The next time you’re engaged in a political discussion with someone who has very strong views different from your own, ask them if they can name two famous thinkers or politicians whose politics are opposed to theirs who they also think are very smart and genuinely concerned with making the world a better place. If they can’t, it’s not clear they are able to grant the good faith such discussions should have.
I believe Horowitz here is mainly referring to cross-ideological dialogues and not intra-ideological warfare, so I stick to that. In other words, as a libertarian, I will stick to conservatives and progressives.
I admit that I don’t have much tolerance for conservatives these days because I don’t tolerate “pro-war” sentiment particularly well. And I frankly respect no one who is an advocate of such sentiment. It is clear, to quote Randolph Bourne, that “War is Health of the State,” and to quote myself, “Perpetual War is the Health of the Rogue State.” Quite simply, war is the ultimate expression of collectivism. And there is always an interest of a ruling class that underlies it. Perhaps, Emmanuel Goldstein’s Tract, “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism” in Orwell’s Novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, provides an object lesson. The section “War is Peace” almost prophetically outlines how war will serve the interests of the ruling class. But then again, it is never clear if Goldstein or the “Brotherhood” actually exist or if they are just necessary fictions perpetuated by the Inner party. So, even though I’m quite aware of the writings of neo-conservative authors and institutions like the PNAC, I do not think they operate out of good faith nor have succumbed to any delusion.
I have no tolerance or respect for social conservatism. There are no serious writers/philosophers here. It’s not like these people are reading Edmund Burke or Russel Kirk. It’s all biblical claptrap. I’m not interested in debating what Jesus or the Apostle Paul really thought about the State. America founded on “Judeo-Christian” principles is a myth akin to advocating that Rome was founded on “Jupiterian” principles.
The “American Conservative Magazine” represents a strain of conservatism, the more paleo type, that belies much of the current conservative movement and views such with skepticism. I’m not sure how coherent it is, however, from a historical standpoint. Someone like a Ron Paul is really deriving from a liberal tradition, even a radical liberal tradition, and then passes it off as “conservative.” The so-called “Old Right” isn’t really that old, being a 20th century movement derived from latter 19th century liberal opposition to 19th century conservatism. And it, frankly, it never held much sway over the Republican Party. In the end, it’s chief intellectual product was Ayn Rand. A rather laughable thing is this new term, “constitutional conservative,” which i gather is supposed to denote a historical coalition of Christian, pro-life Randians who affixed their signatures to the constitution.
On the progressive/liberal side, I should note that my little blogroll has a number of “progressive/liberal” blogs that I am serious disagreement with on economic issues and the role of the State. But they share in common a “power elite analysis” of the ruling class. However, particularly in regard to economics, I think it’s bit incoherent to ascribe to a “power elite analysis” of the political class but yet advocate massive spending by such a corrupt class as a remedy of economic ills. I certainly aware of the John Rawls critique of what we might call “libertarian justice” and the type of Charles Taylor communitarian critique against liberalism itself, including the Rawlsian version. I respect Rawls but his justice theory is susceptible to a Public Choice critique. In terms of communitarianism, I admittedly have nothing but disdain for it. The State is not a “community.”
Frankly, many progressives suffer from their own historical myths just as conservatives do. In particular, that progressivism arose as an institutional correction to American “Laissez Faire.” It’s almost endemic to conflate Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand” with “Laissez Faire.” Smith’s metaphor was actually introduced in his theory of moral sentiments, which attempted to explain human empathy/sympathy(“other regarding”) as an emergent property of self-regarding human social behavior. In the Wealth of Nations, it is used as a metaphor, on occasion, to argue against trade serving mercantilist ends. Laissez Faire, however, originates from the French tradition, and was a critique against the corrupt French political economy. In the original meaning, it really means a rejection of the Political Economy itself. And that’s not Adam Smith.
Of course, today, “Laissez Faire” is a synonym for “unregulated capitalism.” But the reality is that capitalism is operating quite regularly, indeed in a very predictable way one would expect when the players write the rules for their own advantage(“law”) and use politics to enforce monopolies. This is the very thing the old french radical liberals decried. It’s a tragedy that this word has become dirty, that in in the popular mind, it supposedly stands for the very thing it was originally against. It is a rare debate where an opponent(on the progressive side) will recognize this. It’s not necessarily out of malice. More often than not, it’s ignorance.