What's Wrong with the New Right, 12-30
Kim R. Holmes vs. the New Right
Most believers in the common-good ideology are merely looking for a muscular response to the successes of progressivism. This is understandable. But their mistake is resurrecting, creating, and tolerating illiberal views that will backfire on conservatives. These views will not only embolden an already powerful central government to intrude on their rights, but also aid and abet the war on traditional American culture waged now for decades by progressive elites.
That is only one of several passages that I might have chosen to excerpt.
Holmes is defending what I would call the “late-20th-century right,” the line that runs from Buckley through Goldwater and Reagan, against what I would call the “21st-century right,” as represented by the second National Conservatism Conference.
The 21st-century right accuses the late-20th-century right of losing by not fighting. In football terms, when the left has the ball (wins an election), they move down field. When the late-20th-century right has the ball, they take a knee.
Changing to a soccer metaphor, I would say that the 21st-century-right’s approach is likely to produce own-goals. Trying to use government to promote your values is only good until the other side wins an election; but then you have handed them a government that is more intrusive and less restrained.
I can be persuaded—indeed I am persuaded—that the Woke religion is a very serious threat to values that I hold dear and that I believe are important for this country to uphold. But I don’t think that the woke religion will be defeated in a national election by a political program. It will be defeated among the educated elites if and when they return to rigorous thinking.
In fact, I think that political debates among conservatives are probably not worthy of as much attention as I give them. It is not by promulgating a political philosophy that one can hope to make a positive difference in the wider world.
As an aside, I believe that making a difference in your more immediate world is more important than making a difference in the wider world. And I believe that working for a profit-seeking organization is more likely to make a positive difference than working for a non-profit or in the political sphere.
That said, in my writing I think of myself as making available to readers my notions of what constitutes rigorous thinking. In evaluating economic policy, I think that it helps to work out the implications of Specialization and Trade. In evaluating research in medicine and the social sciences, I think that it helps to work out the implications of the laws of probability and statistics. In evaluating the political landscape, I think that it helps to work out the implications of political psychology and social epistemology. In making decisions in the present and predictions about the future, I think that it helps to know history.
The way I see it, elites on the left and the right are failing us. They are terrible at dealing with COVID policy. They do not seem to understand the value of random testing, or human challenge trials, or cost-benefit analysis. The elites do not seem to understand economics. The Democrats and the NatCons may disagree on what type of industrial policy to pursue, but they end up trying to interfere in the same way: by subsidizing demand and restricting supply. The “Biden inflation” mostly results from the deficit spending under Mr. Trump. Yet Mr. Biden as well as the NatCons are fine with lots of government spending and deficits. They heap scorn on those of us who think otherwise.
So my project is to look for ways to promote more rigorous thinking. Elite universities were supposed to have that mission. Perhaps college professors will still manage to succeed at it. But I think that those of us with such a mission have to undertake it with or without support from legacy institutions.
Arnold, you wrote, "As an aside, I believe that making a difference in your more immediate world is more important than making a difference in the wider world."
I agree. You wrioe it as an "aside,: but to me it was the most important thing you wrote.
If part of your own immediate world is your readership, then how can you apply your rigorous thinking (and prodigious reading) to guide your readers to have the most positive impact on their immediate worlds?
Perhaps you could take that up as a theme for 2022.
"Trying to use government to promote your values is only good until the other side wins an election; but then you have handed them a government that is more intrusive and less restrained."
No way. One would be hard pressed to think of some recent, concrete example of this. If they win control over the government, "the other side" just gets busy making the government as intrusive and unrestrained as they want in order to pursue their goals and further their broader agenda.
A party that generally doesn't care about intrusion and restraint and is constantly complaining about limits and champing at the bit for more power, more programs, etc. is not going to be held in check by the other party's hesitant restraint in the prior iteration. The just-so stories one would have to tell to make that true just do not describe the reality of our current political situation.
That is especially true if the other side is enthusiastically and effectively theocratic anyway, in the sense of being supremely confident and fanatically zealous in their belief that the values they are promoting are not "their" values, but universally and objectively true ethical concepts that transcend politics or debate, and which all enlightened and right-thinking people should understand to be completely unobjectionable except by evil heretics who must be punished and 'held accountable'. And indeed, for the furtherance of which it is not just laudable but morally compulsory for the government, every organization, and every individual to pursue and promote to their utmost.
Here's how you can prove me wrong and change my mind: tell me some kind of normal program or policy* that Democrats have the power / numbers to get done right now, but they are being held back from getting done, only because the Republicans held the line in some previous iteration by not implementing some policy that would be favored by currently modal "Common Good Conservatism".
Maybe it exists, but I'm coming up blank.
*An exception is special procedural maneuvers which amount to 'strategic escalations' which are structurally suppressed for normal game-theoretic reasons, with red lines being crossed usually only in moments when both the stakes and the first-escaltor's level of political confidence are extraordinarily high. For instance, 'the nuclear option' for eliminating filibusters of judicial confirmations. Or, what hasn't happened, yet: abolishing the filibuster altogether, or packing the Supreme Court.
Both sides might indeed hesitate for a long time from being the first to escalate in these particular kinds of ways, worried that the other party will use the same tactics against them in the future. But that's just because that context happens to line up with: "politics and war are on the same spectrum." And this logic applies to tactics, not to setting of public policy and exercise of government authority.