March 07, 2005

Conservative ideology: a post for Nick

I'm neither conservative nor liberal. Instead, I like to call myself an agrarian.

My friend Nick from med school is one of the few people who understands what this little idiosyncracy of mine really means. Nick's a bit more conservative than I am, but even though we don't agree about every little detail, I suspect that he sympathizes with my position, as I do with his.

Anyway, one of the things Nick and I usually enjoy arguing about is the relative worth of Pat Buchanan's brand of conservatism. So I thought I'd post the link to this essay for Nick and anyone else who might be interested:

But historicist contempt and ignorance of economics does not alter the fact that inexorable economic laws exist. You cannot have your cake and eat it too, for instance. Or what you consume now cannot be consumed again in the future. Or producing more of one good requires producing less of another. No wishful thinking can make such laws go away. To believe otherwise can only result in practical failure. "In fact," noted Mises, "economic history is a long record of government policies that failed because they were designed with a bold disregard for the laws of economics."

In light of elementary and immutable economic laws, the Buchananite program of social nationalism is just another bold but impossible dream. No wishful thinking can alter the fact that maintaining the core institutions of the present welfare state and wanting to return to traditional families, norms, conduct, and culture are incompatible goals. You can have one—socialism (welfare)—or the other—traditional morals—but you cannot have both, for social nationalist economics, the pillar of the current welfare state system Buchanan wants to leave untouched, is the very cause of cultural and social anomalies.

(Via Conservative Philosopher.)

My reaction: despite all my criticisms of Buchanan, these two paragraphs alone (and in context!) demonstrate that the free-market fundamentalists are a much sillier bunch of people.

Posted by Carey at March 7, 2005 08:34 AM

Well, there is nothing quite like the zealotry of the rabid libertarians. To argue that paleoconservatives (of whom Buchanan and Francis are taken to be exemplars) are statists is patently absurd. Contrary to the few selected quotes in the article, Buchanan et al have always been vociferous opponents of the leviathan state. Hoppe makes an error in confusing devotion to the interests and culture of the nation with statism. It is certainly not as statists that paleoconservatives advocate the rollback of the New Deal and the Great Society. To a rabid ideologue like Hoppe, the state should play no role in the lives of citizens. Most conservatives are not naïve enough to believe such an arrangement is possible or desirable and basically argue for a semblance of balance between central authority and individual liberty. It is disingenuous to argue that conservatism has been “transformed from an anti-egalitarian, aristocratic, anti-statist ideological force into a movement of culturally conservative statists.” A cursory reading of the paleoconservative journals will show that anti-egalitariansim and anti-statism are in fact flourishing; there are even a few crusty old monarchists rattling around on the right. What you will not find is the economic anarchism preached by people like Hoppe.

As an aside, Dr. Francis recently passed away. He was an incredibly gifted essayist who should have been more widely read. It is ironic that his most venomous critics were the neoconservatives. Obituaries can be read at, and Enough fun, it’s back to the electrochemical analysis of electrolytes and blood gasses for me. Happy B-day Carey

Posted by: Nick R at March 7, 2005 12:10 PM

Sorry, I wrote the web address for Chronicles wrong, The obituary for Dr. Francis is at The American Cause address is correct.

Posted by: Nick R. at March 7, 2005 12:19 PM

I just thought anyone who used the term "praxeologically" with a straight face should be held up to ridicule...

So there is that.

Hoppe's essay exemplifies sloppiness. I tend to agree with Hoppe that Buchanan's position veers too close, and too often, to fascism. But I haven't forgotten one of the most important things that everyone learns in junior high school: every political viewpoint that differs from yours looks like fascism if you're thinking at the level of a junior-high school student.

By junior-high standards of political reasoning (and by Hoppe's), my math, english, and wood shop teachers were all National Socialists. So was the dude who got suspended for setting the contents of his locker on fire. I think all of these people eventually voted for Bob Dole.

Anyway, Hoppe needs to be more careful. His eagerness to label Buchanan a "statist" makes it difficult to distinguish Hoppe from the libertarians who would corrupt traditional norms and culture by selling babies.

Thanks for the link to the Francis obituary; I don't know too much about the man, so this is helpful.

Posted by: Carey at March 8, 2005 08:47 AM

Carey, did you know your blog is being censored?

Posted by: Larry at March 8, 2005 08:54 PM