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Thread: 1990 - Lew Rockwell: Paleos, Neocons, and Libertarians

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    1990 - Lew Rockwell: Paleos, Neocons, and Libertarians

    Paleos, Neos, and Libertarians

    Lew Rockwell | The New American
    February 26, 1990

    The Reagan coalition, unlike the Goldwater movement, contained many diverse elements. Two of these were the traditionalist (or paleo) conservatives and the anti-traditionalist (or neo) conservatives. Barely speaking at the best of times, these two groupings are now at war, and the Right will never be the same.

    The paleoconservatives are cultural traditionalists who reject the egalitarian movements that have wilded their way through America. They share the Founding Fathers' distrust of standing armies, look to the original American foreign policy of isolationism as a guide to any post-Cold War era, and see the welfare state as a moral and Constitutional monstrosity. Opposed to the post-FDR imperial presidency, paleocons believe in a republican form of government rather than a mass democracy, which they see as leading inevitably to the welfare state, and they reject internationalist crusades to spread democracy.

    The neoconservatives, on the other hand, are cultural modernists who endorse the forced integration and redistributionism of civil rights. They believe in the domineering presidency, the welfare state, and mass democracy, and they seek to enact these ideas worldwide through U.S. military intervention. The neocons can be summed up as "New Class" intellectuals seeking to "rationalize, legitimize, defend, and conserve the managerial regime" of the New Deal and the Great Society, says journalist Samuel T. Francis. From that regime they derive their social and political power, and in its service they have sought, all too successfully, to co-opt the Right.

    Blackmail and Slander

    When the neocons joined the conservative movement in the late 1970s to fasten themselves to the Reagan campaign, conservatives welcomed them. The neocons may have come originally from the Left, but they were staunch anti-communists and top intellectuals, or so their own publications proclaimed. Most conservatives didn't realize that this was not the neocons' first conversion, however. Some neocons started out as Trotskyite communists, then became democratic socialists, then liberal Democrats, and then conservative Republicans. Others remained as social democrats. The neocon leaders made effective use, however, of the Marxist tactics they had learned in the ideological battles at City College of New York. Functioning as a disciplined cadre, they put their followers in positions of power and punished anyone who opposed them.

    The first intra-Right battle in the Reagan Administration took place over the directorship of the National Endowment for the Humanities. This bureaucracy dispenses many millions in academic patronage, and the neocons knew that not only did ideas have consequences, but that paid dispensers of ideas were essential to establishing a foothold, and then controlling power, in conservative think tanks and foundations. NEH grants could buy them a lot of influence in the academic world, where the average professor -- conservative, liberal, or libertarian -- will sell his soul, such as it is, for a few thousands dollars.

    Using The New York Times, which Managing Editor A.M. Rosenthal made a virtual neocon house organ, they attacked the president's first choice for the NEH, Southern historian and literature professor M.E. Bradford. Paleocon Bradford, a scholar of immense learning and gentle character, was called a Southern reactionary and Neanderthal. And there was a whispering campaign branding him a racist, although no evidence was ever produced.

    One of the open charges, and one the Times harped on, was that Bradford was insufficiently respectful of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln -- a proponent of big government, federal hegemony, the income tax, the imperial presidency, loose construction of the Constitution, and fiat-paper money is a hero to neocons. Another charge was that Bradford was opposed to federal control of education. This was supposed to be Reagan's view, of course, so it ought not to have been effective, no matter how shocking the Times found it.

    Bennett's Booty

    Day after day, Bradford was called a caveman. The mugging worked and Irving Kristol's choice, William Bennett, was installed in Bradford's place. Bennett used the NEH effectively to reward neocons, and they promoted him for Secretary of Education. When he got that job, he made effective use of its even larger slushfund and bank of jobs, while drastically expanding the central government's control of local schools. The neocons, who tend to think civilization starts and ends in New York City, see all local -- and especially rural and small-town -- influences as baleful prejudices to be stamped out.

    Along with the National Endowment for the Humanities, the neocons took over the grant-making National Endowments for the Arts and Democracy, and entire divisions of the National Security Council and the Defense and State Departments through neocons Richard Perle and Elliott Abrams.

    Everything seemed to be going their way until the Iran-Contra affair, largely a neocon operation, was exposed and Abrams, son-in-law to Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter, was accused of giving false testimony to Congress. During Iran-Contra, neocons were gradually forced out of State, Defense, and the National Security Council; even where they remained, they lost power. Contributing to this decline was the pathetic performance in the Republican primaries of their preferred candidate, Jack Kemp, the only intellectual lightweight among the neocons, despite years of grooming and coaching by Kristol.

    The neocons still hold much power through Carl Gershman's National Endowment for Democracy, Jack Kemp's HUD, Bennett's Drug War, and Dan Quayle's office under Kristol's son, Bill, but the White House -- now controlled by an older Northeastern elite -- is much less friendly.

    The Rockford Files

    At the center of the paleo-neo battle have been the paleoconservative Rockford Institute in Rockford, Illinois and its influential magazine, Chronicles. Editor Thomas Fleming had published an article by libertarian Bill Kaufman arguing for Gore Vidal as -- despite appearances -- a man of the Old Right. It was a persuasive article, but no one would have expected it to be a literary thermonuclear device. Like many paleocons, Fleming comes from the Southern agrarian tradition centered in the values of America's farms and small towns rather than its big northeastern cities. For these views, he has been smeared by the neocons as a "nativist." But the Vidal article was the last straw. To all their followers, Podhoretz and Decter declared Fleming, Chronicles, and Rockford as "enemies" who countenanced anti-Semitism.

    In answering this crazed charge, Rockford pointed to Chronicles' Jewish editors and writers, and to the fact that nothing even remotely anti-Semitic has ever appeared in the magazine. But the neocons only redoubled their efforts, next using Richard John Neuhaus, a Lutheran minister who ran Rockford's Center for Religion and Society in New York City, and was funded by neocon-controlled foundations.

    When Podhoretz and Decter declared war, Neuhaus enlisted in "the neocons' smear campaign," recalls one Rockford official. Neuhaus "badmouthed Rockford to our donors while spending our money hand over fist., An attack on Rockford from Rockford's offices by a Rockford employee using Rockford money left the institute no alternative but to fire Neuhaus and quickly, although the action was noisily criticized by the neocons.

    Paleoconservative godfather Russell Kirk was also attacked -- for questioning, in one line of a long talk at the Heritage Foundation, the neoconservative focus on Israel. Decter, a Heritage trustee, called it a "bloody piece of anti-Semitism." Spurious charges of bigotry are difficult to refute, since that requires proving a negative. Even phony muck can stick. But Kirk -- a wise and gentle scholar -- was too important an intellectual figure to be affected, and Rockford has emerged as an even more influential advocate of traditional culture, while Chronicles has continued to gain in circulation and prestige.

    Smoke and Mirrors

    Not since Iran-Contra had the neocons made a serious mistake. But Kirk, as Mr. Conservative, is widely beloved, and so is Rockford. The attacks backfired, and for the first time the neocons themselves became the issue. This is something they like to avoid; for, despite all the resources they control, the neocons have a dilemma: There are not very many of them. As a Wall Street Journal editor commented: "No one has ever found more than 37 of them."

    The neocons, therefore, use "a certain amount of smoke and mirrors," added another paleo journalist. "But this split is blowing away the smoke and breaking their mirrors. May they have at least seven years of bad luck." The neocon edifice seems very impressive, but "pull back the curtain on this Wizard of Oz, and there's Irving standing on a stool."

    To counter their small numbers, the neocons have recently reached out to an older Establishment, and aligned themselves with such Trilateralist intellectuals as Samuel Huntington of Harvard, who has received millions in Olin Foundation money. Huntington, one of the first academics hired by David Rockefeller in the early days of the Trilateral Commission, was the intellectual author of Jimmy Carter's concept of "malaise."

    In one of the early "Trilateral Papers," Huntington looked back with nostalgia on the good old days when "Truman had been able to govern the country with the cooperation of a small number of Wall Street lawyers and bankers." But, now that they were infected with malaise, the American people questioned the "legitimacy of hierarchy, coercion, discipline, secrecy, and deception"; they "no longer felt the compulsion to obey" those of "superior rank." The solution? 1) Muzzling the press, especially newsmen skeptical of "authority and institutions"; 2) greater federal control of higher education, which too often works "at cross purposes" with elite authority and institutions; and 3) restoring the presidency to dominion over "foreign policy and international economics." These are all neocon goals as well.

    Just recently in Irving Kristol's National Interest, neocon columnist Charles Krauthammer openly endorsed the Trilateralist foreign policy: America, he said, must "integrate" with Europe and Japan in a "super-sovereign" entity that is "economically, culturally, and politically hegemonic in the world."

    Paleo Alliance

    Just as the paleo-neo split widens, an older break is healing, much to the neocons' alarm. For, if there is anything they dislike more than paleoconservatives, it is libertarians. The Old Right -- born in opposition to the New Deal and World War II (the neocons' two favorite historical events) -- encompassed people of very different ideologies, although all were cultural conservatives. (Robert Welch, founder of The John Birch Society, was a quintessential Old Right figure, as were the members of his Council, and the Society has always attracted both paleoconservatives and paleolibertarians. Statist conservatives, however, have always attacked it. There are no neocons in the JBS!)

    The coalition broke down during the Cold War, but paleocons are now rejoining with libertarians in their fight against the common enemy of old: Washington D.C. Not just any libertarians, however, but the culturally conservative "paleolibertarians." It is not a difficult melding. Paleolibertarians agree with paleoconservatives, and disagree with neoconservatives, on most ideological issues. But, to rescue the libertarian ideal, and to make such an alliance possible, good libertarians had first to hive off what Murray N. Rothbard of the Ludwig von Mises Institute called "the hippies, druggies, antinomians, and militantly anti-Christian atheists" of the Libertarian party. At a time when neocons -- like all statists -- are intellectually bankrupt, when too many conservatives are preoccupied with getting jobs or contracts from the state apparatus, and when most libertarians are zoning in the Age of Aquarius, the paleo alliance is one of the few interesting developments on the Right. It may also represent the future.


    It's Freedom Versus Statism Not Welfare Versus Socialism

    Here's a minor case study in how the neocons function:

    In 1988, neocon academic Alan Bloom brought budding neocon Francis Fukayama of the State Department to the University of Chicago's neocon Olin Democracy Center to deliver a paper. That paper was published last year in the neocon journal The National Interest and was trumpeted in The New York Times daily newspaper and Sunday magazine as intellectually the most important article of 1989. Fukayama then got a very lush book contract from a neocon-influenced publisher; his future is assured.

    Fukayama, a right-wing Hegelian, claimed in his article, "The End of History?" that socialism has been eternally vanquished by the democratic welfare state. There will be no more ideological battles, only an "endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns, and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands."

    All variants of determinism repudiate the correct view of history as the sum of purposive human actions, but, as with Hegel and Marx, there is a sinister ideological purpose to Fukayama's inevitability theory. We can think of Hegel, confirms philosopher David Gordon of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, as the first neocon. Hegel agreed there was a role for the market and private property, but only if regulated by the state; he endorsed the sort of conservative welfare policies later enacted by Bismarck; he believed in war as a necessity for the moral health of the people; and he looked to a sovereign executive unfettered by the laws of morality for leadership. Fukayama wants us to believe that a similar system is inevitable for all time, courtesy of History. But, despite Fukayama and the neocons, the real issue is not socialism vs. the welfare state, but freedom vs. statism, an option they seek to obliterate for conservatives and for America.
    Last edited by FrankRep; 05-29-2013 at 12:05 AM.

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    Ron Paul Forum's Mission Statement:

    Inspired by US Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, this site is dedicated to facilitating grassroots initiatives that aim to restore a sovereign limited constitutional Republic based on the rule of law, states' rights and individual rights. We seek to enshrine the original intent of our Founders to foster respect for private property, seek justice, provide opportunity, and to secure individual liberty for ourselves and our posterity.

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