Friday, February 11, 2011
Virginia Is for Lovers...of Liberty! (Todd at RLC, plus: political links)
This photo is Todd Seavey speaking...about John Galt -- but see me live and in person tomorrow if you like (but sign up first, after looking at my head here).
I'll be at the Hilton Arlington (right at the Ballston Metro stop) speaking to the Republican Liberty Caucus (Sat., 9:45-10:25am), then hanging out for exactly twenty-four hours before finally having brunch on Sunday at the hotel's restaurant Dan & Brad's (no sign-up necessary for that part), if you want to catch me while I'm around.
I know there will be different RLC factions present tomorrow, including perhaps some religious conservatives, but if there were really a God, would he let this movie about dueling drivers from Hell exist? Amazingly apt factoid about Nicolas Cage's twenty-four year-old co-star in Drive Angry, Amber Heard, from Wikipedia, though:
At the age of 16, her best friend died in a car crash and Heard, who was raised Catholic, subsequently declared herself an atheist, due to the influence of the works of Ayn Rand. Dropping out of school at the age of 17, to go to New York to start a career in modeling, she then relocated to Los Angeles to get into acting.
Heard publicly came out as a lesbian at GLAAD's 25th anniversary event which she attended with girlfriend Tasya van Ree.
In short: Amber Heard, hot young lesbian libertarian atheist de facto method actress in a fast car bound for Hell...in: Drive Angry. Maybe I should see that [UPDATE: Rumors she may play Red Sonja, too].
But in the meantime, MY MAIN MESSAGE ON TOMORROW'S PANEL WILL LIKELY BE:
Have big libertarian aims (like Lincoln on his good days, his birthday being today) but also do not neglect to use the weapons at hand, including potential allies (a pragmatic point understood by Reagan, whose 100th birthday would have been this past Sunday). Factional fighting is fun for a while, then you realize you can't get anything done with your remaining friends, so don't alienate all those neocons and moderates more than you have to.
And the Tea Party revolutionary tone can only last so long, in part because absent a clear legislative agenda, anger is hard to sustain.
(As noted in my Book Selections entry on Sunday) Malcolm Gladwell and some other explain-it-all-for-you writers with a stats or econ or sociological bent have been quite popular lately, and that's one sustainable route to educating people who might be turned off by what they might perceive as continual blunderbuss-wielding anger, not that I don't love my fellow Tea Partiers. You can probably engage a larger portion of the population by teaching than you can by fighting.
This needn't make one water down the message, though. In fact: I call for the abolition of the federal government, which is, after all, already de facto bankrupt -- and please note that this can be seen as a rather modest intermediate step, given that there would then be -- not zero government in these states -- but fifty, now liberated state governments, free to experiment and innovate and diversify.
Think of this potentially controversial move as merely a sort of "reverse-Hamilton" -- and as a necessary economic move that also peacefully achieves revolutionary ends.
And it begins to look like part of global trend if you can tie it in the minds of others to the frustration felt by (some) participants in the Jasmine Revolution and the like -- the sort of abstraction that helps these principles live beyond the range of the more concrete and historically/geographically-rooted U.S. Constitution.
So don't fall into the paleoconservative habit of bashing globalization. Indeed, thought of in historical terms, our fight is part of the broader modern fight for universalizable principles of individual rights and free trade, a fight embodied in the following forms, roughly-chronologically speaking: traditional rules including rules against theft, Enlightenment refinement of those rules into the principles of economics, the Constitution, commercial globalization, and sometimes military-enforced global standards (like it or not) -- with human rights in the modern sense, libertarianism, neoliberalism, neoconservatism all viewable as approximations of the underlying reality of property-based economics. That's right, even the neoconservatives, who have made such big mistakes, are on some level fighting to globalize and universalize the same principles of freedom and human rights we fight for. Don't drive them away, just help them be more consistent.
Let's recognize that commonality and potential universality and move forward without unnecessarily appearing to be partisans of one nation, faction, or temperament. Our movement is really just properly understood economics applied without exception -- and no more "market fundamentalist" than physics consistently adhered to is "science fundamentalism." Recognizing that the fundamental principles here are written in the nature of the universe, not just the hearts of some American citizens, obviates the need for depicting ourselves in terms of less-than-universal political tribes and labels.
Indeed, "All market, no politics" should be the end goal.
If I'm right in hoping that in theory all people could come to grasp and unavoidably embrace the underlying economics here, we need a sort of "neofusionism" (broader even than the old traditionalist/free-market alliance dubbed "fusionism" a half-century ago), and we need this neofusionism to overcome paleo animosity. Remember, even if we think of ourselves as having everyone from William Kristol to Ron Paul to "liberaltarians" on our side, we are still a minority in this world and may still lose the battle. We should not mistake petty internal squabbles, no matter how satisfying, for substantial victories in the broader political world.
Instead of becoming narrower, let us expand the circle, adopting neofusionism to avoid the counter-productive internal squabbling over the meaning of "conservatism," a proxy war of only secondary importance -- leading to a stalemate we might call mere "con-fusionism." Admit, for instance, that even the dreaded William Kristol had a huge role in stopping HillaryCare back in the 90s. More fundamentally, let's admit neos want a global commercial order as we do. They are not eradicable, if that's what you dream of -- but they are market-oriented enough to be educable, so let's try that. Much nicer approach.
Even many liberals, as they quietly admit in my social circles, are now worried and confused about economics. Let us seize this time to educate all factions anew on econ, whether that means teaching the left that $14 trillion in debt does not help atone for past cultural sins or inequities, teaching the right that religiosity and war cannot keep us from going bankrupt, or teaching our fellow libertarians not to be sidetracked by Mexican immigration, minor factional disputes, or conspiracy theories.
What the world needs now is budget cuts and deregulation. Reagan knew. Most of the staff at Weekly Standard knows, too, I swear. You know. Some liberals suspect it and shouldn't be made to feel they must betray all their hopes and ideals if they admit it. Let's work together. I reject the Carl Schmitt model of politics in which everything has to be a fight.
My "Conservatism for Punks" essay, published last year in the book Proud to Be Right, which some of you may have seen me discussing on C-SPAN2, was about trying to blend tradition and innovation, and really that project was but a subset of this larger hybridization mission. We should marshal every useful strand of the political culture. We're going to need them all if we actually want to win rather than just be one noisy little faction at the table.
On a more narrow note, I was encouraged by some talk I heard of the Tea Parties attacking corporate/government collusion next. If we do things like that, it gets harder and harder to paint market advocates as mere apologists for big business, certainly not with the shared animus of market advocates and progressives toward cozy bank bailouts and the like. That's potentially system-altering political synergy right there, I suspect.
In short, let us reach out wherever we can and convince people they are already our allies without realizing it. Teach neofusionism -- the way of "neo-fu," if you will.
III. Do We Really Need to Fight for the Soul of Conservatism Anymore?
Trying to yoke together disparate philosophies may sound more like a party-politics project than a real philosophy project, but I think that's all right (so to speak).
It's an interesting open question whether we've now reached the point where it's more desirable to take over the GOP than to take over conservatism, if you see what I mean. The former is a shell to be claimed if the latter is already seen as bankrupt -- or at least diminished to the point at which some other philosophy can take the lead in the coalition. Put another way: the party may not have enough "soul" left to fight over, in which case we can simply occupy the body, which in many ways makes things easier. We simply become the party's leading philosophy, and seeking to reformulate the whole conservative worldview becomes unnecessary. I mean, why can't the Republican Party be primarily libertarian? It's not as though it's officially called the Conservative Party, after all. Its philosophy has changed before over the century and a half of its existence, without the name changing. (Next, imagine if both major parties became libertarian...)
And speaking of escaping binary systems: maybe enough young people are now enamored of libertarianism in a non-right/left sense to make us more prone to attract them by making the GOP look like a beckoning non-conservative home rather than a recharged, more-conservative one.
I'm going to try dropping the label "conservative," personally, anyway, is what I'm really saying, hoping it's no longer necessary because libertarianism is finally becoming a popular and, for good or ill, populist movement -- and I'm probably too old to call myself a "punk," so I'll drop that motif for now as well.
But I'll go further: let's try to drop both the populist-right and elite-left trends within libertarianism (paranoia about national sovereignty on one side and boosterism for lifestyle weirdness-on-principle on the other). Rational economic policies, around the world -- less government everywhere -- is the underlying, real goal (if not before this in most corners of the Republican Party, then starting now everywhere across the planet).
APPENDIX: SOME ENTERTAINING POLITICAL LINKS
•In related news, Dimitri Cavalli sent this link to a Google image of the op-ed page of the Reading Eagle from Dec. 9, 1963, noting that on it Russell Kirk dabbles in conspiracy-theorizing about the then-recent Kennedy assassination (we'll forgive him given how recent the trauma was, though it wouldn't be so out of character even at the best of times for a man who, however revered, believed in ghosts and had some other cranky positions).
I was more amused, though, by the adjacent "Strength for the Day" column about how the unfettering of the sex urge might not be as great a cause for moral panic as, say, Hitler -- and by the nearby headlines "Woman in Tights Parades Her Curves Before Altar of Church" and "Unusual Cow" (the latter about a five-legged calf that walks on three legs...I think). Best may be the ad for free turkey at a local "stag night" at which the whole family is welcome but "the man is king." You don't see ads quite like that anymore. Maybe there is more truth in Mad Men than in Hair.
•Tatyana Epstein notes (1) the Reagan Roundtable on the ChicagoBoyz site, (2) Oleg's book in the right margin of the People's Cube (from the guys who brought us the Communists for Kerry protests in 2004), and (3) various posts on the defunct site 2Blowhards (see the "Confessions of a Naked Model" posts) by my acquaintance Molly Crabapple, who is related to actual communists. (Tatyana herself has posted photos of the capitalist performance art piece in which I appeared on Sunday.)
•Ali Kokmen notes a congressman co-writing a graphic novel for the first time -- on the history of the Civil Rights movement, also rightly understood as a mostly-libertarian undertaking, as Omar Wasow often notes. Big tent. Draw 'em all in. And as it happens, the American Islamic Congress, hoping to teach tolerance amid the Middle East uprisings, has translated into Arabic a comic book about Martin Luther King's Montgomery bus boycott. Think globally, act comically.