The proper counter to socialism and corruption is nationalism. It is the only broad and deep concept of society that can uphold conservative values and channel the creative energy of capitalism to the common good. It is also the only ideology that can rebuild the Reagan coalition and widen the base of the Republican Party by bringing back the hard-working Americans the “country club” party has alienated. It is ironic that a billionaire with global business interests is the one who has taken up the nationalist banner with his Reaganite pledge to “make America great again.”
By William R. Hawkins l February 22, 2016
In 2012, there was a threat at the Virginia Republican State Convention from Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). His partisans, with their youthful enthusiasm for shallow slogans and romantic notions, gave them a potent ground game. Many looked like they would feel at home with Bernie Sanders’ enemies of conventionality. There has always been an affinity between anarchists and socialists during the early phases of revolutionary movements. Though they fall out later in the struggle for power, with the anarchists invariably losing, the libs are useful to the socialists as disruptors of social cohesion and traditional order. The resulting chaos discredits the “freedom fighters,” since no condition is less tolerable than anarchy, and paves the way for the socialists to establish a new Leftist order.
True conservatives are center-right, opposed to both extremes of anarchy and socialism. They understand that liberty and order are necessary partners. The liberty that matters is the ability to go about one’s affairs on a daily basis without fear of assault (in its myriad varieties). One of the most shocking things I discovered when I first went to work in Washington, DC in the mid-1990s was that within sight of the Capitol, residents had felt the need to place bars on their doors and windows for security. When decent people have to lock themselves up to feel safe, the authorities are not doing their job of keeping the predators at bay. The breakdown of order gives freedom to villains, while limiting the rights of everyone else. Yet today, libertarians and leftists are campaigning to handicap the police and turn back the clock on tactics that have brought crime rates down for the last twenty years.
The great conservative thinker Russell Kirk put it in his magisterial Ten Conservative Principles:
When every person claims to be a power unto himself, then society falls into anarchy. Anarchy never lasts long, being intolerable for everyone, and contrary to the ineluctable fact that some persons are more strong and more clever than their neighbors. To anarchy there succeeds tyranny or oligarchy, in which power is monopolized by a very few.
The conservative endeavors to so limit and balance political power that anarchy or tyranny may not arise.
National security and traditional values are under attack from libertarians as much as from the more easily recognized enemies on the hard Left.
Ron Paul retired from Congress, but his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was supposed to take up the libertarian banner in this year’s presidential contest. His poor showing in the polls and in the Iowa caucuses led him to suspend his campaign. This does not, however, mean the libertarian threat to the GOP has disappeared. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has tried to become the heir to Ron Paul by recruiting his former supporters. He won in Iowa, one of the senior Paul’s strongest states.
Perhaps the most disturbing of Cruz’s converts is former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) who was the Libertarian Party presidential candidate in 2008. Barr ran mainly on an antiwar platform indistinguishable from the defeatist propaganda put out by the Left. Barr hoped to drain votes from GOP candidate Sen. John McCain and elect Obama, who had promised to end the war in Iraq. We know how well that worked! Barr was named last year as chairman of “Liberty Leaders for Cruz.”
Though Cruz has claimed he will “make the sand glow” in the Middle East, that is the kind of wild rhetoric a politician uses to avoid serious discussion of strategy. It is meant to sound tough, but the Texas Senator does not have the record to back it up. In 2013, Cruz led the opposition (along with leftwing Democrats) to President Obama’s plan to bomb Syria in retaliation for the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons against civilians. An attack then could have changed the balance of power in the civil war before the rise of ISIS, the military intervention by Russia and the refugee flood. But Cruz did not bother to look ahead, his instinct was to do nothing, like a true libertarian.
It should be noted that Senators Cruz and Paul were the only Republicans to join 24 Democrats and Socialist Bernie Sanders in voting against final passage of the National Defense Authorization Act last October. The NDAA called for increasing defense spending and was vetoed by President Obama. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee has denounced Cruz as a libertarian and isolationist whose foreign policy views are worse than Obama’s. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has attacked Cruz for weakening Homeland Security and expressing sympathy for Edward Snowden, the turncoat who fled first to Communist China and has now settled in Putin’s Russia. Apparently, Snowden was only exercising “freedom” by making public classified information. With national security being the top issue for Republican voters, Sen. Cruz’s days as a faux conservative contender should be numbered.
Across the spectrum, “freedom” is used so often that it has lost its meaning. The key question that must be answered to determine where someone stands is “freedom to do what?” If the answer includes having abortions, crossing borders at will, abusing drugs, moving factories to Mexico or China, joining a street gang or engaging in sedition, then that person is not a conservative.
Also across the spectrum, there is a strong “anti-establishment” feeling. In the GOP there has become a growing awareness that congressional leaders are in the pocket of transnational business interests who no longer care about America. That is why there is a perception that government is corrupt. As Laura Ingraham noted on Fox News the morning of the New Hampshire primary, the two main issues dividing Donald Trump and Jeb Bush are free trade and mass immigration. The Establishment favors both because they allow corporations to substitute “cheap” foreign labor for American workers. This is what has undermined the middle class, the natural base of conservatism. Instead of being respected as pillars of the community as was once the case, business leaders are now seen as agents of chaos and destruction who bribe politicians into opening the borders rather than protecting the country. The 2008 financial crisis was the breaking point, provoking the rise of populism in both parties. If conservatives do not find a way to reestablish the reputation of capitalism as a positive force harnessed to national strength and social advancement, then the socialists’ program of transformation will prevail.
This is not a new problem. The great economic thinker Joseph Schumpeter worried about such an outcome over half a century ago in his seminal work Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy which should be on every conservative’s nightstand. Schumpeter defended capitalism but did not believe capitalists could maintain their legitimacy in a democracy once the “steel frame” of traditional society had been eroded. He argued:
We have seen that the industrialist and the merchant, as far as they are entrepreneurs, also fill a function of leadership. But economic leadership of this type does not readily expand…into the leadership of nations. On the contrary, the ledger and the cost calculation absorb and confine.
Leadership would have to arise elsewhere to save capitalism from itself, or the socialist alternative would prevail as voters turned, in current parlance, to candidates who “cared about them.”
The proper counter to socialism and corruption is nationalism. It is the only broad and deep concept of society that can uphold conservative values and channel the creative energy of capitalism to the common good. It is also the only ideology that can rebuild the Reagan coalition and widen the base of the Republican Party by bringing back the hard-working Americans the “country club” party has alienated.
It is ironic that a billionaire with global business interests is the one who has taken up the nationalist banner with his Reaganite pledge to “make America great again.” Libertarians are not interested in doing this. Indeed, it is the laissez faire ideology that the Establishment hides behind. To fulfill their higher duties to society, conservatives must favor capitalism, but not be controlled by it. Ordered liberty, not chaos, is the right way forward.
William R. Hawkins, a former economics professor and Congressional staffer, is a consultant specializing in international economics and national security issues. He is a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.