Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Roots of Neoconservatism: Prologue

A philosophy known as "Neo-conservatism" has been growing here in America for a few decades now. "Neo" means new, and "Conservative," of course, means tending to preserve established traditions. Neoconservatives have had a foothold in both of the large establishment political parties, especially the Republican Party, for many years, at least since the Nixon administration. They swept into Congress in 1994, and now they control all three branches of the federal government, writing their own ticket.

This begs the question, just what established traditions are the neo-conservatives trying to preserve? They claim they are trying to revive and conserve the philosophy of the Founders, but their actions are such that they obviously oppose just about everything that the American Revolution was fought for.

Their economic policies are what laissez faire advocates (radical libertarians and near-libertarian paleo-conservatives) would consider as socialist, because of the high tax rate and active government role in economic decision-making.

The neoconservatives oppose any individual civil liberties at all, as shown by their nearly complete disregard for the Bill of Rights. They endorse the censorship of the internet (and also the printed word and radio/TV which is nothing new) contrary to the First Amendment, they greatly and increasingly restrict gun ownership and harass gun owners contrary to the Second Amendment, they destroy privacy via domestic spying and compulsory transaction reporting contrary to the Fourth Amendment, they permit the stealing of private property through eminent domain for the benefit of private corporations contrary to the Fifth Amendment, and they allow the federal government into areas that are really reserved for state governments, local governments, and individuals contrary to the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. This list is far from complete.

Not only has all this occurred domestically, but the neoconservatives are also determined to play policeman of the world and wage wars against weak countries just to increase the U.S. government's power in the world. It is good for "trade," they say, and their favored big-business cronies agree, of course. The idea of world government by themselves is attractive to them.

They cite crisis after crisis, both real and trumped up, in their quest for power. Obviously, 9-11 and other terrorist attacks are crises, but these are very much the result of our meddling foreign policy. I have explained this too many times, and so have other writers far more influential than I, so I will not belabor this again.

Of course, in all fairness, this has been going on for decades, under all administrations. So, we cannot blame just the Bush administration. But we need to consider, and I come to the point of what this blog is about, the idea that both the neo-conservative Republicans and the liberal Democrats are actually on the same page, despite their circus-like political "disagreements."

But, does the neoconservative philosophy really reflect that of the Founders? Not at all. They are poles apart, so the neoconservatives put their own spin on the Founding and the Constitution to make it appear they are of the same philosophy with the Founders rather than the Democrats.

So, exactly what is this neoconservatism that has taken our country over? Irving Kristol (b. 1920) is often called the "godfather" of neoconservatism. He has written at least a couple of books and some essays. In "The Neoconservative Persuasion" by him in the August 25, 2003, issue of the Weekly Standard, he says it is not a movement at all, but a "persuasion." (1)

According to the article, neoconservatives are mostly disillusioned liberals. It shows. When they left liberalism (or the left) they brought their big-government baggage with them, as is shown plainly in the article to the reader who knows economics. They co-opted the GOP and the truer conservatism the GOP had turned to in recent decades, particularly in the days of the Goldwater campaign (1964). Whether they know it or not, they turned the Party back to its Lincolnian roots, as I pointed out in Three Enemies (below). Actually, I don't think they would have a problem with Lincoln and the Republican Party's founders. They would definitely have a problem with my interpretation.

They insist this new conservatism is more suitable for today's democracy. And, maybe it is, in that old-fashioned rugged individualism strikes fear into people who want to be "secure" rather than free. Risk-taking is not exactly the "in" thing right now! Neoconservatism’s heroes include the infamous FDR, freedom's worst twentieth-century enemy, and Ronald Reagan, who talked the small-government and freedom talk, but did not follow through and walk the walk. Rather, he increased the size and scope of the federal government. More libertarian-leaning Republicans, such as Barry Goldwater, are passed over.

Their spin, as Kristol wrote in the Weekly Standard article, is that big government has always been preferred to small by the majority, even in relatively free nineteenth-century America. If this were true, it would only be because the bulk of the population has been miseducated. People do not want to be stolen from, told what to do, or forced into unnecessary wars, and that is what governments do, so I am disinclined to believe they really want bigger government.

The distinction between "friend" and "enemy" (one thing that leads to a crisis mentality as we shall see), I am certain, is borrowed from Communism, although this is never said by the neo-conservatives. "National interest" puts the country in a defensive mode, an approach I believe is borrowed from National Socialism.

What I set out to do in this project was show that neo-conservatism is directly descended from Communism. I could not do that (even though I still have a hypothesis that it is). Of course, Irving Kristol was "Trotskyist" in college, i.e., a leftist who was a member of the Young People's Socialist League, but "Trotskyist," he points out, is not the same as "Trotskyite," which was a real Stalinist Communist. (2) He was part of the "anti-communist left," whatever that means.

It has been a busy season for me, and I never had time to do all the digging and reading I wanted to, and could find but only tenuous connections between neo-conservatism and Communism, such as neo-conservative Leo Strauss connecting to Nietzsche and Machiavelli to Hegel to Marx.

As I worked on (or muddled through) the project, I learned a great deal. I think, however the most important lesson is that no matter what school of thought a person is in, there are no two thinkers alike. The people discussed here, and everyone else too, have some ideas in common but are far apart on other ideas. That is what made it difficult. I tried to find the common threads in an effort to point out that, regardless of President Bush's or any other neo-conservative's rhetoric to the contrary, their attitude toward God-given, natural individual rights is basically the same as that of socialists and communists.

Neoconservatism did come out of the left. This is clear and they admit it. The robotic leftists I marched with against President Bush on August 29, 2004, on the eve of the Republican Party re-nominating (rubberstamp) convention seemed to be oblivious to this common ground, and so did the robotic Bush supporters. They had not done their homework, so this was lost on all but us libertarians, many of whom had.

I would hope both of those sides re-examine their own and each other's ideas, and then examine true freedom. My purpose is to point out their commonalities by showing how socialistic and group/government-oriented the neo-conservatives are as contrasted to individual/freedom-oriented libertarianism, and, I hope, get them to think about these real alternatives.

Once I have made some connections among the various people, I will turn to neo-conservatism applied, i.e., some ways in which they have implemented their leftist agenda.


2. Kristol, Irving, Reflections of a Neoconservative, Looking Back, Looking Ahead, Basic Books, Inc., New York 1983, P. 4


abb said...

IMO, The root of all this is control and power.

The link between communism and neo-conservatism (as well as Republicans and Democratics) is in their goals of increasing their power and control over the majority. And that may even be overstated. On an individual level, each politician is leveraging the system for personal gain. That is done through increasing their power.

They each learn tactics and strategies from each other. The goal is power. Power over humans can only be gained through a finite set of channels, hence the strong resemblance among the movements.

libertarians simply revolt against any power over them.

Alice Lillie said...

Abb, you hit the nail on the head! This is exactly the point!

Thank you for reading my work.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alice Lillie said...

Because I invite all, children included, I will attempt to remove objectionable language.

Go ahead and speak your piece. One prupose of this blog is to ruffle the feathers of collectivists of all stripes. You can say just as much using more intelligent language.

This isn't censorship. Blogspot owns it's blog space, and I am using this particular space. So, Blogspot has the right, and so do I, to remove the language.

You can always start your own blog.

But the use of material that some parents do not wish their children to see must not occur here.

Michael Morrison said...

Alice, as you have just learned, there are some, or even many, people who have no real ideas of their own.
They follow, perhaps in lock step, some demagogue whose emotionalism attracted them, but whose ideas cannot stand analysis.
Those people are bankrupt, intellectually and ethically.
They are also devoid of much education and of much intelligence.
Therefore, their vocabulary consists very much of obscenities.
Their comments have been, rightly, removed.
And it will be difficult for such low-life trash to comment here ever again.
Let 'em stick to their probably Republican sites, where stupidity and obscenity are more at home.

The New Hampshire Liberal said...

I agree that the neo cons are disenchanted liberals, but I think if you dig a little deeper you will find that the neo cons as represented by Reagan and Bush bear more in common with the Nationalist Socialists than the Communists.

The Nationalist Socialists party operated on the basis of big government closely aligned with industry.
They defined people as enemies using language like "you are with us or against us". These definitions had more to with convenience and visibility that real threat.
They propagandized the population until the false image the leaders had of the world became accepted by the population as the truth.

Alice Lillie said...

You're right; that's true.

But, from a libertarian perspective at least, National Socialism and Communism are pretty much the same: big government collectivism and no liberty for the individual.

Thanks for reading my work, and hopefully I will get "Three Enemies" back online soon.