Monday, August 2, 2010

How the Right doesn't get it

Sullivan links to this blog entry by Prof. Stephen M. Bainbridge lamenting the state of the American Right today.

The last item on his list of things that make "real" conservatives embarrassed by the modern "conservative movement" is this:

The substitution of mouth-foaming, spittle-blasting, rabble-rousing talk radio for reasoned debate. Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Hugh Hewitt, and even Rush Limbaugh are not exactly putting on Firing Line. Whatever happened to smart, well-read, articulate leaders like Buckley, Neuhaus, Kirk, Jack Kent, Goldwater, and, yes, even Ronald Reagan?

The myopia and double-standard here is too much to take with a straight face. How else does one characterize Whittaker "Gas" Chambers's review of Atlas Shrugged in the pages of Buckley's National Review, other than the substitution of mouth-foaming, spittle-blasting, rabble-rousing talk for reasoned debate?

It is a context-dropping, intellectually-inferior narrative amongst "respectable conservatives" that Buckley served as some kind of quality-control enforcer for the conservative movement. This is plainly false. While reading people like the John Birchers out of the conservative movement, Buckley (via Chambers) also read Ayn Rand out of the movement, which is to say, that he read out of the conservative movement the most potent intellectual voice for reason, individualism, and capitalism. This is to say that Buckley's quality-control standards were shit from the beginning.

This is also to say that the kookery in which the American Right has been drowning, is just the chickens' homecoming.

The Right is now flailing about, grasping somewhere - anywhere - for intellectual leadership. They have now opportunistically latched onto Ayn Rand in addition to everyone else, but they still reject at root all the metaphysics, epistemology and ethics that make for an intellectually sound defense of capitalistic freedom. They don't get it, they will continue not getting it for the foreseeable future, and their problems will continue for that reason.

Incidentally, Rand wrote an article in the '60s, titled "Conservatism: An Obituary," reprinted in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. She already diagnosed the "conservatives'" problem back then, and her insights remain as spot-on as ever. The chief, central problem of "conservatism" then and now has been anti-intellectualism, which Chambers's review of Atlas epitomizes.

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