Traditionalism Against the State

One of the things I'm working on at the moment, springboarding off of the George Nash talk at the Heritage Foundation earlier this week, is a quick piece about how in the early days of the conservative movement, many of the traditionalists were almost as anti-statist as the libertarians (in a few cases, perhaps even more so). Today, nobody in his right mind would think of the Religious Right as being more anti-state than anti-left; traditionalist (or quasi-traditionalist) conservatism has undergone a sea change since the late '60s.

In 1949, while reviewing Bertrand de Jouvenel's classic On Power, Richard Weaver could write something like this:

Obviously it is far harder today to hide from the state, or to withdraw from its programs of action. And whoever thinks that has no bearing upon the matter of liberty is himself the victim of terminological confusion. The most shocking development, however, is the way in which today men of intellect are dragooned into the service of the warlords. … In proportion as statism grows, any kind of apartness from it is regarded as treasonable.

Right before this passage, Weaver had remarked on the growth of the FBI to 13,000 employees, a sign to him of just how much liberty had been lost. What would he have made of the Department of Homeland Security, to say nothing of all the new tentacles of federal intelligence, and the conservatives who now champion ever more surveillance, ID-measures, and pro-active police powers?

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