Monday, July 29, 2013

Who Is The Enemy?

You may not be interested in war, said Trotsky, but war is interested in you.  In a US context we could say: You may not be interested in the culture war, but the culture war is interested in you.  In other words, things like abortion, marriage, single parenthood, gay marriage, divorce, pornography, the anti-hero, egalitarianism, Obama's "fundamental transformation" are all battles in the overall culture war.

What is the culture war?  It is the war to determine whether the United States shall be a society centered on civil society, the voluntary socialization of family, church, association, and free enterprise, or the progressive administrative state.  If you want a civil society then you need to defend and value love, marriage, children, religion, neighborhood, free association.  If you believe in equality and the administrative state then all these things are just, at best, superstitious survivals from a past era.  And the sooner they are left behind the better.

Yes, but do we have to have a war over this?  I'm afraid we do.

I used to think that the Reagan revolution had proved that the administrative state was a failure and that we were now all agreed that the way forward was one in which the political sector kept its distance from the economic sector.  It looked, for a while, with Clinton and Blair and the Third Way, that Democrats and liberals grudgingly agreed.

But the rise of the angry "netroots" in the 2000s and the election of Barack Obama tell us that the liberals are like Bourbons, they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.  Their whole being is still centered around an attack on the bourgeoisie and its relaxed, sociable culture of free people that live and let live in a culture of trust and respect.  Liberals believe in the political in everything.  So we must fight.

Angelo Codevilla in the second edition of War: Ends and Means, is remarkably clear-headed about conflict.  The object of all war is peace, he writes, but peace on our terms.  Unfortunately, we in the West are remarkably skittish about the whole thing.  Here we are in a major war with radical Islamism, but we really don't know what we are doing, and what we want, and what we are prepared to do about it.  Other than wish it would go away.

Here is Codevilla boiling his whole doctrine down to a sentence:
[T]he only reliable guide through the fog of war is an understanding of one's own purposes and from those purposes a reasonable deduction of objectives, so one can say: "if we can manage to do this or that then we will have gotten what we wanted , and the whole effort will have been worth it."
If you haven't thought about your purposes and objectives then you are going to lose.

Now the purpose of modern conservatism is to encourage and protect a civil society that can flourish at a distance and in relative freedom from political power.  Civil society, we believe, cannot flourish when government is forcibly taking something like 35-40 percent of the wealth produced by society and then redistributing it.  In other words, government free stuff is the enemy of a just and peaceable society.  Why?  We can see it all around us.  Once people get their mitts on free stuff they will not give it up until they are looking out across a wasteland, as in the City of Detroit.  And even then they still demand their free stuff.

It is not just that the administrative state and its free stuff is unjust.  The bigger problem is that it is unworkable.  It sets the whole of society in concrete and prevents the correction of mistakes and the adapting to new conditions.

That is our purpose, but how do we get there?  There is only way.  We must delegitimize and demoralize the liberal ruling class.  For it is the liberal ruling class that uses the power of the centralized state and dangles the promise of free stuff before the voters in order to get political power and keep it.

In the short term it is easy to see what is needed.  We blame the liberals and their Keynesianism, their anti-business regulation, and their crazed global warming hysteria for the sluggish economy.  But the bigger objective is to delegitimize the whole welfare state and its dysfunctional government functions from health care to education and welfare.  We want to persuade the American people that they will never get good health care from government; they will never lift the poor up through government welfare, and they will never get a decent education for their children with government education.  And what's more, the liberals run and benefit from the current corrupt and dysfunctional system. Asking them to reform their creation is like asking a dictator to give up his power.

The problem with war, military, political, or cultural, is hate.  It doesn't take much for all partisans to end up like Howard Dean: I hate Republicans and everything they stand for.  If conservatives mount a war on liberals and everything they stand for, will we end up sounding like Howard Dean?  Or, to put it differently, is it possible to win the war against the liberal administrative state without riling up the conservative rank and file with a violent hatred for everything liberal?

We can only hope.

But the alternative is despair.  As I wrote: Once you turn the whole of society into an administrative government program you cast your society in concrete.  You make it impossible to change without the political equivalent of nuclear war: violent revolution.  People will not give up their "benefits" without a fight.  But then, that's the fate of every decadent empire or civilization.  Unable to change, it succumbs in the end to invasion or revolution.  Either way, it means unspeakable suffering for the little people that our liberal friends profess to represent.

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