Posts Tagged ‘conservatism’

Collapsing Brand Perilous for Young Conservative Careerists

October 15, 2008

Ross Douthat writes an engaging, honest post about the incentives of conservative-leaning writers in non-GOP institutions and states. Naturally, the whole debate among conservatives isn’t about the merits, but about the political correctness of the ideas expressed.  It’s all a tribal tug-of-war, because as the freshly excommunicated Christopher Buckley pointed out, it’s not clear just what, if anything, movement conservatism stands for at this point.

Anyway, I’d just like to point out that this, from Douthat’s post, is quite a difficult sentence to diagram:

Even if Brooks and Noonan and Buckley and Dreher and Kathleen Parker and David Frum and Heather Mac Donald and Bruce Bartlett and George Will and on and on – note the ideological diversity in the ranks of conservatives who aren’t Helping The Team these days – are all just snobs and careerists who quit or cavil or cover their asses when the going gets tough and their “seat at the table” is threatened, an American conservative movement that consists entirely of those pundits with the rock-hard testicular fortitude required to never take sides against the family seems like a pretty small tent at this point.

“Rock-hard testicular fortitude.”  Not necessarily a phrase I expected to see from Ross Douthat.



June 27, 2008

Tyler Cowen (via):

Another possibility is that Republicans don’t get much electoral credit for pro-poor initiatives (just as many voters simply won’t believe that “Democrats can be tough”).  The more competitive political messaging becomes, the more this constraint binds and so the policies of upward redistribution are more likely to be enacted by Republicans in the resulting political equilibrium.

For gosh sakes, Tyler, the stuff they teach you in Econ 101 is a series of useful simplifications, not absolute truth.

First off, perceptions about parties and candidates are not a perfectly competitive market— note that John McCain is billing himself as having stood up to the president in defense of the environment.

Plus, people and parties do not have perfect information, much less rational preferences.  Witness Mitt Romney’s insistence that preventing nuclear proliferation is a “liberal” concern.

The GOP, forever pandering to its jingoistic, enemy-craving base, is a deeply irrational party.  “Political equilibria” have nothing to do with it.

Conservatism Not Quite Dead

June 17, 2008

George Will’s column defends the view that people should be hesitant to give the government the power to detain people without judicial oversight– and includes a correction of a factual error in an earlier column!

We Create Our Own Reality

June 11, 2008

Conservatives like Andrew Sullivan’s emailer never seem to be too concerned with facts.  They tend to dismiss policy proposals, such as expanding the number of Americans with health insurance, as embodying “collectivist strands” without considering the likely results of the proposal.

In a world with a collective action problem, multiple equilibria, and a whole bunch of countries that have a better, more cost-efficient means of insuring their citizens, it sure seems worth taking a look at these proposals rather than merely rejecting them out of hand.

But hey, I’m just a conservative empiricist, so I don’t really have anything in common with Republicans.

Exile from Sam’s Club

April 7, 2008

I got a little obnoxious over at Ross’s place, and gave myself a time-out.  I’ve gotten frustrated over there because he refuses to offer substantive views on anything.  To me, a big part of the fun of the Internet is reading the thoughts of people who look at the world in an entirely different way than you do.  That’s why Daniel Larison is one of my favorite bloggers.

Ross bills himself as a social conservative, but he writes exclusively about meta political issues and pop culture in his 2 or 3 posts a day at the Atlantic.  It’s disappointing.

Really, as an instinctive centrist Democrat, I suppose I must have believed 5 years ago that conservatives might actually be right about everything.  Not about blatantly obvious factual matters like the impact of tax cuts, but at least about national security, and maybe more.  I think that, growing up in the 1990s, I absorbed that as the implicit message of the Clinton administration, at least from about 1995.  When Bush was elected, I thought, “well, the silver lining is that they’ll restructure the military so that the Guard and Reserves never get tapped again like they have been in the Clinton administration.”

So, I was almost as wrong about everything as conservatives were.  (I supported the Iraq invasion, too, and thought that liberals who opposed it had lost sight of the good things that America can do).

Ross’s implicit concession that everything he thinks is intellectually unjustifiable is yet another rebuke to me.  Lesson learned: movement conservatives are a tribalist group, who believe in nothing that can be justified by rational argumentation.


March 11, 2008

According to the prominent Republican think tank the Heritage Foundation, Reagan would challenge us to listen to Sean Hannity and Laura Ingram.  He would pose tough analytical questions for our times, such as, “What did Reagan do to protect America? (1) Pulled all U.S. troops out of other countries; (2) Spent what it took to rebuild our military; (3) Relied on the United Nations to secure global peace”?

For a long time, I thought that there must be plenty of intelligent aspects of American conservatism and Reagan’s presidency.  I figured it was my fault for failing to inform myself about those.  After all, weren’t they treated reverently in the media, and didn’t millions vote for Reagan?  I’m no longer quite sure that that was the case.

It’s William Safire Day Here at the Report

March 9, 2008

Here, he insists on clarity of language, explaining how the term “waterboarding” is a joke made up by torturers.

Safire was wrong about a lot of things, but he criticized Lee Kwan Yew’s leadership, and, in the name of moral clarity, opposes torture.   Obviously, he represents a passe form of conservatism.

Lew Kwan Yew Conservatism

March 9, 2008

Dissent emboldens the enemy, it turns out.  Former Singapore Dictator Lee Kwan Yew:

The costs of leaving Iraq unstable would be high. Jihadists everywhere would be emboldened. I have met many Gulf leaders and know that their deep fear is that a precipitate U.S. withdrawal would gravely jeopardize their security.

A hurried withdrawal from Iraq would cause the leaders of many countries to conclude that the American people cannot tolerate the nearly 4,000 casualties they have suffered in Iraq and that in a protracted asymmetrical war the U.S. government will not have its people’s support to bear the pain that is necessary to prevail. And this even after the surge of 30,000 additional troops under Gen. David Petraeus has resulted in an improved security situation. …

America needs a coalition. This will require a more multilateral approach, which in turn requires clarity and a close examination of the strategic stakes. The domestic American debate on Iraq affects world public opinion and thus the political viability and sustainability of any multinational coalition.

The affinity between Lee Kwan Yew and George W. Bush speaks for itself.  There is no conservative movement in this country today.  There is a chauvinist movement.  It demands torture, ill-planned and counterproductive invasions, attacks, and occupations, and permanent emergency exceptions to the rule of law.

The figurehead and idol of this movement in the US had the audacity to claim that “All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.”  Disgusting.

Either With Us or with the Communists

March 5, 2008

In lieu of addressing any of the arguments he scorns here, right wing blogger Michael Goldfarb simply dismisses them as sounding like something an Enemy Foreigner might say.

Because Lord knows the only reason ever to question the party line at its most alarmist is that you love America’s enemies. That approach to strategic thinking has just been vindicated over and over again the past few years.

UPDATE:  I came across this Goldfarb post via James Fallows, who updates that post :

The same people — same individuals, same organizations, same publications, same blog sites – that ginned up a war with Iraq, and that have supported ginning up a war with Iran, are settling in for a longer term confrontation with China.

These people need to be judged on their track record. And compared with a confrontation with Iraq or Iran, a military showdown with China would be 10 times as unnecessary and 100 times as stupid.

Judging people on their records would be fun, and all, but I think Herman Goering has a relevant point here about human psychology:

the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.  That is easy.  All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.

Focusing exclusively on threats, and hyping them, will never go out of fashion.

GOP, GOP, Uber Alles

February 29, 2008

This is, admittedly, just one silly guy getting caught doing something silly.  There are more important people out there than the director of the White House office of public liaison, the man “tasked with serving as the ‘pipeline’ to the president for the administration’s ‘most conservative supporters.'”

But it sure seems like loyalty is a much more important trait than merit among movement conservatism, whether it’s in the pages of the National Review, among the heads of executive agencies, the Congressional GOP, or the people charged with rebuilding Iraq.

I’m not the first person to note that competence ain’t job one within the Bush administration.  But the rot goes a lot deeper than that.  Movement conservatism is all about the movement, and has nothing to do with conservatism.