Republicans look on our beliefs on issues like feminism and “gay rights” with secrete derision. They tell us what we want to hear to our faces, but they don’t believe it. They have accepted the rules laid down by Political Correctness, at least to the point where they aren’t willing to break them.
So, again, in my view, unless we are prepared to be used and then disregarded by Republicans over and over, we need to re-take the Republican Party. How?
First, we will have to get behind a candidate. The candidate has to be really one of us. The candidate has to be willing to fight for our issues and to articulate our viewpoint. And the candidate has to agree that when elected he will put our people in positions of power. If we can get that kind of commitment, then we should back this candidate in every precinct caucus beginning in Iowa. Then we should be prepared for the states which have primaries. If we can nominate this candidate and elect him President then we can take over the Republican Party.
Just as George W. Bush appointed Ed Gillespie and then Ken Mehlman, two very able technicians, the candidate we back in 2008 must be ready to appoint the best political technician in the country - someone who knows about re-taking the party. That will be done state-by-state and, eventually, precinct-by-precinct.
Unless we have a Presidential candidate who will give us the best political operative in the country, we won’t get control of the party. The Goldwater people worked their hearts out all over the nation and were able to win state after state. But before long, the man who had brilliantly engineered the Goldwater primary victories, F. Clifton White, was out on the street replaced by an establishment GOP Chairman and an establishment manager. To this day many believe Goldwater’s devastating defeat could have been less severe had White been in charge for the general election. It is not sufficient to take over the party at the precinct level without a commitment that the right people will be in charge at the national level.
Once we have succeeded in re-taking the Republican Party for the next conservatism, we cannot stop. As surely as anything, the usual Washington types will re-take it from us under our noses, telling us what we want to hear while doing the opposite. The next conservatism needs a virtually automatic mechanism to primary any Republicans who stray. We have to make absolutely certain that any Republican who sells us out pays a price.
If we succeed in re-taking the Republican Party, and then keeping hold of it, we will have a powerful ally in keeping the state out of our faces and off our backs as we work to recover our culture. That is why politics must remain important to all of us.
Paul M. Weyrich is the Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
Because the next conservatism seeks to restore the American republic, it should want a Democratic Party that offers a viable alternative to the Republican Party. No political party can remain in power for long without becoming at least somewhat corrupt and also losing sight of its agenda. In fact, as I will argue in my next column, our political system needs third parties as well as two serious major parties if our republic is really to work.
At present, the Democratic Party does not constitute a viable alternative, as many Democrats recognize. While it criticizes President Bush, it has virtually no ideas of its own to offer. Even on the war in Iraq, an adventure which many conservatives criticized from the outset, the Democrats’ voice has been muted and incoherent.
As someone who has observed and participated in national politics for four decades, here is my prescription for reviving the Democratic Party. What I recommend here does not necessarily reflect my own views on specific issues. In effect, I am playing the role of “political doctor,” offering what I think would work for my “patient,” the Democrats.
First, if the Democratic Party wants to be able once again to appeal to a majority of Americans, not just a collection of special interest groups, it needs to dump Political Correctness. Political Correctness, which is really the cultural Marxism of the Frankfurt School, condemns whites, Christians, men and non-Feminist women. They represent a majority of American voters. So long as these people know the Democratic Party sees them as enemies, they will not vote for it, which means that even if bad times get the Democrats in once, they will soon be out again. Political Correctness condemns the Democratic Party to long-term minority status.
Then, the Democrats need a new platform, one that amounts to more than whining about the Republicans. I would recommend their new platform include the following planks:
o A realistic foreign policy based on interests and prudence. With the Republicans adopting Wilsonianism and the war in Iraq not going too well, the Democrats have an opportunity to appeal to a majority of voters by opposing adventurism in foreign affairs.
o Military reform, which looks not just at how much we spend on defense but what the money actually buys and whether it is relevant to future wars.
o A policy of long-term financial soundness for the federal government. The programs Democrats favor, like Social Security and Medicare, depend on this. Republicans’ imprudence on government spending opens a door for the Democrats here.
o A pro-growth economic policy, but one that focuses on jobs rather than Wall Street’s profits. The quality of new jobs, which means whether they pay enough to raise a family on, needs to be central. That in turn means the Democratic Party should become the party that works to restore America’s industry and manufacturing. If that brings free trade into question, so be it; the Democrats can leave free trade to the Republicans. Most Americans would rather have fair trade than free trade.
o A pro-growth policy on population also, which means the Democratic Party would once again favor large families. On abortion, the Democrats would say abortion should be legal but rare and mean it. The best way to do that is adopt the “95/10 Plan” promoted by Democrats for Life, which says that within ten years we should provide alternatives to abortion in 95% of all cases.
o Restrictions on immigration and also on out-sourcing jobs overseas. Immigration and out-sourcing are the two biggest threats to jobs middle and lower-middle class Americans need.
o Instead of the “multi-culturalism” demanded by Political Correctness, the Democratic Party should once again become the party of racial integration, which means acculturating blacks and immigrants into standard middle-class American values. That is the only way blacks and immigrants can hope to become members of the middle class economically. Movements such as that to make English America’s official language should be welcomed and supported by the Democratic Party as ways to help its minority constituents.
Again, the fact that I am recommending these positions to the Democratic Party does not mean I agree with all of them personally. I strongly believe that abortion should be against the law.
But I think that a platform like this could make the Democratic Party a potential majority party once more, so long as it is coupled with showing Political Correctness the door. That will be the toughest challenge for the Democrats, because so much of their party’s money comes from elites that hate traditional American culture and the Christian religion. The Democrats face a choice: that money or the votes of average Americans? I doubt they can get both.
Paul M. Weyrich is the Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
By Paul M. Weyrich
When visitors come from abroad to study our political system they are most often told “the United States has a two-party system.” Well, that is true to some extent. But there have been times when third parties have achieved a course correction for one or the other of the major parties which was absolutely necessary.
We could almost go back to the beginning of our political system to examine the role of third parties. The Republicans, now in power in Washington, were a third party when they were formed in Ripon, Wisconsin. They ended up replacing the Whig party which disintegrated in a very short time. Just a few years after they formed their party, Republicans ended up electing their Presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln, in 1860.
But let us look at third parties during the 20th Century. Twice, third parties were ego-driven and achieved little lasting effect on the major parties. But twice they were ideologically-driven and did have an impact on the two major parties.
One of the ego-driven efforts was that of Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Progressives. Roosevelt had been William McKinley’s running mate in the 1900 election and when McKinley was assassinated in 1901 Roosevelt assumed the Presidency at age 42. He was re-elected in 1904 and in 1908 decided not to run again.
The Republicans chose rotund William Howard Taft as their Presidential nominee. By 1912, when Taft was running for re-election, Roosevelt was dissatisfied with Taft’s policies. He was too conservative, Roosevelt said. But mostly, Roosevelt wanted to be President again. So he founded the Bull Moose Progressives who promptly nominated Roosevelt as their standard bearer. The result of Roosevelt’s candidacy was to defeat Taft and elect Woodrow Wilson. Roosevelt did not change the Republican party much at all and few historians argue that he had much of an effect on the Democrat party.
Then came the “back to normalcy” era of Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge. Elected in large part as a reaction to Wilson’s leading the United States into the First World War, these two candidates were very conservative. Harding died in 1923 and Coolidge became President. He ran for another term in 1924. The Democrats nominated John W. Davis. Davis, if you can imagine, was regarded as more conservative than Coolidge.
Meanwhile, since both parties were in the hands of the conservatives, the Progressive party, which had been successful in electing a number of Governor and Senators, nominated one of its founders, Governor Robert M. LaFollette of Wisconsin, for President. Burton K. Wheeler of Montana (long a Senator from that state) was his running mate. In the end, Coolidge crushed Davis, receiving nearly 16 million some votes to Davis’s eight million. Coolidge won the electoral college 382 to 138.
LaFollette did win his home state’s 13 electoral votes and received almost 5 million votes nationwide. LaFollette had run on a program of reform, promising to do for the nation what he had done for Wisconsin, which was then and is now regarded as one of the more honest states politically. That shocked the Democrats, and they made a concerted effort to recruit Progressives into the Democrat party. They wound up with a number of elected officials who did join.
The Progressives were not really a factor in 1928. Many of them supported Herbert Hoover since he supposedly was more liberal than Coolidge. But by 1932 it is fair to say that the Progressives of Bob LaFollette were comfortable with FDR’s reform agenda and they helped Franklin D. Roosevelt win a landslide victory. The Progressives greatly influenced the Democrat party, except in Wisconsin where the Progressive party lasted into the 1940s. The son of the LaFollette Presidential candidate, Robert Junior, was also elected Governor but then ran for the US Senate as a Republican. He was defeated for re-election in a GOP Primary by one Joseph R. McCarthy, who complained, by the way, that LaFollette wasn’t liberal enough.
In any case, in Wisconsin the Progressives, when they broke up, went into both major parties and there was a sort of Progressive wing of either party at least into the 1970s. LaFollette was effective because of his platform and agenda and that agenda in turn was a major influence on one of our national parties.
The other third party of the 20th Century which had an agenda was the American Independent party of George Wallace. Wallace was Governor of Alabama. He shocked folks by entering the Democrat primary in supposedly progressive Wisconsin and getting a third of the vote. When Sen. Barry Goldwater won the GOP nomination in 1964 and was popular in the South, Wallace was persuaded to drop his plans to run as a third party candidate. But when Goldwater got trounced in 1964 by incumbent Lyndon Johnson, and more liberal Republicans again came to the fore, Wallace repeated his pitch that “there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between either party.”
While some of Wallace’s support was segregationist, not all of it was. Many populist lower middle class conservatives saw Wallace as a way to protest the liberalism which had infected both of the major parties. Wallace ran in 1968 under the banner of the American Independent party. He carried a number of Southern states and received a respectable showing nationwide. For a time it appeared that he would deprive Richard M. Nixon of the Presidency. Enough conservatives, fearful of Hubert H. Humphrey, switched back to Nixon at the last moment that Nixon was barely elected.
Wallace did achieve his objective, however, as his candidacy inspired Kevin Phillips to write his famous book on the Southern strategy. Nixon followed Phillips’ advice and the Wallace vote was folded into the GOP by the end of Nixon’s first term. That vote would have stayed with the Republicans but for Watergate. But it eventually returned. Most Senators and a majority of Congressmen from the South are now Republicans. So while Wallace did not have the kind of platform LaFollette had, he did represent an ideological course correction for one of the two major parties which saw the advantage of going after the Wallace vote.
The final third party effort was ego driven and that was the 1992 effort of H. Ross Perot. When Perot first entered the Presidential race, he almost immediately began polling in first place. But after a series of bizarre happenings he withdrew from the race. By the time he got back in, his credibility had been eroded. He did achieve his objective, however, of bringing down the Presidency of George Herbert Walker Bush, whom he intensely disliked. The Bill Clinton people and the Perot people were openly working together in some states at the end. Perot did not carry a single state but he received close to 20 million votes. Beginning in 1993, Senate Republican Leader Bob Dole began claiming that he was representing not only the Republicans but also the independents who voted for Perot. The Republican adjustment to the Perot vote as well as Clinton’s overreach resulted in landslide victories for the Republicans in 1994.
Perot was a multi-millionaire who largely financed his own campaign, at least at first. The problem today is, absent a multi-millionaire who already has strong national name recognition, it is next to impossible for a third party to do what the LaFollette Progressives did or even what George Wallace accomplished. The two parties have conspired both at the national level and in many states to make it next to impossible for a third party to get on the ballot. But even if a third party does that, the two major parties now run the national debates and exclude third party candidates, even those who are well known. Ralph Nader ran twice and could not be included in the national debates because the bar has been set so high by the two main parties that not even a well known candidate like Nader could meet it. The major parties have also given themselves special mail privileges which a third party can’t have unless it gets in power.
So today, for a third party candidate to have an impact, one would have to find a multi-billionaire with unlimited resources who already had name recognition of the kind that Lance Armstrong or some other athletic figure has, and even then there would be all sorts of barriers to his being on the ballot in all 50 states. This is a pity, as third parties have provided a valuable service to the American electorate. In our Republic, there should not be the kind of barriers to third party success which the Democrats and Republicans together have enacted.
The Next Conservatism should strongly advocate repeal of all unfair advantages the two major parties have given themselves. Then, if one or the other of the major parties does not make room for real conservatism, that party should either be replaced by a new party or shaken up enough by a third party showing that it will correct its course.
By William S. Lind
For years, conservatives have warned that America’s children are not learning to read, and indeed are not reading: the classics of Western literature are now largely unknown to them. The next conservatism will have to confront the results of this dual functional and cultural illiteracy. Specifically, it will have to face the fact that American culture is increasingly post-literate.
Nor is the problem simply a vacuum. The place of reading has been taken by the viewing of images, images presented on electronic screens. The image has displaced the word. An unread Plato is hoist on his own petard: for more and more Americans, reality is defined by flickering shadows on the cave wall.
This development is more profound and far-reaching than most people comprehend. One of the defining characteristics of Western culture has been its painful struggle, waged now for a good 3000 years, to replace the image with the word. That struggle has defined both Judaism and Christianity - Jerusalem - and arguably Athens as well, in the development of philosophy from the ancient cults and their myths.
What took 3000 years to achieve has been lost in 30 years. The consequences for our culture range wide, probably beyond anything we can perceive at present. Some of those consequences are, in my view:
o A people cut off from its past. The West’s traditions are mostly written, contained in its great literature, beginning with the Old and New Testaments and the works of classical Greeks and Romans. When those written works go unread, the content of Western culture runs out into history’s sands. If Western culture loses its content, then the West loses its culture, and becomes . . . what? Probably extinct, something the West’s birthrates point to in any case.
o A post-literate culture will have little ability to think logically. Reason and logic demand words; images, in contrast, feed emotions. It should not surprise us that Americans no longer think but rather feel. Again we find ourselves up against one of the bedrocks of Western culture; logic and reason have been particularly Western characteristics. As that bedrock crumbles, what will happen to the structure erected upon it, a structure we call the Modern Age? Post-literate and post-modern may be cause and effect.
o A people cut off from its past, largely unable to reason and directed primarily by images, will be easy to manipulate. In fact, the people will be as easy to manipulate and control as the images themselves. This is a phenomenon we already see all around us, from the power of commercial advertising to the use of television by the cultural Marxists to psychologically condition us. Want to “normalize” homosexuality? Just run television show after television show where the only normal-seeming white male is a homosexual.
o A people that lives by the image rather than by the word will easily become entrapped in virtual realities, something again which we already see, especially among the very post-literate young. Unfortunately, all virtual realities come from Hell; if there can be more than one reality, there can be more than one God. On a purely practical level, all virtual realities eventually collapse; the more powerful they are, the greater the crash will be. America’s crash could be of epic proportions.
As Paul Weyrich has written in other columns, the next conservatism will have to grapple with some weighty issues, issues rather more difficult than marginal tax rates. The likely fate of a post-literate West is one.
But there is something the next conservatism can do now. It can call on all Americans to follow the old rule that when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. Turn off the television (or better, like Russell Kirk, throw it off the roof of the house). Unplug the computers, especially the kids’ computers. Get out the old books, the books that convey the content of our culture, and start reading them again. It was not all that long ago that we stopped doing so. So far, at least, the books are still available (who knows for how much longer?). The home schoolers, thankfully, are doing just that.
At the heart of our culture lies the Word, the Logos. “In the beginning was the Word . . .” The next conservatism’s duty is to conserve precisely that. It is time we recognized the post-literate, image-worshipping culture of the electronic age for the mortal danger that it is.
President George W. Bush was half right and half wrong about oil in his State of the Union speech. “America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world,” he said. However, we can’t “break this addiction through technology” alone. Two words conservatives should champion were missing from his speech: conservation and efficiency.
Current U.S. energy policy and the President’s Advanced Energy Initiative are too modest and overly focused on the goal of increasing domestic production of oil and alternatives to support increasing oil consumption. This is futile and self-defeating because U.S. oil production is in permanent decline and world oil production will follow - perhaps disastrously soon.
American Shell Oil scientist M. King Hubbert identified “peak oil” in the mid-1950s. He discovered oil field production follows a bell curve rising to a maximum capacity, or peak, when about half of the oil is extracted, after which production declines. U.S. oil production peaked in 1971 and has declined every year since. The U.S. has only two percent of world oil reserves. We contribute eight percent of world production. But we consume 25 percent of world oil production. We’re pumping our reserves four times faster than the rest of the world. U.S. natural gas production has also peaked. The United States is now the world’s largest importer of both oil and natural gas. From importing one-third of the oil we use before the Arab Oil Embargo in 1973, we now import about two-thirds of the oil we use.
Hubbert was right about the U.S. What about the world? Oil production is declining in 33 of the world’s 48 largest oil-producing countries. Experts agree global peak oil is inevitable. Many predict it is imminent. Oil prices have not predicted peak production. Neither high oil prices nor technological advances have reversed production declines after peak. Despite periods of high prices and new technologies, world oil discoveries have steadily declined for 40 years.
With U.S. oil production declining, increasing oil consumption will make America more dependent upon oil imports from foreign sources such as Saudi Arabia, Russia, Nigeria and Venezuela. Increasing oil consumption will increase competition and potential conflict with other energy consumers, such as China and India. Increasing oil consumption will make us less prepared and capable to overcome the inevitable challenges of global peak oil.
Peak oil will cause a crisis in transportation because there are no ready liquid fuel substitutes of comparable quality or quantity. We can’t fill gas tanks with coal, wind, solar or nuclear fuel. A February 2005 report commissioned by the Department of Energy, Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation and Risk Management, concluded that a crash program to produce liquid fuel alternatives at the maximum feasible rate must start twenty years before peak to avoid significant supply shortages. Oil prices haven’t promoted those alternatives. In the Wall Street Journal on January 10, 2006, Marc Sumerlin, formerly Deputy Director of President Bush’s National Economic Council, noted that investment in alternatives to oil was stymied by $20/barrel futures market prices for oil between 1986 and 2003 and fears of a repeat of the 1998 plunge down to $10/barrel.
$70/barrel oil and $3.50/gallon gas will seem cheap after global peak oil. In its September 6, 2005 report, Oil Shockwave, the National Commission on Energy Policy & Securing America’s Future Energy projected that a sustained four percent global shortfall in daily oil supply would raise oil prices above $160 per barrel. Prices that high would inflict a ruinous worldwide recession.
Technology and alternatives are important. However, unless we also use less oil, we won’t reduce America’s oil imports. Delayed gratification and self-sufficiency are traditional conservative values. That is why the next conservatism should champion policy changes to use less, not more oil through conservation and energy efficiency. Conservatives should recognize that unless we have a national energy conservation program with the commitment, breadth and intensity of the Apollo moon mission and the Manhattan Project to create the atom bomb, our country is unlikely to achieve the goal of replacing “more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025” and even less likely to break our oil addiction.
Roscoe G. Bartlett, a Republican, represents the Sixth District of Maryland in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The next conservatism, like conservatism today, should regard environmentalism warily. Environmentalism is on the verge of becoming an ideology, if it has not done so already. That means environmentalists twist facts to fit their preconceived notions. All ideologies do that, which is why conservatives don’t like ideologies.
But conservation is another matter. The words “conservative” and “conservation” come from the same root, conserve. As conservatives, we believe in conserving traditions, morals, and culture, but also clean air and water, farms and countryside, energy (much of which must be imported), and the soil itself, on which we all depend for our food.
Conservatives don’t like waste. Reckless, frivolous, unnecessary consumption is not a conservative virtue. Like many conservatives, I grew up in a household where nothing was wasted. We used everything until it was used up, or until we passed it on to other people poorer than ourselves. We seldom bought things we did not need. That is a good way to live, regardless of how much money we have. A society’s real strength comes from production, saving and investment, not consumption. Earlier generations of Americans understood this and lived accordingly.
In my opinion, conservation needs to be part of the next conservatism. This will be particularly important as energy becomes more expensive, and as some traditional sources of energy such as oil become relatively scarce.
But there is a larger aspect to conservation, one that ties into a central idea of the next conservatism, the importance of local life. Globalism, which is a dominant idea among the Washington Establishment, preaches bigness. We are supposed to welcome a “world economy” where virtually all our manufactured goods come from overseas, our energy comes from massive, often international networks, our food from huge agribusinesses. The Globalists seldom talk about how vulnerable this leaves us to events in other parts of the world. Nor do they talk about the consequences for the lives of ordinary Americans, who are left both dependent on and in competition with other people all over the world.
In my view, the next conservatism’s conservation needs to point away from Globalism and toward a new focus on local life. Here, some new technologies may be helpful. In the future, it may be possible to produce energy locally, from solar or wind power or in-home fuel cells. And even with current technology, there is much we can do to reduce our dependence on big systems by reviving old ways, something conservatives favor. In much of America, we can eat food grown locally and use local products much more than most of us now do. Often, the quality is better, and if the price is somewhat higher, the money is going to our neighbors rather than to some international mega-corporation. As I have said before, the quality of our lives is not determined by how much cheap junk we own.
There are two conservation movements that represent the sort of things I think the next conservatism should support, sustainable agriculture and organic farming. Both attempt to restore and maintain the fertility of the soil itself, as opposed to relying on ever-greater doses of chemicals and genetically engineered crops. The nation’s soil is perhaps our most important resource, one that we should feel honor bound to pass on in a healthy condition to the next generation. These two movements, in turn, tie into efforts to promote local foods through farmers’ markets and cooperatives and to restore family farming as a viable way of life. Those also make sense from a conservative perspective, because they strengthen local life.
I have suggested previously in this series that “think locally, act locally” needs to be a principle of the next conservatism, if we want to steer our country away from Brave New World. Conservation, in turn, is a logical part of thinking and acting locally, because if we do not conserve our local land, water and air we degrade our own neighborhood. As conservatives, we should not fall for environmentalism or any other ideology. But we should conserve, in the way we live our own lives and relate to the people around us. The next conservatism, like all real conservatism, is ultimately a way of life.
Paul M. Weyrich is the Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
The race issue is the elephant in America’s living room. We all wish it wasn’t there but it’s too big to ignore. So what should the next conservatism say about race?
Of course, the cultural Marxism we know as Political Correctness tells us we can’t say anything. It argues that only blacks can say anything about the race issue, and even then blacks are only allowed to spout the party line. Political Correctness defines any conservative black as “white.” It says the same thing about “women’s issues.” Only Feminist women are allowed to have a say.
This is baloney. America’s race problem affects us all, blacks, whites, Asians and Hispanics. As conservatives, we cannot ignore it. Nor can blacks, who suffer more than anyone else from the failure of past policies.
The next conservatism attempts to look down the road to see where we need to go in the future. I think that on race, our starting point needs to be a realization that the civil rights era is over. The main problem facing American blacks is not white racism or discrimination. In fact, under “affirmative action” it is whites and Asians who are discriminated against. The main problem facing blacks is a cultural breakdown within the urban black community, a breakdown that has had tragic effects in terms of crime, drug use, illegitimacy, abortion and an unwillingness of too many young blacks to get a good education so they can join the American middle class.
Ironically, it is the values preached by the cultural Marxists in the 1960s that are mainly responsible for this breakdown. People like Herbert Marcuse preached a culture of instant gratification: “If it feels good, do it.” Middle class white college kids “did it” in college, but then went on to law school and successful lives. In the ghetto, black kids just kept on doing it, resulting in the sort of values we hear in rap music and see in action in our inner cities. It has been an enormous national tragedy, one that has wasted countless lives.
It is important that we, as conservatives, remind ourselves and other Americans that it wasn’t always like this. The black inner city of 50 or 60 years ago was not a bad place. Yes, it was largely poor and then blacks did suffer from outright discrimination, which was wrong. But the black community was not disordered. It was not unsafe. The problems in black schools were the same as in white schools, running in the halls and talking in class. Children were not shot and killed on their way to or from school for their jacket or their shoes. As late as the 1950s, 80% of black children came home from school to a married mother and father. If you were white, you could walk through those neighborhoods in complete safety. The people you met there were friendly to you.
Fortunately, some courageous black leaders are beginning to address the real issue. They are pointing out to other blacks that the black community’s current problems are a making of blacks’ own behavior. They are addressing the culture of instant gratification that has spread so widely, especially among young blacks. They are telling their own people that they must recover their old culture, a culture where the black church was strong and blacks, like whites, followed solid middle class values, which start with delayed gratification.
This ties in directly with the next conservatism’s rejection of multiculturalism. We recognize that America needs to have one common culture. That culture in turn needs to be based on middle class values that start with delayed gratification and include the merit of hard work, education, saving, lifetime marriage and strong families and the importance of God and church. Again, these were values the black community shared with whites only a few decades back. No one has ever known more sincere, self-sacrificing Christians than the black “church ladies” who were the backbone of the old black community.
So it seems to me that the next conservatism’s position on race needs two elements. First, we will not fall for the line that America’s racial problem is white racism. That was true once but it isn’t any more. Most whites wish blacks well.
Second, we need to make it clear that we will support in any way we can the black community’s efforts to recover from its own cultural collapse, a collapse springing from the disastrous era of the late 1960s, which of course affected many whites as well. It is vital for blacks and whites alike that blacks, especially black young people, adopt sound, functional middle class values. Again, the same is true for young whites, and Hispanics and Asians (it is precisely these values which enable Asians to do so well.)
Our goal, as conservatives, is the same as the goal of the civil rights movement of the 1940s and 50s: an America where skin color is merely incidental, a country where blacks, whites and everyone else has equal opportunity to live prosperous, safe, middle class lives. It is appropriate that the next conservatism should point out that in order to move forward, we need to look back and recover good things from the past that we have lost. That is true in many areas, for blacks and whites alike.
Paul M. Weyrich is the Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
One of the topics the next conservatism will have to address with some urgency is grand strategy. Grand strategy is a country’s overarching idea about how it intends to relate to the rest of the world.
Currently, America’s grand strategy is to press “democratic capitalism” on the rest of the world, by force of arms if necessary. Not only has that grand strategy led us into a morass in Iraq, it has greatly undermined our moral standing almost everywhere. As Russell Kirk wrote, the surest way to make someone your enemy is to tell him you are going to remake him in your image for his own good.
By the end of the Bush administration, if not before, it will be clear that America needs a different grand strategy. The next conservatism will have to offer one. But before we can offer a new grand strategy, we need to understand the grand strategic context - the environment with which our grand strategy will have to deal. Paul Weyrich asked me to lay out the 21st Century grand strategic context as I see it in this and the next column.
In my view, the 21st Century will be shaped on the grand strategic level by a collision between two vast forces, the Fourth Generation of Modern War and Brave New World. The forces of the Fourth Generation are non-state elements such as al Qaeda and other “terrorists,” as well as gangs, waves of immigrants from other cultures and anyone else who is willing to fight for something other than a state.
As I said in an earlier column, conservatives have to grasp that with the advent of Fourth Generation war, we are facing the greatest change in armed conflict since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. That treaty gave states a monopoly on war. The Fourth Generation is marked by the state’s loss of that monopoly and the rise of non-state elements that can fight states and win.
At the heart of this vast change is not a military but a political, social and moral development, a crisis of legitimacy of the state itself. All over the world, including in America, people are withdrawing their primary loyalty from the state and giving it to a wide variety of other things, of many different kinds: to families, clans, tribes, ethnic groups and races, gangs, ideologies, “causes” such as environmentalism and “animal rights,” religions and so on. Many people who would never fight for their state are willing, even eager, to fight for their new primary loyalty.
The result of this shift in loyalties will be a 21st Century marked not by “the end of history” that some advocates of American empire have projected, but the return of history, specifically the return of a world similar to Europe between the end of the Middle Ages and the rise of the state. As the state recedes and in some places disappears, life will become nasty, brutish and short. We already see this in places such as West Africa, Somalia, and Iraq, where the state has either vanished or become a fiction, merely a name adopted by one of the many gangs of armed robbers. Where the forces of the Fourth Generation prevail, the Dark Ages will return, and they may once again last for centuries.
The threat represented by the Fourth Generation is easy for most conservatives, and most Americans, to grasp. We are told that we are fighting just that threat in Iraq. In reality, it was our invasion that destroyed the Iraqi state and turned Mesopotamia into a happy hunting ground for a variety of Islamic, non-state, Fourth Generation elements.
Here we see the point where the grand strategic context grows difficult for American conservatives. We want to accept the Washington Establishment’s assurances that the counter to the Fourth Generation is more American troops, more American intervention abroad to promote “democratic capitalism.”
But that is not the reality. The reality is that the Fourth Generation’s main enemy is not the America that most conservatives identify with, a culturally Christian American republic, but another force just a sinister as the Fourth Generation itself: Brave New World. In my next column, I will address that aspect of the grand strategic context.
During the Cold War American conservatives faced an easy choice. On one side was the United States and the free world, which represented good. On the other was the Soviet Union and world communism, which was evil.
The next conservatism must deal with a more complex grand strategic context. On the one hand are the forces of the Fourth Generation, which I described in the previous column; al Qaeda is an example. We easily recognize these forces as evil.
But on the other hand we find not a force for good but another evil, Brave New World. And while the old United States did represent good during the Cold War, the new, post-1960s America, or at least its elites, is the global leader of Brave New World.
When I was in high school, which was sometime ago, students everywhere had to read two books that laid out two alternate totalitarian futures. One was 1984, which described a future similar to Stalin’s Soviet Union. The other book was a short novel written in the 1930s by a British author, Aldous Huxley, titled Brave New World. I suspect few public school students read Brave New World today; it might lead them to question the direction in which America is heading, led in part by the public schools.
Brave New World presents a totalitarian future where the first rule is, “you must be happy.” Happiness comes from a combination of materialism, consumerism, electronic entertainment and sexual pleasure. The world is ruled by a global government, which controls all culture and subjects people everywhere to endless psychological conditioning. Does this begin to sound familiar? It should because America has already gone far down the road Huxley envisioned.
Even reproductive processes are becoming much as Huxley foresaw them; in his Brave New World, children were born from bottles in laboratories, not mothers, and were genetically conditioned for their later roles in life. Sex was purely recreational, and everything was permitted except long-term relationships such as marriage. Soon enough, genetic engineering (one of the technologies of which the next conservatism should be extremely skeptical) will give us the genetic conditioning Huxley foresaw to add to the already ever-present psychological conditioning. Together, they will create an inescapable prison for the human will. At that point, we will face what C.S. Lewis called the Abolition of Man.
America’s elites have added to Brave New World one element Huxley did not foresee, the ideology of cultural Marxism, otherwise known as Political Correctness. Cultural Marxism has as its goal the destruction of the Christian religion and Western culture, two obvious obstacles to Brave New World’s total control over the human will. Cultural Marxism now holds sway over all Western elites; to deny or contravene it (without groveling apologies) is to cease immediately to be a member of the elite. Ordinary people are psychologically conditioned, especially through television and the public schools, to be unable to contravene cultural Marxism. Its marriage with Brave New World is mutually convenient.
Just as Brave New World is correct when it says that the forces of the Fourth Generation represent a return to the Dark Ages, so the Fourth Generation is correct when it calls Brave New World Satanic. Yet as I said at the outset, the collision between these two vast forces will define the grand strategic context in the 21st Century.
How should the next conservatism deal with this situation? Choosing the lesser of two evils is not an option because if there is one thing Brave New World and the Fourth Generation agree on it is that “Western culture’s got to go.” Western culture defines who we are as conservatives.
Rather, we must do what seems impossible. We must rally the remnants of the Christian West to fight the Fourth Generation and Brave New World simultaneously. The next conservatism must strive to keep the old faith, the old morals and old ways of living alive as, hopefully, Brave New World and the Fourth Generation destroy each other. Will that be possible? With God, all things are possible. But it certainly is not going to be easy.
An old conservative characteristic the next conservatism should revive is a suspicion of bigness. Many conservatives remain suspicious of big government, as well they should. But we should favor small scale in many other things as well. Small scale is critical to local life, to the ability of local people to control what happens where they live. In general, small, local schools teach better than big, regional schools; small towns work better than big cities; and small business provides communities a better economic base than does big business. Big businesses care little, if at all, what effects their actions have locally. Small businesses do care, because their owners and managers live in the local community. If they injure that community, they hurt themselves as well.
Small businesses are also an important part of something America does relatively well - namely, creating economic opportunity and new jobs. A major reason we do that better than much of the rest of the world, including Europe, is that small businesses and especially new start-ups face fewer government obstacles. In much of the world someone who wants to start a new business faces a huge, hostile government bureaucracy. It can take him months or years (and often bribes) to get the many permissions he needs.
The next conservatism should work to build on this American success. The lesson is not that we should rest happy in our superiority to other places but rather that we can benefit even more if we make establishing a new business even easier.
At present, while starting a new business is less difficult than in most other places, it can still be daunting. Immediately, the person who wants to set up shop faces an array of federal, state and local rules and regulations. He is deluged with pieces of government paper, many of which begin, “Under penalty of law.” The many forms he must fill out are obscure and confusing. If he makes an honest mistake he may be legally liable.
If we really want to promote small businesses, the next conservatism should work to reduce this burden. Some of the rules and regulations should simply be abolished. Others, such as public health requirements for new restaurants, are clearly necessary. But where government imposes a requirement, it could and should also offer the help people need to meet that requirement, especially help in dealing with government paperwork.
I propose the next conservatism incorporate something along these lines. Whenever government lays a reporting or other paperwork requirement on small business it also offers an office the business can turn to, without charge, to obtain help in meeting the requirement. The office offers both advice on meeting the substance of the requirement and help in filling out the paperwork. In effect, this office would be a type of ombudsman, a government employee who helps ordinary people to deal with other government offices.
Here is an example. Let us say someone is good at repairing small appliances. He starts to set up a small business to do that. Immediately, he faces multiple government requirements with a large amount of paperwork and complex forms. Now, he is very good at repairing appliances, but knows nothing about legal forms. Most of them seem incomprehensible to him.
Instead of having to hire a lawyer with money he probably doesn’t have, he can turn to his local small business ombudsman. The ombudsman not only walks him through what the requirements mean, he sits down with him and helps him fill out all the forms. If there is a mistake, the error is first drawn to the attention of the ombudsman rather than facing the new business with legal action. The ombudsman’s job is to get the business up and going by running interference for the business owner, and he has the legal authority to do that.
This is one way the next conservatism could be especially helpful to inner-city residents, minorities and immigrants. Many of these people have skills that could be the basis of a small business. But they have no idea how to deal with government, and they are often afraid of the government. Right in their neighborhood would be a small business ombudsman’s office they could go to for all the help and assurance they would need. The burden imposed by government would fall at least partly on government, instead of serving as a crippling tax on enterprise.
By including such a program, the next conservatism would build incrementally on something America already does comparatively well. That in itself is conservative. Conservatives rightly favor incremental progress over sweeping programs. We would also put some substance behind our belief in thinking locally and acting locally. The only losers would be the lawyers, and if more of them get pushed into an honest line of work, so much the better.
Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
By Paul M. Weyrich
The next conservatism, like today’s conservatism, will generally be opposed to new taxes. But there should be some exceptions. There is an old saying that, “if you want less of something, tax it.” That is the rationale for “sin taxes,” high taxes on substances such as cigarettes and alcohol. It is also the reason conservatives oppose higher marginal tax rates on incomes and profits. Income and profits represent economic growth, and the more we tax growth, the less growth we will have.
Something the next conservatism should want less of is outsourcing American jobs overseas. Both the Republican and Democratic Parties now support free trade, which has some important benefits. But it also effectively averages America’s economy with the Third World economies of places such as China and India, which have low wages and low standards of living. Not surprisingly, one result is that the standard of living of middle and lower-middle class Americans is dropping. It will continue to drop so long as we keep outsourcing jobs overseas.
Let me note that in this instance, the Democrats are betraying their own base more than the Republicans. I have mentioned other issues where the Republicans are selling conservatives out, with immigration at the top of the list. But American workers, especially those in manufacturing, have tended to vote Democratic. When Democrats support free trade and unlimited outsourcing of American jobs overseas, they are giving American workers a kick in the pants. So why do so many Democratic Senators and Congressmen now back free trade? The answer, as usual in Washington, is “follow the money.”
As I have argued in previous columns, the next conservatism should seek to include American workers. Most of them are cultural conservatives. So with the Democrats’ abandoning workers’ most important economic interest, their jobs, I think the next conservatism should step in to defend those jobs. Patriotism also argues for such a position. If America continues to lose its manufacturing base and the good jobs it provides we will become a Third World country ourselves.
So if we want to stop or at least reduce outsourcing of jobs to foreign countries, we should tax outsourcing. In my view, that would be a good new tax. I am not an economist but one way to do that might be to levy export duties on outsourcing. When we think of tariffs, we usually think of tariffs on imports. But for many centuries countries also had export duties on some products. What if we put an export duty of, say, 500% on every job companies here send overseas? The company would have to pay a tax of five times the wage of the new employee it hired overseas. Businesses might find it made better economic sense to keep that job in America.
There might be better ways to tax outsourcing jobs than with export duties. I am not set on any specific way to do it. We might also want to dedicate the revenues from such a tax to things businesses here need, like improvements in infrastructure such as increasing the capacity of American railroads.
But the next conservatism should be for keeping good jobs in America. If we are really to be pro-family, we need to make sure heads of middle-class households can still obtain jobs that pay enough to raise a family. A major reason why so many mothers are in the workplace instead of home with their children is that their family requires two incomes to stay afloat.
The next conservatism should work to change that and restore the situation we had in the 1950s, where a male head of household could readily obtain a job providing a family wage. Averaging our economy with those of Third World countries works against a family wage in this country, and if a new tax can help us stop doing that, then in my book that is a good new tax. The next conservatism should be about serving Main Street, not Wall Street.
Over the past half-century, labor union presence in American life has declined greatly. In the 1940s only one union, John L. Lewis’s United Mine Workers of America, could and did hold hostage the whole country. Today only some 12% of American workers are union members.
Most conservatives see this as a good thing, and in some ways it is. But as I have argued in this series of columns on the next conservatism, conservatives should not be against American workers. Most of the people who work in manufacturing are cultural conservatives.
Moreover, the kind of country we desire only can exist if average people have jobs which pay a family wage, enough that the husband can give his family a middle-class standard of living on one paycheck so his wife can stay home with the children. That usually requires a job in industry, in a factory that manufactures. The free-trade policies which have shipped so many manufacturing jobs overseas also have exported many Americans’ way of life.
From this perspective, I want to suggest the next conservatism take a somewhat different position on labor, one that reflects today’s situation, not yesterday’s. We should be pro-labor, in the sense of pro-worker, not of course pro-union leadership. We should stand up for American private-sector workers and their most vital interest, manufacturing jobs that pay a middle-class wage.
Further, we should be willing to work with some unions, unions that actually stand for their members’ economic interests. We have a political opportunity here. The leadership of most of the big unions could care less about American workers. They use their compulsory dues to support all kinds of radical, Politically Correct causes that most of their members oppose. But on issues that affect their members’ jobs, like free trade, they go along with the Washington Establishment. They are completely out of touch with their base.
As in other aspects of the next conservatism, bigness is an issue here. In my view, we should favor smaller unions that are still in touch with their members and represent their actual economic interests. Again, we should be willing to work with those unions.
How do we get there, given that the big unions dominate? In my view, the next conservatism should include a plan for “trust-busting unions,” to go after the big unions that sell out their members. Specifics of such union trust-busting could include:
Enforcing regulations that are already on the books to require much more transparency in union expenditures. If the big unions’ members could see the kinds of radical causes to which their money goes, they would demand changes or form new unions.
Inform union members of the Beck decision, which ruled that union members were not obligated to pay dues that are used for causes unrelated to workers’ interests.
Eliminate all requirements for compulsory unionism, so unions actually represent workers if they expect workers to join them.
All of this goes only for unions that represent workers in private industries. Public sector workers’ unions are another matter. Not only are many of those union leaders deeply into the cultural Marxism of Political Correctness, so in some cases are their members. In their case, we need to continue to be wary. They can and do still hold the country hostage, or at least parts of it, as we saw in the recent, illegal New York City transit workers’ strike. We need to make it clear that public employees have no right to strike. After all, their wages are paid by our taxes. When they strike they are biting the hand that feeds them.
In sum, I am suggesting the next conservatism see labor and unions as differentiated rather than as all the same. Labor, in the form of unions that represent workers’ real economic interests like good manufacturing jobs, should not be seen as an opponent. On the contrary, it is a potential ally, at least on some issues. The leadership of the big unions, detached as it is from member interests and devoted to radical politics, remains an opponent, as do many public sector unions. There, some trust-busting is in order.
As the next conservatism should favor small scale in business and in agriculture it should favor small scale in unions as well. Small scale means local control, and real life is local.
Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
That oft-cited standby of lawyer and layman alike, BLACK’S LAW DICTIONARY, contains almost three small-point columns defining kinds of torts. Suffice it to quote the first, and basic, definition: “A civil wrong for which a remedy may be obtained, usually in the form of damages; a breach of a duty that the law imposes on everyone in the same relation to one another as those involved in a given transaction.”
In simpler and more pragmatic terminology, that means if one harms another or another’s property and does so negligently or grossly negligently, or sometimes merely when one had a “last clear chance” to avoid the harm, one has committed a tort, and, hence, is a tortfeasor. It isn’t necessary that the tortfeasor concurrently has violated a law (although sometimes he has).
Torts lead to litigation. As Hamlet (and lots of others) said, “Ay, there’s the rub.” As the multibillion dollar fiasco of tort litigation gone wild spreads like an economic and cultural “dumb-down” version of the deadliest Medieval plague, conservatives must lead the charge - and a rather militant charge at that - in attempting reform. Fortunately, if adequately organized, there are millions of Americans who do not think of themselves as conservatives, or often as of any other “label,” who would join the cause.
Hyperbole becomes reality in evaluating the cost in dollars, to the social order and to the culture of the spread of this ubiquitous virus. No measure is easy to quantify. Perhaps the least difficult is the economic. The most recent Tillinghast Survey (March 16, 2006), for example, estimates the gross cost to Americans of torturous damage to have been $ 260 billion in 2004, projected to rise to $ 315 billion in 2007. For irrelevant reasons (relating to Tillinghast’s inclusion of types of costs) the estimate arising from litigation probably is nearer 43%, or $ 112 billion, yet a staggering and unacceptable sum, higher as a GDP percentage than that of any other country.
The cost to the culture and social order, as noted, is the more difficult - indeed, probably impossible - to quantify. It is obvious to those who look about that there is a rather pervasive victimization mentality: If some ill fate befalls me, wholly or mostly not my fault, somebody must pay me - and pay me big time. Never mind that maybe it was nobody’s fault.
We all read about the staggeringly large jury verdicts which jurors return and judges, at times only because required to do so, sustain. Somebody smokes himself into cancer; it’s Big Tobacco’s fault. A baby is born defective; it’s the obstetrician’s fault. Somebody drives recklessly, something mechanical fails in the combination of speed and other recklessness; it’s the manufacturer or the dealer’s fault. A patient acquires an imperceptible staph infection at the hospital; it’s the hospital’s fault. A compulsive or indiscriminate eater eats himself into obesity or illness; it’s the restaurant, drive-in or other merchant’s fault. Somebody takes ill from asbestos exposure before science discovered the risk in asbestos; it’s the fault of the distributor, homebuilder, end-user, whoever. So on. Of course, there may be exceptions but the exceptions are so rare as to be statistically insignificant.
Whether individual actions (that is, plaintiffs suing) or class actions (that is, large numbers joined together by plaintiffs’ lawyers to sue), the claims abound. Billions are paid out by insurance companies (raising premiums for all of us); more billions are handed out by jurors, the so-called “Trial Lawyers” (that is, plaintiffs’ contingency-fee attorneys) not uncommonly raking in more than the plaintiffs. Goods and services cost more; shareholders, the employed and the self-employed all net less income.
Who are these jurors? It’s not “politically correct” to characterize a group of people. Yet in analyzing a group, as distinguished from analyzing individuals, some profiling is essential. Jurors in these civil tort cases must pass investigation by, and usually Q&A (“voir dire”) with, the attorneys trying the case. Plaintiffs’ contingency-fee attorneys by and large are a competent coterie, especially skilled at analyzing, and playing to, jurors. People-skills are vital; many of them are “working psychologists.” The ideal plaintiffs’ tort juror is (1) a sympathetic or charitable individual - “good” guy or gal; (2) susceptible to a skillful emotional pitch; (3) without demanding employment, hence able to sit through days, weeks or months of testimony (often retired or a worker whose employer pays him or gives administrative leave); (4) somewhat low on the assets and income scale - and more particularly, with scant comprehension of the value of huge dollars; (5) inexperienced in business, medicine or whatever the defendant’s activity; and (6) somewhat intelligent but not bright enough to see through to the realities, much less to understand anything sophisticated, technical or otherwise complicated - a person nobody would hire to perform a task related to any profession, skill, technology, business or pursuit involved in the tort case.
When the Framers provided in the Constitution, Article III, § 2, and Amendments VI and VII, for jury-trial rights, they did so in the context that most Colonial and English jurors had been, and would continue to be, responsible citizens of some substance, often landowners - the trite phrase, “one’s peers.” Furthermore, life was simpler. They likewise legislated in the prevailing context that a judge had considerable discretion in speaking to the jury.
The biggest single stumbling block to civil justice is the standard of proof. In a criminal case it’s proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil case it’s merely a preponderance of the evidence - i.e., the plaintiff “victim” churns up a little more evidence than the defendant. The adjective “punitive” indisputably refers to punishment. Punishment derives from criminal, not civil, conduct. Thus, in effect if not in nomenclature, a tort defendant is convicted as though a criminal yet he often has violated no law, never is entitled to the presumption of innocence and is assessed “punitive” damages as though he were a criminal - and all upon the basis of a mere preponderance of the evidence.
The next biggest stumbling block is excessive damages. The Federal Judiciary, and more particularly the Supreme Court of the United States, have tried to downsize damages but the result is only modestly helpful, often inapplicable - and much of the problem is not the judiciary’s business anyway but that of legislators.
A third, and much lesser, stumbling block is the unrealistic limitation upon a trial judge’s role. In probably every other country, including England (whence derives our jurisprudence), a judge can comment to a jury upon the evidence, sometimes even upon the reliability of a witness, sometimes with no limitation other than the judge’s ultimate instruction that the jurors must make up their own minds. By contrast, the voices - even the gestures and body language - of American judges are curtailed to almost nothingness.
These rectifications of the rampantly reckless tort system must derive from Federal and State legislation and, in some instances, from State constitutional amendment. The next conservatism must seek to return reality to tort litigation. Basic fairness and our economy in an increasingly competitive world demand it.
Marion Edwyn Harrison is President of, and Counsel to, the Free Congress Foundation.
By William S. Lind
One of the goals of the next conservatism should be to restore the American republic rather than continue our march toward empire, with the loss of liberties that inevitably entails. Restoring the republic, in turn, means restoring the grand strategy America followed through most of its history. That grand strategy was defensive, not offensive.
The Washington Establishment seems to think that wars can be won only by taking the offensive. Over and over, we hear that in the misnamed “war on terror,” America is on the offensive (which guarantees more war). We are all supposed to accept this as something good.
Clausewitz, the great Prussian military theorist, would disagree. Early in his book ¬On War, Clausewitz wrote,
. . . defense is simply the stronger form of war, the one that makes the enemy’s defeat more certain . . . We maintain unequivocally that the form of warfare we call defense not only offers greater probability of victory than attack, but that its victories can attain the same proportions and results.
What would an American defensive grand strategy look like in a 21st Century that is likely to be dominated by Fourth Generation war, war waged by non-state entities such as al Qaeda? Before we can answer that question we first must address two others. The first is, what do we mean by grand strategy?
The greatest American military theorist, Colonel John Boyd USAF (whom I knew well), defined grand strategy as the art of connecting yourself to as many other independent power centers as possible, while isolating the enemy from as many independent power centers as possible. Connection and isolation is the essence of the art of strategy.
The second question is, in what environment must we seek connection and isolation? Looking outward from the United States and the West, in a century whose most important feature will be the decline of the state, we will find a world divided into centers of order and centers or sources of disorder. As I wrote in an earlier column on the Next Conservatism, those centers of order may reflect our traditional culture or they may derive their order from the “soft totalitarianism” of Brave New World. The latter is a deadly enemy to conservatives and all we stand for, but as an internal threat it is not our focus here.
Putting these two answers together, we can see what a defensive grand strategy would look like. It means we should seek to connect our country with as many other centers of order as possible, while isolating ourselves from as many centers and sources of disorder a possible. In simple terms, this means we would leave centers and sources of disorder alone, militarily and in other ways, unless they attacked us. But if they did attack us, our response would be Roman, which is to say annihilating.
The Washington Establishment will immediately howl in protest at any “isolation,” even when we are talking about isolating ourselves from dangerous disorder. That Establishment lives richly off playing the Great Power game and it has no desire to lose its meal ticket.
The next conservatism should not allow itself to be scared away from sound strategic thinking by bogeymen. When a plague is raging somewhere else, as the plague of violent disorder will rage throughout most of the world as the state fades away, prudence calls for a quarantine. American intervention in centers of disorder will not return them to order; it is more likely to import their disorder here, in the form of refugees and immigrants. Nor does a defensive grand strategy call for “isolationism.” We would not only maintain but strengthen our ties to other parts of the world that remained centers of order, of which China may emerge as the most important.
A defensive grand strategy is what America followed through most of its history and it served us well. It helped keep the federal government small and it allowed our capital to go into industry rather than armaments. As conservatives we know that what worked once can work again. In the Fourth Generation world of a disordered 21st Century, we will do well to maintain both order and liberty here at home. Crusades to “make the world safe for democracy” will render neither the world nor our own country safer for anything.
By Paul M. Weyrich
What may be the most important message of this series is that the conservative movement needs a different agenda for the future than that developed during the Cold War. From that standpoint I am encouraged by a book that offers a new agenda, CRUNCHY CONS, by Rod Dreher, who formerly wrote for NATIONAL REVIEW.
Let me say up front that I cannot imagine a worse name for traditionalist or cultural conservatives than “Crunchy Cons.” I hope that title was inflicted upon Mr. Dreher by some publicist.
What his book describes is not something new but something old and to some extent forgotten: the traditionalist conservatism of Russell Kirk. I agree with Rob Dreher that Kirk’s understanding of conservatism is highly important to the renewal of the American conservative movement.
The book jacket lists a “Crunchy Con Manifesto” that is similar to some of what I and others have said in these columns. Its points include:
o Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff.
o Big business deserves as much skepticism as big government.
o Culture is more important than politics and economics.
o Small, Local, Old and Particular are almost always better than Big, Global, New and Abstract.
o Beauty is more important than efficiency.
o The relentlessness of media-driven pop culture deadens our senses to authentic truth, beauty and wisdom.
o We share Russell Kirk’s conviction that “the institution most essential to conserve is the family.”
The last point is especially important to me. Free Congress Foundation was the first conservative think tank to make government policy toward families its focus, in the 1970s.
One of the important questions CRUNCHY CONS raises is just how important efficiency and even economics should be to conservatism. I agree with Dreher when he writes, “we can’t build anything good unless we live by the belief that man does not exist to serve the economy, but the economy exists to serve man.” The conservative life is not just about getting more stuff cheaper. Yes, we want a decent standard of living, but Dreher is correct in saying
A society built on consumerism must break down eventually for the same reason socialism did: because even though it is infinitely better than socialism at meeting our physical needs and gratifying our physical desires, consumerism also treats human beings as merely materialists, as ciphers on a spreadsheet. It cannot, over time, serve the deepest needs of the human person for stability, spirituality, and authentic community. We should not be surprised that it has led to social disintegration.
I can imagine Russell Kirk’s saying “Hear! Hear!” to this. Kirk also would agree with Dreher’s rejection of relativism, not only in morals but also in aesthetics. Dreher writes,
In his 1994 book THE OLD WAY OF SEEING . . . architect (Jonathan) Hale argued that the rampant charmlessness of our built environment is a function of America’s loss of historical memory: “Everywhere in the buildings of the past is relationship among parts: contrast, tension, balance. Compare the buildings of today and we see no such patterns. We see fragmentation, mismatched systems, uncertainty. This disintegration tends to produce not ugliness so much as dullness . . .
In other words, there is a canon based on tradition, and it should be respected. The next conservatism too, I think, should talk about resurrecting old canons.
One emphasis in CRUNCHY CONS likely to be controversial among other conservatives is Dreher’s emphasis upon environmentalism. I reject environmentalism as an ideology, which it largely has become. But Dreher is correct in saying that traditionalist conservatives also have been conservationists. He quotes powerfully from Pope John Paul II’s Encyclical Centesimus Annus:
In his desire to have and to enjoy rather than to be and to grow, man consumes the resources of the earth and his own life in an excessive and disordered way. At the root of the senseless destruction of the natural environment lies an anthropological error, which unfortunately is widespread in our day. Man, who discovers his capacity to transform and in a certain sense create the world through his own work, forgets that this is always based on God’s prior and original gift of the things that are. Man thinks that he can make arbitrary use of the earth, subjecting it without restraint to his will, as though it did not have its own requisites and a prior God-given purpose, which man can indeed develop but must not betray. Instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature, which is more tyrannized than governed by him.
Dreher is himself a Roman Catholic, but regardless of religious affiliation, I think most conservatives should agree that this is an area we need to think more about.
That may be the greatest service CRUNCHY CONS can perform for the next conservatism: getting us all to think anew about some of the challenges ahead, from the conservative principles Russell Kirk laid out better than anyone else. In his book’s conclusion, Rod Dreher repeats its most important point:
We believe that culture is more important than politics, and that neither America’s wealth nor our liberties will long survive a culture that no longer lives by what Russell Kirk identified as “the Permanent Things” - those eternal moral norms necessary to civilized life, and which are taught by all the world’s great wisdom traditions.
By Stephen Baskerville
A problematic question for the next conservatism is the politics of “gender” (formerly known as sex). It is also urgent.
A critical change in the Left over the last few decades has been the shift from the economic to the social and increasingly the sexual. What was once a semi-socialistic attack on property and enterprise has become a social and sexual attack on the family, marriage and masculinity.
The consequences are incalculable. No ideology in human history has been potentially so invasive of the private sphere of life as Feminism. Communists had little respect for privacy. Feminists have made it their main target.
Like other radical movements, only more so, Feminism’s danger comes not so much from the assault on freedom (which traditional tyrannies also threaten) but specifically from the attack on private life, especially family life (which traditional dictatorships usually leave alone). “Radical Feminism is totalitarian because it denies the individual a private space; every private thought and action is public and, therefore, political,” writes Former Judge and Solicitor General Robert H. Bork. “The party or the movement claims the right to control every aspect of life.”
The Left’s brilliant move has been to clothe its attack on the family as a defense of “women and children.” Marian Wright Edelman openly acknowledges she founded the Children’s Defense Fund to push a Leftist agenda: “I got the idea that children might be a very effective way to broaden the base for change.” This climaxed in the Clinton Administration, in which radical policy innovations were invariably justified as “for the children.” Using children to leverage an expansion of state power by eliminating family privacy is succinctly conveyed in Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s aphorism, “There is no such thing as other people’s children.”
This nationalization of the family under the guise of protecting it leaves pro-family politicians in a difficult position. One way out is to join in the demonization of those who literally embody the Feminists’ hated “patriarchy” - fathers. Relabeled “deadbeat dads,” “batterers” and “pedophiles,” fathers are now railroaded into jail through methods one recent scholar, writing in the RUTGERS LAW REVIEW, calls a “due process fiasco” and Bryce Christensen says is leading to a “police state.”
Knee-jerk calls to “get tough” on criminals have unintended consequences when the penal apparatus has been commandeered by ideologues who redefine criminality to include an assortment of gender offenses that bear little relation to what most Americans understand as crime.
The evolution of the Justice Department’s Office of Victims of Crime illustrates the deception. Proceeding from President Ronald Reagan’s 1982 Task Force on Victims of Crime, this agency has since been hijacked by Feminists, and most of the “crimes” have been redefined in Feminist terms. By definition, the “victims” are all women, the “perpetrators” are all men and the “crimes” are mostly political: sexual harassment, date “rape” (which is seldom rape), domestic “violence” (that is not violent), child abuse (that may be ordinary parental discipline), “stalking” (fathers trying to see their children), and so forth.
Far from softening the hard edges of male-dominated power politics, Feminism has inserted calculations of power into the most private corners of life and subjected family life to bureaucratic control. This is what makes the dream of a more “caring” public sphere through Feminism not only naïve but dangerously utopian. For as Feminists correctly pointed out, the feminine functions were traditionally private; politicizing the feminine has therefore meant politicizing private life. This is why the “totalitarian” potential which Bork senses is already being realized.
“All politics is on one level sexual politics,” writes George Gilder. At least sexual politics is the logical culmination of all radical politics, which is the politics that has defined modern history. More than any other threat, Feminism demands that the next conservatism examine conservatives’ own reflexes and habits in a world in which radical assumptions have permeated well beyond the ranks of Leftist ideologues. It demands that a new conservative agenda challenges not just this doctrine or that, but the very concept of a politics defined by ideologies, activists, organizations, opinion-mongers, and a professional political class for whom politics is all-consuming (even when we agree with them). The next conservatism must try to recover a civic life of citizens, householders, parents, churches and synagogues, local communities, and values that transcend political calculation. Czech - dissident and later President Vaclav Havel called this “apolitical politics”: a world where, contrary to Feminists and Communists and all ideologues, the personal is not political.
Stephen Baskerville is President of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children. The views expressed are his own.
By William S. Lind
From its outset, conservative thought has drawn an important distinction between patriotism and nationalism. Patriotism is attachment to the concrete: to one’s own place, one’s own farm or town or valley, and its traditions. Nationalism, in contrast, is abstract, a fanatical devotion to the idea of a country: the Fatherland, the Motherland, la Patrie. One of the most important decisions the next conservatism will need to make is whether it will return to conservative patriotism or embrace the nationalism that is now in favor with parts of the American Right.
It may help conservatives to know that nationalism originated on the Left, in the 18th Century. In his book, THE RISE AND DECLINE OF THE STATE, the Israeli historian Martin van Creveld writes,
Even as the state was reaching maturity around the middle of the eighteenth century, however, forces were at work which were about to transform it from an instrument (to bring order) into an end and, later, a living god . . .
The man who did more than anyone else to start the Great Transformation was, perhaps, Jean-Jacques Rousseau . . . It was only in the years after 1789 (and the French Revolution), when some of the intellectuals came to power and when their ruminations were married to the pretensions of the state, that . . . nationalism took on an aggressive, bellicose character.
As we have seen in too many wars since, nationalism has retained that aggressive, bellicose character. It still does so today, at home as well as abroad.
In his response to the French Revolution, the man generally regarded as the founder of conservative thought defended patriotism against the nationalism of the Revolutionaries. In his REFLECTIONS ON THE REVOLUTION IN FRANCE, Edmund Burke wrote,
It is boasted . . . that all local ideas should be sunk, and that the people should no longer be Gascons, Picards, Bretons, Normans; but Frenchmen, with one country, one heart, and one Assembly . . . No man ever was attached by a sense of pride, partiality or real affection, to a description of square measurement . . . We begin our public affections in our families. We pass on to our neighborhoods, and our habitual provincial connexions . . .
The key word here is “local.” Patriotism is local, which is what enables it to be concrete. Nationalism tries to generate an attachment to a country as a whole, which inevitably causes it to become abstract. That abstraction in turn leads to others, and soon enough nationalism becomes bound up with ideology. That has happened with the neo-conservatives and their drive for world dominion in the name of American “democratic capitalism.”
Russell Kirk, Burke’s intellectual heir, had this to say about such American nationalism:
So America’s contribution to the universal “democratic capitalism” of the future . . . will be just this: cheapness, the cheapest music and the cheapest comic-books and the cheapest morality that can be provided. This indeed would be the revolution of revolutions, the Gehenna of universal monotony and mediocrity. This is Cyrus P. Whittle, telling himself that not only is America the biggest thing on earth, but America soon is going to wipe out everything else; and in the dazzling delirious joy of that consummation, forgetting to ask what will happen afterward.
Seen historically, it is not too much to say that those elements of the American Right which have abandoned patriotism in exchange for nationalism have moved away from conservatism itself, toward something else, whatever it may be. Where will this move take us? It has already taken us where nationalism tends to go, to war. In 1914, nationalism took Europe to war, with catastrophic results for Western civilization. Van Creveld puts it thus:
Reveling in total war, the state demanded and obtained sacrifice on a scale which, had they been able to imagine it, would have made even the old Aztec gods blanch.
The war in Iraq and its consequences may well bring nationalism into question in America. If that happens conservatives should regard it not as a danger but as an opportunity. It may help the next conservatism return Americans to patriotism, which is far more supportive of a republican form of government, limited state powers and domestic liberty.
“Think locally, act locally” is the conservative response to the Left’s slogan, “Think globally, act locally.” It should also be the next conservatism’s reply to nationalism.
By William S. Lind
One field in which the next conservatism will probably depart abruptly from current policy is homeland security. The departure will begin with foreign policy and national strategy. As previous columns have suggested, the next conservatism’s foreign policy will seek to preserve a republic here at home, not build an American empire overseas. Logically, that will lead to a defensive rather than an offensive national strategy. In both cases, the next conservatism will not be innovating but returning to the policies our country followed through most of its history.
It is no accident that when we eschewed empire and followed a defensive strategy, our homeland seldom faced much of a threat. We did not need to be “security conscious” or fearful – when it was time to board an aircraft, you just walked out and got on – because there was little reason for anyone to attack us. Much of the “terrorism” threat we now face arises not from who or what we are, but in response to our country’s policies in other parts of the world. Once we turn away from those policies and generally leave other people alone in their back yards, the need for homeland security should diminish. That, of course, is genuine homeland security: not constantly being prepared against an attack, but not needing to worry about being attacked.
There will, of course, always be some level of danger. But the next conservatism will attempt to meet it in ways consistent with conservative principles, which is to say locally. Our first line of defense should be local police. Because the only way to defeat “terrorist” attacks is by preventing them – once one has taken place, even “first response” is too late – police who know their beat, the neighborhoods for which they are responsible, are our most important defenders. Only they can be sufficiently aware to nip potential terrorism in the bud. The next conservatism should strongly favor programs such as the Police Corps, a police ROTC that specifically provides personnel for neighborhood policing.
If another line of defense is needed, the next conservatism might consider reviving an old American tradition: the militia. Because a militia is organized from individual communities, it too, like neighborhood beat cops, knows what is going on. Also like local police, a militia does not serve Big Brother, some vast federal power center that seeks to snoop endlessly in ordinary citizens’ lives. The militia I am talking about here would be a state militia, not a private one (private militias can be dangerous in a world of Fourth Generation war). One way it could be protected from being turned into an arm of Big Brother would be to have it report to the county sheriff, a local, elected official with substantial common law powers. Under no circumstances should it be controlled by Washington.
I am hopeful that the next conservatism will reconsider whether we need a federal Department of Homeland Security. The arguments against it are strong. It has already become Pentagon II, absorbing vast resources while producing very little. Programs intended to support local police have been cut to provide still more money for the federal behemoth. Worse, it is simply not possible for something like the Department of Homeland Security not to endanger our liberties. All its incentives work the other way. Like all other federal bureaucracies, DHS will seek more power, more money, more bureaucratic empire. Against those powerful inbred drives, what is it to keep it from tearing up the Bill of Rights? Mere rhetoric – and the dubious protections offered by our courts.
Regrettably, from the perspective of the Federal Government, fear is a growth industry. The more the public can be made fearful, the vaster federal police powers can grow. The next conservatism should go after the heart of the matter, fear itself. If the rest of the world need no longer fear America, there will be less reason for Americans to fear the rest of the world. If the bulk of police power is local, not federal, Americans will not confront Leviathan when they face a law enforcement officer. It is far easier to approach the town mayor or council with an issue of abuse of police powers than it is to confront a faceless federal bureaucracy.
When isolated “terrorist” events do happen, as they will, the next conservatism might remind the public of an old virtue, one necessary to republics: courage. If we cast our liberties before anyone who offers to “protect us,” like pearls before swine, we will find in short order that we are neither safe nor free.
By Paul M. Weyrich
Obviously, the next conservatism will not be on the ballot this fall. But the fall elections may nonetheless offer some indications about the prospects for a conservatism somewhat different from what now governs in Washington (if that can be called “conservatism” at all).
One measure of whether the public wants something different will be how “mavericks” fare in the fall. Here, two contests are of special interest, the Senate campaigns in Virginia and Pennsylvania. In both cases, the Democrats have nominated candidates who are in some respects conservatives, and who are also political outsiders. In Virginia, James Webb, who until recently was a Republican, is running an anti-establishment, unconventional campaign against incumbent Republican George Allen, who is something of a Bush clone. Webb is wrong on most of the cultural issues, but as a genuine Vietnam War hero he is a credible critic of the Iraq war, and he is a strong advocate for poor whites, who get shafted by affirmative action. In Pennsylvania, the Democrats are running a pro-lifer, Bob Casey, Jr., against Republican incumbent Rick Santorum. If both Casey and Webb win, it would tell both parties that the public is tiring of their usual offerings. A Webb victory in Virginia would send shock waves through the Republican Party, which sees Allen as a possible Presidential nominee.
Looking at the fall elections as a whole, low turnout would clearly signal a desire for something different. Low turnout among conservatives could mean a Republican bloodbath, and it would certainly imply a desire at the grass roots for a different conservatism. A possible parallel would be the 1974 elections, when Republicans got their clocks cleaned because of what President Reagan’s pollster Dick Wirthlin called “embarrassed Republicans” who stayed home. This time it would be “embarrassed conservatives,” and the obvious reasons for their embarrassment would be the Iraq war, immigration and federal government over-spending. The next conservatism takes different positions on all those issues from what the Bush White House represents.
In fact, we are already seeing an indicator on those issues, in that a growing number of Republicans who are up this fall are distancing themselves from the White House. House Republicans are distancing themselves from the Republican Senate as well, especially on immigration. Clearly, Republican Members of the House think their political survival is threatened by a “conservatism” that has departed from what conservatives have long stood for on many issues.
Low turnouts, especially among conservatives, and victories by mavericks, if they occur, will point to an electorate that senses what almost everyone in Washington has sensed for some time, namely a political vacuum. This is as true on the Left as on the Right. No one who has any interests beyond power and money can get excited about what they see coming from either political party. No one seems to have an agenda. No one is offering a vision of our country’s future that has any real content.
It is exactly this vacuum that the next conservatism needs to fill. To do so, it must offer real ideas, not just slogans. It must come to grips with our country’s problems, not just wish them away. It must challenge Washington office-holders, regardless of party, whose main interest is staying in office and enjoying the personal benefits that brings. A conservative movement that is just a vehicle for professional politicians isn’t worth keeping around.
These columns are an attempt to offer at least a beginning of such a next conservatism. So far, while they have gotten a strong reception from the grass roots, they have not interested anyone holding office in Washington. If Dick Wirthlin’s analogy to 1974 holds this fall, that could change among those Republicans who survive.
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy which is one of the great Christian literary works of the 20th century, the ring of power represents power itself. Tolkien warns that it can never be used for good purposes, because it ultimately distorts whoever uses it to the point where they become evil. Regardless of their original intention, they end up wanting power over everyone else.
These warnings are consistent with what conservatives have always believed. The reason America’s Founding Fathers devised a government of three competing branches was to keep governmental power in check. Conservatives have also sought to keep government small, to keep most governmental power local and the federal government weak. And, they have emphasized tradition, legal precedents and established rights as further means of controlling government power. Rightly, conservatives have realized that the task is not merely to put the right people in power; it is to keep too much power out of anybody’s hands, even the right people’s.
Politics, however, is about acquiring and using power. Does that mean conservatives should not engage in politics? No, because that would allow radicals to take total power and use it to destroy us and everything we believe in. Rather, it means conservatives have to think carefully about how to use power when they obtain it. They have to use it cautiously, prudently, and in measured quantities, just as they would use any other explosive.
There is, I believe, a way the next conservatism can think about political power that can help prevent its abuse. We should use it defensively, not offensively. By using power defensively, I mean we should use political power, success at the ballot box, to prevent government from ramming schemes, ideologies, social engineering and other radical “improvements” down the American people’s throats. There is plenty of this going on, as anyone can see. From “affirmative action” through “No child left behind” to federal regulations that tell us what kind of shower heads and toilets we have to have in our homes, government power intrudes massively into our lives. Defensive use of power seeks to get rid of such intrusions and restore our liberties. In a free American republic, ordinary people would seldom if ever face the power of government, telling them what to do. That was the case in America through most of our history.
Offensive use of power would be if we tried to use the power of government to create the kind of country the next conservatism envisions. That is what our opponents on the Left fear we would do, and I respect that fear (we fear the same of them and with reason). If we did that, we would be using the ring, as Tolkien would put it. The results would not be what we want.
Rather, the way the next conservatism should work to restore America is from the bottom up, from the grass roots, not from the top down. Real restoration comes when free individuals decide to change how they live their own lives. This is what the Christian call to repentance means. Repentance cannot be forced. It can only come from a change of mind and heart, which is brought about most powerfully by example, by seeing how we, as conservatives, live.
That puts a heavy burden on us, a heavier burden than just winning elections. By living our lives according to the old rules and in the old, honest, modest ways of our forefathers, preferring work over entertainment, our neighbors’ well-being over profits and production over consumption, we can set the right example. We can demonstrate that lives lived this way are richer, fuller, more rewarding than lives devoted to instant gratification and conspicuous consumption, to ego, vanity and stuff. The power of example is safe power, because it does not coerce. Rather, it leads and inspires.
Again, this does not mean the next conservatism should avoid politics. That would lead to our destruction. Rather, it limits what we expect from politics, and points to a harder, slower, but also safer and surer road to restoring America. Think locally, act locally, and provide a local example of life lived well: that is how the Christian church grew amidst a decaying Roman Empire. It is also how the next conservatism can restore an American republic as a falling America Empire collapses around us.
Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
By Paul M. Weyrich
If the next conservatism is to mean anything, it must give birth to a new conservative movement. Ideas on paper do not alone change history. They must be translated into action, and that takes either a movement or a coup. As conservatives, we are not much in favor of coups. So in the next three columns in this series, I want to take a look at the potential for a new conservative movement.
The first question we need to ask is what’s already happening? Here, there is a good deal of encouraging news. As I have said many times in this series, the next conservatism is not just about politics. It is about how we live. If we look around the country, we see a growing number of Americans withdrawing from the mainstream materialist, sexualized, Politically Correct Culture and taking their lives and the lives of their families in different directions. Not all of these different directions fit within the next conservatism, but surprisingly many do.
The most obvious example, and a very important part of the next conservative movement, is home schooling. The public schools are one of the main conditioning mechanisms the cultural Marxists use to undermine our traditional culture. Thanks to home schooling, over a million children are now being saved from that evil conditioning. Most of them are instead getting a traditional, and real, education. They are studying the history and reading the literature of Western, Christian civilization. They are learning real skills, like arithmetic and writing and speaking with correct grammar. They have increasing opportunities to go on after their home schooling to colleges and universities that also offer real educations instead of Political Correctness. All this is an enormous achievement, and it points the way to what the next conservative movement should look like. It is an action that changes the way people live.
Conservatives are comfortable with home schooling because it is a movement we initiated. There are some other movements we did not initiate that I think also fit within the next conservatism. One is the movement to throw out the television, especially in homes with children. We have all seen the active, imaginative children who are raised without television (and computer games) and the sad, brain-dead blobs who have been plopped in front of the TV almost from birth (television now offers programming for two-year olds). Television is the Devil’s baby-sitter; it is an easy way to keep children quiet and “entertained” (“entertainment has become America’s drug of choice), but it does them great long-term damage. “Kill Your Television” did not start as a conservative slogan, but I think it fits quite well into the next conservative movement.
So does the movement to live what I would call “intensive” instead of “extensive” lives. The intensive life uses fewer things and less resources but uses them more thoughtfully and gets more out of them. Examples of the intensive life range from such small actions as having a family vegetable garden, hanging out the wash instead of using a dryer, cycling and walking to run errands instead of driving and taking the train instead of the car to work (you can read on the train) through establishing an organic family farm that sells its products locally (anyone interested in doing this should see Farming Magazine; you can call them at 800-915-0042). All these actions and many more like them are fundamentally conservative, because they represent a return to the way we used to live, in our grandparents’ day. I think there are connections between such actions and the good lives our grandparents led. They also represent a value the current conservative movement seems to have forgotten, namely stewardship. God did not put us here to waste His creation.
Perhaps the way the next conservative movement can begin is to build some bridges among people who, for a variety of reasons and from different backgrounds, are resurrecting the old ways in their own lives. The current culture tells anyone who tries to reject it, “You are all alone. You cannot possibly succeed. There is something wrong with you.” It is hard for individuals to stand against such assaults. But if individuals are tied in with other people who are doing the same sorts of things, resistance to the dominant culture (which is the old counter-culture) becomes easier. There really is strength in numbers.
The next conservative movement is not just a dream. Aspects of it are already happening. In my next column, I will discuss why the existing conservative movement cannot be a successful vehicle for the next conservatism.
By Paul M. Weyrich
I can honestly claim to have been one of the godfathers of the existing conservative movement. In some ways, that movement has achieved far more than we ever dreamed it could when we started it in the late 1960s and 1970s. Then, most people thought of conservatism as a marginal force that had been killed and buried with Barry Goldwater’s defeat in 1964. The idea that conservatism could in just a few decades come to represent the American mainstream while liberalism was marginalized would have been unimaginable. Yet that has been the very real achievement of today’s conservative movement.
At the same time, every political movement that succeeds pays a price for its success. In its early stages, as an outsider, it can be true to its agenda. But once it takes power, it inevitably comes to find much of its agenda politically inconvenient. It gets in the way of making deals, gaining more power and collecting money. In time, it ceases to be a real movement and becomes an Establishment.
Regrettably, I have to say this has happened to most of the existing conservative movement, with the exception of the Religious Right. It has gotten in bed with the Republican Party, which provides access, influence and resources to those who will play along. The price has been a “conservatism” that in many respects bears little resemblance to what many of us thought we were fighting for. Most conservative institutions support or are at least silent about a Republican Party government that will not control spending, has driven deficits up to dangerous levels, exports America’s industrial base through “free trade,” promotes ever-larger and more intrusive Federal government and follows a Wilsonian foreign policy. In the face of this abandonment of our old agenda, it is not surprising that it is hard to speak of a conservative “movement” anymore, again excepting the Religious Right. Most of the troops have gone home in disgust.
The old conservative movement is now so compromised that it has little grass-roots credibility. This is the first reason the next conservatism needs a new movement. The existing movement just isn’t real anymore.
But it is not the only reason. The old movement, with a few exceptions like the home-schoolers, was just about politics. As these columns have said over and over, the next conservatism needs to be about much more than politics. Politics of course remain important. Conservatives must remain politically involved and effective, or the Left will mobilize the full power of the state to destroy us and all we believe in.
But we cannot restore our old culture through politics alone. The next conservatism needs not only a new movement, it needs a new kind of movement, a movement of people dedicated to restoring the old ways of living in their own lives and those of their families. The next conservative movement is perhaps best thought of as a community, one devoted to the old conservative virtues of modest living, hard work, prudence (which includes not running after every new thing), thrift, conservation, and living God-centered rather than man-centered lives. If we want to restore our old culture, we have to live by its rules.
There is one other reason why the next conservatism needs a new movement, and it is a promising one. I think the next conservative movement may be able to attract the support of many people who would never join a movement that is an arm of the Republican Party. When I raise the kinds of issues this series of columns has discussed, I find many people saying to me, “I never thought of myself as a conservative but I agree the old ways of life were in many ways better.” It is not just political conservatives who are distressed by the decay of our culture. Lots of people who are not politically involved, or who may think of themselves as moderates or even liberals, are distressed and frightened by the sex and violence that dominates our entertainment, by divorce and illegitimacy, by the fact that school children don’t seem to know anything, and by rampant consumerism and self-centeredness. The next conservative movement could potentially draw some of these people in.
The question then becomes, how do we build a new conservative movement? Building movements has been one my specialties for more than four decades. In my next column, I will offer some suggestions as to how we might accomplish that.
By Paul M. Weyrich
In the last two essays, I have argued that the next conservatism needs a new conservative movement. In my more than forty years in Washington, I have been involved in building more than one movement. There is a political mechanics involved that works pretty much the same way for any movement. Here, I want to share with you briefly how that mechanics of movement-building works.
The first step is to identify a target list. Who do you want to reach? For the most part, your target list will be people and organizations who already share some of your views, and who are likely to be interested in what your new movement wants to accomplish.
Next, you need to send out field teams to do audits. You want to audit each potential ally or target group on its own ground. Your audit asks questions such as:
o What local organizations are effective?
o What is their home ground?
o Who do they reach?
o How do they communicate?
o Who are their most effective leaders?
The audit is your map; it tells you the lay of the land, so you know who to talk to, who is real and who isn’t.
Then you need to identify your own leader. It has to be someone other people can look to as a leader, and it has to be someone who is willing to take risks. You cannot build a new movement just by playing it safe all the time. As Napoleon said, if you are going to make an omelet, you have to break some eggs.
The next step is to get your leader together with the people and organizations your audit has identified as potential allies. He needs to have a written statement of your new movement’s goals. For the most part, anyone who will sign on to those goals can be part of your movement. There will be cases, however, where your leader has to recognize that some groups may be unacceptable to other groups your movement needs more.
Then comes the single most important element. As your coalition of interested groups and individuals grows, you must maintain constant communication with them. They must always be receiving something new and interesting from you, including not only information but also activities in which they can join. Constant communication is the lifeblood of any movement, and if it is not maintained, the movement will die. Fortunately, thanks to the internet and other new technologies, it is technically much easier and much less expensive to maintain constant communication today than it was when I began in conservative politics in the 1960s.
While your new movement’s leadership must always be open to communications from your troops in the field, it is a mistake to think any movement will just “happen” on a bottom-up basis. For the most part, your troops will be asking you, “What should we do?” Your leadership must be pro-active in coming up with things for them to do, things that will hold their interest while advancing your movement’s cause.
Again, this is a simplified version of the mechanics of movement-building, but it touches on all the basics. Remember, no matter how good your message, without the right mechanics it will go nowhere.
With a correct, proven approach to political mechanics, I have no question that it is possible to build a new movement around the next conservatism. If I were twenty years younger, I would do it myself. In fact, I would enjoy doing it. Nothing has been more rewarding in my career than working with the many good people who make up the conservative grass roots.
As it is, building the new movement is a task I will have to leave to others to lead. But I do stand ready to advise and assist them with all I have learned over more than four decades of building conservative movements. Creating the next conservative movement is something that needs to be done and can be done.
By William S. Lind
One of the odder phenomena of recent years has been the application of the adjective “conservative” to many things that were traditionally considered the opposite of conservatism. Thus we have heard “conservative” calls for America to become a world empire, regardless of the loss of liberties that may entail for American citizens. We have seen “conservatives” in Congress pile up record budget deficits, and we have listened to “conservative” economists justifying the de-industrialization of America’s economy.
From a traditional conservative standpoint, one of the stranger examples of this confusion has been the notion that materialism, the idea that goodness or happiness comes from owning ever more stuff, is conservative. Vast, ugly McMansions, gas-guzzling SUVs, households that have more cars than people, the latest and most expensive of everything, most of it acquired by building up debt, are now supposedly signs that the nominal owners are conservatives. Each side, it seems, has adopted its characteristic vice as a virtue: for liberals, lust, and for conservatives, gluttony.
Earlier generations of conservatives would have been appalled by this mis-labeling. Conservatives looked down upon crass materialism and conspicuous consumption as marks of the nouveau riche and the snob. Happiness, conservatives knew, came not from piling up stuff but from doing the duties of one’s station, with little thought of material reward.
No binge runs on forever, and as piled-up debt comes crashing down, one of the tasks facing the next conservatism will be putting materialism back in its place. A passage in a novel by Wendell Berry, A World Lost, offers a view of materialism that may be genuinely conservative:
Dick and Aunt Sarah Jane’s two-room house at the edge of the woods, down the hill from the barns, was a part of the Home Place, but it was also a place unto itself, with its own garden and henhouse and woodpile. . . She kept house and gardened and cared for a small flock of chickens and foraged in the fields and woods and sewed and mended and read her Bible. In the mornings and the evenings and in odd times spared from the farmwork, Dick kept their house supplied with water and milk, meat and firewood. I remember their pleasure in all the items of their small abundance…
A “small abundance,” abundance in the little things that make day-to-day life comfortable and generous, is consistent with the conservative virtues, which begin with prudence. A small abundance implies no competition with one’s neighbors, no display, nor any wastefulness. One may take pleasure in such abundance without shame or guilt. It is an abundance open even to the poor, which Dick and Aunt Sarah Jane were by common standards.
The notion of a small abundance points to a broader concept I think may also be conservative, namely an intensive rather than an extensive valuation of material things. Previous generations placed a higher value on having a few things of high quality, things that lasted for generations and took on meaning from each generation to possess and use them, than on lots of “store-bought” stuff. People did not throw out their furniture every ten years and buy new. They valued the familiar over the “latest thing,” the worn, hand-woven rug over cheap new carpeting, Grandma’s black walnut kitchen table over flashy granite counter-tops. Their kitchens witnessed real cooking; it now seems that the more ostentatious the kitchen, the less food gets cooked in it.
As genuine conservatism values the past, seeks to learn from it and also to preserve it, these attitudes toward material things, which most of us know from the lives of our parents or grandparents, are pointers to us. They point us away from the wild materialism of recent years (one of my foreign students, a Hollander, said that “Americans are just Pac-man with legs”), not toward asceticism, but toward just that small abundance and deep appreciation of good, old things conservatives traditionally enjoyed. Things can have meaning, but they do not acquire their meaning from their price tag, less still from Martha Stewart. Their meaning grows from the skill and love the craftsman put into their making, and from the generations of people, known to us or unknown, in whose lives they played a part. Such things, like people, have memory.
So let the next conservatism make it plain: whatever the crass materialism and rampant consumerism of the present may be, they are not conservative. Nor, as the past teaches us, will they be long-lived.
By Paul M. Weyrich
Streetcars? What could conservatism have to do with streetcars? Some of you may be wondering if I have slipped my trolley.
Maybe I have, but wanting to bring electric streetcars back to our cities is no sign of it. In an earlier essay on the next conservatism, number ten in this series, I argued that conservatives should want to bring our cities back. Too many of them have become cold, hard, empty places, devoid of life and unable to perform the important functions cities have in any culture. Well, it turns out that if you want to bring cities back, you also want to bring back streetcars.
A great new book, Street Smart: Streetcars and Cities in the 21st Century, explains why. Streetcars, it seems, are one of the most powerful tools for reviving cities. Several American cities have already brought the streetcars back, with tremendous positive effects on re-development. Kenosha, Wisconsin, brought streetcars back for just $6.2 million, and the new streetcar line has already brought $150 million in development, for a return on investment of 2,319%. Portland, Oregon, put in a downtown streetcar loop 4.8 miles long for $55 million; it generated over three billion dollars in new development. A 1.2 mile extension of the original loop brought in another $1.35 billion in development.
Why do streetcars bring new development? There are several reasons. First, middle-class people with significant disposable income like riding streetcars. That is not true of buses. Second, streetcars are “pedestrian facilitators.” People who ride through a city on a streetcar tend to get off and on, walking for a while, then riding some more. While they are walking, they go in stores, stop in restaurants for something to eat, maybe see a movie or get tickets for a show. In other words, they spend money downtown. Middle-class pedestrians are the life blood of a city, and streetcars make it easy for them to get around.
Third, from a developer’s perspective, a streetcar line is a guarantee of high-quality public transportation that will be there for decades. That is not true of buses; a bus line can be here today, gone tomorrow. The investment in track and overhead wire streetcars require means their routes don’t get up and move. Not surprisingly, bus service does little or nothing for development.
Beyond their positive effects on re-development, there is another reason the next conservatism should want to bring back streetcars, and passenger trains for that matter. Thanks to trains, streetcars, and interurbans (which were big, fast streetcars that ran from cities far out into the countryside), travel in America used to be a lot more enjoyable than it is now.
Today, we don’t really travel. Instead, we are just packaged and shipped. That is true of air travel, which has become an ordeal, and also of much driving. One interstate highway is much like another, and driving in or around cities often means getting caught in traffic congestion, which everybody hates.
The next conservatism’s theme of Retroculture wants to bring back good things from the past that we have lost. Pleasure in travel, in the journey itself, should be one of those good things. Life is too short to make travel into misery, when it can be fun.
Yes, riding streetcars is fun. Our grandparents used to enjoy riding the streetcars. They have a feel to them that is completely different from a bus. You can take my word for it. I have ridden streetcars all over the world. Better, the next time you are in a city that has streetcars, or Light Rail, take a ride. You will see the city in a whole different way. And I think you will enjoy the experience.
A few years ago, I was in Denver with a friend, a United States Senator, who was a strong opponent of rail transit. Denver has a Light Rail system. I asked him if he would take a ride on it with me, and he agreed. About half way through our ride, he turned to me and said, “This is nice.”
Our cities, if they are to be living cities, need streetcars. The next conservatism should work to bring the streetcars back, as one of many nice presents the past can offer the future. Resurrecting good things from the past is what conservatism should be about.
By Paul M. Weyrich and William S. Lind
This is the fiftieth essay in our Next Conservatism series and it is a good point to look back at the road we have traveled. When we began this series we were thinking we might write a dozen essays on where the conservative movement needs to go. Now we are at fifty essays and still counting; we have no intention of stopping here. Why not? Mainly because of the overwhelming response from people who see the need for something new if conservatism is to deal with the problems of the twenty-first century.
The Next Conservatism is not yet a movement but it may be on its way to becoming one. The February 12 issue of The American Conservative carried the Next Conservatism as its cover story in a piece we co-authored. Three other leading conservative thinkers offered their comments in the same issue. None was really hostile. We are also getting growing interest in the Next Conservatism from Capitol Hill. Senators and Members of Congress are coming to see that the supposed conservatism of the Republican Party is inadequate both intellectually and politically. It neither motivates the grassroots nor comes to grips with the problems facing our country. We are now talking with a leading conservative publisher about writing a book on the Next Conservatism. Despite all the new media, at a certain point a movement needs a book. Nothing else works for laying out a program and a plan. Somehow, we find the continued importance of books comforting.
Most important and encouraging to us has been the response of the conservative grassroots. People are sick of the games they see being played in Washington. They know that Washington is not doing what needs to be done to govern our country. Spending is still out of control with vast budget and trade deficits and a pyramid of public and private debt that could create a depression if it crashes. Uncontrolled immigration is flooding our country with people whose culture and traditions are alien to our own. Some businesses along the border accept pesos as well as dollars in payment. Our economy may be going great for big international corporations but we continue to hemorrhage manufacturing jobs at a fearful rate thanks to a policy of mindless free trade. How can conservatives talk about being pro-family if we do not protect the kind of good-paying jobs breadwinners need to support a family?
Looming over everything is the disaster of Iraq. Woodrow Wilson’s foreign policy, resurrected by a Republican President, has again brought us nothing but grief just as it did under Wilson. Conservatives in Washington may have forgotten the wisdom of Senator Robert A. Taft, but Americans in the heartland have not. The real conservatives out there know we should never go to war except to defend America’s own national security and the most significant threat to that security lies on our border with Mexico where the Bush Administration’s Justice Department is prosecuting Border Patrol agents for shooting back.
Grassroots conservatives have surprised us in some of their reactions to our essays. We did not think many Americans would share our interest in agrarianism, in bringing back the family farm as a way of life many families could enjoy. We received tremendous response to that idea. It seems many people remember farm life as a good one, especially for children.
We are not sure how people would react to our idea of retro-culture, of recognizing that life in the past was better in many ways than life today and trying to bring some of the old ways back. Again, we have gotten many positive responses. It seems the Modernizers who endlessly warn that we can’t go back have not bamboozled everyone. Memory, especially memories of how good life was in the 1950s, can still overcome ideology.
Most encouragingly, grassroots conservatives have told us that they, too, are disgusted by a conservatism that is defined as nothing more than “I’ve got mine.” America’s coastal elites seem to sing endlessly that old song called “I Want What I Want When I Want It.” The grassroots conservatives of America’s heartland reply with a hymn that begins “Turn Back, O Man, and Forswear Thy Foolish Ways.” It is the heartland and not the elites who are in touch with reality.
So this fiftieth essay is a long way from marking the end of the Next Conservatism series. In fact, we would like to open it up to more authors. If you have a topic you think is important to the Next Conservatism agenda please contact us. We will be happy to consider an essay from you. We don’t have all the answers or all the questions, for that matter. Building the Next Conservatism and the new conservative movement is work for many hands. Thanks to the interest and support of the good people who make up the conservative grassroots we are confident that this work will go forward.