The enemy of liberty has been found. Now it’s only a matter of exposing the monster for what it is, and it shall die from humiliation.
That monster is — conservatism.
It seems conservatism is an ideology, like communism or Nazism, that demands a powerful, centralized government, a police state, regulation over every aspect of an individual’s life, and a militaristic foreign policy.
Or so says libertarian author and blogger Tom Mullen. His book Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? claims to expose conservatism as the ugly and vicious love-child of those ancient apologists for despots, Thomas Hobbes and Edmund Burke.
Wait, what? Edmund Burke?
It takes only a cursory look at Mullen’s assertions to see just how sloppy and poorly researched they are. In doing so, I will let conservatives define conservatives, rather than libertarians. Seems only fair.
First, let’s consider how ludicrous it is to claim conservatism was co-founded by Thomas Hobbes and Edmund Burke. In fact, Hobbes belonged to a camp of political science that was directly opposed to Burke’s. Hobbes was a rationalist philosopher. Rationalists, as Michael Spicer explains in The Founders, The Constitution, and Public Administration: A Conflict in World Views, view human reason as sovereign. Reason, say the rationalists, is the ultimate authority on how humans should conduct themselves and organize society. Rationalists believe man can perfect himself and create utopia on earth. Because reason is the same everywhere, its principles apply to all peoples. Spicer observes that “rationalists distrust ideas derived from customs and traditions,” and therefore customs and traditions “are seen as impediments to obtaining true knowledge and must be swept aside.”
That’s why rationalist philosophers look to violence, whether by revolution or state-sanctioned force, to sweep out those musty old traditions that impede their programs.
Edmund Burke, on the other hand, was an anti-rationalist. As Spicer explains in his book, anti-rationalists do not believe human nature can be perfected. Instead, anti-rationalists “see the world, particularly the world of human affairs, as simply too complex and hence too unpredictable for any one mind, however wise, to comprehend and control.” For that reason, anti-rationalist philosophers look to established customs, traditions, and institutions as the most reliable guides to human conduct.
I cannot improve on this summary of Burke’s thought from the Edmund Burke Institute:
Burke is commonly regarded as the founder of modern conservatism. In his speeches and writings, he articulated the concept of an organic society: a social order that is sacred, natural, historical and traditional. He believed that social change was best achieved when eschewing abstract thought divorced from experience; instead, he favored renewal of the polity in harmony with a regard for individual liberty, respect for the accumulated wisdom within existing institutions and a concern for the greater good of the community. His political theory can best be summarized by his most famous phrase: “Society is a contract between the past, the present and those yet unborn.”
Traditional, organic society, then, is the foundation of order. Russell Kirk argued that traditional society is the only — the ONLY — source of our rules for mutual interaction — in other words, our rights:
Traditions are not abstractions; they are particular beliefs and customs closely related to private life and faith. The American Republic has its traditions, and so has the Cambodian Kingdom; but traditions are not created by political authority, and ought not to be debased into party slogans.
Only for the past century and a half has the word “tradition” been employed to signify “ancient customs” or “established habits of life in society.” Edmund Burke, for instance, writing in the last years of the eighteenth century, used the word “prescription” to convey these meanings, rather than the word “tradition.”
When we speak of tradition in America, then, generally we mean prescriptive social habits, prejudices, customs, and political usages which most people accept with little question, as an intellectual legacy from their ancestors.
The stable of rationalist philosophers includes Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Dewey, and Irving Kristol. Rationalists believe in the sovereign individual, whose chief concern is economic, and from that assumption, they derive their advocacy of the unitary, consolidated state; open borders; economic globalization; and the eradication of all traditional restraints on individual choice.
Among the notable anti-rationalists are David Hume, Adam Smith, and Joseph de Maistre. Anti-rationalists believe in the social nature of man, whose chief concern is the preservation and well-being of one’s culture, and from that foundation, they argue for small, culturally based political units; mediating institutions, such as families, churches, and voluntary associations to shelter and nurture the isolated individual; border security to insure demographic continuity; economic nationalism to protect jobs; and respect for traditional morality, which strengthens families and communities.
Mullen’s sloppiness is most apparent — and grating — in his conflation of neoconservatives and conservatives. Neoconservatives, despite their misleading name, are rationalists who view America as a “creedal nation” rather than a nation founded on Western traditions. Neocons base their ideology on Trotsky’s strategy of the “permanent revolution,” which called for supporting socialism in other countries to protect socialism in the USSR. So when Neocon handpuppet George W. Bush launched his US-led “global democratic revolution” beginning with Iraq, he argued that exporting democracy would help protect democracy in the US. When real conservatives, such as Pat Buchanan, Charley Reese, and Sam Francis aired their objections to Bush’s crusade, National Review’s David Frum denounced them as “unpatriotic conservatives.” Nevertheless, Mullen equates “militarism” as a defining conservative value.
There’s also an amusing aspect of Mullen’s intellectual confusion. On the basis of a few quotes, Mullen claims Edmund Burke fundamentally agreed with Thomas Hobbes, despite Burke’s radically different politics. While Burke believed in an organic society, Hobbes argued that man is not a social animal. Hobbes even went so far as to claim that society could not exist without a powerful government. The foundation of conservatism is that culture precedes government. Despite this breathtaking contradiction, Mullen frequently (obsessively?) uses Hobbes to discredit conservatism. Yet, Mullen applauds John Locke as one of the good guys, despite Locke’s frequent citation of Hobbes and partial agreement with him.
Why is this important? If we are to defend liberty, we have to understand where it came from, how it can be preserved, and what threatens it. Today we are faced with an out-of-control and self-serving central government that is busily importing a compliant Third-World population. Libertarians such as Mullen claim to defend liberty, but vocally support open borders and economic globalism, the same double-edged sword the ruling elite wields against us, its subjects. Without a Western majority, we cannot hope to preserve Western standards of behavior and governance.