Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Outline of Conservative History

TBR makes an interesting, if unintentional point: this is taking too long. Given that I have a limited amount of free time to devote to writing for this blog, I really can't develop this idea of the secret history of conservatism in the way I'd like. Ergo, in the interests of picking up the pace a bit, I will skip today's intended topic (which was an incisive critique of Libertarianism) and instead toss out the General Outline of Conservative History.

If we get to some of these topics in future blogbits, that will be swell. If not, at least you've got some ideas of where to look for further reading.
  1. The Ancient Gods

    1. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan: The Social contract theory. Argues that the state of man in nature is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short," and that the highest human necessity is protection from violent death. Therefore, humans form social groups and surrender personal freedoms for common defense. In Hobbes' view, all human actions and interactions are based on greed, fear, and self-interest.

    2. John Locke, Two Treatises of Government: Expanded on and disagreed with Hobbes; argued that humans are innately reasonable and tolerant; that man has natural rights to life, liberty, and property; and that only government by the consent of the governed was legitimate. Was the first philosopher to define the self through the concept of "consciousness" and hypothesize that the mind is a "tabula rasa," devoid of innate knowledge of good and evil; probably hugged trees, too. Developed early theory of supply & demand economics; also came up with the labor theory of value, dammit, with which later generations of socialists wrought much havoc. Argued for both the fundamental importance of the right to be secure in owning property, while at the same time arguing that the government needed to do something to prevent the unlimited accumulation of property and promote the more nearly equal distribution of wealth. Enormously influential on Voltaire, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, etc., and a great champion of human rights and freedom, while also a major investor in the Royal Africa Company, which dealt in slaves. Proof, I guess, that consistency truly is the hobgoblin of small minds.

    3. Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France: "The father of Anglo-American conservatism," or as his fellow MPs called him, "The Dinner Bell," because when he rose to speak, it was possible to slip out, enjoy a nice dinner, and get back to the House of Commons before he'd finished speaking. Burke championed constitutional limits on the monarchy, honest and ethical dealings with India, a peaceful solution to the American problem, and equal rights for Catholics, at a time when the latter position was unpopular enough to cost him his seat in Parliament. His enduring work is a critique of the French revolution which quite accurately predicted that it would lead to terror, tyranny, and eventually military dictatorship. This really P.O.'d Jefferson and Thomas Paine, among others, who called Burke a "reactionary," and who were even more P.O.'d when it turned out Burke was right. Honestly, I can't recommend reading Reflections, as it is nearly unreadable, but his critique of radical revolutionary movements remains valid today.

      Favorite quote (which also illustrates why Burke is hard to read now): "Is it because liberty in the abstract may be classed amongst the blessings of mankind, that I am seriously to felicitate a madman, who has escaped from the protecting restraint and wholesome darkness of his cell, on his restoration to the enjoyment of light and liberty?"

  2. The Turbulent 19th Century

    1. The Magnificent Trifecta. An argument for American exceptionalism, exploring the unbelievably unique natures of the American Revolution, the American frontier, and the American Civil War in the context of history.

    2. The Steam-Driven Drone. Locke's "Labour Theory of Value" rises from its crypt, with an assist from James Watt.

    3. Eccentric Experiments. The Amanas, the Communards, the Shakers, the incredibly weird story of the Millerites, and more.

    4. The Bay View Massacre. Why I am no fan of laissez-faire capitalism.

    5. Meet the Fabians! The fateful day when Marxism cross-pollinated with British intellectualism and Roman history.

  3. The Ascendancy of the American Left

    1. The Promise of American Life. The story of Herbert David Croly and the Progressive Manifesto, or how Fabianism developed an American mask.

    2. The Roaring Twenties and The Great Depression. What really caused the Great Depression? Did FDR actually make it worse?

    3. The Cult of Keynesiansim. John Maynard Keynes writes the definitive smug treatise on the virtues of planned economies, and launches a half-century of economic chaos.

    4. The Futurians. A bunch of young idiot sci-fi writers embrace Fabianism and make careers of pimping for it. You already know their names.

    5. Father Coughlin: Roosevelt's Arch-Enemy. Why on-air radio personalities have to have FCC licenses, and why it took 50 years to do away with the so-called "Fairness Doctrine." (As someone who once had an FCC license and was an AM and FM on-air personality, this is a topic very near and dear to my heart.)

    6. Man, Revision 2.0. The Eugenics movement, The New Soviet Man, Reeducation Camps, and the War against the 21st chromosome. It isn't over yet.

  4. The Conservative Counter-Revolution

    1. VENONA. What our friends in the Soviet Union were really up to all those years.

    2. Milton Friedman, Hero of the Counter-Revolution. Emperor Keynes not only has no clothes, with this inflation, he'll never be able to afford to buy any.

    3. William F. Buckley, God and Man at Yale. Laying the intellectual foundation of the Reagan Revolution.

    4. Barry Goldwater, The Conscience of a Conservative. Laying the political foundation of the Reagan Revolution.

    5. So Close. Richard Nixon almost gets it right.

    6. Roe v. Wade. The sleeping giant wakes. Laying the religious and moral foundation of the Reagan Revolution.

    7. The Carter Malaise. Keynesianism finally implodes. Remember 24% home mortgage interest rates?

    8. Ronaldus Magnus. It finally comes together. Camelot for Conservatives.

    9. Mission Accomplished. The collapse of the Soviet Union.

  5. The Inescapable Effects of Entropy

    1. What the heck happened? Why the end of history wasn't, why the Reagan Revolution didn't last, and why a kinder, gentler conservatism is indistinguishable from liberalism.

    2. The Parable of the Chainsaws. Credo: what I believe.

There, that looks like a jolly little syllabus, or maybe a rough outline for a book. Yoohoo! Anyone from Regnery out there?

Tomorrow — just for you, Tom — I'll tackle the subject of Father Coughlin and the FCC Fairness Doctrine. Until then,

Nil desperandum,