George Will has not endeared himself to me for his opposition to Trump, but he is a fine thinker, an elegant writer and profoundly knowledgeable about the US Constitution and its various schools of interpretation. I came across this review of The Conservative Sensibility this morning, and I recommend it for those who might be tempted by a big book of American constitutional thought.
The review itself is found here. It is fair, and it is favourable in the main to Will’s outlook.
As to whether George Will is properly called a conservative, we encounter another of those vexed questions of definition. James Piereson of the Manhattan Institute writes:
“Finally, on the evidence of this book, can we say that Will really is a conservative, as he has described himself over these many decades? When the reader adds up the author’s case—his defense of markets, limited government, the Madisonian constitution, modern science, and natural rights, along with his reservations about religion and his criticisms of Burke, progressivism, and the welfare state—he is apt to conclude that these are more the thoughts of a classical liberal than those of a modern conservative. His book contains many favorable references to Adam Smith, the first of that line of thinkers, but also to Friedrich Hayek, the great twentieth-century proponent of classical liberalism. Will promotes a free society, with ordered liberty as its foundation, much as Smith and Hayek did, in contrast to conservatives who stress the importance of religion, consensus, and community morals and mores. Hayek inserted into The Constitution of Liberty a chapter titled “Why I Am Not a Conservative,” where he wrote that
“Conservatism by its very nature cannot offer an alternative to the direction in which we are moving. It may succeed by its resistance to current tendencies in slowing down undesirable developments, but, since it does not indicate another direction, it cannot prevent their continuance. It has, for this reason, invariably been the fate of conservatism to be dragged along a path not of its own choosing.
“In order to reverse the direction of events, someone must formulate an alternative to it—which George Will has done in this fine book.
“Will writes much as Hayek did in calling for a restoration of Madison’s Constitution and a politics that emphasizes liberty, rather than like the conservatives who want to slow down the general direction of affairs. In this, Will’s advice may seem impractical or even utopian, but it has the virtue of being principled—and entirely honest about our situation.”
The Coronavirus pandemic has brought certain things into relief. One of them is the importance of people who do not work from home: the workers, truckers, cops, paramedics and others who have kept food stores open and food being produced while we have sat on couches or chairs before computers.
“For decades, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) has been charting wages and wealth in this country.For example, here are nine charts EPI released about American wages and income inequality back in 2015, well before Donald Trump’s election; as we can see, they make two key points about conditions under Trump’s predecessors:
“First, productivity has soared much faster than median wages, which is to say, American workers are no longer gaining the benefit of their own hard work as a factor in rising productivity and wealth; the benefits are being captured by others.And that leads us to …
“Second, the income of the top one percent has risen nine times faster than the income of the bottom 90 percent.And much of the reason, of course, is that the one percent typically gets its income from capital and investments, and so one percenters make their money from the stock market.And big corporations have found it easy, and profitable, to outsource production overseas, especially after China opened up in the ’90s.
“We might add that EPI admits there’s been some improvement in the years since 2015, which is to say, Trump’s policies have made a positive difference.And yet still, it’s obvious that the gap between labor and capital has widened vastly.”
The upshot of the article’s proposals is that the Republican Party needs to become the first home of the American worker. This is not as strange as it may appear. The Republican Party emerged from the northern and north western state of the United States in 1860 to combat the forces of the Democrats, which were preponderantly the slave owning wealthy of the South and their northern peace at any price allies. They were primarily the party of the independent farmer and Northern working man. The Republicans were for a long time (1880-1980) the party of the WASPy centre, the higher income earners, big business, and the suburbs. Once again the respective bases of the two American parties are shifting, leaving some groups aside wondering which way to jump (Catholics, gays, and national security voters) and causing others to reconsider whose interests are best served by the Democrats and Republicans. These shifts in party support occur periodically. Another such shift is now underway.
People have rediscovered or are rediscovering that they are a nation first, and an economy second. That is why the transition of the Republicans to a nationalist party is underway, and it scares the intelligentsia because the baddies of Wall Street and Silicon Valley are primarily rich, Democrat and, to a considerable extent, Jewish. All that the Democrats are selling is cultural fragmentation (endless nonsense about race and sexuality) with a visibly senile Joe Biden as its standard bearer, packaged in proposals for open immigration and anti-whiteness. It is not an attractive proposition if you are white or working class.
A great deal of shouting about Trump will seek to prevent people from these realizations.
He goes further, of course, because our former Prime Minister has bought into the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) scam in its entirety. By which I mean he assumes that human energy production is warming the climate, that this warming is potentially catastrophic, unless we do something, and that something can be done at an acceptable political price. I deny two of the three premises of the argument, if you ask me about the politics of it. Though, as regards the first premise, I would hold it quite possible that human energy production of late has had a minor warming effect, and that this is good for the planet.
I observe the the depression in Alberta and the hardships in Saskatchewan are caused in great part by federal energy policy, and that federal policy has been to tax the industry more heavily, to block its exports by obstructing pipelines, and to tax consumers on their projected CO2 emissions.
We are already experiencing the drop in economic activity that green energy policy would have us endure. It is always easy to contemplate the economic woes of the Canadian West from the comfortable perch of Laurentian Canada, and even easier when you are a federal Liberal. You can combine the derision of the enlightened with the assurance of the woke, and say “they deserve it because they are pulling those nasty hydrocarbons from the ground”.
Let me propose an alternative and less popular view. The green energy delusion – for it is a delusion – is the equivalent of Mulroney’s effort to “bring Quebec into the constitution”. Instead of splitting us along linguistic lines, as the Meech Lake Accord did, this one will split us according to whether we produce more energy than we consume, or something like from the east of the Selkirks in BC to the Manitoba border. I think significant parts of British Columbia and Manitoba will side with Alberta and Saskatchewan. I say it will split us because it is already doing so. Look at the results of the last election. The West has given the Liberals not a seat west of Manitoba.
Mulroney proposes that the Conservatives will not attain power unless they cave in on green energy scams and the AGW panic. I shall boldly predict the contrary. Their path to power lies in assembling a coalition that, while concerned with the environment, is skeptical of the pain of higher energy prices and bad technologies, such as wind and solar, and is ready to say so.
While it is necessary and proper to show concern with the environment, the Conservatives will not get back into power until they start shedding some of their forced reverence for the “science” of global warming. In a choice between those who really believe the bullshit of AGW, and those who only half believe, or pretend to believe, the electorate will choose the true believers, until such time as the full implications of the doctrine are borne by the public generally. Then the turn around will begin.
When I have discussed politics with some Conservatives (of the partisan kind) I have been struck by the gap between how they talk among themselves (realistically) with how the media force them to talk , which is out of both sides of their mouths. The average Conservative is not a green, though he or she is concerned with the environment. The leader of the Conservatives in Canada must be able to endure the howls of outrage from the green mobs, the CBC – the voice of the establishment – the Liberals, the NDP and the latest instantiation of the Quebec nationalists, and say, right out loud, the climate scam is a scam. The emperor has no clothes.
Of course, Brian Mulroney won two majority elections, but he also drove the party into near oblivion with his signature policy of appeasing Quebec.
I also want to draw attention to something that Matthew Goodwin said in a recent interview on Triggernometry. After dissecting the recent loss by the Labour Party, which was roughly speaking the dissociation of the concerns of the well educated intelligentsia from the concerns of working class Eng;and, he was asked at the end of the interview “What is the one thing we are not talking about that we ought to be talking about”, at 1:03:45. Hear him: “The politics of climate change is going to be the next huge big disruptive moment in our political world”.
I agree that thinking about environmentalism in a reasonable way is the most sensible thing you can do as a conservative. I do not believe that acting on global warming, to the extent it is occurring, by central planning, predicated on bad science, is the way to go about it.
I tried to read a book this summer called Bronze Age Mindset by a man calling himself Bronze Age Pervert. The book was intensely annoying. Not because I thought it wrong in substance, though I have some arguments with it, but that I thought the tone to be insufferable and its lack of coherent structure to be tedious. As in Nietzsche: a series of discoordinated apercus, from a mind that had ceased to care for discourse or coherent argument. My alarm needle goes into the red when any author adopts the pose of Jove sending thunderbolts to lighten the darkness of my mind. Yes I recognize you are a plenty smart fellow, Mr. Pervert, Sir, but that does not excuse bad writing. You are not the only clever young man to have rebelled against the feminist/Bolshevik/PC/you-name-it hydra, so cool your attitude. But such is the arrogance of youth and the wisdom of having been young and arrogant once myself.
But the times call for a more militant response when society’s dominant issue is no longer voting rights for black people, but rights for white people to exist at all in freedom. I will let the Pervert speak for himself:
“What is going on now is a widespread rejection of the ruling authorities and their beliefs, on the part primarily, but not only, of the American youth at large. This is similar to the rejection of communism by dissidents and youth in the Soviet bloc in the 1970’s and 80’s, and driven by similar causes….”
“Insofar as my book is representative of this phenomenon, it is only in the sense that unvarnished, unedited Nietzscheanism, “right wing nihilism,” has been one of the opinions absolutely forbidden by the postwar liberal world order. It has resurfaced in the space of freedom provided recently by the internet, and has spread there with some speed, the way it always will when it is not repressed. But it is hardly the only view present in this world, or even the dominant view. Nor, as I keep repeating, is this phenomenon—I lack a better word to call it—reducible to any view or set of views, but it represents rather a youth counterculture that has rejected the controlled, staged, edited and therefore mendacious form of public discourse that dominates America and the West right now….
“The failure of the conservative establishment to address the insanity of the new left is the chief negative cause of the phenomenon or movement in question. …
“The anti-male and anti-White rhetoric of the new left is extreme. The racial attacks on whites in particular approaches exterminationist propaganda seen only in, e.g., the Hutu against the Tutsi in 1990’s Rwanda. [examples are cited.]
“Whether out of loyalty to the generally leftist social sphere in which the conservative intellectual establishment lives, or out of simple fear, mainstream and traditional conservatives have completely discredited themselves by failing to oppose the violent racial hatred and other forms of unprecedented insanity coming from the new left.
“I haven’t even yet touched the conservative powerlessness when it came to stopping the destruction of the family; or the new push for the sexualization and grooming of children on behalf of transsexualism and other supposed “sexual identities.”
“If we listen to the rhetoric of the left, we can only guess that further restrictions of speech and life, both de facto and de jure, are coming. What is the conservative plan to deal with any of this?…. “
What is the conservative plan to deal with any of this? Nothing. In Canada, for example, the leader of the opposition dares not say he thinks abortion is a sin, and the press questions him upon because they are heresy hunting, Scheer is weak. He could say that it is not the function of the press to be looking into men’s souls, but that would be an actual attack on the press. Too strong!
The question is far more important than my trivial example. The Pervert correctly points out that the Republican party has held power for longer than the Democratic for the last sixty years, and yet has been unable to do anything about the corruption of the culture.
Bronze Age Pervert again:
“The problem Anton or other conservatives must face isn’t that my audience, or the “youth” in question doesn’t accept the principles of the American Founding, but that the left and thereby a large part of the establishment rejected these principles long ago. The left has been saying exactly what they plan to do for decades. They want to destroy your country, instill a death wish in the white population, set majorities against market-dominant minorities, atomize everyone: the British plan in Malaysia and a few other places but now applied domestically within a country.
“But the conservatives didn’t do anything, or anything effective, to counter the left—this is the problem. Many conservatives would rather blame people who point out the left’s explicit intentions. If Hillary Clinton says that Merkel is her role model a year after Merkel made the youth of Germany a minority in their own country, and if we point this out and support any candidate who might prevent this unprecedented madness, it is mainstream conservatives who call us Nazis and worse simply for pointing out the left’s stated goals.
” The left completely abandoned Americanism in the 1960’s; at this point they’ve also abandoned biological reality. Vitalism is all that is left against their demented biological Leninism. Encouraging health, normality, and physical nobility against their celebration of deformity, obesity, and sexual catamitism must be one of the basic functions of conservatism in our time. It is one of the reasons my message is powerful among many who are fed up with the left’s gospel of wretchedness: what is your plan to take that on? ….
“We are now faced with a left that has embraced a dialectic of racial and class destruction in a context where belief in absolute human equality is professed at the same time that no one believes in it anymore. I don’t see how the vision of the Founders, widely dismissed as white nationalism even by “conservatives” when presented with its reality, has more political potential in our situation than Bronze Age perversion would…..
” If you fail to see that you live in the Soviet Union of the 1970’s or 1980’s, or rather something slightly even more repressive than the Eastern Bloc of that time, it may be you don’t know about the threats, financial ruin, and mob violence that Trump supporters and anyone really who steps out of line has been subject to since at least 2016—but actually since some time before that. “
What we need right now is glasnost and perestroika. Opening and restructuring. For me, however imperfectly, Trump is the ice breaker setting free the trapped ships. The larger cultural struggle has yet to be undertaken by conservatives. In this regard, students of the US Constitution such as George Will, who rail against Trump, are not even wrong. They are, in the deepest sense of the word, irrelevant – to either side of the culture wars. Arguing that the US Constitution has strayed from its Madisonian intentions is up there with support for the restoration of the Stuart Kings. It might be true, but the issues of our time do not concern Presidential overreach, the weakness of the Congress in the face of the Presidency and the Courts, or the abandonment of free trade. They concern the eliminationist and exterminationist tendency directed towards me and you as white people. It is that simple. And most conservatives have not woken up to this, or refuse to see it, yet. I predict they will.